This week I went on my first hike in Leaota Mts. in the central area of Romania, close to Brasov. The original plan was to do a 3-4 days hike that would cover the northern ridge of Leaota Mts. (Curmatura Fiarelor – Saua Strunga) and the western ridge of Bucegi Mts. (Saua Strunga – Vf. Omu – Bran). As it happens sometimes I decided to cut short the hike on the 2nd day after crossing the Leaota northern ridge as the weather conditions (and some mistakes in the gear I brought with me) forced me to progress half as fast as I planned.
The first day, I started from Cheile Gradistei sports center on a dense fog that made orientation extremely difficult as I didn’t have any landmarks on which to guide myself. This made me wonder about on the snowy hills of the Fundata area for about 2 hours until finally I met a person to guide me in the right direction towards the mountains. After getting to Fundata village and then on the trail my worries (that I will not be able to find my way to the crest on that fog) started to ease off as the trail was clearly visible on the ground and on my GPS too. My hope that the cloud cover should be pretty low was fulfilled after climbing over 1500-1600 m of altitude when I got into clear weather with a bright sun and deep blue skies that encompassed a thrilling landscape with snowcapped mountains and sheer cliffs rising from the sea of clouds beneath. The Leaota ridge is a pretty easy hike as it is made up of rounded peaks around 1900 meters high with shallow passes between them. As the day is pretty short in December and there were no springs on the way up I stopped and made camp around 4pm. Well, here’s were the problems began. First of all I needed water so I started melting snow. I only brought a tin cup with me so I was expecting a long process but it was a full desaster. The cup (my first time using it) was made with double walls (thermos like) except for a small portion on the bottom so it took a really long time for the heat to transfer from the primus to the water; as a result I managed to melt half a liter in 1 hour and 15 minutes. Of course I managed two other “feats” while melting water, first I knocked over the cup and it fell on the tent’s floor wich now has a nice round hole in it 5-6 cm in diameter; afterwards after getting a 3/4 of the cup with almost hot water for a soup I knocked it over again, this time hopefully not inside the tent but all the water spilled inside my boots that were just outside of the tent’s entrance. Anyway, after eating a hot soup and some sweets I regained my good spirits and went to sleep happily.
The second day started also with blue skies and a bright sun, yet with a small addition: really strong gusting winds. Undoing the tent turned out to be a real chore, always fighting not to get blown away by the wind and actually (as it turned out to be for the whole day) really fighting to breathe as the wind was so strong you felt you can’t get air to fill your lungs. This constant lack of air and the continuous battle to keep my balance tired me very fast so I decided to take the way around the last two peaks instead of climbing them and then head down on the other side. The main problem with this decision was that I had to give up on wearing the snow shoes as they are not fit for walking on a level curve and this got me in another type of trouble as now my advance was slowed down because I sank over the knees in the drift snow from the crest. So my snail-like advancement made me realize that I will not be able to complete the itinerary that I wanted to so I decided to descend on a trail starting from Strunga Pass, going under Coltii Tatarului and then to Moeciu de Sus. When I finally reached Bucsa Pass (right before Strunga Pass) I had a clear view of my descent track area wich was crossed by 3-4 avalanches coming from the cliffs above. Change of plan again, I climbed on the nearest peak (Bucsa, 1848 m) and found a new trail going down towards Moeciu. Fas forward in 3 hours I was in Brasov waiting for a bus to take me back to Timisoara. Until next time… let it snow!!! 😀