The Făgăraș Mountains are the highest and largest mountain ranges of the Carpathians. Trekking along the main ridge during summer is not an easy task, but in winter it is a real challenge. Even in olden times winter mountaineering across the entire ridge was considered by the Romanian Alpine clubs to be the basis of the master’s degree. Although the mountain climbing world and especially the quality of the equipment have changed since then a lot, the mountain requires our respect in the same way. Our hiking trip takes us along the entire main ridge or along its most picturesque sections, where even if we don’t hike over the entire ridge, we will explore the true essence of it.
The famous paved roads across the Transfăgărășan make the middle section of the mountain easily accessible. Tough a smaller part of the mountain can be traversed from here in a day hike, so that you could get familiar with the Făgăraș Mountains you need a multiple day trekking. There is a possibility for star hiking from the mountain huts, or you can travel on foot on the ridges carrying your tent. Near the lakes formed on the upper glacier ledge of the valleys are the most suitable camping places. The mountain called also the Transylvanian Alps, got this name not by chance. It is a veritable alpine tract, being characterized by big level differences and considerable distances. Its main ridge is locally secured with chains, and the trails pass round on the gently sloping southern side the ridge curving over the crashing down of the abrupt northern side. The northern secondary ridges are short, but difficult and rocky, whilst the southern are downy, grass-covered and rounded widespread cliff ridges.
The built heritage that is linked to the mountain, the Făgăraș Fortified Castle and the ruins of the Abbey of Cârța, as well as the middle aged atmosphere of Sibiu and its surroundings are the masterpiece of the remaining Saxon architecture.
Some information about the mountain
It is the ideal place for alpine trekking or hiking tours. Its east-west main ridge rises constantly above 2000 m, the distances are big, and outside the glaciers we meet practically with such challenges that make part of the alpine mountaineering. The climate is alpine, the average yearly temperature is around zero degrees Celsius, -20, -25 degrees in winter are not a rare thing, and we can count on sudden snowfalls in summer, as well. Its highest peak (Moldoveanu 2544m) is also the highest of Romania. The climate of the Făgăraș Mountains is characterized by the winds coming from the northwest and by the weather fronts determined by the size of the massif. Frequently occurs that the one side of the ridge is covered by fog, whilst its other side is bathed in sunshine. The rigorous world of the northern rocky side is in contrast with the grassy alpine pastures of the southern slope. We don’t have the chance to meet with shepherds guarding their herds of sheep on the north side, but in the southern part it is a familiar sight. The sheepdogs have got already accustomed to the tourists, paying no heed to them, just walking slowly after the sheep they are guarding. It is worth making a halt and striking up a conversation with the shepherds, they have interesting stories to tell about wolfs attacking the herds of sheep, and we can even get in some cheese and curd from them. There are more and more foreign hikers who desire to explore the most important hiking trails of the massif, moreover, in my opinion, in the last couple of years the place became more popular among foreign visitors than for locals. I recommend it to everyone who has an average physical condition, but those who want a longer ridge tour, besides the good condition, need also a good endurance. Because of the snow which lasts around the middle of June, the main tour season is limited to 4-5 months, but those who dispose of wintertime experiences can take the challenge. It is worth to organize at least a 2-3 days mountain hiking tour, but the entire traverse of the main ridge needs at least 7-8 days.
A few words about the tours
Our tours approach the mountain from the north each time. Not only because of the fact that the quality of the roads here is much better, or because the Transfăgărașan road leads up above 2000 m, but also due to the fact that it is so spectacular, so huge, and you feel so little and insignificant here. There are many refuges in the northern side of the valley, which can act as a base during the tours. You can take a short walk from the huts (though I have never brought it off), but generally you should reckon with a longer hike, during for 8-10 hours. Although the most of the cottages situate on 1500-1600 m, from here there are still 800-1000 m to be climbed up to the main ridge. Except of some chain secured sections, there are no difficult climbing sections from technical point of view, in fact, at the chained sections you have to endure only the depth yawning below us. In summertime we guide 1-8 persons. But in winter the situation is very different, the danger of the abrupt hillsides requires both experience and ground knowledge, and the members of the group should take care of each other, which can be managed by max. 3-4 persons. It goes without saying that the equipment assures not only your comfort, but also it can save your life. Besides the compulsory hiking boot, you need a usual layered clothing (wind and raincoat/trousers, polar underclothing), a pair of hiking stocks, sunglasses, suntan lotion, headlamp, headwear (band of cloth, hut) could be useful. For wintertime add to these things the important elements of the technical equipment, e.g. crampons, ice axe, climbing harness, a bigger 40-45 liters backpack. You should bring your own equipment. Think of the food, that you consume during daytime, too (ingredients for sandwiches, chocolates, energy bars, dried fruit, grains, nuts and of course water. The mountains is abounding with spring water, but these are min. 3-400 m down under the main ridge, also if you don’ want to climb up and down continuously for water, you need to carry your daily water kit.
Well, here are more possibilities, but in my opinion we’ll proceed the following way. I divide the mountain in three parts according to the scenic spots and the worth seeing sections. These would be the surroundings of Moldoveanu (highest summit), the environs of Transfăgăraș-Balea, as well as the surroundings of Negoiu (the second highest peak and the most spectacular one). For the hiking in the surroundings of Moldoveanu there are two mountain huts that can be used as a base, the Sambata and Podragu. The latter situates higher, but in winter it is closed. Also in summer the Podragu, while in winter the Sambata would be the better solution. Both are typical alpine shelters, where you can sleep and eat, everything else can be solved in the nature. The Lake Bâlea, which is accessible on the Transfăgărașan road, is suitable mostly for a day hike. Here are comfortable shelters, whose offering and services are wide, even at a lower level, since on the road the height of the main ridge is easily accessible. The third, in my opinion the most beautiful region of the Făgăraș Mountains, is the region of the Negoiu peak. Here we can use as a base the refuge bearing the same name. It is a multi-story stone building, located in an ideal place and at an ideal height, WC and toilette in the building, but you should count only on cold water. You can buy cooked food, beverage, etc. It is a building dotted with central heating, so in winter you don’t need any sleeping bags. On the main ridge renovated mountain huts are waiting for you, but they could be staffed during the summer, so you are recommended to use them only in emergency situations. Of course you can pitch your tent practically everywhere in the mountain, but in the vicinity of the mountain huts you must pay a tax for the camping place.