The mountains of Transylvania conjure up images of dark serrated ridges and peaks, swirling mists, crumbling castles and above all the image of Dracula. Dracula history is certainly there, there are crumbling castles and a lot of swirling mists but dark and serrated the mountains are not.
In fact, Făgăraş Mountains are mostly defined by long green slopes and deep valleys in the summer, which then turn wild as the snow settles down. Moldoveanu Peak is country’s highest point with its 2544 m, only 17 m higher than his twin brother - Viştea Mare Peak (2527 m, 3rd highest in Romania) – located 420 meters to the North. Together they form the well known and easy to recognize trapezoid Viştea Mare – Moldoveanu, the highest ridge in Făgăraş Mountains and in the whole country.
One notable fact of Moldoveanu is that it lies a good distance from the road head and would require a good four days round trip from Braşov (unless you are a superman).
During summer, the climb is nothing more than a walk but the distance from the road means you have to carry enough gear for the four days - although there are huts on route. Sharing the route with Romanian backpackers, this can be a very satisfying climb.
This is probably best approached from Braşov in the west or Sibiu (airport) in the east. A train link between the two drops you at one of the tiny stations not too far from the town of Victoria, called Ucea de Jos. Another option is Voila.
From here a bus (eventually) will take you to the town of Victoria. Victoria is a pretty rough place but a good trail from here will take you to the Sâmbăta Monastery a few further kilometers up. The monastery can also be reached from Voila train station via Sâmbăta de Jos, then Sâmbăta de Sus villages. See the map for a clear picture.
Sâmbăta Monastery and Victoria town are the main starting points for the tourist trails. Usually, the first one is chosen because it offers also the occasion to visit Brâncoveanu Monastery (a.k.a. Sâmbăta Monastery).
Significant more distance needs to be covered. Start from Slatina or Nucşoara villages.
Bâlea Lake resort is accessible by car in the summer and by cable lift in winter. But an approach from here would require to traverse about one third of the main Făgăraş ridge.
No restrictions, camping is allowed everywhere. Check out Făgăraş Mountains page for more information.
Please don't leave behind any litter, these mountains already suffer from it.
The mountain can be climbed all year round but, in the season of deep freezes, and like any mountain range, tread carefully if plastered with snow. Summer is a good period, but sudden rain, thunder, lightning and hail can make going tough.
In winter make sure you read the avalanche report before proceeding. This report is updated every two days. Climbers must consider the avalanche danger for all of the approach routes to Moldoveanu.
Being a wilderness area it is permissible to camp anywhere but of course - take in what you take out. Another (cheap) option is to use the huts on route.
There are several accommodation options around Sâmbăta Monastery, check out the site of the touristic resort.
Valea Sâmbetei hut is located just below the main ridge at 1401 m altitude on Sâmbăta Valley. This is a good starting point for Moldoveanu Peak if coming from the East (Braşov) side. The peak can be reached in 5 hours from this point. Even if the hut is located in a very beautiful area, unfortunately the conditions are not acceptable to overnight there.
Turnuri hut (1520 m) and Podragu hut (2136 m) are available on Podragu Valley. They can serve as starting point to approach Moldoveanu from West. The first one is open all year round but Podragu hut is closed during winter. However, in winter, climbers can use the nearby annex building as a refuge, but please keep it in good condition (clean and with the door closed to avoid snow accumulation). Note: Podragu hut is currently closed from 17 October 2010 till 1 June 2011.
Right at the foot of Moldoveanu and Viştea Mare Peaks there is Portiţa Viştei refuge. It is located at 2310 m altitude in Portiţa Viştei col and is especially useful in case of winter ascents.
A new refuge was built in 2010 in Fereastra Mica col, near the main ridge trail. Its name is Fereastra Mica - Cheia Bandei refuge and is located at 2150 m altitude. Hiking from this refuge to Moldoveanu Peak should take about 2.5 – 3 hours.
All those who decide to overnight at one of the mentioned huts or refuges are advised to bring sleeping bags and warm clothing. More information can be found on dedicated section from Făgăraş Mountains page.
Mountai Rescue Service is assured by Salvamont Victoria. They have Rescue Points near Valea Sâmbetei hut and in Victoria town. Salvamont Victoria phone numbers: +40 268 241940 / +40 726 686 692.
Global Romanian Mountain Rescue number: 0-SALVAMONT.
Moldoveanu peak can be reached by tourists from each of the four geographical directions. The shortest trail is the one that starts in Victoria and follows Viştea Mare Valley till Portiţa Viştei refuge. Moldoveanu can be reached from Viştea Mare Peak in about 20-30 minutes. The ridge between these two is split by a breach called Spintecătura Moldoveanului.
