Păpușa Peak – Adventures in the Iezer Păpușa Mountains

After we went on the best trail ever, in Stan Valley in the Făgăraș Mountains,  our 2014 tour through Romania takes us to the Iezer Păpușa Mountains. Honestly we didn’t know much about them but we read that there is a nice peak where you have a great view over the astonishing Piatra Craiului crest.

Brief useful information:

Date: August 2014
Trail: Cuca Cottage (1215 m) – Grădișteanu Saddle – Păpușa Peak (2400 m)
Duration: 3 h (up) + 2.5 h (down), excluding the break on the peak
Slope: + 1200 m
Water sources: Cuca Cottage, we didn’t see other water sources on the trail
These being said let’s start with the bad parts because they happened right from the beginning. We made a booking to sleep at Voina Cottage. When I planned this trip this cottage seemed to be the only place available to stay overnight in the area. There is also Cuca Cottage but I think it has a special statute or something. I didn’t call there anyway.

So we reach Voina Cottage and I go to the reception and no one is there. So I wait, and I wait, and I wait. For 10 minutes at least. I’m surprised that I had so much patience 😀 I enter the nearby restaurant and tell the waiters that I’ve been waiting for a while in front of the reception but no one asked me anything. They excused themselves telling me that the waiters also had the job of the receptionist…. Greaaat! 🙂

Finally someone came and apparently had no idea we made a telephone booking. So they called the boss and, in the end, gave us a room. The room was OK-ish but it’s clear that the furniture, TV and bathroom furniture and sanitary items where well over they’re life span. I guess that you don’t care so much about these things when you have the monopoly in the area…
We were pretty nervous about the trail we planned because we knew it was going to be quite difficult: we had to climb over 1200 meters, which we hadn’t done previously. The weather forecast was not helping our nerves either since it was continually changing from slight chance of rain to definite rain. So we thought we’ll wake up in the morning and  see if there are storm clouds in the sky and if not, off we go 🙂

So we did and the next morning the weather was beautiful and sunny. So we took our car and drove from Voina Cottage to Cuca Cottage where the trail starts. The distance between these two cottages is about 5 km which you can do on a one hour walk. However we decided to save as much time as possible since we had so much to climb. The road is pretty OK. Mostly gravel. But when you get close to Cuca Cottage the gravel transforms into big rocks and our car had difficulties going over them. So we left the car 300 meters away from Cuca Cottage in order not to damage it.
As soon as we passed Cuca Cottage you can see a trail signposted with.  We enter the forest and right from the start the trail awaits you with a steep climb. It’s like that for a while, right until you exit the forest in fact. Also I have to mention that the forest is very spooky and we kept hearing all kinds of noises and we kept imagining large animals near us :)) I’m glad to report that we didn’t see any! 🙂

After about 45 minutes of steep climbing through the forest you get to a meadow. This is the point where you leave the forest behind and now continue on open ground. The big problem was that this meadow had 1 meter grass growing on it and it was very difficult to go further. At least the slope was not that steep. This place is called Grădișteanu Saddle. The next big problem on the trail was that it crossed the middle of a sheepfold. You can imagine the dogs from the sheepfold attacking us and so they did. So we made a detour in order to calm them down and get out of they’re territory.
Once you reach Grădișteanu Saddle the trail turns slowly to the left and the second episode of steep climbing begins 🙁 The views are not spectacular on this part but some pink little rock flowers make up for it. You can see them in some pictures above.

Finally we reach a plateau where we spot a troop of horses and they’re shelters and we also see a gravel road. Seeing that road totally surprised us since this is very remote and we’re at an altitude of about 1950 meters. After some research we found out that this road is very long and begins in the town of Rucăr and ends here just under Păpușa Peak. From the sheepfold where the dogs attacked us until here on this plateau we did about an hour.
On the plateau the trail turns to the left again and climbs pretty easily until we reach a panorama point where we first catch a glimpse of our today’s objective: Piatra Craiului crest. We took a 10 minutes break, shot some photos. We were very excited. We were finally getting rewarded for all our effort 🙂 The images above overlook Râușor Lake and the ones below overlook Piatra Craiului.

We thought that we were pretty close to Păpușa Peak but our enthusiasm was immediately cut down when we saw that the climb didn’t stop there. It seemed not to be so steep anymore but maybe we just got used to climbing :)))
We continue for about an hour from our break spot and with a last effort we climbed to the very top, on Păpușa peak. Immediately the astonishing, beautiful and steep Piatra Craiului crest revealed itself and it was sooo beautiful! We were looking straight at this beautiful and special mountain. Piatra Craiului is one of the most difficult and dangerous mountains in Romania because it is very, very steep.

We stayed on top for about 30 minutes, we shot a lot of photos, we ate and we just enjoyed the view. This is how we rewarded ourselves after we climbed 1200 meters in pretty fast pace for our standards. Below you can look at some photos taken from Păpușa Peak in all directions.

Don’t miss the end of the post in order to find out why we gave this title to the post and also to look at our recorded trail on the map.
So we get to the title of this article: Why was this the worst experience we had on a mountain trail? Well, first of all we climbed a LOT. Then we were attacked by the sheepfold dogs. But the main reason why we had the worst time is because we managed to go back in a middle of a storm with lightning and thunders :(( You don’t want this to happen when you’re at over 2000 meters altitude with nothing to protect you.
We were not worried about the rain, because we always have equipment to protect ourselves from rain, but because of the lighting. I was shooting photos very relaxed but Anca was very stressed and told me about the dark clouds she could see in the valley towards Râușor Lake. I wasn’t so impressed but when I heard myself the thunders and saw the lighting so close to us I began to be very nervous.
So, taking into consideration the circumstances we wanted to get down as fast as possible in order to narrow down the chances of being struck by lightning. So we ran and ran and ran. So fast that I broke one of my trekking poles through the tall and dense grass. We finally reached the forest, after crossing the sheepfold again. The way back is the same trail as the way up.
We caught our breath for several minutes. We were completely wet because we sweat so much. We were fortunate and the lightning and rain didn’t come our way. Exactly when we entered the forest it started raining in the area where we were as well. The climb down through the forest was fast but we didn’t run anymore because there was no reason since we were at a safe altitude and covered by trees.
Below you can see the last photos I took before I realised the danger and started running down. You can actually see in the photos the rain and the dark clouds in the valley towards Râușor lake 🙂
The next day we were completely exhausted and our muscles hurt so bad that we were literally unable to walk in the first half of the day :))


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