Mission impossibleThe Carpathian Dragon must have crucified me. An extremelly courageous plan to trek Retezat – Retezat Mic – Godeanu – Valea Cernei was in my mind. According to my estimate this trek is about 100 long and could surpass an unforgettable trek along ancient frontier in Marmarosh Mts. But the reality was a little different. What appeared to be the longest trek of my life turned immediately to the shortest hike...
When I travelled by train to Romania I noticed gradual change of the climatic pattern. The low pressure system coming from the NW joined with another one from the Balkans. The result was horrible: 60-HOURS OF RAIN WITHOUT STOP. There was a drizzle at 1700 m altitude and snow at above 2000m. According to my plan I should stay overnight at Bucura refuge (2050m). Absolutelly no chance to get there. I was happy to find refuge at Pietrele hut situated at 1470m. The aforementioned horrible weather forced me to stay here for three days and nights. Also compensatory plans to have a look at the valleys of Galeşul, Valea Rea, Stânişoara and Lolaia ridge were swept away. I decided to transfer from Pietrele to Genţiana hut. But it wasn't as easy task as it is when the weather is favourable. The blue stripe hiking trail turned to the rushing flow of water. Another three days and nights spent at the highest located hut of Retezat. I was happy to stay at 18-bed room with an old-fashioned stove. The visibility was very poor (20m) and I had no idea, whether I will be allowed to see the beauty of Retezat Mts. I had such a nightmare: I am back home but there are no images/video footage from this adventurous expedition. No Retezat, no Godeanu nor Cernei....
Fortunatelly it didn't happen. The Princess of the Southern Carpathians revealed her beauties to my eyes on Sat.19.5. After six days of patient waiting I was allowed to be in the mountains. A perfect day started at 5:30 a.m. and finished at 8:00 p.m. Gradual illumination of the N wall of Bucura delighted my sense of capturing morning sceneries, which I consider as the most attractive.
Nearby Bucura saddle covered by snow. A kind of magic. I didn't believe it's true. Arduous ascent through half a kilometre long patch of snow. No ice-axe, no crampons. No serpentines of blue-striped hiking trail. Just a track of skis. Ice-scrambling directly into the saddle. The quality of snow wasn't as bad as I thought. No problems, no fall.
The first sight of Bucura area. The largest lake of Romania was completelly frozen. What a pity I did'nt take skates with me... Ascent to Custura Bucurei. Slippery frozen scree. Traverse of Colţii Pelegii. Suddenly I spotted some footprints in the deep snow. „Ice-climbers“ - I said in my mind. I was confused. Having a closer look at the shape of the track I noticed something remarkable. The footprint of five fingers with claws. A small bear at 2450m altitude – something incredible :-) I followed its trace and probably it tracked a chamois. The bear's footprint reached nearly the highest point of Retezat, but then descended somewhere towards Peleaga tarn...
Having climbed Peleaga an enchanting 360°panorama of Retezat, Retezat Mic, Godeanu and Ţarcu Mts appeared. Only now I could say: „White clothes of the Princess are becoming elegant.“ I consider this panorama as the most valuable of all in Tatra-like mountains I have ever seen. A very remote area with patches of snow visible all around.
Just now I realized how difficult task it is to trek these mountains in such an unstable weather conditions. So far I could enjoy a few hours of carribean blue sky in the morning. But gradual change of this situation followed. Descent into the Şaua Pelegii. Admiring NE walls of the Tusks of Peleaga. Dark granite cliffs towerig from white snow cover. What an photogenic contrast.
Ascent to Păpuşa. Difficult descent from No.2 as there was hardly any visible hiking trail/marks. Just patches of snow and scree on this very steep S face with a deep saddle. In some parts of Custura peak there were snowdrifts more than a metre deep. Looking southwards – a canopy of green vegetation, looking northwards – ice-covered tarns blending with surrounding landscape. What an example of typical caloric contrast, whose values between the shaded cirques and sunny southern slopes are four-times less.
Long descent to important Şaua Plaiu Mic. A memory of Peter's shot of Retezat in April. Capturing the same scenery a month later, noticing there were hardly any change in terms of snow cover. Descent to Poiana Pelegii. Finding Salvamont shelter as the best accomodation in this cold wilderness. Two comfortable rooms with two beds and a table at the first floor. Possibility to lock the door. No people, no rescue crew. What a luxury. At first I had to ascent to Bucura refuge. Meeting the first hikers in Retezat. A group of two pairs. Talking in E about RO Mts. A typical question followed: „Where are you from? Why don't we speak Czech?“ It appeared they are my guys, but this lesson of E was very fruitful. Bucura refuge – empty. Its first floor absolutelly the best destination for staying overnight with a possibility to pitch the tent. No tents near the shores of Bucura lake. A pair of Romanian trekkers. Asking about the weather forecast. „Tommorow sunny, but from Monday the temperature will drop again with another portion of rain/drizzle.“ Return to Genţiana hut. Just a perfect day....
