We love nothing more than being up in the mountains, exploring the wild untamed peaks whether than be hiking, climbing or paragliding over the top of it all! So when we headed over to Romania and more specifically Transylvania we were keen to tick off a huge dream: Hiking in the stunning Carpathian Mountains! But where to go in this vast landscape, little did we know the awe inspiring mountain we passed by on the train to Brasov would be the sight of on of our most amazing hikes just a day later! Here’s our adventure to Baba Mare (2293m/ 7.520ft)!
Discovering this amazing place
As we chugged through the Romanian countryside, the flat plains giving way eventually to higher and higher hills, peaks and eventually mountains we spotted a stunning pinnacle from the train. A sheer face of white rock piercing the bright blue sky above, I turned to Shorty and said, “I want to stand on top of that”. He laughed it off and said that we had no idea where we were, what the route was or if there is even a route up there we are equipped to do! “You’re probably right” I said, holding on to the scribbled list of things to do in Brasov that I thought would keep us busy enough anyway!
When we finally arrived in Brasov, to our delight, we walked straight into the kitchen of our hostel only to be greeted by Paul, a lovely Geordie chap we had met over in Sarajevo and had kept in contact with since. After checking in and dumping our bags we headed straight out for something to eat and drink with him…and to pick his brains about Brasov! Turns out, just that very day he had been up that piece of rock I had been longingly staring at as it zoomed away from us!
That route was a 4 hour hike up from the Alpine town of Busteni, a village that wouldn’t look out of place in Switzerland, Northern Italy or Austria. It was a little surreal finding ourselves in such a place to be honest, we had to pinch ourselves to believe we were still in Romania. But in the end this just made us realise just how special this country really us.
Finding the damn route!
After we arrived in Busteni, wandered around in awe and bought some supplies for the trek we were ready for the climb. But, erm, where does it start! Our GPS ended up sending us through a forest with warning for bears, we soon realised we had already gone wrong!! Which is quite usual for us!
Anyway, if you are after doing this route yourself then do what we should have done and walk further down the road and find the cable car station. Start off down the right hand side path and follow the symbols that resemble the Finnish flag. From there they are pretty frequent and you shouldn’t have any issue following them!
Taking the magnificent 4 hour hike in the Carpathian mountains
So off we were, passed the sign that warned us that this route was “extreme”, and ready for an adventure and a challenge. We had done quite a bit of hiking since starting backpacking but this would be our first proper mountain and my first since my knee op. I was excited and a little nervous to be tackling what would be my highest summit as my first one back. But we thrive on challenging ourselves and the fact that this route was the most difficult path on this section of the mountain only made us more excited!! Plus we had always dreamt of tackling a peak in the Carpathian Mountains.
Setting off and the initial track was deep in the forest, paths winded their way over stunning rivers and deep within the bear infested woods. At one point a bush began to shake violently and we worried we had come across one of the famous bears of Romania…turns out it was just another hiker who has strayed off the path!
But we took in mind the advice to keep talking loudly to each other as we walked to scare off any potential encounters!! This section was sustained hiking for hours on end, we tried to only stop on one or two occasions and instead push on to the next section of the climb. Now we would continue our path through the stunning Valea Jepilor (Juniper Valley) to follow the path to the crest of the Bucegi Mountains within the the Carpathian Mountains.
Next came the most extreme sections of the route. Up above the tree level the route became steep rock faces laced with chains to aid your accent. Of course, as experienced rock climbers we found this section the most fun rather than technically challenging and the areas of exposure we got were thrilling!
Despite this section of the climb being much steeper, the fact it had become a scramble that looked down on the breathtaking valley below, it felt much more fun…and dangerous!! Which is the same thing isn’t it!!
Admiring the views from the summit
We again spent another few hours pressing on relentlessly though the steep valley. The more we climbed the more the views became a wonderful distraction from the effort we were putting into this summit. But despite the aching limbs we enjoy pushing ourselves like this and the views we were constantly rewarded with made it feel even more of an achievement.
The more we walked into what turned out to be a 4 hour trek the less people we saw, after pushing above the tree line we only saw one other couple, who we took over quite quickly. After this there was no sign of life past the noises of nature and the humming of the old cable car passing periodically above. It felt like a real adventure into the wilds, almost like we were discovering this magical place for the first time.
Standing on top of Baba Mare at 2293m/ 7.520ft this was the highest summit we had ever climbed on our own steam and we felt great. If truth be told the route was challenging and hard going, but we could have kept going and that is alway a great feeling, especially standing here looking down the valley and mountain we had just conquered.
The town below was like a tiny dot, waterfalls crashed down below us and we had found ourselves so high up that we had reached the snow line…in July! The Carpathian Mountains lived up to their billing!
Taking the traditional cable car back down to the summit
As soon as we reached the secondary peak and the formations known as “Babele” there seemed to be so many people up here. It was again another surreal experience after trekking for so long and not seeing another person. But of course, pretty much all of these people hadn’t taken the arduous route we had, instead they had hopped onto the old cable car and been whisked up here! Well, after such a hike we figured we would treat ourselves and take the gondola down…only they are so old there are only 2 cars and they come only every 15 minutes!! Did I also mention the collection of people up here!
We ended up waiting for almost an hour, but that once again proved to be an interesting experience in itself. We ended up getting talking to a lovely Romanian family who had been living in Liverpool for years and had come back over to visit family. Their daughter who had been speaking in fluent Romanian a few moments earlier before we struck up a conversation was now speaking with a clear Liverpudlian accent, even her dad found it hilarious!
It just confirmed to us how wrong people are for judging immigrants from these countries, they even made sure we got on their cable car and bought us some corn when we got down to the town. They were lovely, hard working and friendly people who just wanted to do well for themselves and their family. I would gladly share my country with them than the racist bigots who would have them sent home. Plus…I want to move to Romania now!!
How to do this hike
This hike is a great one to do by yourself but it does take a little preplanning and you do need to get there early as the hike is long and be sure to check on both the cable car times and on the bus times back to Brasov. Another option if you are going it alone or you’re a little unsure on route finding or not confident with public transport is to take on of the great hiking tours in Romania that are on offer. These allow you to take organised transport and experience the mountain with a trained guide. This way you can tackle even more advanced terrain if you are an experienced hiker or get out into the beautiful Romanian countryside even if you’re a beginner on the trails!
Step by step guide for doing it yourself:
Take the 9:00am bus from Brasov bus station to Busteni, the bus station near to the train station.
The bus costs around 6 Lei each and takes 35-45 mins. You can also take the train but it is a little more expensive and takes longer.
From Busteni make your way to the cable car station and follow the Finnish flag type symbols.It can be a little tricky following them when you get to the cable car, be sure to walk down the side and take note of the large notice board with all the walks. From here on in it’s easy to keep them insight. The path at the start is very obvious but beyond a certain point it does become a little less clear but the chains should be a good guide. Just take care to not stray too far off and into unsafe ground.
Once at the top you can take the cable car down for around 10 Lei, it only takes 15 minutes but you can be sometimes waiting a while on the weekends.
Now take the bus, train or hitchhike back to Brasov. The buses aren’t all that frequent and don’t run on a reliable schedule but something will eventually come!!
Don’t do this hike alone as it can be quite secluded on the trail and if you get into trouble you might not be able to get help. There are also bears in the woods and more people make more noise making you safer.
It is also advisable to be very aware of your time as the mountain is a serious place to get stuck overnight and factor in time to walk down if that is your plan or double check cable car times.
It is possible to camp overnight and even hike on to a higher peak the day after before coming down, but this is even more advanced and should be researched properly and proper gear taken up as even in summer there is often some snow.
Take enough food, water and medical supplies including a foil blanket and let someone know you are hiking and when to expect you back.
Have you ever taken a hike so breathtaking?
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