The romanian Carpathians, with mountains up to 2544 meters, are still a largely unspoilt terrain. Marius of SplitboardingRomania presents the most interesting touring areas and gives first hints to all prying explorers.
Romania? Many will likely think of corruption and Roma first, like Transylvania is well known only as home of Count Dracula to most of us. But of course, Romania is much more! And that's why we want to give you an idea of this interesting country and its mountains. There you can discover powder snow, cosy huts and friendly people and with a bit of luck, the one and other brown bear.
Splitboarding is relatively new to Romania, maybe because not all roads lead to Romania even though the inhibitants called themself Romans. Thus the romanian part of the Carpathian arc, with mountains up to an height of 2544 meters, is mostly unspoilt terrain, especially in winter. The duration of winter can't be an excuse not to come to the unique carpathian mountains for splitboarding between December and May.
Latest by December it starts to snow and the tour season can be opened. January and February are the months for full freeride and splitboarding fun in knee-deep powder. As of March it gets warmer, of course, there can also be fantastic powder days, but usually spring begins. The nights remain cool, so the snow gets soft and slushy around lunch time and you can enjoy slushy turns in beautiful spring sunshine. If you have forgotten your sunscreen, a sunburn is included. Of course, the conditions are different every year and there were even years when we went for incredible powder in April or another time we had very little snow in February, but that's the same with wintertime nearly everywhere.
Touring regions in Romania:
The best touring regions are located in the southern Carpathian Mountains, from West to East: Retezat-Mountains, Parang-, Fagaras- und Bucegi-Mountains.
The Retezat Mountains are the main mountain range of the Retezat Godeanu group, in the westernmost part of the Southern Carpathians in Romania. It was declared as the first Romanian National Park in 1935 and is one of the most important protected high-mountain areas in Europe.
The region is very rocky and blessed with 82 mountain lakes . The Retezat Mountains reach a height of just over 2500 meters and there are about 20 peaks with over 2300 meters. The Tour options range from Peleagamit 2509m, over the Papusa with 2508m, the name giving Retezat with 2482m, to name only the somewhat better known names. All can be climbed with splitboards if you have appropriate skills. The descent possibilities are as varied and can be from easy to difficult . The best touring times are February and March.
In the southwest of the Carpathian Mountains are the Parang Mountains, the second largest mountain range in Romania. Its highest mountain, the Parangu Mare ( 2519m ), is the third highest mountain in Romania. The predominantly round ridges are cut by deep valleys, with the north side of the massif slopes steeper than the south side. Among the prominent peaks are Gauri ( 2244m ) , Piatra Taiata ( 2255m ) , Lesu ( 2375m ) , Setea Mica ( 2,278 m ) and Setea Mare with 2,365 meters. The popular ski resort of Rinca lies in the Parang mountains.
In winter there is more than one meter of snow on average above 1500m. Characteristic of this region is the strong wind that blows throughout the year. In winter it increases in strength and thus has great influence on the snow conditions.
The Fagaras mountains or'' The Alps of Transylvania'' like Emmanuel de Martonne called them, are very popular in the freeride community. The area is centrally located in the Southern Carpathians and is excellently developed. Mountains like Moldoveanu (2544m), Negoiu (2536m) or Vistea Mare (2.527m) can satisfy everyone. There is even the possibility of Heliskiing or Helisnowboarding and cable cars take you to the top if you simply just want to do some freeriding. There are also a variety of hotels and inns that make your stay as comfortable and hassle free as possible.
Tip: A crossing from Fagaras to Bucegi or vice versa, can be an incomparable adventure.
The Bucegi Mountains are located in the eastern part of the Southern Carpathians . The steep slopes preserve the snow and so you can still ride it in April and partially in May. However, the best time is January to March.
From the highest mountain Omu (2505m), eg Valea Alba, Valea Malinului and Valea Cerbului directly lead down to the highway (DN1 to Bucharest ).
At Omu is the highest hut of Romania (Omu Hut) which offers space for up to 32 people. For those who love it less " touristy" , where tourism in this area is not to be compared with the Alps , the Costila with 2498 meters or Scara (2422m) are pleasant tour destinations. Look for Sfinxul and Babel , two very interesting mountain formations . Basically, the area is relatively steep and offers, as well as the Retezat Mountains, routes in all degrees of difficulty. It has the shape of a horseshoe and there are many gorges which give a beautiful picture in winter. Within a relatively small area you'll find all exposures, so that you can pick out the routes which are blessed with powder snow, while another exposure may already be crusty or endangered by avalanches. The terrain is often interspersed with rocks and demanding. In the summer climbing abilities and the appropriate equipment is required, but in winter and spring many of the climbing sections are snowed in and much easier to overcome .
Maps & Tour planning
If you want to go on your own, you must bear in mind that there are no Alpine Club maps or similar for the Carpathians. There are tourist trail maps which provide a rough guide, but they are often too inaccurate in scale and relief to be a source for preliminary avalanche assessment of difficult terrain or the navigation in fog. Best you use the internet to read tours and travel reports, looking into route directories and establish contacts with locals to share tips or to go splitboarding together.
In all the mentioned areas you can choose between guest houses at the foot of the mountains, huts in the mountains or refuges on the ridges. Personally, I would make it like the shepherds in summer and use the pasture huts or alpine shelters. This is the most authentic version to experience our region. But think if it, wood for a fire should be nearby so you can have it toasty warm and romantic crackling. Apart from that it requires to carry up the food and an appropriate logistic preparation. Think of your sleeping bag, cookware, sleeping pad ...
If you're into something more comfortable splitboarding, I can recommend the following chalets:
Faragas: Negoiu Chalet http://www.negoiu.ro
In Sâmbăta, near Faragas, i can recommend the Sambata Chalet. People are super friendly and it's located directly at the entry to the valley.
Bucegi: Malaiesti Chalet http://www.malaiesti.ro
Of course it depends on the direction you come from, but generally the way to the mountain is always the same. You go to a village at the foot of the choosen mountain region and then make your way up with the splitboard to discover the area. Before, of course you have familiarized yourself with the map and know exactly how far you drive in order to climb your desired summit, where the managed and/or self-catering chalets and huts are, which round trip options are available or how you can hop from cabin to cabin and back to the starting point.
Winter in the Carpathians is a quiet season without admission fees or tourist crowds. Unfortunately, we must admit that the number of splitboard stores is very limited and still far too low. So it is best if you bring all your own stuff .
Finally, I would like to briefly mention the weekend of March 14 to 16th of March 2014, which was dedicated 100% to splitboarding. We were in the Fagaras mountains at the cozy Barcaciu hut. The mood was good, relaxed and full of love for the mountains. On Saturday sunshine and on Sunday half a meter of fresh, spraying powder. Despite the desire to go high on the ridge, the avalanche danger was not be underestimated and we have opted for the safer forest runs. The decision proved to be correct and we have been richly rewarded .
But now enough from me. I hope I was able to give you an a idea of our splitboard region. Here you can watch a little video of the said weekend.
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I thank splitboarding.eu for publishing this article.
Hey Marius, we also say Thank you for the presentation of your great touring areas and look forward to more news from the Carpathian Mountains. Maybe we can meet sometime soon in Dracula's kingdom.