The massif of Farcău-Mihailecu belongs in the series of the tall lateral ridges that branch off the main ridge of the Marmarosh Mountains to run into the territory of Romania. Farcău at 1957m, formed of hard, dark basalt, is the highest summit of the Marmarosh Mountains. Mihailecu at 1918m, of white limestone, ranks fourth in elevation. Between them is Lake Vinderel – a little lake, nonetheless the largest of all in these mountains. The lake sits at 1684m, which means that the prominence of Mihailecu (a walk up from the lake to either summit takes less than half an hour) is nearly 240m, and Farcău rises about 40 metres higher.
There are three villages at the foot of the Farcău-Mihailecu Massif: Repedea (Krive) at about 500m-Poienile de sub Munte (Poiana Ruscă = Rusyn i.e. Ruthenian Clearing) at 550m-Luhei (Luhi) at 600m. They form a "conurbation" along the Ruscova River. All the altitudes listed above translate to an elevation gain of about 1400m (and the total elevation gain for Farcău nearly 1700m if you hike over the summit of Mihailecu) on a route with a trailhead in the Ruscova Valley. You can have a perfect day hike doing a loop following the red and then blue stripes (or the other way round) starting/finishing at Repedea/Luhei.
The toponyms along the Ruscova River, including the very name of the river, betray the fact that Rusyns, here a.k.a. Hutsuls, or more recently, "Ukrainians" have long lived here. And they still do, being an overwhelming majority in the villages. The male traditional occupations are breeding livestock and cutting timber, which results in most of the forest near the villages as well as nearly all of the dwarf mountain pine (krummholz) zone on the ridge having vanished, converted into meadows, pastures or clearings.
Getting There, Routes, Map & AccommodationTo get to the trailhead - if you don't go by car - take a bus or taxi from Vişeu de Jos. In theory, a more convenient option is to get off at Leordina, at the mouth of the valley of the Ruscova, then hitchhike/catch a bus/minibus heading up the valley. But this may depend on luck more than getting off at Vişeu de Jos, which is a bigger village/a little town.
Without a heavy backpack, you can get to Lake Vinderel in about 4 hours, having started either at Repedea (blue stripe) or Luhei (red stripe). Fortunately, a good map (Harta Repedea) of the area can be studied online, on the website of the Maramuresh Mountains Nature Park. As you can see, there is also a network of unmarked paths but if you are not a local, you are likely to spend more time on them than expected. If you pick Luhei for your trailhead, take good care just after the start so as not to walk along the brook past the spot where the trail leaves it to climb up the slope.
Distance: about 12km (to Farcău)
Time (no heavy pack): 4.5-5h
(way down 3.5-4h; up and back down: 8-9h)
Total Elevation Gain: (including Mihailecu) 1,580m (Luhei start) to 1,680m (Repedea start)
You can stay at one of the villages on the Ruscova River – see Accommodation here on the left. But to many hikers a night somewhere up there can be more appealing. If you decide to stay by the lake, and you have come in summertime, you are not going to be alone – the lake is a waterhole for the cattle, sheep and horses – do not drink water from any lakes or puddles. (The funny thing is that the mysterious Lake Vinderel does not show on the old maps made before the 2nd World War.)
Red Tape & Hazards
Despite the area being part of a nature park
there is no red tape as long as
you keep away from the Romania-Ukraine border.
See Area Page for more information
(and do not say you haven't been warned.)
More External Links
- Excellent photo TR
- late spring - photos
- Poienile de Sub Munte by Chicago Jews
- Discussion of the origin of Lake Vinderel: pages 2-3 (48-49) here