Have you ever had an experience that you know you will tell everyone?
The adventure we will tell you below is one of them. And you believe it or not, we want to repeat it.
The Piatra Craiului Massif is a limestone mountain, located to the north of the Southern and Eastern Carpathians, in Romania.
Route on Piatra Craiului Mountain
“Plaiul Foii” Chalet (849m) – Spirlea Refuge (1440m) – “La Zaplaz” – At Chains (“La Lanturi”) – Grind 2 Refuge (2206m) – At Man Peak / “Baciului” Peak (2238m) – Grind 1 Refuge (1620m) [marked: red stripe] – La Table – High Forest [mark: red cross] – Zarnesti Praters (Gorges) – Zarnesti
Day 1: 6 hours (from Plaiul Foii Chalet to Grind 2 Refuge)
Day 2: 9 hours (from Grind 2 Refuge to Zarnesti)
Annual astronomical events
If you also want to admire the night sky, we’ve listed some special moments below (only the ones in the summer because we don’t want you to be too cold):
July 28 – The Delta Aquarid meteor shower, with up to 20 meteor/h, but the full moon this year could obscure the view.
August 12-13: Perseids – the most intense meteor shower of the year, up to 60 stars per hour. Next year, it will be more special because it will coincide with a dark sky, without the moon, on the night of August 12th.
The experience – The Piatra Craiului Mountain
The adventure started Saturday around 13:30, once we reached “Plaiul Foii”, a well-known place located at the foot of the Piatra Craiului Mountain, on its north side. Here you can camp, stay in a caravan or for the comfy ones (like me), there are two-three beautiful cabins in the area.
In this trip, we were accompanied by Catalin (Adriana’s brother) and Cezar (Catalin’s best friend), so this time we were four. Once we arrived, we parked the car in a safer place and we started the journey.
The plan was to climb the Nordic side (a more difficult and beautiful route than the one on the southern side), to spend the night in the Grind 2 Mountain Refuge, which is on the peak, to admire the meteor shower, to sleep and to rest, and the next day to go back, also on the Nordic side, so we would get back to the car faster. This plan was based on the experience gained by Adriana and Cata, who was already on the third climb on this mountain and who was confident that the rest of the group is equally prepared.
The first half of the trail is easy, as a walk in the park, climbing easily and smoothly for a while, and towards the end of the first half you start climbing steeply through the woods. At the end of the first half, you find the first mountain refuge, which has a map, bench, and a table, where you can catch your breath and take a well-deserved snack. Take this break to recharge your batteries because what follows is the hardest part of the route.
As I said, the second half is the hardest, but also the most beautiful part of the route. Slowly and surely you will notice how the forest disappears, and in about 10-20 minutes you will remain at the sun’s discretion. That makes climbing even more difficult because you feel like in an oven. If you had water at your discretion it might not be a problem, but the last source of drinking water was just left behind, being near the first refuge. And because you planned to stay overnight and to descend the next day, the water ration was well-calculated.
As soon as you get out of the woods, you get “nose in the nose” with the first obstacle, that is, a hill of stones. These wonderful stones will make you wonder if they have anything with you and make you slip back in the valley when you put your foot on them. Though it doesn’t seem a big thing, you will understand our “suffering” if you take this route.
After this part, we continued to climb and we started the series of chains. Yes, there are a number of chains to help you climb and … mainly not to fall and break something. These chains are becoming more and more useful as you move forward, and you begin to feel their absence when they disappear and leave you hanging on a rock wall like a black goat.
At this point, you discover the beauty of the Nordic slope, which is very steep, offers you thrills and dreamlike landscapes. Although the view retreats on the second place when you have to decide which the stone to cling on.
On the top of Piatra Craiului
We arrived at the destination, Grind 2 Refuge, just as we planned, just minutes before sunset. The landscape and quietness were magnificent, even if we weren’t alone. On the way, we met some people who warned us that “up” are quite a lot of people, and they all want to stay overnight in the refuge. And to understand why they warned us, this refuge is meant to be used only in emergency situations, not being very well-equipped or roomy, with only plywood about a meter above the ground.
