You do not want to become one of these people.
“An avalanche in Romania has killed two young climbing champions. The 12 year-old girl and 13 year-old boy were part of a larger group trekking through the Retezat Mountains, in Lake Bucura, when a blizzard hit. Five other tourists, including the father’s of the two children, were also injured in the disaster. According to the rescue services, the group were thrown against the rocks by the force of the avalanche. Passing tourists alerted the emergency services. The injured tourists were taken to hospitals in Hunedoara.” (www.euronews.com, April 23, 2017)
The warm weather has finally settled in making it an excellent time for hiking in the Romanian Carpathian Mountains. Hiking is one of the many activities people that visit Romania are interested in doing. I loved hiking when I lived in Romania and can’t wait to do it again. However, no matter how much I liked the mountains I carefully chose places with safety in mind.
The most gorgeous views are found at elevations over 5,000 feet and are difficult to be reached most of the times because many places in the mountains are very underdeveloped. There are places that not even Romanians heard of. After certain heights, there are no more dirt roads or markings. In other words, you are on your own.
You may say that the Romanian Carpathian Mountains are a smaller version of the Swiss Alps. Exploring them is more accessible and affordable than the Alps. It is not worth taking a risk because you want to be on top of the world unless you are really interested in a particular sight. They offer fantastic views no matter where you go. In this case, you must plan ahead to the smallest detail.
Sometimes it is a better idea to watch the mountain peaks in the distance than taking a chance and climb so high. You must have a good plan before you decide to go hiking to avoid gallivanting all over the place and not knowing where you are. More importantly, you must think how you will be getting medical help in case of an accident. This is hard to come by especially when you reach higher altitudes where people’s presence is scarce. I learned a few very important things from the time I spent in the mountains in Romania that made my experience unforgettable that you should know, too, if you are planning a hiking trip there. Here they are.
1.The safest way to travel anywhere in the country is by train. Improvements have been done to the railroad transport in the past few years.
You can stop at different locations located at lower altitudes where you can make your trip arrangements. You can also hop on the train to visit places in between in the same day.
2. There is no need to rent a car. You don’t want to get stuck in snow, rain, or fog. Don’t expect to find road emergency service and phone reception. There is also a pretty good chance that you won’t find your car it in the same shape when you return. Look for places where there are buses that can take you to higher elevations. Some places have mountain lifts and ski lifts that can transport you even higher.
3. Travel in group. It is recommended to travel with an organized group and don’t deviate from the designated route.
Don’t assume that all locals are experts in knowing a certain area. Avoid asking them to take you through the mountains even though it may seem like you are getting a good deal. No matter how experienced you are as a hiker hire a licensed guide. Take less difficult roads when you travel on your own. The chances are that there may be other people travelling on that road in case you need assistance.
4. Always have the most updated map with you. I am unsure if GPS works there. It is a good idea to have and know how to use a compass. Find stopping points that are not far from each other. Always ask how long you need to travel between different stops and take the safest route. If it takes hours to get from point A to point B you may want to reevaluate your plans. I don’t recommend hiking and making stops at chalets and ask for directions from there to the next possible point. Chalets are usually very secluded and may be miles apart from each other and very difficult to reach.
***Move cursor on photos to see chalets’ names and location
5. Stick with the signs and markings you will find on trees, posts, or rocks, to guide yourself and know the level of difficulty of your trip, where you are going, and how you will get there.
6. As you go up a mountain, the air becomes less compressed and thinner. This means there is less oxygen to breathe. Keep this in mind if you have difficulty breathing. The higher you travel the temperatures are also getting lower. You may encounter snow and fog during the summertime.
7. Carry a backpack with water, food or snacks, flashlight, batteries, warm clothes, socks, and a first aid kit. Do not overload yourself. You may find fresh water where you will be able to refill your water bottle.
8. Beware of brown bears. Wolves may also be seen especially in the wintertime. They are unpredictable. They may be used to seeing people at lower elevations but I wouldn’t count on it. If you chose to go camping stay close to a chalet that has a camping site. You will still need to watch for them.
9. You don’t have to travel at very high altitudes to enjoy the scenery. There are other beautiful things to admire and do along the way. You can always watch the mountains in all their splendor from a distance. You can make stops where you can lay in the grass, enjoy the glorious sun, have a picnic, and place your feet in fresh cold water. Pick mountain flowers, berries, fresh mushrooms, watch the rainbow after it rains, or shepherds directing their sheep. Sometimes you may be able to buy goat milk and cheese from them. If you are lucky they may even make you the famous Romanian corn dish mamaliga that goes well with the cheese.
10. During the winter season the scenery looks like it is coming from a postcard. However, there will be much more difficult to travel. The chalets may be partially open and not have enough supplies. The roads are very twisted and slippery. They could be frozen and covered with snow. Don’t wait for the snow plow truck. If you choose to go cross – country skiing stay close to marked roads and don’t go too far.
Be always prepared for the unexpected. Make sure you do some realistic and detailed planning before you leave. I know some of the sights are tempting. However, your safety is more important. Ask a lot of questions and gather information from more than one person. You can always book tours and trips if you have any doubts and still enjoy the picturesque views of the mountains. Whatever your choice is be extra careful and have a great time!
***Most photos are from Bucegi Mountains. They are very popular and more accessible to climb than others.
Also see So Far Apart and Yet So Much Alike [Carpathian Mountains and Blue Ridge Mountains, North Carolina] and Celebrating an Early Spring Arrival With Cool Romanian Traditions for Babele in the Bucegi Mountains
Featured Image – Chalet Caraiman, the Bucegi Mountains by Tiia Monto (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
- Viseul de sus, Mocanita by Becheru Dogaru Dan (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 ro (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/ro/deed.en)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
- Busteni, Valea Prahovei, the Bucegi Mountains by Tiia Monto (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
- The Rodna Mountains, Northern Romania by Dezidor (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
- Chalet Diham, the Bucegi Mountains by L.Kenzel (Own work) [GFDL http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
- Chalet Babele, the Bucegi Mountains by Tiia Monto (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
- Traveling Sheep – http://www.pixabay.com
- Borsa, Maramures County, Northern Romania by Gavrila Stetco (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons(http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
- Urlatoarea Falls, Busteni, the Bucegi Mountains by Luca Sironi [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
- Cave Coiba Mare, Alba County, the Apuseni Mountains by Mihai Andrei (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
- Chalet Malaiesti, the Bucegi Mountains by Treteen (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
- Snow on the Carpathian Mountains, Romania by Sb2s3 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons