When the mind wins over matter. Climbing 7 hours from Victoria town to Chalet Podragu, 2136 m altitude, Fagaras Mountains
I am always saying yes without thinking things through to all crazy trips ideas. The yes is coming first and the thinking part comes the last when I start asking myself how am I going to pull this through. When I decided to join this hiking trip it wasn’t different than usual. I said yes and only after saying it I was thinking “What the hell am I going to do, I do not have any equipment?“. I am the proud owner of a pair of mountain boots, but this is pretty much it, although this was not the only hiking trip I had till now. I always thought that as long as I have a good pair of mountain boots and a reasonably sized backpack I am good to go. I am saying reasonable because I like to carry less when I am going up the mountain, although when I travel I take with me half of my closet content. I am a woman and I like to travel in style and as long as the airplane or the car is carrying my bag I do not care how heavy my suitcase is. So, definitely you will never get from me the kind of advice that tells you how to pack light, I have no idea how to do it either.
But let’s return to my backpack…It is a must to have a reasonable size because since I have to carry it while climbing I am taking only the basics of the basics with me. I have to admit that I was astonished by myself too, how could I pack so light, and I can proudly say that from all 26 people who went on this trip I had the lightest backpack. I say, too much ado about nothing, my backpack is not the real issue in this story, but the old mighty mountains…
Fagaras Mountains are a subdivision of Meridional Carpathian Mountains. Having 14th of The Carpathians highest peaks, all being over 2500 m. The Mountian ridge which goes from West to East is 70 km long and 40 km wide. The alpine trails are spectacular being carved by the millions of years of erosion by glaciers wind and rain. This is the reason why many glacier lakes can be found hidden between mountain peaks. The widest is Balea Lake, the deepest is Podragu Lake and Miorita Lake is at the highest altitude 2282 m. I always thought that one of the reasons why mountains are hiding those lakes is because they are so vain and have to see in the morning their peaks mirroring on the lake`s still waters. The Mountian range offers a harsh weather comparing with other mountain ranges and it has the densest hydrographic grid, Despite water sources abundance it is wise though when hiking above 2o00 m to carry water with you. Fagaras Mountains are dramatic and eye-catching, the best time to be there is from the beginning of Summer till the end of October.
After presenting the mountains, I should say something on how to get there. From Bucharest to Victoria town in Transylvania are 267 km. The best way to get there is by car and since all smartphone have a GPS getting there is not a problem and it can take almost 4 30 h. The trail is marked with a red triangle and it can be done in 7-8 h till Podragu Chalet.
The wisest thing to do is to book your bed in advance otherwise, you will end up sleeping on the floor on the dining are. It can be fun in a twisted kind of way but not very comfortable.
The trail cover a large forest area, almost 5 hours. Not my personal favorite, it can be tedious and since for me climbing is very hard I am constantly asking myself “Why the hell did I came in this trip?“. My Body says “Hell NO !!!“ my mind says “Yes!!!“ and this way step by step I am more close to the final destination.
The rapid mountain rivers are filling the air with noise. We are crossing the small rivers on wooden bridges and it is a pure delight to see the water slipping on the rocks with a kiss and then rapidly flowing down the mountain. I am walking and keep asking myself “ Are we there yet???“ feeling like I am close to caving in.
I am tired. But in the same time the forest is becoming greener turning into an enchanting woods. I am captured by the look of the green moss which covers the rocks and the fallen tree trunks. Ferns are popping up here and there and I am remembering about the legend of the fern flower. The legend says that close to the summer solstice the fern is flowering and who is lucky enough to find it will have luck, wealth and the ability to understand animal speech. The quest for the fern flower is not easy because that flower is guarded by evil spirits. I guess that this kind of legends can be helpful because having this in my mind I kept on going.
Afte 5 hours finally, we went out of the forest reaching Turnuri Chalet. Placed at 1520 m altitude, for me, it was an alternative to Podragu Chalet. I could have stayed there since I was very tired and wait for the others next day to descend. When I saw myself there though and I saw the barren mountain peaks laughing at me I thought to myself that if I reached this point I should stop being a chicken and go all the way up.
Next 2 hours were pure bliss although it meant agony as well. The sun was setting and the mountain were daring me to reach their peaks. I was looking back and I could see far away the Transylvanian plateau bathing in the sun. Right then, I realized that those 5 hours of hell were worth it.
I was at the beginning on the alpine zone and the view up as well as down was so beautiful. the sun was setting behind the ridge and clouds were kept close by the mountains to have something to sneeze into. In the valleys, a very thin mist was rising. Although I was tired and I could not wait to reach the final point of our trail I stopped on the edge and contemplate the splendor around me. My body was aching, but I was happy. Hours ago I stopped asking myself why I said yes to this trip. If our hike would have continued for more than 2 hours it would not have mattered to me anymore. The beauty around me was magically removing any tiredness or any pain, I was under the mountain spell. People who go often on the mountain know what I am talking about.
For me, it was always surprising how when up there suddenly all the priorities are changing. Things that use to matter there are forgotten. It gives a sense of total detachment that I can’t explain, I can’t even explain my own behavior when I am up there. The mountain dares me the way no other thing does. I see myself wanting to overcome my physical limits although I am tempted so many time to give up. It is amazing what effect the mountain can have on me…
It was still daylight when we reached Podragu chalet at 2136 m altitude. It was built in 1948 and I kept asking myself how they did it? Even today all the supplies are brought in by donkeys on the same trail we came up here, and I think it is amazing for someone to dedicate his life to the mountain like this. Living such a very harsh life to keep a business where only the eagles are flying. The lake Podragu which is close it is the deepest glacier lake with 15m depth. In sunny mornings, the sun is sending its rays towards the lake in his attempt to stole a kiss from the sleepy lake.
Mornings are wonderful, but the pictures I like the most I took them on my way to Podragu when the sun was setting, The constant change and frail balance between light and shadow are what makes a picture be memorable.
I should tell you about how stars and Milky Way can be seen from up there. Or how the Perseids were having its ephemeral glory on the sky while falling towards the Earth. Or I should tell you about the next day descent, which was easy since I am better in descending then climbing. I am not going to do it..I will tell you, though…try this once and you will have the most extraordinary experience.
Looking back, I can say that where there is a will, there is a way and that in the battle between the mind and the matter the mind will always win. On this trip, I won a battle with myself, but I haven’t won the war. I think the war we are having with ourselves it is permanent, and somehow, one day, we will pass beyond our limitations, and win the war…