After admiring the wonderful sunset, we thought it would be a good idea to check out the refuge to leave our luggage and rest. Being such a good idea, we weren’t the only ones who had it, the refuge is full. Outside, tents were already installed (about 4-5) and another group of 4 people was installed outside, only in sleeping bags. Once we saw them, we thought we could do that as well, being the only remaining option.
We have found a location and started organizing ourselves. We ate (canned food, sandwiches), we dressed with everything we had (3-4 layers) and we tried to sleep because we were tired and it was not yet the peak of the meteor shower.
Sleeping 4 people alongside one and other is not ideal, those in the middle were ok, protected from wind and cold, but the extremities were quite affected. We were freezing lightly and surely … we were resigned and waiting for the night to pass faster.
But someone has seen us and announced that there is still a place in the refuge under the “bed”. At that moment it didn’t matter that we would sleep under other people.
When we arrived in the refuge, we got easily under the plywood and tried to fit as conveniently as possible. The floor was made of earth, cellophane, and stones. We slept for about an hour and we were already stiff because it’s not very comfortable to sleep on stones. And if we woke up we decided to go outside and to admire the meteor shower. On this occasion, we also admired the moonrise, which was magnificent and we saw some beautiful meteorites.
Then followed a strange night (for me at least). I managed to get short periods of sleep. Being a night full of conflicts, I got rid of a stone that was in my ribs, another one pokes me in the back and so on. I was choosing what part of my body I would not feel for a while. 😀
Going down the Piatra Craiului mountain
The next day we waited a while for the sunrise. The whole peak was covered by clouds and you could not see anything at more than 10m. But the wait was fully rewarded. We have witnessed one of the most beautiful sunrises in our lives. The clouds were under us, there was a little fog on the peak, and the sun could shine through the haze and warm up our faces. It was awesome!
Immediately after we ate, we planned our return route. The wind was quite strong and the whole northern part was covered by fog and clouds, which made it a very dangerous descent route. Since our car was on that side of the mountain, we thought we could walk on the crest and then lower down through the forest. This route we were told to be easier, and that’s why we tried it.
The view that this route gave us was gorgeous, we were walking right on the ridge of the mountain and there was a steep on both the left and the right. On the one hand, we enjoy the view and was fortunate we are to be up there and admire it, on the other hand, it was very dangerous because at every step taken it was the danger of falling, and besides that, there was a strong wind. There were several tense moments that made us wonder if it was worth the risk and after a fairly simple calculation we decided to go back from where we left.
The only option left was to go down on the southern side of the mountain and then walk around the massive to get back to the car. The plan sounded super simple and easy to follow. We had also reached The At Man Peak (“Varful La Om” -2238m) and then we started downhill. It was a slight descent, like a walk in the park, total opposite from the previous day’s climb. The only problem began to make its presence felt when we finished our descent and began to go around the mountain, realizing it would be very tedious.
We went through hills, forests, and streams. A few hours haven’t seen anyone, just near Zarnesti we started seeing other people. On this occasion, we have also accidentally discovered the Zarnesti Gorges that impressed us, is an opportunity to realize how small we are and how beautiful nature can be.
After 20 or more km, we passed Zarnesti and we still had about 10 km to get back to the car, but this time we only had to follow the paved road to Plaiul Foii. The sky was quite threatening and we were expecting to be caught in a big storm. But we were lucky with a taxi that stopped and took us to Plaiul Foii, because half an hour later a heavy rain began.
This was our expedition on Piatra Craiului Mountain, full of beautiful and dangerous moments, at the same time. It was worth all the fatigue you have accumulated and we learned that when you go on the mountain it would be advisable to get better equipped, and have backup plans. For example, have sleeping bags when you want to sleep on the top of the mountain in the busiest night of the year.