Travel Planner: A climb to the Pietrosul Rodnei mountain peak and the lake shaped like Romania
Clouds gather rapidly near the rocky peak of Pietrosul Rodnei mountain, but they do not seem to scare any of the 10 of us quietly laying on the mountain top. Ten minutes ago, the sun was shining above mountain tops and the valleys around them. We’re in Maramures, somewhere in Northern Romania, and at 2,303 meters above sea level, weather can shift in no time.
Two Romanian flags wave in the now rather cold mountain wind, a reminder of the people who’ve made it up here, and of the beautiful country laying down in the valley.
Exhausted but excited, I try in vain to light the candles on a small cake for my 32nd birthday. I end up sharing cake and handshakes with everyone on the mountain top, people I’ve never seen in my life, who later on all will outpace me – and wish me Happy Birthday once again - on our way down the mountain.
As we're descending, the Romania map-like shaped Iezer lake re-appears in the natural bucket between mountain tops. The path is narrow and rocky, and the slope is quite steep, so I have to always be alert. Four hours up, half an hour rest, and then back to descent has taken a toll on my city dweller legs. Somewhere close, on another mountain top slope, a flock of sheep manage to graze the grass in an almost vertical position, while I struggle to stand on my tired feet.
It’s the end of summer. The village of Borsa, where we started out climb early in the morning, is still far, bathed in the August sun. But what we’re aiming for first is get to the lake and its nearby rocks, home to a family of rather shy marmots who played hide-and-seek for a while.
The way down the top of the Pietrosul Rodnei mountain seems shorter than the way up, but still requires about one hour or so to the lake viewpoint, with numerous stops for breathing, drinking, and just gazing around. My trekking sticks pay off, my legs would have not made it without this additional help on that small path and on what was a rather challenging journey for me.
When looking up the mountain top from near the lake, the climb looks impossible. The winding path is almost invisible from down there. But you can see people walking up and down the grassy wall, so it seems more attainable. A Polish group, parents and two kids, and another Polish couple pass us by. They’re in shipshape – even the kids.
Close to the lake, people install their tents and get ready for their afternoon climb. It’s an official camping area with an amazing view up the peak, and an incredible view down in the valley. It’s the place where climbers make their last stop before attacking the last part of the journey to the 2,303 m peak.
The whole climb can be done in one day, if you wake up early. The route begins downtown Borsa, just across the street from the hospital. We drove as much as we could, until the asphalted road ended, to spare our strength for later – and we needed it! It took us almost two to three hours, mostly through the woods (again, lots of stops), to reach the weather station and the plateau with the Iezer lake at 1,700 m, and then two more hours to the peak.
But all our efforts – and my muscle pain for four days after the climb – were so worth it! The climb to Pietrosul Rodnei, the highest peak in the Rodnei Mountain in Maramures was a beautiful discovery. So were the marmots, the friendly mountain people, the Iezer lake shaped like Romania, the lonely houses at the foot of the mountain, the sunset through the grasslands and the haystacks as we descended, the tallest waterfall (Cascada Cailor) and the traditional, noisy whilrpools where people still wash large blankets like in the old days.
Getting there - the practicalities
To get to the Rodnei mountains, you need to reach the village of Borsa – either via Moldova (from Bucharest, going to Buzau – Focsani – Bacau – Falticeni – Gura Humorului – Vatra Dornei – Bistrita – Nasaud - and then Borsa) or through Transylvania – from Bucharest to Brasov – Targu Mures – Bistrita – Borsa.
If you choose the first option, try at all cost to avoid the road Vatra Dornei – Iacobeni – Ciocanesti – Carlibaba. It does shorten your trip compared to the option of going via Bistrita, but it is the worst road in Romania – we haven’t seen a road so bad: hole after hole, for 60 kilometers or more. But road aside, the whole drive through Maramures and Bistrita is great, the scenery is amazing.
Accomodation will be available in Borsa – plenty of guest houses. While In Borsa, go to the Cailor waterfall. Take the lift from the Borsa skislope, then descend to the waterfall, and then, either walk on the track back to the city, or take the same route via the lift.
Close to Borsa is Viseu de Sus, where you can embark on the Mocanita steam train. Check back our site as we will soon reveal what’s really like on the Mocanita.
By Corina Chirileasa, firstname.lastname@example.org
(photos by Corina & Andrei Chirileasa)