The Transylvanian alps referred to in the name of the trip are actually within the Carpathian range of mountains, forming an arc roughly 1500km across central and eastern Europe. The highest range within the Carpathians is the Tatras, on the border of Slovakia and Poland, where the highest peaks exceed 2,600 m (8,530 ft). The second-highest range is the Southern Carpathians in Romania, where the highest peaks exceed 2,500 m (8,202 ft) and this where that contains the largest area of the Carpathians lie.
Arriving at the airport in Bucharest, I took out some cash and looked around the airport to find somewhere to get lunch whilst waiting for the group transfer. If you're looking to get good value for money, wait until you get out of the airport :).
We spent the first night in a nice hotel in Sinaia, then after a quick visit to Peles castle, set off for the cable car up to the Bucegi Plateau.
From there we walked up towards our first refuge, the Omu hut at 2,507m. Normally in May the worst of the snow would have cleared making the path pretty straightforward, but just the week before the mountains had seen a drop of 50-100cm just a few weeks earlier. As we approached the mid point on the plateau, we paused at a small refuge to dry out...
Beyond that the snow started to get deeper, and we had to traverse several steep gullies taking care to kick in steps and maintain balance. Thankfully at this point the rain had abated, and the sun was beginning to show, but a few of the traverses felt somewhat risky given that no-one in the group had ice-axe or rope to stop a slide.
At one point on the trail up to the hut we reached the edge of a plateau and had to drop down a snow filled gully with no visibility to the base. Our guide went down first, taking a few steps then sliding around 30m to the base. We followed, some attempting to maintain some level of uprightness, others (including me) coming down backwards. You can see the trail we left on this pano...
The final climb up to the refuge and Omu had us traversing another steep mountain side with precipitous drops, or going up and over the 'hill that everyone goes around'. I took the side along with the guide given the informal name of the hill, but a few went up and over.
With wet feet, we reached the hut, and stacked the damp stuff in our room next to the stove. Thankfully with the amount of snow up here, our only other fellow guests were a pair of english guys that had walked up a different route. As a result of this we had plenty of space... but I can imagine that in peak season, this hut will feel very small. The hut owner had only made the trip up here because our guide had called to say we were coming. Given the snow, if it wasn't for us, she wouldn't have opened up for another few weeks!
Given the cold (and wet feet) I didn't hang about outside to take photos of the sunset, but I did manage to get up early enough the following day to shoot a panorama of the view. The peak we approached by is visible to the right hand side of this image (contouring around to the left hand side of it from the photographer's perspective. The hut is up and to the left.
The following day we descended across a few more snow covered slopes to the west, to get to the edge of the plateau, and descend into Transylvania. At the edge, the path descended rapidly, although it was a good quality zig-zag, posing no real scary sections as we had seen earlier. As we entered the dark forests, thunder started to roll above, and we hurried along.
The descent on this day was pretty punishing on the knees (2505 to 800m, which with undulations turned into 2000m of down), but the blow was softened by a superb guesthouse in Moeicu (beer on arrival and an offer to put our damp boots in the boiler room to dry out).
The following day, after a quick visit to Bran Castle (marketed as Dracula's castle, but without much of an actual connection), we started the trek up to the second refuge in the Piatra Craiului mountains - a narrow 25km long ridge reaching 2,238m. The approach was through forests, and across a few clearings, and a whole lot simpler than the day before.
The Curmatura hut was an excellent spot to spend 2 nights, with lots of space and good food.
The trek up to the ridge was advertised as optional because it was challenging in parts, requiring scrambling up some pretty steep sections, and a few chained sections with significant drops. On the way up there was one scramble where I had to swing myself around a tree... which was a touch awkward, but I survived...
The ridge itself was also narrow in a few places with no support either side, so not recommended for vertigo sufferers. Given the weather pattern of the last few days (sun, followed by cloud & thunderstorms) and the nature of the rock, we set off early to get through before rain made the path too dangerous.
I only managed to stop to take a few photos at the start and end of the ridge... as I didn't want to slow the group given the impending rain.
After a second night at the excellent refuge, we took the long undulating walk back to the guesthouse in Moeciu. The following day we drove back to Bucharest, then did a short bus-tour of the major sights of the city before returning to the hotel for the last night.