Ceahlău Mountain – Toaca peak, edelweiss and bears

For a long time we’ve wanted to get to the Ceahlău Mountains. We’ve heard a lot of nice things about these beautiful mountains located in Eastern Romania, in Moldova. So in our 2014 summer vacation we included Moldova in our itinerary.


Brief useful information:

Date: August 2014
Route:

   Up:Izvorul Muntelui – Detunatele – Dochia Guest House – 2 h 15 min 
           Dochia Guest House – Toaca Peak (1904 m) – 45 min

   Down:Toaca Peak – Dochia Guest House – 30 min
                  

                 Dochia Guest House – Clăile lui Miron – Poiana Maicilor – 2 h
                

                Poiana Maicilor – Izvorul Muntelui – 1,5 h


Duration: 7 – 8 h (usual breaks included)
Water sources: Izvorul Muntelui & Dochia Guest House
Difficulty: medium (brief portions of steep climbing, nothing really scary)

start of the trail, signposted with the blue line

We start our trekking session towards Toaca Peak in the Ceahlău National Park from the village of Izvorul Muntelui located on the DJ 155F road. As usual you have all the necessary maps at the end of this post 🙂 Before you get started up to the top you have to pay a ticket to go on this trail. It’s a about 7 RON/person as far as I remember. The money is used to clear the trails, new signposting and general care for this beautiful National Park.
 
The first part of the trail is shared by the&signposts and is very easy, almost flat. Like a walk in the park you could say, only this is a beautiful and dense forest 🙂 Shade combined with a summer’s morning chill. It’s just perfect. You continue like this for about 30 minutes. Then the trail turns abruptly to the left towards Dochia Guest House and from now on you follow thesignpost. Not far from this turn the steep climb begins and it continues to be steep until you leave the forest close to the top. It’s not continuously steep. There are a few flat portions, don’t worry. The good news is that all the steep climbing is done in the forest and at least you have shade to relieve you from the burning summer sun 🙂

Detunatele

When you see the scenery captured in the above picture you know you’re getting close to Dochia Guest House. This rock formation is called Detunatele. You have about 15 minutes to go until you reach the guest house. Detunatele are pointy grey rocks and are part of the Eastern wall of the Ceahlău Mountains. You can see the wooden panel which informs tourists about what they are seeing. There are several places with such panels in this National Park.
 
Here is the place where you leave the forest behind and enter the world of rock with no trees, only juniper. We reached Dochia Guest House where you could rest a bit after the effort of climbing until here. However we decided to continue to the peak which can already be seen from Dochia. We were going to stop at Dochia on our way back down. From Dochia you continue the trail signposted withfor about 45 minutes. Toaca Peak is very special and is shaped like a pyramid, as you can see from the pictures below.

towards the pyramid, Toaca Peak (1904 m)

Until the base of the pyramid the trail is pretty flat. You’ll cross a portion full with juniper and then you’ll reach the forecast cottage. This cottage accommodates the meteorologists which work at the weather station located right on Toaca peak. These people climb up on the peak every day to collect the data. So I bet they’re in a pretty good physical condition 🙂

The climb to the top is not exactly a walk in the park. You walk on boulders, through ditches, the climb is steep and you really need to put some effort to reach the top. Before the last bit of steep climbing there is a small plateau for you to rest and take some pictures and it motivates you to gather your strength to climb the last bit of steep slope 🙂

almost on the top
view towards the forecast cottage and Dochia guest house (further away)

Finally we made it to the top and we climbed all the rocks all the way to the highest point where we thought would be a panel which indicated the peak and the altitude. We were pretty disappointed that we climbed in vain. We couldn’t find the panel and we eventually climbed down to the plateau where all the tourists were enjoying the beautiful sun on the peak.

Toaca is the second highest peak in the Ceahlău Mountains after Ocolașul Mare peak (1907 m). The pyramid shape is truly impressive, making it one of the most imposing peaks in Romania. From up here you have a great panorama over the Bicaz Lake (to the North – East) and over the entire picturesque area including Izvorul Muntelui, the village where we started off early in the morning. Our target is not to get to a certain height but to find a peak with a view. Toaca is one of the peaks in Romania with the best views. Below you can see pictures with panoramas taken from Toaca peak:

Toaca peak – the weather station
Toaca peak – towards Bicaz Lake
Toaca peak – towards Bicaz Lake
Toaca peak – towards Dochia guest house
Toaca peak – towards Bicaz Lake

The return – edelweiss and bears

As we planned, we stopped at Dochia for a drink and some rest on our way back down. This guest house was recently modernised in the interior. You can find accommodation here, eat, drink and enjoy the beautiful view towards Izvorul Muntelui which you can see in the picture below. We stopped here for about a half an hour to recharge our batteries (not the cellphone ones 😀 ) and we continued on a trail signpostedtowards Poiana Maicilor (Maicilor Meadow) which starts from Dochia.
 