The next day (Sun 20.05.) I decided to leave Gentiana hut early in the morning. The second scrambling to Bucura saddle with heavy backpack was perhaps the most exhausting. My idea was to spent several nights at Bucura shelter (finally to my surprise 8 nights:-). I pitched my tent at the first floor of this refuge. The real-feel temperature varied from 0°C to 5°C!!! Two Moravian trekkers descended two hours later. One of them was slightly injured owing to the fall on the snow-patch when descending from Judele saddle. They told me that their two colleagues (one of them 47 years old woman) gave up the idea to descend this dangerous section, having returned back to Zanoaga refuge. No mobile connection in Bucura area (I love such EM smog-free places:-) I said: „Tommorow (21.05.) I am heading towards Zanoaga and check if they are overthere."
Following red dot trail. After about 1 km the trail disappeared in the huge snow field. Scrambling through steep SE walls at the foot of Judele. Suddenly spotting short section of red dot trail disappearing again in another snow-patch. Trapped in the clouds/fog. Precarious orientation. Forced to scramble along steep snow-patch. Reaching the sharp crest somewhere between Poarta and Judele. Climbing to Judele – slippery rock, visibility less than 5 m, gusts of strong wind. Having no idea, that this is E face of Judele. After reaching the top the signpost Vf.Judele appeared and I couldn't believe it. A real satisfaction after such an arduous ascent in these weather conditions. Following the main crest I took the wrong branch. Gradually the visibility started to increase as did my sense of orientation. I had to return about 200m and then traversed the right branch, recognizing red dot trail. A hurricane-force wind on the crest between Bârlea and Şesele Mari. Descent to Zănoaga. Empty shelter – just the message: „We took blue cross trail to Bucura“. Having a look at the map, realizing the elevation gain of this trail is about 1 km. At first descent through dwarf pine and pristine spruce woodland to 1570m. No bridge crossing Zănoaga river. Just two uprooted stems above the rushing flow of water. I dared to cross it. Then ascent through dwarf pine via several snow-patches to La Clince (2074m). Nice views of nearby Piatra Iorgovanului and Godeanu range. Traverse of Culmea Slăveiu and descent via snow field and marshes to Bucura. This round-trip lasted 12 hours (no rain/snow to my surprise:-) Invitation by a 47 years old woman and a group of Belgian engineers with a dog. They were forced to pitch their brand new tents near the shore of Bucura. Very cold and windy night.
Another three days and nights – cold, rain/drizzle, poor visibility – no chance to leave Bucura refuge.
Friday 25.05. Another round-trip. Following yellow-stripe trail to Bucura gate. Observing five young marmots playing near Porţii tarn. Deep insight into Gemenele reserve. Traverse of Bucura to Retezat saddle. The most representative peak of Retezat. Spectacular view of N wall of Judele. When traversing Bucura II, I noticed a female of chamois suckling baby chamois. What a rare video footage:-)
The next day a group of weekend tourists came to Bucura with no chance to see this largest lake due to dense fog lasting almost all the day.
Sunday morning I noticed a Hungarian couple pitching their tent near the lake, saying the weather start to change tommorow. NO CHANCE.
Monday morning – the coldest with 100% humidity – according to my wet tent inside the refuge. I decided to say good-bye to Bucura and descended to Poiana Pelegii Salvamont shelter. Spent 2 nights overthere – 1 or 2°C warmer than at Bucura shelter. Having a look at wild Peleaga valley.
The last day 30.05. a 15 km hike along Lapusnicul Mare river admiring calcareous cliffs and limestone outcrops of Little Retezat's Stanuleti. A very rare shot of PULMONARIA FYLARSZKYANA – one out of ten most endangered endemic plants of the Carpathians:-)Heading towards Gura Apei (famous due to its highest dike in Europe). Twilight. Suddenly a colony of 7 cars with HU Romanians arrived. Singing at the dike during sunset. A kind of magic. One of the cars took me directly to Haţeg. What a surprise:-)
THANK YOU HUNGARY.
All in all, I consider this kind of living in the wilderness for more than a dozen of days (practically alone, just 15 hikers met), as something special to my sensitive soul of a passionate naturalist.
THANK YOU PRINCESS.