Turzii Gorge / Cheile Turzii / Tordai-hasadék is a protected natural area, 25 km south of Cluj-Napoca, in the heart of Transylvania. It belongs to the northern part of Trascău Mountains.
The diversity of high and steep walls, sharp ridges, rock towers and caves makes it one of the most beautiful and impressive gorge in Romania. Turzii Gorge resembles the shape of a double funnel and was shaped by Hășdate River on more than 3 km length and with vertical walls up to 250 m.
Because of the landscape and the favorable location (close to Cluj-Napoca and Turda cities) it became a very popular spot for tourists and climbers. Tourists can explore the entire length of the gorge following the engineered trail at the river level. Or taking a more airy approach and enjoying the views from above, on any of the both flanks, 300-350 m high above the river level.
Many caves are present inside the canyon, the longest one being Ungurească Cave - 75 m (also an excellent climbing spot). Two of the caves (Cetățeaua Mare and Cetățeaua Mică) were fortified with stone walls in the Middle Ages and served as a hiding place for local people during hard times.
From climbing point of view this place is a paradise, being one of the most significant sites in Romania. It played also a key role in the development of modern rock climbing in this country.
Getting ThereFrom Cluj-Napoca (airport available) take E60 road to Turda (around 25 km). From Turda there are two possibilities:
1. Take DN75 road to Campeni. 7 km after passing Mihai Viteazu turn right towards Cheia village. Pass through the village and continue until you’ll see the gorge (east entrance).
2. Take secondary road and drive towards Petreștii de Jos village. A short walk from the village will take you to the west entrance of Turzii Gorge.
Red TapeTurzii Gorge has been established as a complex natural reservation. There were identified rare plant species and protected birds of prey, like the Golden Eagle. So this place should be treated with respect.
Camping is forbidden inside the canyon.
There is an entrance fee for tourists – 3 RON (around 1 USD / 0.7 EUR). Climbers don’t have to pay this fee.
There is one particular plant in this area which I want to mention. Its name is “Burning-bush” or “Gasplant” (or “Zmeoiacă” in Romanian) - Dictamnus albus.
Climbers often encounter this plant when approaching the walls, in many places. There was a myth saying that nobody knows how it really looks. But now, in Internet era, somebody figured it out. So, what’s with this plant?
It was observed that skin contact with any part of the plant, especially with its flowers or seeds, followed by sun exposure of the involved skin surface, causes severe dermatitis. They look like burnings on the skin and are not painful but can become itchy. I had myself such skin burnings and I’ve seen people with much worst ones. The bad part is they last for a long time. In serious cases it takes months to disappear completely and they are not looking good at all.
So, if you see this plant, stay away from it.
Turzii Gorge is offering numerous limestone climbing possibilities. Multi pitch routes are predominant but you can find also many sport routes. From vertical faces to overhanging cave walls. Most of the classic routes are protected with pegs. In some multi pitch routes the belays were equipped with bolts.
First routes were ascended here beginning of 1950s and during the next four decades most of the important walls were climbed. More than 50 routes were established during this period. Starting with mid 1980s the first modern rock climbing routes begin to be created and Turzii Gorge becomes one of the first places were sport climbing is pioneered in Romania.
There are many climbing spots, some of them situated very convenient near the tourist trail, others requiring longer approaches to more isolated areas.
For a detailed description of each crag, approach and routes see one of the topos recommended below. All climbing grades used in the following sections are expressed in UIAA grading system and [eventually] the Romanian rating system. Romanian alpine grading is derived from the Russian one, but, however, they are not quite equivalent.
Timpuri Noi crag has 6 short (15 m) sport routes from UIAA VI+ to IX+.
Turnul Galben (Yellow Tower) crag is very popular due to easy access (it’s situated right near the tourist trail) and the large number of easier routes. There are more than 31 sport routes here, from 10 to 25 m high, and with grades from V- to X-(?). Exception makes “Turnul Galben” route (4B, UIAA VIII-), which has 7 pitches. The rock might be “slippery” in some very popular routes which are climbed often. This area was recently extended with some additional bolted routes on the west part, left of "Pinochio" route.
Pripoanelor Wall is located higher above the trail in a peaceful corner. It offers nice views towards the south side of the gorge and has 15 routes on quality limestone. Most of them are single pitch but there are also multi pitch ones, up to 3 pitches. Grades vary from VI+ to IX(?).
Caprelor (Goat’s) Wall is situated higher than Pripoanelor. Access to it is defended by some large slopes covered with dense vegetation. There are 8 routes in the area, mainly multi pitch, up to 5 pitches. Grades go from VI to VIII-.
Uriaș (Giant) Wall is the biggest in Turzii Gorge. It is 250 m high, vertical, and starts directly at the river level. There are a couple of classic multi pitch routes here, the most famous being maybe “Madona Neagră” (6A, VIII+, 9 pitches), “Quo Vadis”(6A, VII-, 6 pitches), “Memorial Jenci Bacsi”(6A, 9 pitches) and “Vigh Tibor” (5B, VIII-, 8 pitches).
“Ave Maria”(6B, VI+, A1, 8 pitches) and “Calvaria”(6B, VI, A2, 8 pitches) are considered to be among the most dangerous due to loose rock and poor protection, so they don’t see so many ascents as their neighbors.
