We decided to spend a gorgeous late summer day hiking to the “ROOF” of Romania: MOLDOVEANU PEAK. What better way to escape from the daily routine than spending time in the mountains? Although it was a beautiful and enjoyable experience, it was also a physical challenge. We performed 30 kilometres in 14h40′, with several rests included. Will we do it again? Definitely, but maybe we would break the hike in two parts and spend the night at Podragu Cottage. If you want to find out how to get to Moldoveanu Peak as one day hike from Balea Lake, read the complete article:
Driving the famous Transfagarasan Road, the day before the hike
Have you watched the episode of the popular TV show Top Gear where Jeremy, James and Richard drive some fantastic cars on the Transfagarasan Road and declare it one of the world’s most scenic drives?
Well, here it is, one of the best roads in the world, only 100 kilometres from Brasov!
Short info about Transfagarasan Road
The famous road was built between 1970 and 1974, under Ceausescu communist regime, to guarantee a secure way through Carpathian mountains in case of a Soviet invasion. Now is a popular weekend and holiday destination among Romanians and tourists coming from different parts of the world only to see this road. It starts at Cartisoara, in the north and ends at Bascov, in the south, covering a length of 150 kilometres.
Coming from Brasov, you will be driving on Transfagarasan road only 30 kilometres, from Cartisoara to Balea Lake, situated at 2.042 metres altitude. This spectacular section is closed from October to June due to extreme weather conditions.
Driving the Transfagarasan Road
As we already visited Brasov and made a couple of day trips from here, we wanted to spend some time in the mountains. We double-check if the weather forecast was going to be okay for the weekend, so we packed our bags and hit the road. Before heading to our accommodation, we decided to drive the famous Transfagarasan road that crosses the Fagaras Mountains.
The road was easy to access from Brasov, and the ride up was epic, with sharp turns that drove us up to 2.042 metres. In the beginning, the road had a few corners, revealing nothing spectacular. Suddenly, the scenery changed entirely, and we were blown away by the beauty of the mountains in front of us. We stopped a few times, took plenty of photos and admired the landscape and the views over the valley.
Once we arrived at Balea Lake, the thirst thing that drew our attention was a young married couple, originally from Rusia, who decided to take some wedding photos dressed as groom and bride. Since it wasn’t a common thing to see on top of the mountain, the few tourists stopped and whished them all the best.
Once we enjoyed the views and spent some time at Balea Lake, we drove down to the accommodation.
Indeed Transfagarasan Road is one of the most amazing roads in the world so you should give it a try the day before or after the ascent.
Spending the night before the ascent at Albota Trout Farm (Pastravaria Albota)
We chose to stay at Albota Farm – a compound with a vast trout farm, a guest house and a large restaurant with a terrace. There are horseback riding facilities, angling options for children and adults and a store with homemade products. We loved the rustical Romanian ambience, the quietness of the area and the traditional food which was delicious. During our stay, we encountered many families with children, paragliders and tourists from all over the world.
After a delightful dinner, we went to bed early that evening, right after packing our essentials for the ascent.
Note. If you also plan one day hike to Moldoveanu Peak, you can spend the night closer to the ascending point, at one of the cottages near Balea Lake, and save half an hour. Or you can camp at Balea Lake as the majority does.
Balea Lake to Capra Lake – Next morning
We woke up early that morning and by 6 am we were already at Balea Lake. With no one around at that hour, we quickly found a place to park the car, took our belongings and began our ascent from Balea Cottage. The first part of the climb it’s quite challenging, mainly being steep and with less visibility in the early morning. It took us no more than 30 minutes to reach CAPRA SADDLE (Saua Caprei), and on our way up, we were greeted by a beautiful chamois.
The few tourists who spent the night in a tent at Capra Lake were still asleep. We tried to be as quiet as possible and don’t wake them up. After admiring the quietness and the beauty of the place, we bypassed the Capra Lake on the left side and followed the path. Unfortunately, the trail is not well signposted, but we knew we had to head east.
Capra Lake to Three Steps to Death
From Capra Lake, we walked on a rim for 2.5 kilometres, up and down, until we reached a junction of two trails. We ignored the path to Podragu Cottage(Cabana Podragu) and headed instead to THREE STEPS TO DEATH (La 3 pasi de moarte). By now we’ve made some good friends, two lovely dogs who followed us all the way up to Vistea Mare.
Soon we reached a section of slippery rocks and iron chains which we had to pass over. Luckily we knew about this part and brought cloves which made the ascent easier.
Note. Be careful on this section; it’s quite challenging and slippery. I’ve heard some ugly stories about people who fell here. Keep in mind that you might find it more demanding on your way back when you are already exhausted.
Nerlinger Monument – Saua Vartopului – Saua Podragului
Another tricky descent from NERLINGER MONUMENT, with slippery rocks, which seemed like it never ends. We realized we are closing by as we were able to see Moldoveanu Peak for the first time. And it looked so beautiful and still so far! But we never gave up! We passed some gorgeous mountain lakes, Saua Vartopului and Saua Podragului before reaching Vistea Mare.
The Challenging Vistea Mare
Another difficult part before reaching the Moldoveanu Peak is VISTEA MARE ascent. Rocky, slippery and challenging. We were already eager to reach the summit, so we found this part tricky. Another half an hour and we were already on VISTEA MARE PEAK, at 2.527 metres, the third highest peak in Romania.
Another 20 minutes from Vistea Mare Peak and we approached the summit. After 15 kilometres and 6h40′, at 12.40, we reached the highest point of Romania, MOLDOVEANU PEAK, at 2.544 m altitude! What a joy! We took a well-deserved rest, we ate for the first time and enjoyed the view and the silence.
Moldoveanu Peak – Balea Lake
The route back was the same, but the motivation was gone. There are many steep climbs and descents on the way back as well, but the walks along narrow ridges are gorgeous. It took us another 6 hours to reach Balea Lake. And the last section, Capra Saddle, was challenging once again since the sun began to set.
Things to keep in mind
- I recommend this hike only between June and September since the days are longer and the weather warmer.
- Always check and double-check the weather forecast, especially the humidity. If it is too humid, the possibility to rain at some point is high.
- The trek is quite demanding, so do not underestimate it and remember it will be a very long day, therefore start early morning.
- Bring a headlamp in case it gets dark and you haven’t reach the final point.
- Wear trekking shoes and trekking poles if you have some.
- Wear a hat, sunglasses and some sunscreen.
- It would be a great idea to bring gloves for the chain crossing part.
- Bring a lot of water, considering there are no water facilities in the area.
- Bring some snack bars, fruits or sandwiches, whatever pleases you.
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