Overview Vârful Judele
(meaning "Judge Peak") might not be among the most visited summits in Retezat Mountains
, but certainly is among the wildest. It has 2398 m altitude and offers one of the most amazing views over Central Retezat with all its peaks and lakes.
View towards Turnul Portii and Judele (in background).
Judele in autumn.
It is accessible to tourists from Şaua Judele
, 2370 m) and is delimiting towards NW / N the mysterious Gemenele Scientific Reserve
. The access in this area is only allowed with special authorizations. It's said they make studies to observe plants evolution without any human interaction. Personally, I think they've found an extraterrestrial spaceship there (joking).
It’s impossible to talk about Judele Peak
without mentioning its smaller brother: Turnul Porţii
(meaning "Gate Tower"). Spectacular granite tower, having 2287 m altitude, with an airy summit ridge and vertical walls up to 170 m. A col separates it from Judele
has three main ridges which connects him to the rest of the peaks in the area. Towards W - Bârlea Peak
(2348 m), Sesele Mari
(2324) and Sesele Mici
(2278 m). Towards SE - Şaua Judele
, Slăveiu Peak
(2347 m) then continues with Culmea Slăveiului
. And towards NE – Turnul Porţii
, Poarta Bucurei
(2280 m), Bucura I
(2433 m). The latter is the only part of Retezat's northern main ridge which is not passable without climbing gear. No further arguments are needed to say that this is the roughest corner of Retezat.
Being located somehow in the middle, almost all of the the highest peaks and about a dozen beautiful alpine lakes of Retezat Mountains are visible from this spot. The best view opens towards the East: in the Bucura cirque alone you can spot as many as 6 (+2 smaller) tarns, with Vf. Peleaga
, Vf. Mare
and Vf. Custura
in the background. In the Northerly direction you will look down to Ştirbu Lake and see Vf. Bucura
and Vf. Retezat
, as well as Turnu Porţii
and Poarta Bucurei
. In the South, the Slăveiu ridge
dominates the horizon, in the East and Southeast the lowering ridges provide views to the more distant neighbouring ranges Ţarcu
Spledid panorama of Central Retezat from Judele summit.
Click for details.
The most convenient access point is Bucura Lake
. From here follow the market tourist trail to Saua Judele
, then Judele Peak
There are other variants also:
● from Gentiana
/ Pietrele Valley
● from Gura Zlata
or Gura Apei Lake
(much longer, 8-9 hours of hiking required)
The shortest access path to Bucura Lake
is from Poiana Pelegii
. For more details about access and accommodation please visit parent page dedicated chapter
or the official site
of Retezat National Park
Red TapeJudele Peak
is sitting right on the border of Gemenele Scientific Reserve
. The reserve is delimited to east and south by the main ridge Retezat Peak
– Bucura I
- Poarta Bucurei
– Sesele Mari
– Radesu Mare
. It’s marked by red square with white outline. Access to this area is only permitted with authorization from Romanian Scientific Academy
Camping is not permitted outside of designated places
Wood-fire, swimming in glacial lakes and disturbance of local flora and fauna are prohibited. Washing with soap or detergents in alpine waters is not encouraged. All the wastes, including the biodegradable ones, should be taken outside of the park.
For other useful information please check the dedicated section
from parent page Retezat Mountains
and the rules of Retezat National Park here
| Scientific Reserve territory. |
| Gemenele Reserve border. |
| Stirbu Lake.
Judele lies far from all huts operating in Retezat. However, it is well accessible from two nearby official campsites. Bucura Lake
(2040 m) is closer (approach to climbing walls takes less than one hour), but Zănoaga Lake
(2000 m) is not far, either. At both places, there are water sources and basic shelters (used by the Salvamont
mountain rescue team in the summer season, thus not available for others during this time, only in emergency). Poiana Pelegii
campsite (1630 m) is also a suitable starting point, although you will have to cover more elevation from there (first you will have to ascend to Bucura Lake).
More information about these campsites can be found on the dedicated section
of the parent page Retezat Mountains
from Tăul Porţii from Viorica lake Agățat lake and Poarta Bucurei ridge Slăveiului ridge
First of all, let's mention that no marked trail leads to the summit of Judele (so, if you take the NP rules very strictly, it is not allowed to climb it). However, one of the marked trails crosses the Judele saddle, which is so near to the peak that temptation is hard to resist if you are not afraid of a little scrambling. The saddle can be approached in four possible ways:
1) Bucura Lake – Tăul Porţii - Agățat Lake – Şaua Judele
Time: 1.5 - 2 h
Level rising: + 400 m
Marking: blue stripe -> yellow stripe -> red dot
2) Bucura Lake – Ana Lake - Viorica Lake - Florica Lake - Agătat Lake – Şaua Judele
Time: 1 - 1.5 h
Level rising: + 380 m
Marking: red dot
Routes #1 and #2 merge by the well-hidden Agățat (Hanging) Lake, situated just below Turnul Porţii. From here a steep ascent follows up to Judele saddle - this part of the route is usually covered with snow until summer, and can be dangerous to tackle unprepared in such conditions.
