The Făgăraş Mountains are the longest continuous ridge in the Carpathians.
Lespezi-Călţun (left) and Negoiu (right of center) - a triple crown of the Făgăraş
The Făgăraş Mountains belong to the South Carpathians and are one of the most impressive mountain ranges in Romania. They are the country's highest and largest mountains, covering an area of 3,000 square kilometers. Across the Carpathians, there is only one mountain range which is higher than the Făgăraş, namely the Tatra Mountains which rise at the opposite, northern end of the Carpathian arc. The main ridge of the Făgăraş Mountains forms a massive spine, which extends west to east in a fairly straight line for more than 70 kilometres - from the valley of the Olt River to the Piatra Craiului Mountains and the Iezer Mountains. The main crest never drops below 2000m over a distance of about 50 km. In the Făgăraş Mountains sit eight of the 14 Romania's peaks rising above 2500m. There are also at least 42 peaks whose elevations fall within the 2400-2500m brackets. The highest peak of both the Făgăraş Mountains and Romania is called Moldoveanu and rises to 2544m in the eastern chunk of the Făgăraş. But no less renowned than Moldoveanu is Negoiu: rockier, reigning in the west, at 2535m the 2nd highest summit in Romania.
The wild beauty of the landscapes: a great number of prominent peaks, narrow crests, deep valleys and picturesque tarns prompted the French scientist Emmanuel de Martonne to refer to the Făgăraş Mountains as the Transylvanian Alps. This nickname is more often used, however, for all of the South Carpathians. The Făgăraş Mountains form the bulk of a little bigger mountain group which is named after them and which contains the Făgăraş proper and a couple of mountains a bit farther south: the Coziei Mountains and the Iezer Mountains. In fact, the latter can be thought of as part of the Făgăraş proper. On the other hand, among the extremely long lateral ridges branching off the main ridge to run southward there are two that are sometimes listed as separate mountain ranges: the Frunţii Mountains (spur branching off at Negoiu) and the Ghiţu Mountains (spur branching off not far from Moldoveanu). They can be easily located on the map as they have become separated by a big dam called Lake Vidraru.
May these wise words of a Romanian poet, Lucian Blaga be the best invitation to the top of Romania: "God, please stop the clock with which you measure eternity."
Movie created by LukZem during his two visits to the Făgăraş: part 1/10
Moldoveanu, 2544m - the highest point of Romania - as seen from SE
Negoiu, 2535m - the second highest mountain in Romania
Altogether there are eight peaks that rise over 2500 meters:
Height in Metres
A few words about
The highest peak of both the Făgăraş and Romania. It is surrounded by peaks at above 2400m, so its summit can't be seen from the north foot of the Făgăraş Mountains
The second highest mountain in Romania, located in the main ridge in the western, jagged part of the Făgăraş, notorious for unstable weather.
The mountain brother of Moldoveanu (i.e. the lower summit of the massif: on the left), sitting right in the main ridge, about 20 minutes' walk from Moldoveanu. The massif can be easily recognized from afar thanks to its characteristic, trapezoid shape.
In the western, jagged part of the Făgăraş, near Călţun Lake, can be seen as the highest summit of the Călţun-Lespezi Massif
Vânătoarea lui Buteanu
In the central part of the mountains, just near the Transfăgăraşan Road. It is said to turn bluish-black when a storm is approaching.
In the eastern, grassy part of the Făgăraş Mountains
Close to Lespezi Peak, towers over Lake Călţun, no marked trail to the summit
In the eastern, grassy part of the Făgăraş Mountains, close to Hârtopu Peak
Negoiu (2535m) and Şerbota (2331m)
What rocks (and whom)
In summer, the Făgăraş Mountains are a paradise for backpackers, who usually attempt to trek along the main ridge. Such a trek takes 5 to 7 days, most people are carrying a tent. On days of inclement weather - virtually unavoidable in these mountains, usually swept by high winds and often battered by storms - shelter can be sought in one of the few rudimentary refuges (see Huts and Refuges), of which the refuge by Lake Călţun is the best-known and the best-known and usually packed with people at night. The most difficult section of the marked trail running along the main ridge is near the peaks of Şerbota and Negoiu (UIAA I, partly fixed with cables or chains: Custura Sărăţii, Strunga Dracului, Strunga Ciobanului; "strunga" = couloir), in the western part of the Făgăraş.
