Călimani Take Two: Twelve Apostles & More

After my snowy venture into the Călimani during the first weekend of October I returned during the second half of the same month. I walked back up the red cross from Gura Haitii to Poiana Izvoarelui and saw a rare cocoș de munte (western capercaillie) on the way. My goal was to complete the circuit of the Călimani as I had planned to do earlier, so I continued towards the famed Twelve Apostles reserve.

Walking back up to Poiana Izvoarelui, where I had camped during that snowy night, took me just two and a half hours. So I continued northwest on the red circle trail towards Poiana Pietrele Roșii. On the way I passed Tămău Peak (1862m) and the Stâncile Tămăului, as well as the Stâncile Pietrele Roșii. These are groups of rocky pillars; volcanic rock at that. The trail was gentle and there was fairly little ascending and descending. After another two and a half hours or so I reached Poiana Pietrele Roșii. I pitched my tent aside a derelict shepherd’s hut and enjoyed a glorious sunset over the main ridge of the Călimani. The only thing I missed was a spring – I knew there was one less than a kilometre up the trail but I was too happy with my camping spot to move. It was so quiet there I could hear the blood pumping through my veins. I made a huge bonfire of dead trees that happened to be lying around; it got a little bigger than I intended because apparently there was lots of resin in those trees.  When I changed into my pyjamas I discovered pine needles everywhere – even in my belly button. The signature of a good day.

The next morning I woke up early because I had to pee. I planned to go back into my tent to snooze for a while but then I noticed the sun was about to come up, so I stayed out and did some running and jumping to get warm because it was freezing. But the sunrise was glorious. I left early and found out the official camping spot (loc de campare) was right next to the spring… Oh well. Mine had better views. But in summer it’s probably wiser to move on to the official camping spot since I imagine there will be a flock + dogs at Poiana Pietrele Roșii. This is also where you can decide to hike back down to Gura Haitii via the blue cross route, by the way. As for water on this route: obviously there is a spring near Poiana Izvoarele; then there is a stream about 2.7km towards Poiana Pietrele Roșii and another spring 2km onwards, plus the aforementioned spring 900m up the trail from Poiana Pietrele Roșii.

After about an hour’s walking the natural rock sculptures called the Twelve Apostles loomed on the horizon. I have no idea why they are called the Twelve Apostles – there are certainly more than twelve and most don’t look remotely anthropomorphic. The two notable exceptions are Mareșalul – the marshall, who you will encounter first coming from this direction – and Moșul – the old man. The trail actually goes over some of the rock sculptures, and passes through a gate-like structure. You can clamber up some of the biggest rocks for, well, some good clambering, and good views.

My intention was to walk down to the village of Neagra Șarului via the continuation of the red circle trail, but when I got to Poiana Apa Rece (unsurprisingly, another spring here) there was a notice on the signpost that the red circle trail was blocked by (an unknown number of) fallen trees. Instead, the blue triangle to nearby Sărișor was recommended. I didn’t want to risk anything so I duly followed this trail. There were many more interesting rock formations after 12 Apostoli, by the way. There is an option to go straight down the blue circle to Gura Haiti after 12 Apostoli but I would say the extension is definitely worth it. Do take care though; at Poiana Apa Rece the signpost to Sărișor deceptively points north whereas your direction is really northeast. There is a blue triangle trail that leads north but it will take you all the way back to Vatra Dornei, which is a bit of a walk. Poiana Apa Rece-Sărișor is signed 3hrs – I think it took me less than two. Once in Sărișor turn right onto the asphalt road if you want to end up in Neagra Șarului; although there are also buses leaving from Sărișor, so check the schedule at autogari.ro before you decide.

Trail info

Day One: Gura Haitii-Poiana Izvoarelui-Poiana Pietrele Roșii | 4hrs 45mins | red cross + red circle | 19km
Day Two: Poiana Pietrele Roșii-12 Apostoli-Sărișor-Neagra Șarului | 3hrs 30 mins | red circle + blue triangle | 16km

Want more? Buy the guidebook!

My guidebook, ‘The Mountains of Romania‘, is out now! It contains 27 multi-day treks, 10 day walks, free gpx files, detailed route descriptions, a useful glossary and a wealth of information. You can buy it straight from the publisher here, or ask at your local (travel) bookstore.

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