The Beautiful Ridge of Călineț
I was longing for the white limestone cliffs of Piatra Craiului National Park! A king among mountains, its marvelous ridge and intricate walls are one of nature’s most loved creations in the Carpathians.
Piatra Craiului is a National Park in Romania, close to the city of Brașov. It is a popular place for hiking in Romania, climbing and mountaineering. Piatra Craiului is, to me, the feminine version of Bucegi, with her many misteries to be revealed. The Piatra Craiului National Park visitor center is in the town of Zărnești, close to Brașov, Romania.
After the trip to Bucegi, Victor invited me to Piatra Craiului, though we had yet to choose a route. After some documentation, we chose a ridge in the Călineț region, Creasta Frumoasă (The Beautiful Ridge). A labyrinth of walls, ridges and alpine valleys, Călineț is, along with Coștila from Bucegi, the cradle of Romanian alpinism. It was my first time discovering her secrets!
We started uphill from Plaiul Foii chalet. Two hours later, we were at the foot of the great walls of Călineț and getting ready for the climb. A secondary branch of Călineț Valley will take us close to our route, not before a difficult, overhanging step. I used the rope to help Victor and Daniel, who completed the trio. A short, ascending and picturesque trail will lead us right to the beginning of the ridge. After squeezing through a very narrow passage, I tie in the rope and Daniel gets ready to belay me.
The first pitch starts in a wide chimney with vertical limestone slabs and soon reaches a saddle on the actual ridge. I go upwards on the narrow ridge and soon reach a single, but solid piton. This is where I stop to belay my companions, who follow soon after. It is to be noted that, like many other classic routes in Bucegi and Piatra Craiului, the pitons here are old and should always be treated with care. However, the terrain is not overly difficult, and there are other possibilities of protection, like cams and nuts, or even slings thrown around rock slabs.
Leading the second pitch was considerably more difficult. It was very challenging to go over the crux with my old mountain boots, but made it through fine, in the end. Wearing his rock climbing shoes and coming second, Victor got over the passage with no apparent problem. Thus, I blame the old boots, ha-ha!
The next two pitches posed no problems at all. We went uphill a gully with vegetation and almost no rocks and reached a narrow saddle. We didn’t use the rope on the last passage. The last pitch begins here. Leading again, I try my best to limit the friction of the ropes. However, being a very zig-zaggy pitch and the placement of protection, it doesn’t help much. In the end, I swear and sweat as I pull the ropes through to belay the guys.
We finished the route in five pitches and it’s now time for descent. Having never been before in this region, I have doubts about the good descent gully. Victor’s memories seem a bit fuzzy to me and, in the end, we quarrel a bit about it and call up a good friend, one of the best conaisseurs of Piatra Craiului. Not before catching a glimpse of two beautiful chamois females with their young, we go down on the classic gullies Vâlcelul cu Smârdar and Vâlcelul cu Fereastră (the Rhododendron and Windowed Gullies). A couple of abseils bring us down to the marked trail where we first started climbing, in the morning. It’s sunset now, a beautiful sunset seen over the tree tops.
Creasta Frumoasă of Călineț is a beautiful, rarely seen classic route of Piatra Craiului. It can be a good destination for mountain climbers of average level, like me, and offers beautiful landscapes all around.