Nearly all of the photos and both videos by LukZem.
Many thanks to Peterbud for his precious HTML-related tips and comments.
Don't miss the album by Marco Marinescu.
Munţii Parâng (RO) - Páreng-hegység (HU)
Parângul Mare from the east
The second highest mountain range in the South Carpathians is - against expectations – not the gorgeous Retezat but its eastern neighbour – the Parâng (used to be spelt Parîng - the â/î sound is close to the German ü;) whose highest summit, Parângul Mare is 2519m high. The Parâng Mountains are the southwest part of a bigger mountain group which takes its name from the Parâng and sits between the Retezat group in the west and the Făgăraş group in the east.
The Parâng Mountains have an area of roughly 35 by 25 km. The main ridge runs more or less west to east and can be hiked within two days. The mountains are bounded by the gorge of the River Jiu (recently designated a national park) on the west and the gorge of the Jieţ, a tributary of the Jiu, on the north. The eastern border is marked by Curmatura Olteţului (Olteţ Pass). The northwestern part of the Parâng contains the headwaters of the Jieţ whereas in the northeastern chunk of the mountains rise the Lotru and Latoriţa rivers. The border between the Parâng and the Căpăţînii Mountains to the east is not obvious whatsoever - it is usually thought to be a line created by the River Olteţ which runs from north to south about 8km east of the south section of the Transalpina (the highest road in Romania, until recently a dirt road, currently being paved - neither of the authors of this page is in favour of this), Olteţ Pass and Petrimanu Dam to the north of it.
Whereas most of the vast mountainous area comprising the Parâng mountain group is formed of crystalline schists, gneisses and other metamorphic rocks, and looks a bit like a rolling upland, elevated high and dissected by a handful of deep valleys, the central part of the Parâng proper is of granite and other igneous rocks, which results in the Parâng Mountains being the second highest mountains in Romania.
As elsewhere within the Southern Carpathians, the part of the mountains north of the main ridge is more rugged and less deforested. The area around the sources of the Jieţ and its tributary Mija Mare - i.e.the west central section of what lies north of the main ridge - boasts the finest scenery of crags, postglacial cirques and lakes: Mija, Roşiile (largest, 3.7ha), Mândra (highest, at 2148m). The east central chunk north of the main ridge, where the River Lotru rises, is less craggy but holds several tarns, of which the prettiest are Lacul Câlcescu (2nd biggest, 3.0ha, stands of Pinus cembra; designated a nature reserve) and Lacul Zănoaga Mare. You will not find it difficult to find water as well as a cosy spot for the tent from where you can get back onto the main ridge within just half an hour.
In a nutshell, the Parâng Mountains are for those who love backpacking, scrambling, mountain tarns and solitude.
Lake Mândra - the highest tarn in the Parâng Mountains
The south and western slopes of the Parâng Mountains are long, smooth and more mundane. The natural zone of the dwarf mountain pine (Pinus mugo) was cleared and converted into pastureland centuries ago. It is only recently that the shepherds have been on the back foot and the forest has regained some of the land it covered in ancient times. In the south foothills of the Parâng some limestone can be found (There are also little patches of limestone at the north boundary of the mountains.) A few kilometers east of the village of Novaci, there is an interesting cave called "Woman's Cave" - Peştera Muierii (guided tours only).
East Central Parâng shot from the northeast, not far from the Transalpina.
The table below lists most of the highest peaks in the Parâng.
Parâng's highest peak, sometimes called Mândra but the latter is now the name of Parângul Mare's secondary summit, just south. (Mândra may be an older name of the main peak.)
2nd highest peak in the Parâng Mountains, with a characteristic overhang at the top.
At the head of the beautiful valley of the Mija Mare, in the main ridge, unlike Mija (the summit on the left).
Between the summits of Gruiu and Coasta lui Rus.
In the short spur branching off the main ridge at the summit of Cârja; towers over its namesake lake.
South of Lake Câlcescu, west of the summit of Mohoru.