Here are some relevant hiking routes:
1. Valea Sâmbetei hut (1401 m) - Fereastra Mare a Sâmbetei (2268 m) – Portiţa Viştei col (2310 m) – Viştea Mare Peak (2527 m) – Moldoveanu Peak (2544 m). Duration: 5 h.
2. Victoria - Viştea Mare Valley - Portiţa Viştei col (2310 m) - Viştea Mare Peak (2527 m) – Moldoveanu Peak (2544 m). Duration: 8.5 - 9 h.
3. Podragu Hut (2136 m) – Podragu col (2307 m) - Viştea Mare Peak (2527 m) – Moldoveanu Peak (2544 m). Duration: 4 h.
4. Slatina village – Preotesele Peak (2086 m) – Culmea Maliţa Preotesele - Valea Lungă Peak (2254 m) - Culmea Scărişoara – Galbena Peak (2412 m) – Moldoveanu Peak (2544 m). Duration: 9 - 10 h.
Antony describes below his experience of reaching Romania's highest peak:
The common route is to ascend from the monastery to the red trail and will take about four hours to Valea Sâmbetei Hut. I stayed here and was quite glad because the next day is a tough push to the summit of Moldoveanu. The route ascends from above the Valea Sâmbetei Hut and is quite steep up to the main ridge. Here the route heads west over a series of swoops (many) before eventually the pull up to Moldoveanu which is north of the main ridge. A wind blowing east makes things tough.
Heading back to the ridge, more swoops head west where a sign will tell you it is four hours to the next hut. Three is plenty for most people and a sign will direct you off the ridge to the blue hut. The blue trail back down to Victoria is a long push and will take six hours or more on a sometimes intermittent trail. It seems little used but has plenty of deer about.
Moldoveanu Peak represents often an objective for winter ascents. Usually climbers go for the main Făgăraş ridge traverse, and Moldoveanu it's just there, on their way. Whatever route is chosen, from the West or from the East, there is one thing which must be considered: avalanches. Following the summer marked route is not advisable in winter, as it crosses very often directly the large southern slopes of the peaks. Depending on the snow conditions, might be safer to follow strictly the ridge line and avoid the deadly slopes, even if the effort to do this is higher.
The final portion of the route that comes through Viştea Mare Valley and reaches Portiţa Viştei col is known to be also exposed to avalanches. The same for the section Podragu hut – main ridge.
The north face of Viştea Mare measures 500 m and has an average angle of 50 degrees. One notable fact about Viştea Mare is that it is one of the very few peaks in Făgăraş Mountains that doesn't have a northern ridge. Instead, the northern ridge Muchia Viștea Mare is branching from the nearby Ucișoara Peak (2418 m).
Mountaineering routes in the area:
1. Muchia La Bold (La Bold spur). Difficulty: F+. Duration: 2.5 h. In winter, considering also the approach, count 2 days. The route is located east of the median line of Viștea Mare's north face. In winter, La Bold spur represents a direct and relatively safe line towards Viștea Mare and Moldoveanu, unlike the nearby touristic trail which goes to Portița Viștei col (avalanche danger).
2. Eastern culoir (40/50 degrees, snow). East of route no. 1, Viștea Mare north face.
3. Central culoir (40/50 degrees, snow). West of route no. 1, Viștea Mare north face.
4. Muchia Viștea Mare. Difficulty: F/PD. Winter ascent of this long ridge until Ucișoara Peak requires two days. Bivuac equipment is neccesary.
5. Scocul Mioarelor. The route is a culoir of 30/45 degrees which goes directly from Viștea Mare Valley (cca 1450 m altitude) to Hăitășel Peak (2048 m). Duration: 2.5 h.
6. Vâlcelul Fântânii. Difficulty: F/PD. Duration: 3 h. It is the 4th culoir on the East face of Muchia Viștea Mare if you count Scocul Mioarelor as the first culoir. The route starts in Viștea Mare Valley (cca 1550 m), follows Vâlcelul Fântânii culoir, then continues with Muchia Viștea Mare till Spintecătura Viștei (2260 m).
Additional information and a couple of pictures related to the first 3 routes here.
Like any mountain range the weather can turn from wonderful to nasty in seconds.
⊕ Weather forecast for Moldoveanu Peak
⊕ Avalanche report (updated every 2 days in winter season)
⊕ Evolution of snow cover (updated daily in winter season)
⊕ Avalanches in Romanian Carpathians