The South Carpathians, often called Transylvanian Alps, run east to west across Romania, separating the lowland of Wallachia, which extends along the left bank of the River Danube, from the uplands of Transylvania in the north. Four or three - depending where you draw the east borderline - of the highest ranges of the South Carpathians exceed 2,500m in elevation.
Romania's second highest mountain range is the Parâng (used to be spelt Parîng; the â/î sound is close to the German "ü") whose highest summit, Parângul Mare (mare = great) is 2,519m high (or perhaps 2,518m, according to some new measurements). The peak is also sometimes called Mândra but this is actually the name of its secondary summit, just south of Parângul Mare. The western neighbour of Parângul Mare is the second highest peak of the Parâng Mountains, Gemănarea, at 2,426m.
Whereas most of the vast mountainous area comprising the Parâng mountain group, between the Retezat in the east and the Făgăraş in the west – is of crystalline schists, gneisses and other metamorphic rocks, and looks a bit like a rolling upland, elevated high and dissected by a handful of deep valleys, the central part of the Parâng proper is of granite and other igneous rocks, which results in the summit of Parângul Mare being the second highest peak in Romania.
The springs of the Jieţ River and the Pleistocene glaciers took turns to bite deep into the north side of the granite bulk of Parângul Mare. As a result, it has the classic alpine, or rather Tatra-like looks and cradles three tarns, including the biggest and deepest lake in these mountains, Lacul Roşiile aka Tăul fără Fund, i.e. Bottomless (in fact 17.6 m deep).
Northwest of Parângul Mare, beyond the ridge of Pontul Roşu (Red Spur) that extends northeasterly from the main summit splitting Roşiile cirque in half, at the foot of the second highest peak of the Parâng, Gemanarea (2,426m), sits the other half of the cirque. Here, some of the igneous rocks turn reddish in colour while weathering. The whole cirque contains the headwaters of the Jieţ River, which rushes north for several kilometers, takes a right angle turn to the west, cuts a narrow, nearly 6 km long gorge just before reaching the town of Petroşani, where – as if unwilling to part with its home mountains – the stream merges with the Jiu de Est, and soon takes another right angle turn to finally flow into the Jiu River and continue south, thus forming the west border of the Parâng Mountains.
The southern and western slopes and side ridges of the Parâng Mountains, including Parângul Mare, are long, smooth and monotonous, the sub-alpine mountain pine – unlike on the other, rocky side of the main ridge – has been virtually cut down and given way to pastureland.
Hiking Routes & MapsThe routes listed below are marked but in these mountains you don't have to stick to marked routes so hiking and scrambling possibilities are endless.
A set of older maps online - from sketch to large scale representations of the most interesting sections: here
- From the North: from Groapa Seaca Hut (1,208m) on Road 7A (!not Groapa Seaca Pass, which is farther east): a few kilometers up a gravel road, then up a scenic glacial valley and past pretty tarns at the valley head: 5.5 hours, marked with red circles. (A similar option is a hike up the Mija valley but it doesn’t lead directly to Parangul Mare.)
- From Petroşani: not the most original route, which leads from the upper end of the chair lift/car park at Hotel Rusu (1168m): 5.5 hours, red stripes. (This is actually part of the traverse of the main ridge of the South Carpathians.)
- From/To the railway in the West: A fair deal for a descent rather than an ascent, especially if going to continue hiking in the Retezat or Vâlcan mountains – down one of either ridge lining the valley of the Cutreasa Stream, which has its sources on the west slopes of Gemănarea, towards the towns of Iscroni and Livezeni, a south suburb of Petroşani: 7-8 hours, waymarked with red crosses or unmarked
- From/To the railway in the South-West: The train stop at Lainici (500m), south of Livezeni, 9 hours up, red circles
A paper map can be purchased online, e.g. here.
