Piatra Craiului (ro)
rising just east of the Făgăraş and Iezer mountains, is usually regarded as the east end of the Făgăraş group (part of the South Carpathians) and has always been regarded highly, which is reflected in the name of the mountains that translates as the Royal Rock, or King's Stone.
The Piatra Craiului is - in a nutshell - over a dozen kilometers long, narrow, ridge of Jurassic limestone, which runs NNE to S like a stately sawtooth wave. (It has a lookalike at the other, north end of the Carpathian arc, namely the Bela Tatras.) The Piatra Craiului's little sister inside the South Carpathians is the massif of Buila-Vănturariţa, just beyond the other, west end of the Făgăraş group. All these limestone mountains – thanks to their jaggedness – have remained fairly untouched by the pastoral economy that has shaped the landscapes of nearly all Carpathian ranges for centuries, if not millennia. No wonder the Piatra Craiului is home to many a bear, wolf and lynx as well as endemic flower species, such as the pink named Dianthus callizonus.
The Piatra Craiului is every Carpathian scrambler's dream. Those who prefer technical climbing also frequently scale its sheer limestone walls and towers, although the Bucegi Mountains, which sit about 20km to the south-east, are much more popular with climbers. The Piatra Craiului is a compact mountain range, perfect for day hikes or climbs. Weather permitting, you can hike along the marked trail from a hut at the foot of the mountains (at 750 to 850m) up onto the crest whose highest summit, La Om or Piscul Baciului (Pásztor-csúcs/Hirtenspitze/Shepherd's Peak), is 2,239m high, and come back down within one long summer day. The main ridge trail is normally covered in two days. Talking of rock difficulty, the waymarked trail is often YDS class 3 and at a few spots easy 4. NB There is virtually no water anywhere on or near the crest.
The ridge trail is only intersected by two waymarked paths running across the ridge (from its west foot to the eastern foothills): Plaiul Foii-Padina Popii-Cabana Curmătura near its north end, and Plaiul Foii-Refugiul Grind near its center (and its highest summit). The latter path forms a dividing line between what is called Creasta Sudică and Creasta Nordică, that is to say the North and the South ridges of the Piatra Craiului. This is a split for convenience as there is no natural divide between these areas. What is meant by the main ridge trail here extends between the passes (pass = şa/şaua) of Crăpăturii in the north and Funduri in the south. In summertime, in good weather conditions, no heavy pack on one's back, a hike along the marks (which traverse the most difficult parts of the crest) takes over 10 hours. However, the actual length of the whole main ridge, including the southernmost section, is nearly 25km – twice as much as the length of the main ridge trail as depicted above.
The western face of the Piatra Craiului is an imposing wall whose highest parts are virtually inaccessible for non-technical climbers, except for a few routes, such as the scenic La Lanţuri ("Chains"), marked with red and white stripes, secured with metal cables at several spots, and a couple of unmarked paths reaching UIAA grade II, that is to say more or less YDS 5.2 in terms of technical difficulty. This western flank of the mountains is cut by steep ravines, lined by and elaborately decorated with thousands of limestone walls and towers, among which you can get lost easily.
The La Lanţuri route, which is part of the line dividing the North Ridge from the South Ridge, passes by some beautiful limestone arches at a spot called La Zaplaz, which used to be known as Deubel Holes. Talking of karst arches, the greatest is Cerdacul Stanciului at the western base of the South Ridge.
The eastern face of the Piatra Craiului is much gentler except for a couple of places, such as the northernmost section of the South Ridge. The northeast edge of the mountains, several hundred meters lower (1,816m) but no different in shape from what runs to the south-west from it, is named Piatra Mică, i.e. Little Rock, and towers right over the town of Zărneşti.
Red Tape, National Park and Libearty
The mountains have been designated a National Park so you are only allowed to camp at the campsites by the huts. If you get caught off the waymarked trail, you are likely to incur a fine of several hundred euros! Here's more about the Park rules
A few kilometres north-east of the town of Zărnești the Libearty Sanctuary has been set up. Several dozen bears, mostly Romanian, are enjoying a new life there.
When To Go
In wintertime relatively few people go climbing in the Piatra Craiului, on the other hand, among those few people the percentage of SP members seems to be a little higher, not to mention the percentage of SP dogs.:) In June there can still be plenty of snow in the couloirs and ravines. In July and August, the trails can get crowded in places. July can be rainy, depending on the year. Late summer and the first half of autumn seem to offer the best chance of your enjoying whatever snowless fun you have come for.
- mid-May video: up Ciorânga Canyon (4 parts)
- June trad climbing: photo-TR plus a video at the very end
Rescue Team & Guides
The national Salvamont dispatcher is: 0 salvamont or 0725 826668
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You can hire a guide, such as this.
In summertime, finding accommodation at the foot of the Piatra Craiului is not difficult. There are several huts (in winter they are usually packed with people), often with an adjacent camping ground, around the mountains. The town of Zărneşti offers a range of guesthouses. The mountains are dotted with characteristic shelters, most of which look like halved soccer balls. These refuges are unmannned, rudimentary and unlocked. They offer shelter if the weather gets foul or if it's getting dark and the hut/campground is still a long way away. Two of the shelters are located on the main ridge, both at above 2,000m. The first huts and shelters in Piatra Craiului were built toward the end of the 19th century by the Siebenbürgischer Karpaten Verein: More about the history on the NP page as well as on SP.
The most convenient base for the North Ridge area is a place called Plaiul Foii, where a hut has stood for over a century and where today there are several facilities in which rooms/beds can be rented, plus a campground where one can pitch the tent (do not count on peace and quiet). For the South Ridge area, Cabana Garofiţa Pietrei Craiului (cabana = hut) can be a nice place to stay. The most convenient hut for Piatra Mică is no doubt Cabana Curmătura at 1470m, the only problem being the quality of service and cleanliness, of which there have been some not very enthusiastic opinions in recent decades, so to some a cozy guesthouse in Zărneşti may be a more appealing option.
Getting ThereZărneşti (the journey takes just about half an hour) at the very foot of the Piatra Craiului.
- Romanian train timetable:
Braşov-Zărneşti and Zărneşti-Braşov timetables
- German Railways (all Europe covered)
- Romania's roads - from Bucharest, follow E60 (DN1) to Sinaia, then past Sinaia to Predeal, where you should turn off onto DN73A leading to Râşnov
- Bucharest airports
Maps & Books & Movies
- excellent map by Bel Alpin Tour
- on mapy.cz
- interesting map by SP member peterbud
- 1:30,000 by Bel Alpin, on the back the marked trails described in English
- 1:30,000 by Bel Alpin, 2016 edition
- 1:30,000 by Zenith, waterproof
- The Mountains of Romania by James Roberts
- Transylvania by Lucy Mallows
- You may have seen these mountains before:
This movie was made around the Piatra Craiului.
- "Piatra Craiului" by Emilian Cristea, 1984 edition, not published anymore. Contains detailed routes (marked and unmarked) description and topos.
- Climbing guidebook Romania by Dimension Vertical (Gerald Krug)
- Romanian film with English subtitles:
Maps which can be studied online
Books and movies
More External Links
- A few dozen pix - to view them full screen as a slide show, click the arrow in the bottom right-hand corner
- video TR (4 parts)
- Királykő by SP member peterbud