Humble while viewed from the south - a good-looking, craggy peak from the north, just east of Parângul Mare, on the edge of Roşiile Cirque. Both the biggest and the highest lakes in the Parâng Mountains lie at Gruiu's feet.
In the east-central part of the Parâng Mountains, not far from the Transalpina.
Coasta lui Rus
From this point on the main ridge a conspicuous lateral ridge runs to the north, separating the headwaters of the Jieī and the Lotru, towards the Lotru Mountains.
West of Lake Câlcescu, between Coasta lui Rus and Setea Mare.
VIDEO by LukZem
Where the dwarf mountain pine (Pinus mugo) and the spruce meet up.
Red Tape & Camping
Silene and Aconitum
By Lacul Zănoaga Mare
(Big Meadow Lake)
There is practically no red tape in the area depicted here despite there being a couple of nature reserves nearby. More protected areas are supposed to be designated. One of the saddest sights can be that of some tourists using the dwarf mountain pine to make a fire. Please stick to your gas or petrol stove.
The area doesn't seem to be teeming with wildlife as much as e.g. the Retezat, Piatra Craiului or some of the other chunks of the Parâng mountain group itself. However, all species of the Carpathian fauna can be encountered, of which the brown bears are the most dangerous, vipers occur as well.
The classic hiking routes are waymarked but there are a great many unmarked paths, some of which can be spotted on the maps. The best thing about the Parâng Mountains is that their north part – despite lying so close to a big town – is probably the least frequented of Romania's highest ranges. This is a true paradise for hikers, scramblers and bushwhackers.
Public transport between Romania's cities is well developed, quite unlike local bus networks. Hitchhiking is commonplace, the (little) fare is not usually asked for but is supposed to be handed. You can hitch a ride from the outskirts of the town of Petroşani, where you can get by train. Coal has been mined there since the 19th century. There is a stunning contrast between the lights, noise and dirt of an industrial town and its clean, tranquil surroundings – the Parâng in the east, and the Retezat and the Vâlcan mountains in the west. Access from the east is only possible by car. Both the road to Obârsia Lotrului Hut in the north-east and the road to the ski resort of Rânca inside the southeast quarter of the Parâng Mountains are normally passable all year round, except for periods of heavy snowfall. When there is no snow, the Transalpina can take you up to the pass of Urdele at nearly 2,150m (here's a YouTube video made before the road was asphalted).
For details about how to get to the heart of the Parâng from the north and from the west, please study both the big and the little map in the chapter above.
Driving from Hungary:
If you drive from Budapest, the best solution is to head for Szeged, then - after crossing the border - from Arad to Deva via Road E68. When you have arrived in Petroşani, take Road 7A. This is a narrow asphalt road - usually impassable in winter - which runs west to east (follow the signs for Voineasa) across the Parâng mountain group, up to Road E81 Sibiu-Rimnicu Vâlcea. After leaving Petroşani the road leads up the gorge of the Jieţ River for nearly 6 km, another 6 km and you're at Mija-Jieţ Hut, again 6 km and you'll get to Groapa Seaca Hut, 18 km away from Petroşani (see Accommodation chapter below). Another option is to drive via Gen. V. Milea Street to the upper station of the chair lift (Parâng Telescaun), where there's a ski centre and the Hotel Rusu.
Late spring to early autumn is the usual hiking time.
The Parâng Mountains are notorious for high avalanche risk. In case you needed to call the rescue service (Salvamont), the phone number is: 0 725 826 668
Potential hazards in the summer season:
Flock-guarding dogs, especially in the less frequented areas (although the EU regulations have been pushing the shepherds out of work recently)
Bears, especially in the wilder, eastern chunk (they're not as much of a problem as in the Bucegi Mountains since they're not depraved by tourists yet): try to put up your tent above timberline, don't keep food inside, check out the following link to find out how to behave if you meet a bear.
Vipers (a bite shouldn't kill you unless you're allergic but serum will be necessary)
More External Links
Huge collections of photos, varying in quality (plus some info, e.g. GPS points; most info in Romanian): alpinet.org and carpati.org
Plenty of very good pix (To view the photos as a slide show, click the rectangle in the bottom right-hand corner.)