Lake Călţun from the summit of Lespezi (no marked trail)
Lack of rocks such as granite results in technical climbing in summer being limited to a couple of places, of which the impressive crag of Colţul Bălăceni at the head of the Sâmbăta Valley boasts routes rated up to V (UIAA). In winter, a wider area offers many a breath-taking mountaineering option, and the traverse of the main ridge is quite an endeavor. Along a route of over 70km you will be slogging along a wild ridge with many tricky cornices, and you will have to traverse many places where the avalanche danger is high. In February 1972, a German-Czechoslovak team succeeded in doing the traverse of the highest and rockiest part of the main crest, covering thirty-six summits at above 2300m. The feat took them as much as 12 days. Apart from the main ridge, the northern spurs - wild, cut off from the crowds, shattered, abrupt, partly vegetated – can also make for memorable climbs which can be graded at about 3B. An easy but pretty attractive route, which starts at Zmeilor Pass, runs over the summits of Vârtopel(1B) and Arpăşel(3A) with the Rabbit's Ears. As far as skiing is concerned, there is plenty of terrain for skiers of various skill. Good, natural slopes can be found near the following huts: Urlea, Sâmbăta, Turnuri, Podragu, Capra, Bâlea, Negoiu, Bârcaciu, Capra. Ski alpinism will be cool on the north-south crossings, there are plenty spots for extreme skiing, while ski touring on the southern ridges you will be practically cut off from civilization.
Colţul Bălăceni, 2286m
On the crest
The Făgăraş Mountains are formed mostly of metamorphic rocks, such as gneiss and schists. In few places thin layers of limestone can be found. The relief of the mountains was shaped by Pleistocene glaciers, hence the U-shaped valleys divided by jagged crests. In the northern valleys the glaciers were up to 5 km long. On the other, southern side the Valea Rea Glacier had a lenght of 9 km. The northern slopes of the Făgăraş Mountains, facing Transylvania, are shorter and steeper, whereas the lateral ridges and valleys south of the main ridge drop toward the sunny Muntenia more gradually, being up to 30 km long. Therefore, they are deserted and wild - very few hikers have roamed the area.
Western part of the Făgăraş viewed from Moldoveanu
Summer traverse of the main ridge: West to East
The wild spurs branching off the main ridge
When To Go & Climate
Arpaşu Mic during sunrise
If you are a hiker you should come in summer. Early autumn can also be a wonderful - besides being colorful - time, but all this varies between years. As for the summer, August seems to be best, July tends to be very rainy. Some summers have been kind of horror: hurricane force winds, frequent thunderstorms, torrential rains, freezing weather. You'd better be careful when planning your trip. You must realize that a walk-up from the foothils to the main ridge takes at least 10 hours. It is good to start the ascent early in the morning, when the weather conditions are favourable. In winter and spring, the risk of avalanches is usually high.
13 July 2009 (worthy of a click: mini-TR inside)
Morning on Şaua Şerbotei
The climate of the Făgăraş Mountains is alpine and is harsher than the climate of most of the mountain ranges the Carpathians are made up of. The average temperature, the intensity of the winds and the level of precipitation depend on the altitude and the orientation of the mountain faces. The Făgăraş Mountains are characterized by the highest amount of rainfall, which reaches an annual 1400 mm/year.The average yearly temperature in the alpine regions (above 2000m a.s.l) is -2°C. Encountering patches of snow in mid-June is not a rare thing. Across the Carpathian Mountains, the most frequent avalanches occur in the Făgăraş. Also, the most deadly accidents have been registered here. The climate of the Făgăraş climate has peculiarities determined by the size of this massif and the west-east orientation of the ridge. The north slope blocks the cool, wet air coming from the Atlantic and from the north of Europe, and the south slope blocks the Mediterranean and tropical air, which leads to the natural timberline (bear in mind that centuries of grazing have lowered it considerably) running higher on the southern flank. This is the only place where we can watch the enchanting cascades of surging fog, which make the heights seem endless, envelop the rocks in a mysterious shawl, and then unexpectedly open a window on the world below, where the green meadows are bathed in sunshine. In contrast to the rockier northern valleys, the southern slopes - grassy, descending more gently - are the territory of an intensive pastoral life.
Flora & Fauna
Flora The diversity of vegetation cover is determined by altitude.
Lower montane zone reaches 1200 meters in altitude. Mean annual temperature is 4-6°C and the vegetation cover is formed by deciduous forests. Various species of flowers can be found here: creeping bellflower Campanula rapunculoides, matragon lily Lilium martagon, Trifolium alpestre, globe-flower Trollius altissimus or autumn crocus Colchicum autumnale
Upper montane zone begins at 1200m and extends up to 1500m. It is a domain of the coniferous forest. On the south slopes of the mountains, the upper borders of both deciduous and conifer forests runs 150-200 meters higher than on the steeper and colder north slopes. Open moist meadows are the best habitat for orchid species.