New routes continue to be developed in Uriaș Wall. One example can be "Fight for life" VI+, A1, 5 pitches, from June 2009.
East extremity of the Uriaș Wall (near Bridge #3) has also a few short sport routes, one overhanging aid route – “Balta Cotită” (A2, 15 m) and some additional 2 pitch routes. The rock here is quite polished and dirty.
Porumbeilor (Pidgeon’s) Wall is located to the west of his bigger brother Uriaș Wall. A longer and more complicated access to the routes of this wall makes this a good place to stay away from the crowd. You can find there 4 short routes (25 m) from VII- to VIII- and 4 multi pitch routes (up to 5 pitches). One notable route here would be the run out “Go-stat”, 25 m, VIII-.
Turnul Ascuțit (The Sharp Tower) is the emblem of Turzii Gorge. If you find a picture of this gorge it’s probably a picture with Turnul Ascuțit. The route which follows the spectacular narrow ridge of this tower has the same name. Great exposure and spectacular views makes it one of the most popular in Turzii Gorge.
The final part of “Turnul Ascuțit” route (5A, VII-, 6 pitches) has a small compact wall where are bolted 5 short routes (12 m, high quality limestone) having grades from VII- to VIII+. This zone is known as Poligonul Unguresc.
Poligon crag is located at the river level, across the touristic trail. Climbers have to cross the river to reach the base of the routes. There are 10 routes present, mostly single pitch, 30 m high, with grades from V+ to VIII. Unfortunately, most of the time, the base of the wall is flooded by river.
Bridge #4 area has more than 11 routes, some sport, a few up to 3 pitches. From UIAA grade V+ till IX. Worth mentioning "Școala Turdeană" (3A, V+, 3 pitches), one of the easiest and well protected multipitch route in Turzii Gorge.
Aerian (Aerial) Wall is another notable area which requires a longer approach and is located above the always crowded Bridge #4 area. Very often, access to this wall is done by climbing one of the lower routes, or by following up their descent path. This wall is commonly known as Zburătorul Wall and has 24 routes, mostly one pitch long (and a few up to 3 pitches). Grades of the routes go from IV to IX.
Colțul Sanșil is another quite popular place, maybe due to the nice and easy ridge route “Creasta Sanșil” (3B, V, 5 pitches). But you can find here also face routes like “Fekete Macska” (VII+/VIII-, 2 pitches) or more difficult variations of the ridge route.
Gabor Feri area is close to the West entrance of the gorge. The access is very easy and fast from that side. The crag has 12 routes, the same mixture of sport with multipitch (up to 3 pitches).
Ungurească Cave with its overhanging walls, roofs and arcades has the biggest concentration of difficult sport routes. There are 29 routes here, up to 20 m high and with grades from IV to X-. The most famous probably is “Coviltir”, 15 m, X-. This cave is a good place to climb when it’s very hot or raining outside.
There are many others walls or crags, or isolated routes in Turzii Gorge which I did not mentioned. I recommend consulting an updated topo or book for all those who are in the area and want to go climbing in this beautiful gorge.
I can mention maybe two more routes. One for being considered one of the most beautiful in Turzii Gorge – “Peretele Colțului Crăpat” (a.k.a. Csipkes) - 5A, VII+/VIII-, 5 pitches. And one for the truly amazing views it offers over the entire north side of the Turzii Gorge, with all the big walls seen from above – it’s called “Hans Gora”, 3B, VI+, 5 pitches.
The variety of the walls and routes in this place attracts climbers from all over Romania. From big face climbing to short steep routes and from overhanging cave walls to aid climbing. There is something for everybody here, from beginners of rock climbing to the very skilled ones.
When To Climb
The best period is from April to October. During very hot or rainy days the routes located in caves offer a good alternative (for example Ungurească Cave).
Camping can be done at both entrances of the gorge. At the eastern entrance you can find Cheile Turzii hut and several small cottages. Warning: they could be in poor condition or in repair.
A small shop, several wooden cabins and a camping place is present also at the west entrance across the river.
Camping inside the gorge is not allowed.
Map / topos
“Munții Trascăului (partea nordica) cu Cheile Turzii / Trascău Mountains - north part and Gorge Turzii” by DIMAP. Can be ordered online from here or here.
1. “Alpinism și escaladă sportivă in Cheile Turzii şi Cheile Turenilor”. The most comprehensive and up to date topo, text only in Romanian. Author Dan Anghel and Nicolae Budeancă, edition Altip 2011. Can be bought from here.
2. “Munţii Apuseni. Ghidul traseelor de escaladă / Apuseni Mountains. Climbing Guidebook.” Has a chapter dedicated to Turzii Gorge. Text in Romanian and English. Author Dan Anghel, edition GrafNet September 2007. Can be bought from here.
3. ”Dimension Vertical. Ghidul traseelor de escaladă din Romania / Climbing Guidebook Romania.” Text in Romanian, German and English. Authors: Gerald Krug, Dan Anghel, Florin Mastacan, Costin Morariu, Adrian Munteanu, Frank Schobel, edition Geo Quest 2007. Can be bought from here.
External LinksExcellent route overview (text in Romanian) on Adrian Munteanu’s page.
Another .pdf topo can be found here.
Description of Madona Neagră route (Romanian only).
Description of Chipcheş route (Romanian only).
Description of Fight for life route (Romanian only).
A new topo site: www.8climb.ro.