Shepherd Ridge (Custura Ciobanului in Romanian) is a famous climbing route. It starts at the summit of Negoiu Mic(2485 m) and ends at Podeiu Peak(2408 m).
Within the crest there are 3 little cols: one (unnamed) near the summit of Podeiu; in the middle, the best known of them, on a marked trail - called Berger Pass (Strunga Ciobanului or Shepherd Pass, 2308 m); and one more named Spiess Pass.
In Romania, the Shepherd Ridge is a kind of legend due to its stunning beauty and its importance in the history of mountaineering. The easiest access to Negoiu Mic is via the main path from the marked trail running along the main ridge of the Fagaras Mountains).
The Shepherd Ridge forms the uppermost section of the Tunsu Ridge, which is a long, lateral ridge running north from the main ridge of the Fagaras Mountains. Its total length is over 10 km. It is partly covered with forest and alpine meadows, but its highest part is bare rock of a narrow, exposed ridge.
When To Climb
The best months are July, August and September. In the spring the rock is very unstable.
In winter time the route was climbed few times. Winter conditions in the area are very unpredictible. You have to climb Tunsu Ridge over Podeiu Peak(see the sketch map)
There is only one route along the ridge and you have to climb through Shepherd Pass. There are two ways to approach. You can approach from:
- the northwest: Negoiu Hut at 1546 m - 2 hours, simple trekking over grassy steps, marked with red crosses
- the southeast: Caltun Refuge(2100 m, a little charming shelter, it only gives shelter to about 10 persons.), 2 hours, red cross, sometimes rescue team members stay here. On this trail some mountain walking experience is required.
To get to Caltun Refuge you can drive up the paved road Sibiu-Cartisoara-Balea Lac
(approx. 80 km). In the area, there is a hut and many other lodging facilities between Balea Waterfall and Balea Lake. From Balea Lake, it is 3 hours' walk to the lake and refuge of Caltun.
If you are coming from the south, along the Transfagarasan Road (90 km from Cartisoara to Curtea de Arges; the highest asphalted road in Romania), it will take you 2 hours to walk from Piscu Negru in the Lespezi Valley to Caltun Refuge. Check out these links: transfagarasan.net
From Porumbacu (regional train from Sibiu/Hermanstadt) there is a dirt road (22 km - if you are lucky, you can hitchhike,or it'll take 6 hours of hiking). Then you'll need about 2 hours to reach the hut from the end of the forest road. See this map
1st pitch: From the highest point of the pass climb straight up 5m(70 degrees) and then start to turn left. There is a decent belay piton. Continue traversing to the left(sometimes exposed), to the big corner situated on a grassy ledge. Here you can put a long sling and install the belay station.
Easy climb over grass. Approx. 35m from Shepherd Pass.
2nd pitch: Climb some easy rock steps(approx. 6m) to a piton, traverse right, put a medium cam in a hole and ascend up to the airy ridge. It's the first time that you have seen all of our ridge up to Negoiu. Short belay here, and a little rappel from the corner.
3rd pitch: Along the top of the ridge (easy), climb or bypass the gendarme
4th pitch: Sharp and jagged crest, the belay station in a small col.
5th pitch: Climb the east side of a small tower, then descend to a big pass named Spiess Pass.
In the middle of descent you'll find a black piton, useful for your partner.
On each side of the col there is a great couloir. Easy to rappel if the weather gets bad or something doesn't work.
Ahead, you'll see the Giant Tower (3 rope lengths): a short but quite difficult vertical climb.
6th pitch: From the col, we scrambled up to the base of the first technical pitch. We fixed a cam in a hole and climbed over the big blocks of rock. About 20 m.
7th pitch: Beautiful pitch. You climb an exposed crest and a ridge crack beyond which you'll find a good piton. Traverse a ledge and climb a delicate bit to a belay on a block in a hole. I think this pitch will be grade IV, take good care if there's wind.
8th pitch: Finish climbing the tower and set a belay up around the corner.
9th pitch: Walk on the east side on a grass patch parallel to the Ridge.
10th pitch: Easy climb along the crest on the thin "vertical aiguille, pinnacle" and tile.
This is an inferno zone. It's possible it has been made by thunderbolts. Take good care if the weather is bad.
11th pitch: Rappel (10m) down the east flank and traverse the patch of grass under the spur. Next there is an easy ridge with grass.
12th pitch: Traverse the west face for about 40 meters to reach a kind of platform with blocks of rock. Along the way you'll cross an exposed gulley (dangerous crossing) with scree.
We simul-climbed 30m and arrived below the ridge. The place is good for a winter bivouac.
13-18th pitches: The terrain is easy and many section can be simul-climbed (50 degrees). We crossed one difficult place, but you can make it easy by climbing over the rock steps and grass. Belay at the corners!
Go straight up the ridge and finish climbing the Shepherd Spur near Negoiu Mic(2485 m).
From the main ridge follow a well marked trail to the west, 2 hours down slowly to Negoiu Hut; or to the east, over Negoiu Peak (2535 m, the second highest peak in Romania), to Caltun Refuge.
Harness, 3 slings(1-2 m), belay devices or "8" descender, rope (minimum 40 m), 2 pitons for rappel in case things get bad, hammer, 2 HMS carabiners per member, 5 expresses or carabiners, medium and big cams, helmet.