Subalpine zone stretches from 1500m to 2000m. It is the domain of dwarf mountain pine and common juniper. From the floristic point of view, it is the most interesting habitat. In spring it is covered by enchanting carpets of crocuses. The mountain cornflower Cyanus montanus and the mountain garlic grow here. Allium montanum. The typical representative of this zone is the Carpathian rhododendron with its red shining flowers.
Alpine zone in the Făgăraş Mountains begins at 2000m and reaches the highest peaks. The alpine pastures are covered by sedges. It is the best habitat for some extremely rare species of flora - relics from the Ice Age, such as Dianthus glacialis. Among other important species are the alpine bellflower Campanula alpina, Primula elatior, Hieracium alpinum, Leontopodium alpinum, Aconitum and Saxifraga.
In the Făgăraş Mountains, the flora is richest in the subalpine and alpine areas. In comparison with other mountains, the Făgăraş boast the largest number of endemic species of flowers which can't be encountered anywhere else in the world.
Fauna of the Făgăraş Mountains is typical of the high mountain zone. The most representative animal of the highest, alpine areas is the Carpathian chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra carpatica). Many populations of this subspecies occur throughout the Transylvanian Alps. Carpathian chamois are slightly bigger than their relatives in the Alps. As a species, the chamois is still common and not threatened. However, several subspecies are on the IUCN's Red List of Threatened Animals. There have been a number of successful reintroductions.
Another animal typical of the Făgăraş Mountains is the marmot. Unfortunately, this largest squirrel species is on the verge of extinction. Among the big birds of prey that soar over the mountains are the eagle and the vulture. There is also the big forest game: the Carpathian brown bear, the deer and the wild boar. As for the bears, however, their population is relatively small (fewer than a hundred individuals) compared to some other Carpathian mountains. Most of them still keep away from humans and don't constitute such a big threat as the depraved bears of the Bucegi Mountains.
The Făgăraş Mountains have the densest water network in Romania. The most popular waterfall is called Cascada Bâlea.
Mountain lakes, or tarns, are truly jewels of nature and they are said to be the pearls of mountains. To some they resemble big or small mirrors scattered in the mountain valleys - emerald green, dark blue or black in color - enhance the mountain landscapes greatly. They are precious relics of the past epoch when the valleys were filled with glaciers which gouged the rock under their cold bodies. The tarns of the Făgăraş are full of splendour and magnificence but they are also sources of crystal-clear water which, however, must be boiled before drinking.
The largest natural lake of the Făgăraş is Bâlea Lake (46 acres), Podragu Lake is the deepest (15.5 m) and Mioarelor Lake is situated at the highest altitude (2282 m).
Thousands of shining pearls
In the western part of the Făgăraş, at the foot of Ciortea (2400m)
In a cute cirque in the west-central part. Lespezi-Călţun-Negoiu Peaks at about 2500m form a magnificent background.
Most of the routes start from the DN1 highway between the cities of Sibiu and Făgăraş. On the south side most routes begin at Curtea de Argeş, although there are two which run from the Olt Valley up the western reaches of the mountains and there is an eastern route which runs west from the foot of the Piatra Craiului Mountains, namely from Plaiul Foii Hut, accessible from the town of Zărneşti (railway station).
In the early 1970s the Transfăgăraşan Road was built between Arpaşu de Jos - Bâlea Waterfall - Lake Bâlea - Vidraru Artificial Lake - Curtea de Argeş. This second highest road in Romania is 90 km long and at an altitude of 2042 meters turns into a tunnel dug under the main crest of the Făgăraş Mountains. Due to severe weather conditions, the road is only passable in the summer period (approx. 3 months a year). Between Cascada Bâlea Hut (1234m) and Lake Bâlea (2030m) a cable car runs almost all year round.
Because the Făgăraş Mountains are not a National Park yet, you can pitch the tent practically everywhere.
There are only a few nature reserves in the Făgăraş Mountains, namely: the area around Lake Bâlea, the clearing with daffodils near Vad, the hunting reserve in the Arpaşul Valley and the fossils reserve near Turnul Roşu. Although the Făgăraş Mountains are home to many unique species of the Carpathian animals and plants, the number of nature reserves isn't big yet.