Transylvania : Cold Mountains, Culture and more… Andrew Kydd 25 Feb – 5 Mar 2006 – Eagle club journal. Having bumped into a kitted-up ski tourer on a previous non-skiing visit, Steve Gould had been researching a Romanian trip for some time. Enter Iulian Cozma (RMGA) who put together a complete package for us, and turned out to be a great guide, host and organiser, and a mine of local information (www.mountainguide.ro). The original plan was for day tours in three areas: the Bucegi massif, SW of Brasov, and huts in two different parts of the Fagaras, further west. In the end, conditions and illness meant abandoning the Bucegi and one of the Fagaras, huts, but Iulian had interesting alternatives for us, and we had more time to savour the cultural delights of mediaeval Brasov, the unique fortified Saxon churches that are dotted around the area, and the nocturnal iguanas (no, don’t ask – you wouldn’t believe it). We spent a decent first day amongst the trees at the small but cheery Poiana Brasov resort. The following day we donned skins for a beautiful circular tour on the forested SE flank of the Piatra Craiului massif – or maybe it was the Chilterns, the lower beech woods seeming oddly familiar. Lunch at Cabane Curmatura (1470m) was delightfully typical: meatball soup and rum tea. The descent ran through the dramatic, but sole-destroying, Zarnesti gorge, apparently used in the film Cold Mountain. Transferring by minibus to Balea Lake in the Fagaras Mountains, we took a day to explore its valley, finding the most perfect powder in cold sunshine up on the west col. We indulged in an afternoon of old-fashioned skiing, all by ourselves, again and again skinning up and swooping down in style through the fresh stuff. The next day we crossed the same col to ski down a totally empty Lady Valley, battle back round the forested shoulder on a summer path, and return to the chalet via the ageing cable car – a good workout. The chalet at Lake Balea was new and large, with all mod cons and a wide menu – a very comfortable place to be in increasingly bitter weather. Except that someone (who shall remain nameless if he’s very good) persuaded us to drink the water… So instead of heading East to the Sambata valley for the final stage of the week, the minibus took our malfunctioning constitutions back to Brasov, sadly foregoing lunch en route with Iulian’s gran. On the last day, those who weren’t too stricken by the bug went for a gentle but tremendously scenic tour through some typical Transylvanian landscape and traditional villages of Magura– we seemed to step back in time for a while. Transylvania is a fascinating area with a mountain tradition and good food – could be worth considering for a summer visit, as there are waymarked paths and good huts. But it doesn’t appear to be a paradise for classic hut-to-hut ski touring, due to tough terrain on the ridges and inconvenient or closed huts. There may be hard-core (M4-ish) possibilities in the Fagaras, and the Iezer-Papusa offer more achievable itineraries, but using shepherd huts. And, as we found, there are a number of low-level options. The conditions seem colder and more continental than the Western Alps, so instability may last for longer after snowfall. May is reputedly much more stable, but of course no chance then of powder.
Party: Alex Bregman, Steve Day, Steve Gould, Andrew Kydd, Julian & Shelagh Wang – Eagle Ski Club UK, Iulian Cozma (RMGA) – february & march 2006