Ever since my first traverse of the Fagaras ridge in the summer of 2018 I’ve wanted to cross those majestic mountains again. And in September opportunity finally struck! There were a few major differences though: 1) I tackled it west to east; 2) I tackled it with Wilbert (hubby and best hiking buddy) and 3) I tackled it in autumn. All of these factors made this hike very different from the last one. Same mountains, same girl: familiar, yet new. Hiking in the Fagaras is always going to offer a surprise or two, that much is clear. Here’s part one – because I’m fairly sure I’m not going to manage to fit everything in one post! Off we go. If you’re in a hurry: trail info is at the bottom of the post.
Buses and mushrooms
We get off to a very late start: we’ve just come down from the Retezat and have been land hunting (more about that soonish hopefully!) and don’t feel like catching the 6 am train. Besides, the train would only take us to Valea Fratelui halt from where it’s still a 3km walk to the start of the trail in Lazaret. So we decide to enjoy the copious breakfast buffet at the pretty posh Hotel Sofianu in Ramnicu Valcea. After all, we’ll be bivouacking for the next five days or so, so a good bed and a good meal seems like a justifiable expense.
We take a taxi to the bus station, which turns out to be the wrong one – fortunately the other bus station is close by. So in case you ever need to take a bus from Ramnicu Valcea to Lazaret or towards Sibiu, it’s Autogara Obada you are looking for. Not the other one. Whatever it’s called. We ask the bus driver if he can drop us off as close to the trailhead as possible and he can, but he’s going to take a 30 min break at a roadside restaurant about 8 km before, and the ride takes about an hour longer than scheduled on Autogari.ro. So we have to patiently sit that out and don’t get started until 12:30.
We sort of anticipated some sort of late start – albeit not quite this late – so we’ve scheduled half a day’s walk. One with 1600m of ascending though – since we’re starting at the Olt river and making our way to the ridge. But to me, traversing a mountain range without the initial ascent and bushwhacking feels much less rewarding. That feeling when you see the ridge for the first time is simply priceless. Also forests are pretty – especially when they are adorned with tons of mushrooms as they are now! Me wanting to take pictures of them all slowed us down quite a bit I’m afraid… Also, this happens to be the section of the red stripe trail that I helped waymark with Florin si prietenii in July. So I proudly show off the new staircase that my buddies built and the waymarks that I painted.
Oh hey, sheepdog!
And then there is this other, slightly less priceless feeling: when you see the first sheepdog. Wilbert spots it first. He doesn’t like them very much. Nor do I. But we’ve worked on our strategy together since our last encounter with dogs in the mountains, and we handle the situation pretty well. First, we stand still and talk to the dog, so that he can judge the situation and decide that we’re actually nice and no threat. The dog turns out to not be much of a threat either. We hold our walking sticks close to our legs and pick up some rocks, just in case, but he lets us pass without as much as a bark, and then trails behind us calmly at a distance. When we see the shepherd – and more dogs – we make our presence known to him and he assures us that his dogs are nice – nevertheless accompanies us for a bit until we’ve passed the flock. This is how a sheepdog experience should go! We’re happy about how it went and it looks like we’ve chipped away at our dog fears a bit again.
First views westwards from a beautiful rocky outcrop before Piscul Strambanu (1511m) See that white spot? That’s a sheepdog welcoming us to the ridge. The good shepherd Hello ridge!
Loitering on the ridge
And then we can finally afford to look around at leisure: with all that fluffy flock stuff going on, we almost forgot that we were out in the open and on the ridge! It’s a beautifully crisp September afternoon, the sun is already setting, the sky picked a stunning colour scheme today, and is complemented by the blazing red of the blueberry bushes (yes, blueberries everywhere!) and orange hue of the long grass. Wilbert even goes as far as to declare it’s the most beautiful hiking day of his life. We top up our water bottles at a spring on the trail, which we find thanks to my own guidebook; I marked it accurately and it’s still there despite it being September. The ridge walk is really easy, and we leisurely make our way to Curmatura la Apa Cumpanita; a beautiful saddle from where we have views towards the Olt Valley to the north and the Buila-Vanturarita and Capatani mountains to the south. Hiking in the Fagaras is oh so rewarding.
Short days, long shadows The Olt river down below Moon rising Curmatura La Apa Cumpanita – our camping spot
If you also want to go hiking in the Fagaras, here’s some info you might need.
Lazaret – Curmatura la Apa Cumpanita (1807m), ±16km, +1600m (don’t have access to my precise stats right now, will update). Follow the red stripe trail all along.
How to get to the start of the western end of the red stripe trail
– Either take the train from Ramnicu Valcea (south) or Sibiu (north) to Valea Fratelui halt (south) or Valea Marului halt (north); from there walk 2-3km along the railway until you get to the start of the red stripe trail. This is deemed legal and safe in Romania. It’s not a very busy railway and there is some sort of track next to it, but keep your eyes peeled. Train timetables are here.
– Or take a bus, again from Ramnicu Valcea or in the direction of Talmaciu/Sibiu, or from Sibiu in the direction of Ramnicu Valcea. Ask the driver to drop you off in Lazaret; best show him on the map. You can find an overview of buses here; if travelling from Ramnicu Valcea try entering Talmaciu as a destination too since that might yield more options.
– Of course you could try hitchhiking too, which works very well in Romania.
There are several springs on the trail; check out the map in my guidebook for precise locations. There is one at the end of the stage too! Also check out my book if you’re planning to tackle the Fagaras in the other direction, east to west. Or generally for more practical info. I’d be chuffed if you bought it! There’s an e-book version as well, that will nicely fit in your pocket.
Camping is permitted anywhere in the Fagaras Mountains, since it’s not a national park (yet). Curmatura la Apa Cumpanita was a very sweet spot, but there are many others – the western and eastern extremities are very grassy. Probably best pick a spot near a spring – and not in the forest (bears, you know). And please make sure you leave no trace.
Grab a paper map with you and make sure you know how to use it. I recommend the one from Muntii Nostri; try buying it from your local travel bookshop (this is mine). You might want to download the Muntii Nostri app as well. Don’t forget to download the relevant map so you can use it offline; you won’t have cell coverage everywhere.
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