Piatra Craiului – best hiking in Romania

Piatra Craiului – best hiking in Romania

When you look at a mountain you feel something that really can’t be described. At least in my case, the feeling of being so small, facing its majesty while also getting the chills knowing so little about this huge world and its wonders.

After a couple of hours of hiking constantly, I’m starting to have that exciting feeling and a sincere smile spread across my face. I am finally standing in front of Piatra Craiului, for the first time in my life.

Hiking Romanian Carpathians can be challenging as we have pretty badass mountains. This massive is one of the most technical mountains in Romania and it’s not just something that I say, it’s also the alpinists’ and mountain rescue’s opinion and I’ll tell you why.

You can’t get near it by car, so you need to go through the woods, no matter what hiking trail you choose to take. Normally, I know what to expect while climbing, because it’s mandatory to be familiar with what you’re going to find on your trail. However, this time, I did something that I never recommend to others: picking a coming down way without doing any research before. This is how my story begins.

Once we were up, I was welcomed by the two faces that Piatra Craiului had to show. What an astonishing view!  All these white rocks and all that green field that surrounded us both ways made the struggle of climbing worth it. All of you hikers out there know that August feels different at 2000 meters. Soon, the clear blue sky turned grey and heard a thunder. We knew what we had to do: take the faster way down through “La Lanturi”, which was also the most dangerous one, something that we were going to learn later on.

Right before coming down we met a Spanish couple who was asking for directions and a source of water. They showed us why they ran out of water pointing out to their two lovely small dogs that made their way up from the same place we were just heading to. They had 4 mouths to feed so we checked our water supplies and decided we can pass them some of what we had. We wished them luck and we began the climbing down. It started with roping down some chains. We were so excited as we never did something similar. As we were still going further, the path began to be more and more difficult. You had to have a good physical condition and a strong mind. Some parts were incredibly vertical and there was no safety net waiting to catch you, just you and your body on the sharp rocks. Soon, my knees were hurting by being over solicited, there were little drops of rain over my face, thunders were cracking over my head and the distance didn’t seem to decrease. Because of the bad weather that clearly approached fast, I was stressed out knowing I had to finish the climbing down before the storm started. I definitely did not want to be stuck there for God knows how much time, and so we continued. This is why I mentioned earlier the need to have a strong mind.

Long way down, little safeness, a lot of tiredness, storm getting closer and closer, lighting and thunders in the sky, pain in the knees and also the stress of getting back to the car as quickly as we could. To make matters worse, we mistook the road once and came near a huge drop-off where I could see a cross signaling that a person had died there. My body started to shake uncontrollably and tears were running down my face as it was obviously the wrong direction and now we needed to climb up this part to search for the right one. We barely got out of there as it was a trail of debris. Still having in mind the fear of not finishing the hard part before the storm started, I hung on my faith. In this kind of situations it’s very important to keep yourself safe and healthy, so my goal was not to get hurt.

The correct trail was through a hole of mountain pines, who would have believed that?

Even though at the beginning we took this trail because it seemed challenging and shorter, it was more abrupt. Once down we had to reclimb a smaller peak to head back to the place where we left our car. Putting these travel times together, we wouldn’t have had reduced the time spent on the mountain.

Finally down on the green field, I hugged the stone in front of me and thanked mother nature for not letting that storm hit us while we were up there. From there we still had a 5 hours walk to reach the car because my knees were not doing great and the clock was 4:30 PM.  After a 30 minutes walk we stopped to change our T-shirts as they were wet. Then God came. You know that God can be represented by whatever you believe in, so for me God was these 2 guys and a child that were just coming down from where we were headed. “People”, I said. I was so happy to see people. They asked us where we come from and where we’re going. When they found out that we climbed off through “La Lanturi” they said that we were crazy. Apparently that trail is only for the way up. One of them was an experienced climber that told us about the last time he was through “La Lanturi”. They needed assistance of a helicopter because a friend of them slipped on one of the rocks and got injured badly. Cool thing to hear after you were in that particular place for the last 3 hours, isn’t it? Anyways, as long as we’re safe and sound nothing can scare me now. I did it!

These gentlemen explained there’s no way to reach our car earlier than 9:30 PM and as I don’t like to walk through the woods by night, I got a chill in my spine thinking about it, plus, I was already hiking since 7 in the morning and felt exhausted. And then I heard this coming from one of the men:

“Come on, come with us. Where are you from?” and we replied that we stayed in Rucar and then the savior appeared “We have a van in Plaiul Foii and we’re heading to Bucuresti tonight, come with us and we’ll drive you to Rucar”. That was the most awesome feeling ever! We changed our trail and decided we to come after our car the next day and as if mother nature knew we were safe now, it started pouring heavily with thunders. I was happy, Plaiul Foii was nearby and only going down on hills was not a dangerous thing for my sore legs. On our way, we talked and laughed about all our mountain experiences and changed ideas. The time passed and there I was, eating the best soup of my life in the chalet’s restaurant. This journey finally ended. Almost. But I was relieved and thankful.

While eating I watched the greatness of the massive covered in storm; a heavy one with fog, and all I was thinking about was the Spanish couple and their dogs. Wondering if they made it as they had to finish all the mountain’s ridge on an easier trail, in order to get off the mountain so the dogs won’t get hurt.

Sometime around 8 PM we saw them all 4 super wet, but safe and sound. Such a wonderful feeling that all is well in the end.

It was time to go home. We were ready to get in the van. The only space left was only in the car’s back where there were no lights or seats, just a hard floor that seemed perfect for my tired back. I slept all the way to Rucar wobbling around because of the rural road that connects Plaiul Foii with Zarnesti.

Those men rock! They didn’t accept any money from us and they hugged us when we got off as if we were already close friends.

Because indeed we weren’t strangers, we were just people and if they could help, they just did it without expecting anything in return.

Kindness is free and what comes around goes around every single time.



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