We chose to return on a another route in order to see new things and new places. Unfortunately this route is not a popular one since it’s longer and slightly more difficult especially if you’re going up from Izvorul Muntelui to Toaca Peak. Fortunately we were going down 🙂

Dochia guest house – view towards Izvorul Muntelui
Dochia guest house (Ocolașul Mare peak in the background, highest in Ceahlău)

The trail bypasses Ocolașul Mare peak, the highest in the Ceahlău Mountains, on a level curve, since that area is a strict reservation for wildlife and flora.  The trail quickly descends to the forest region. It’s a pretty creepy feeling especially in the forest as we can’t see any tourists at all on this trail. Before entering the deep forest you’ll reach a place called Jgheabul Ursăriei (Bears Gutter). This is not a very good place to get caught by rain fall since this is a very long and steep gutter. You ca see in the second picture below. You also have an information panel. We didn’t give much thought to this place’s name but we soon discovered that Ceahlău is a prime territory for bears….

huge rock, Lake Bicaz in the background
Jgheabul Ursăriei (Bears Gutter)

The trail continues through the forest and is pretty easy, short portions of climbing. Then we briefly get out of the forest and the trail takes us really close to another peak, Ocolașul Mic, which you can see in the picture below. In this clear area we saw the first people, a couple sitting on a porch of a refuge. We said hello from a distance and continued. Then we got to a beautiful place where we had very good panoramas to take pictures of. We barely saw that we were standing in the middle of tens of edelweiss flowers. We were literally surrounded by them. I never saw one in real life. In Romania edelweiss flowers are protected by law and you can get to prison if you take one. That was very cool, pictures below! 🙂

Ocolașul Mic peak
edelweiss

After we leave this flat meadow we reach the most difficult part of this route. A pretty steep descent on scree. You have to be a bit careful here not to lose you’re balance and not to roll down on the scree. However this part is short, no more than 30 meters. A little bit of adrenaline rush 🙂 Here is a good place to remind you that you always need hiking boots when going on the mountain as they offer the best grip and ankle support!

After you safely pass this part you’re in for a very pleasant surprise. It was a huge surprise for us as we didn’t inform to well about this returning route since we took the decision a night before when the owners of the guest house we were staying at suggested we came back this way to see more of the Ceahlău Mountains. So, you reach a place called Clăile lui Miron (approximate translation: Miron’s Haystack). We didn’t know about this place. We usually gather all the information we can find before going trekking but this time it was a last minute decision. Sometimes it’s better not to know everything what to expect and what you will see because you can have such nice surprises just like this place. Getting back to this amazing place, I must say I never saw such rock formations. The size, the shape, the colour are all impressive. We took tens of pictures here because it’s so spectacular. I would go in the Ceahlău Mountains only to see this place. You will only appreciate the beauty and the scale once you’re next to this impressive rock formations.

Clăile lui Miron
Clăile lui Miron – trail to follow down

The trail winds down along Clăile lui Miron and is pretty steep. We re-enter the forest. As you can see in the picture below storm clouds began to gather above us. We definitely didn’t want to get caught by a storm although we are always equipped for rain. We have good equipment which protects us from the rain. We began going a bit faster so that if the storm was to start we would be as low as we could be on the mountain. It’s very dangerous to be caught up on top of the mountain especially if lightning happens.

the Easten wall of the Ceahlău Mountains – impenetrable frontier

Soon after we left Clăile lui Miron we reached  Poiana Maicilor (Maicilor meadow). We relaxed for a few minutes there and we observed something that scared us very much: bear poop. And you could tell is was very fresh. We panicked a bit. The storm was coming, we were in bear territory. The situation was not Rosy :))

We decided to continue as fast as possible and to make as much noise as we can so that we wouldn’t take any bear by surprise. That would have been the last thing that we wanted to do. Most bear attacks happen because people take bears by surprise and they interpret this as an aggression so they react and attack. The best strategy when going in bear territory is to mainly stay on the touristic trail and to make noise! Soon after this meadow we walked through a large portion of berries…. Great! That’s why they’re hanging in this area. We continued in the same fashion: in a hurry and making noise. If there would have been any other tourists on this trail they would have considered us mad :))

Anyway, we were lucky and we didn’t meet any bear. It didn’t start raining as well. Al in all it was OKAY. We continued the trail until we crossed Maicilor creek in the forest. This part is pretty easy, a moderate descent until you reach the tarmac road, DJ 155F.

Bia Păpădia Guest House in Izvorul Muntelui
Bia Păpădia Guest House in Izvorul Muntelui

Finally we want to thank our hosts at Bia Păpădia Guest House for a beautiful accommodation. It is a very pleasant guest house, with a very nice design and a homey atmoshphere. Friendly and very nice people here. From here until you get to the trail you have to walk for about 10 – 15 minutes, so it’s very close. We don’t mention this because it’s sponsored or something, we simply liked it and it deserves to be promoted. We do so with all the places that we consider are worth promoting 🙂

Maps:
Izvorul Muntelui – Detunatele – Dochia Cottage – Toaca Peak (1904 m):

Dochia Cottage – Clăile lui Miron – Maicilor Meadow – Izvorul Muntelui:

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