Ascent of Moldoveanu on 2014-09-23

Climber: Rob Woodall

Other People:Solo Ascent
Date:Tuesday, September 23, 2014
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
    Elevation:8346 ft / 2543 m

Ascent Trip Report

This is the first summit of a five day trip to Romania. Quite a long day hike, with fine ridge walking and some easy scrambling (cables) - plus fresh snow and a thunderstorm!

After an early morning ascent of Kerdhilion in northern Greece I return to Thessaloniki and take an afternoon flight to Bucharest OTP airport. Very efficient airport. But Sixt take an hour to produce a rental car. Then the drive north to the Carpathian mountains takes longer than expected.

I get my first taste of Romanian night driving: pedestrians and cyclists in the road in dark clothing with no lights; roads with no edge markings (not always even a centreline); vehicles with one or more light missing. And the roads! Potholed; trenches reinstated roughly (sometimes not at all, just back filled with soil). And a road will suddenly turn into unpaved with no warning - just a step down/up and puddles of unknown depth. So night driving best avoided, on minor roads that is.

I follow Petter Bjorstad's 2011 route, hence parking just south of the start of the 4x4 road where it leaves the high pass, at N45.58437 E24.64017, 1630m.

Note: I also check the Buda valley access N45.45472 E24.63223 860m mentioned by Petter. There is no barrier, but there is a sign which I think means no vehicle access without special authorisation.

I sleep in the car as planned. As I arrive it starts raining. I wake at 6 planning to start at first light. However it's still raining and I ponder the wisdom of doing a high level route of this length in poor conditions. I get a forecast on the phone (Romania has pretty good 3G coverage). Precipitation amounts not great; not too cold; winds fairly light. There could be more snow in few days, and I reckon it's doable, so better sooner rather than later. Eventually at 0740 I set out, in the rain. I'm soon in cloud with visibility no better than 20m for most of the day.

I have Petter's route description, also Martin Richardson's GPS track from his ascent a few weeks ago. Despite having just been in Greece I have warm waterproof clothing, and microspikes to fit to my trail shoes if needed. All of this is used...

Following yellow paint marks I reach the first refuge, noting it's necessary to keep L here at xxxx. I reach the notch where the route to the Podragu hut drops down (which turns out to be my return route for reasons which will become apparent). Turning R here I follow the rather interesting ridge, with its sections of cable protected scrambling and nice aretes. I soon have the microspikes fitted: ideal for nontechnical snow and ice: they stay on all day.

I make the small detour to Arpasu Mare (3rd bump is higher I think, N45.59761 E24.67743) then cross Mircii N45.59601 E24.68081 which is shown as higher on openstreetmap but appears lower by GPS and as per Petter's info. Steep descent to refuge (which is just a shell - no walls) beside a small lake (outflow crossed at N45.59949 E24.68148). A few ups and downs; past the other descent route to the Podragu hut. When the main trail descends sharp L at N45.60144 E24.69990, in poor visibility this feels wrong, although I guess it makes sense if you can see the main ridge making a dogleg.

More ups and downs, then a substantial ascent to a little rocky top with a signpost N45.60291 E24.73609 followed by a 27m rocky cable protected descent to a notch then a slightly scrambly ascent and rocky arete leading soon to the summit N45.59954 E24.73615, 5h07 from the car. Romanian flag flapping in a fairly strong cold wind. No sign of a trig pillar: if there's a trig bolt it'll be under the rime ice. Quick photo and GPS reading then head back.

After 30 mins I pass a Romanian who seems to be traversing between huts via the summit. I walk on, measuring the many reascents to pass the time. It's snowing again quite heavily.

FIZZ FLASH BOOOOOOM!!! I take it you have to be pretty close to hear the Fizz. Felt like the lightning parted my hair but presumably it caught the arete of the col just up to my right, with me feeling the static. No warning, just a single bolt out of the mist, then two more peals back towards the summit - I hope the Romanian is OK. Then all quiet. I jog along the trail to the relative safety of a side slope, then carry on along the path. The second half of the homeward route will be over exposed ridges and summits - suddenly unappealing.

I decide to descend towards the Podragu hut and take a low level traverse back to that first notch. Martin Richardson ascended that way so it must work - and I have his track on my GPSr, plus openstreetmap which also shows the trails.

Reaching the col I'm quickly down below the ridge. The path is intermittently visible under a few inches of fresh snow, and MR's track keeps me right. I reach a signed trail junction xxxx and turn L, following blue cross paint marks. Cross a ridge (cairn); descending traverse L and descend towards a corrie. More heavy snow and thunder. I'm glad I'm not upon the ridge. FLASH - BOOOM. Less than a second's gap - rather close considering I'm on a side slope nowhere near the skyline. I carry on, feeling less smug and a little paranoid! Cross corrie, path ascends a spur, I skirt well below the crest. Zigzag up, cross a notch, another descending traverse L then steep ascent to the notch I passed 7 hours ago. No more thunder, snow has stopped. As I descend it starts again, snowing heavily, but I'm soon back at the car. 9h45 circuit: glad to be down after a slightly too exciting day.

Tomorrow's summit is Parangul. SatNav route and Petter's route are over the high road pass to the north. But the latest snowstorm has made it impassable, for me at least. I head back and take the slightly longer southerly route. More night driving on bad roads. I give up and find a quiet spot for the night, and sleep well!
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:4966 ft / 1512 m
    Extra Gain:984 ft / 299 m
    Round-Trip Distance:15.7 mi / 25.2 km
    Trailhead:5348 ft / 1630 m
    Grade/Class:YDS 1 (3)
    Quality:7 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Scramble
    Weather:Snowing, Cold, Windy, Low Clouds
Ascent Statistics
    Time:5 Hours 7 Minutes
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Rob Woodall
Click Here for a Full Screen Map
Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

Download this GPS track as a GPX file

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