3) Zănoaga Lake - Şaua Judele
Time: 1 - 1.5 h
Level rising: + 370 m
Marking: red dot
4) Bucura Lake – Tăul Agăţat - Şaua Judele – Vârful Slăvei – Şaua Slăvei – Ana Lake - Bucura Lake
Time: 4 - 5 h
Distance: approx 5.5 km
Level rising: + 550 m/ - 550 m
Marking: red dot, stone marking, yellow dot
Route #4 follows Slăveiului Ridge (from Şaua Judele to Vârful Slăvei) which is wild and marked only with stones, so the hiker must be prepared for some route finding. But this probably makes it even more interesting. Recommended circuit, together with the small deviation to Judele Peak.
Judele from Judele saddle
Once you have reached the Judele saddle, take the obvious ridge (unmarked) towards the peak. The first section is wide and comfortable. When you reach the base of the summit, it gets more exposed (see the photo on the left). The safest route is a path on the western side of the ridge (the photo on the left shows the exposed eastern face), which is occasionally marked with stone piles. Soon you will reach the summit of Judele, marked with a wooden pole.
For more trails and information please check Retezat Mountains tourist map.
Yes, Judele and Turnul Portii are one of the places in Retezat Mountains suitable for alpine climbing and mountaineering. This spot is mentioned even in old Romanian climbing books, the routes here being established quite some time ago.
A big advantage is the proximity to Bucura Lake camping and the easy access to the walls.
The climbing routes are located in two distinct zones: Turnul Portii and the E and SE face of Judele.
NOTE: Some of the routes are inside Gemenele Scientific Reserve. A permit might be necessary to climb them. If there are any doubts regarding this, please contact Retezat National Park.
The first routes were established in Judele Peak in 1961 by Emilian Cristea, the pioneer of Romanian climbing and mountaineering.
Routes in Turnul Portii:
| First Ascent
||NE face of Turnul Portii
||A. Irimia, E. Cristea (20.09.1961)
|| Route from Canionul Judele/Turnul Portii
|| A. Irimia, E. Cristea
|| Turnul Portii W ridge
|| A. Irimia, E. Cristea
|| Custura NV a Turnului Portii
(entry from L. Stirbului)
|| E. Cristea, A. Irimia
|| Taul Agatat
|| A. Irimia, E. Cristea (20.09.1961)
||Turnul Portii NE ridge integral
Routes in Judele:
*FRTA - Federatia Romana de Turism si Alpinism (Romanian Federation for Tourism and Mountaineering)
|| Traseul no. 1 from Creasta Gemenele
|| E. Cristea
|| Traseul no. 2 from Creasta Gemenele
|| I. Karacziony, E. Cristea
|| Creasta Gemenele
|| I. Karacziony, A. Irimia, E. Cristea
|| Piciorul Judelui Mare
|| T. Cristina, E. Cristea
|| Roland Gellner
|| A. Irimia, E. Cristea (24.11.1961)
|| Custura Judelui
|| A. Irimia, E. Cristea
|| Custura cu Campanule from SE face of Judele
|| E. Cristea, L. Karacziony
|TP summit ridge. |
|Old diagram with the routes. |
|TP SE and NE face & Judele E.
|TP summit ridge in winter. |
|TP NE ridge integral. |
|TP SE wall.
There isn't much information available about these routes and probably they are not climbed very often, but I managed to locate a few of them. Hopefully, after more climbing in Judele area, I will be able to add more pieces to the puzzle you see right now in the two tables and the old hand drawn sketch.
Romanian grading system (FRTA)
The alpine routes in Romania are rated in the Russian grading system and reflecting the overall difficulty of the route (while leaving out the technical difficulty of the hardest move). This is why most documentation also contains the UIAA free-climbing rating of the crux of the route, as well as the aid-climbing rating.
Detailed information about Russian grading system as well as conversion to French system can be found here.
The Romanian grades are known to be softer than the Russian ones. The 7A grade was also mentioned, something corresponding to the french ABO, but I don't know if this was finally accepted in the official scale.
My personal recommendation when choosing a [Romanian] route is to check first the UIAA technical difficulty and/or the aid grade and the number of pitches. Then treat the Romanian FRTA grade only as a generic overall difficulty indicator.
|Russian Grade||Alpine Grade|
|6B||ED3 and up|
- Weather forecast for the nearby Peleaga Peak by meteoblue.com:
Weather forecast for the nearby Peleaga Peak by meteoexploration.com:
Weather by meteoexploration
National Meteorological Administration
Evolution of snow cover
When to climb
Harsh winter conditions
The most welcoming weather can be anticipated around late summer - early fall, when precipitation is relatively little, but temperatures are still warm, and the approach routes of Judele pass are free from snow.
In winter, Judele is reserved only for experienced mountaineers: the summer approach route poses serious avalanche danger, while the ridge approach is very exposed. There is no mountain rescue service in this time of the year, either (see Retezat Mountains
The summer route from Bucura Lake can be dangerous even in early summer, as snow remains on the final section (below Judele pass) for quite a long time, and the slope is very steep: once you're slid, it's hard to stop and there are hundreds of meters to go down, ending in rocky terrain...
See the Retezat Mountains
A powerful free online map is being developed by the Open Maps Project
for the area of Central Europe. If you are not familiar with the area or want to skip the zooming job, you can get a quick close-up view of Judele's area by following this permalink