Intermission - Retezat in June

I've had a short hiatus in updating due to a temporary job relocation which cut me off from my PC and, implicitly, my photos, and rather than trudge on with endlessly minutious walls of text with nothing to ease the eye in between, I decided to take a break altogether until I'm completely back, which should be sometime next week. In the meantime though, I did get a very short break back, after a successful weekend trip to the mountains, so, for variation, as well as patriotism's sake, here's a short story of how it went.

Having missed a great trip organised by some friends across the Retezat-Godeanu mountains during the last extended weekend because I had to work on Friday, I quickly jumped on the opportunity when Shtelică, a mate I met and became friends with last summer during another national trip, asked me if I was interested in a short trek through the same Retezat mountains this weekend. It was all the more exciting because Shtelică, something of a mountaineering veteran, was doing his first trip after an eight or so month absence from the mountains, having recently become a father.
And so, come Friday, Shtelică and Călin (another friend with whom I've had quite a bit of travels) picked me up from Alba Iulia (the city I've been relocated to, deserving of an entry on itself) and the three of us continue through the night to reach Cârnic (our destination for the day and randez-vous point with the rest of the group coming in from Bucharest the next morning) around 22:00, under a beautifully starry night brightly illuminated by a fat, full moon. We were there greeted by Nea Ionică (which I suppose would be the Romanian way of informally saying Mister Ionică), who offered us accomodation in one of the unfinished room upstairs which, though somewhat rudimentary, provided all the necessities for a great night's rest.

Artificial illumination was pretty much unnecessary under this moon

Morning brought with it a cloudless sky, and soon after eating breakfast, the girls from Bucharest arrived; a couple more mugs of tea and a few more stories later, we were on our way up from Cârnic, towards the Genţiana cabin, a neatly kept wooden lodge with a staunch canine defender; from there, we continue up the path, passing the Pietrele Lake (er.. Rocks.. Lake? I guess) before climbing the slightly more demanding incline to the Bucura Saddle, with a nice view of the Bucura Lake, where we descended after taking in the sights. 
The Lolaia Waterfall, totally worth the 5 minute detour from the main trail

Clouds started gathering above us as we passed through the forest

But I was too mesmerised by the tantalizing, soft, mossy forest floor to notice what gathered above

Budding pine cones

He looks friendly, but I wouldn't get on his bad side.

Enjoying the warmth that wooden bench had accumulated while the sun shone

The first thicket of rhododendrons on our way up, a moment of excitement for all flower enthusiasts

A short break. The rock formation has a name, which I've forgot; EDIT: as gabi.rusu kindly reminded me, it's called Bordu Tomii, which in all honesty I couldn't even begin to fathom how to translate; thanks, Gabi!

Mountain goat. Only saw two, managed to photograph just the one, was hoping for more

A myriad of colours and shapes

Pietrele Lake, before the final push up to the Bucura Saddle

Looking back on the valley we'd climbed, with Pietrele Lake in the distance

.. and Bucura Lake in front of us.
We set up our tents, took our time enjoying some customised instant soup (the added animal fat giving the noodles not only much needed flavour, but also a significant energetic value boost) then, with the time being arount 17:00, decided to take a short trip up to Peleaga Peak (a short, 500 m climb) and hopefully catch a glimpse of the sunset, though to be fair, the hopes weren't that high - by the time we arrived to Bucura, the weather had taken a definitive turn for the worse, and the trip that started under a nearly scorching sun ended covered by many clouds with varying degrees of thickness and grayness.
I'd never hear the end of it if I didn't add a photo of the whole group. Left to right: Adina, Irina, Irina, Călin, Shtelică

Something of a local celebrity at Bucura, and quite deservingly so

Certainly enough to make her worthy of two pictures here!

Cloudy skies notwithstanding, the short trip to Peleaga Peak went swimmingly and, soon enough, we were enjoying a pretty, if mostly obscured 360  ͦ view. We didn't have too much time to enjoy it as heavy raindrops signaled it was time to leave before we could get too comfortable. Abandoning a great view is preferable to braving a rain on a mountain ridge.
Călin enjoying the view from up near Peleaga, on our way back down

I'd missed this assortment of flowers on the way up.

Naturally, not long after we started descending, the rain died off, and we were left to continue our way back to Bucura in peace, with plenty of breaks to enjoy the view which had been behind us on the ascent. Back at camp, after a bit more socialising, we all went to bed (it was nearing 23:00), content after a fun day with great views, if somewhat frustrated (in my case) for having hauled a 2kg tripod intended for nightsky photos, only to have my plan thwarted by the unrelenting clouds.