Getting TherePractical tips to help you drive acrosss Romania: on the outstanding Retezat page by Peterbud
Public transport between Romania's cities is well developed, quite unlike local bus networks. Hitchiking is commonplace, the (little) fare is not usually asked for but is supposed to be handed. Before you start to hitch a ride, you first have to get to the town of Petroşani, where coal has been mined since the 19th century. On foggy days, there's a stunning contrast between the lights, noise and dirt of an industrial town and its clean, tranquil surroundings – the Parâng Mountains in the west, and the Retezat and Vâlcan in the east.
Details about how to get there:
- by rail German Railways
- by car The first step is to get to Road E79 crossing Romania between Oradea and Craiova, the next is to drive to Petroşani, from where I'd recommend taking Road 7A. This is a narrow asphalt road - usually impassable in winter - which runs west to east (follow the signs that read Voineasa) across the Parang mountain group, up to Road E81 Sibiu-Rimnicu Vâlcea. After leaving Petroşani the road leads up the gorge of the Jieţ River for nearly 6 km, another 6 km and you're at Mija- Jieţ Hut, again 6 km and you'll get to Groapa Seaca Hut, 18 km away from Petroşani (see Accommodation chapter below).
Another option is to drive via Gen. V. Milea Street to the upper station of the chair lift (Parâng Telescaun), where there's a ski centre and the Hotel Rusu.
- Refuge Agatat, owned by a student club - no key needed – located on a rock by the Roşiile brook.
- Refuge Cârja, on the main ridge, west of Cârja Peak
- Cabana Groapa Seaca (hut)
18 km east of Petroşani, at 1,208m; 45 beds, 5bathrooms, hot water
Prices (2009): approx. €9/person/night
! Closed from November to March
- Cabana Mija–Jiet (hut/guesthouse)
12 km east of Petroşani, at 1,100m; 26 beds, restaurant
Prices (2009): Twin room approx. €28; 4-bedded room approx. €40
- Hotel Rusu, at the upper station of the Petroşani chair lift, 1,168m
- In Petroşani
Red Tape, Wildlife, Camping & Scrambling
There is practically no red tape in the area depicted here despite there being a couple of nature reserves nearby. More protected areas are supposed to be designated. One of the saddest sights can be that of some tourists using the mountain pine to make a fire. Please stick to your gas or petrol stove.
The area doesn't seem to be teeming with wildlife as much as e.g. the Retezat, Piatra Craiului or some of the other chunks of the Parâng mountain group itself. However, all species of the Carpathian fauna can be encountered, of which the bears are the most dangerous, vipers occur as well.
The classic hiking routes are waymarked but there are a great many unmarked paths, some of which can be spotted on the maps. The best thing about the Parâng Mountains is that their north part – despite lying so close to town – is probably the least frequented of Romania's highest ranges. Whereas opportunities for technical climbing are limited as the walls are pretty short, this is a true paradise for hikers, scramblers and bushwhackers.
When To Go & Potential DangersLate spring to early autumn is the usual hiking time.
In winter, Road 7A is normally impassable. The Parâng Mountains are notorious for high avalanche risk.
Potential dangers in the summer season:
- Flock-guarding dogs although the EU regulations have been pushing the shepherds out of work recently - think of some effective dog repellents: bangers/crackers/spray?/ultrasonic? - I myself can't recommend any modern stuff - as well as the traditional techniques: see description and comments below this pic
- Bad weather
- Adders (a bite shouldn't kill you unless you're allergic but serum will be necessary)
- Bears (they are not as big a problem as in the Bucegi Mountains since they have not been depraved by tourists yet): Try to put up your tent above timberline, don't keep food inside, check out the following link to find out how to behave if you meet a bear.
WeatherIn Petroşani, at about 550m:
External LinksHuge collections of photos, varying quality (plus some info, e.g. GPS points; most info in Romanian): alpinet.org and carpati.org
The Mountains of Romania - guidebook by James Roberts.
Lots of good quality, informative pix: Parângul Mare area towards the end of the series
Pix from a skiing trip plus a TR - unfortunately in Polish