The night went by quickly and, after the early wake-up call by Shtelică, a delicious breakfast of customised pasta (and if you have any pattern recognition skills at all, you can imagine what we added), we were soon on the way towards the Retezat Saddle, the Pietrele Cabin and, finally, back to Cârnic. 
Morning view from inside the tent

Custom pasta breakfast

The obligatory Bucura reflection shot
We made decent time, despite frequent pauses (I simply had to wait silently for the marmot we'd scared off in our carelessly noisy tread to regain the courage to come out into the sun from its shelter again so I could take at least one photo), with a lunch break right on the Saddle.
Well camouflaged and hesitant to come out, but my patience proved to be greater!

Large rocks, rhododendrons and beautiful lakes - Retezat in a nutshell. Or just beautiful, if you want a smaller nut.

On the other side of Poarta Bucurei (the Bucura Gate) lay several other lakes; visible here are Ştirbului (Toothless') and, farther down,  Gemenele (Twins)

By now we'd seen enough rhododendrons to begin the summer properly, but this field of small, pink-sh (?) flowers was a new sight

Far away and high into the Gemenele Scientific Reservation lay Tăul Negru (the Black Lake)
I couldn't not take this chance for a quick ~250 m climb up to the Retezat Peak, a place I'd not been to in about 8 years in my very first brush with mountains, a proper a beginning as any, including such inspirationally clever moves as getting lost, drinking melted snow and pretty much begging for a place to stay after taking off without bringing a wallet with us; my friend Felix wrote a journal about this many years ago, a fun, if strictly Romanian, read. 
Looking back towards the Retezat Saddle from the Peak. Equally breathtaking, though not nauseatingly frightening as it was 8 years prior, when we couldn't figure out a safe way back down.

We continued down from the Retezat Saddle towards the Pietrele cabin through the Stânişoara Valley (can't think of a proper translation); after a brief stop next to the Stânişoara lake, at the end of the steep descent from the saddle, we continued on our way just as a light drizzle started (thankfully with us away from the ridge).
One of the last shots taken right before the weather went south and I was forced to put the camera away. A small, flowered clearing right before the Stânişoara Lake.
 As we marched on and the rain refused to yield, I gave in and put my raincoat on, a decidedly wise decision, as it soon became an unrelenting downpour and a good part of the rest of the trip was spent trying to nimbly step on slippery stones while avoiding the newly formed but not insignificant stream of water that the rain had created on the narrow, winding path, guarded on both sides by clingy, wet junipers. On this note I can't not give a couple of thoughts to one of my latest purchases, a pair of Garmont Tower Trek boots which, I'm sad to say, proved to be a bit of a dissapointment - not only did I get several blisters on both my toes and heels, but wearing them for a full day proved to be straining on my feet and, on the last few kilometers of slight descent I was in pain in both the anterior and posterior tendons for both feet. In addition, the breathability was virtually nonexistant, as during a short break not 3 hours after starting walking on the first day, my socks were basically soaked in sweat, and despite that, their waterproofing left a lot to be desired as well, as by the end of the second day, after walking for probably a couple of hours through a downpour (and admittedly stepping once! in a slightly deeper puddle), the socks were thoroughly soaked with both sweat and rainwater. And while I'll grant that the former two flaws may be due to a suboptimal fit, the latter may not. I'll give them another chance and reserve full judgment until then, but thus far I'm not pleasantly surprised.

Drenched feet and all, eventually we got back to Cârnic and, warm change of clothes on us, warm tea inside us, goodbyes and promises for future hikes together said, we were soon on our way back to Cluj, a short but great weekend behind us. 

NOTE: This entry is incomplete, with no proofreading and lacking a few more photos, I'm leaving it as is because I'll not get back to the PC for another week and I'd rather upload an incomplete page than none at all. Will get updated. 

UPDATE: I've added the last few photos. Still haven't done a proper read, odds are I've left a few errors hidden about.


  1. Pe zi ce trece descoper ce tara frumoasa avem si ca o viata de om nu ajunge sa o cunosti,mai ales in salbatacia ei

  2. Bolovanul acela nu e cumva Bordu Tomii ? Am frunzarit doar pagina, asa mi s-a parut din imagini :) Voi lectura pe indelete mai tarziu. Retezat si Nepal ... 2 locuri care ma fascineaza :)

  3. Bolovanul acela nu e cumva Bordu Tomii ? Am frunzarit doar pagina, asa mi s-a parut din imagini :) Voi lectura pe indelete mai tarziu. Retezat si Nepal ... 2 locuri care ma fascineaza :)


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