Scărișoara Glacier by MTB

We begin by telling you that this bike tour was one of the most special ones we did. It takes us in a unique place in Romania and we see some of the most picturesque landscapes we ever saw in our bike tours. Also in this bike tour we managed to do a record descent, the fastest yet! 😀

Brief useful information:

Date: August 2013
Length: 26 km
Duration: ~ 6 h(including pauses and visiting the glacier)
Roads status: very good tarmac on the ascent part and concrete tiles on the way down
Water sources: Gârda de Sus, at the glacier and in the gorges

8 km ascent to Scărișoara Glacier
pause. Are we there yet?? :))

On a very hot day, at noon, we start from Gârda de Sus towards the Scărișoara Glacier in the Apuseni Mountains in Western Romania. It was a poor choice to go on such a hot day, especially at noon and considering that we had to go up for about 8 km. We were pretty worried about heatstroke to be honest.
Right after we left Gârda de Sus we reach a crossroad. We keep left in order to get to the glacier on the shortest route, which means we have quite a bit of climbing to do 🙂 This route was recently modernised and is in very good shape, with fresh tarmac. From Gârda de Sus until the glacier you have 10 km to go, out of which 8 km are climbing. You can check out the map with our route at the end of the post, as usual! 🙂

the road & the landscapes
looking for the perfect shot 🙂

We struggle to go up on the never ending hair pins. Worse, we also had the heat to struggle with. I think the tarmac was at least 50 degrees Celsius. We constantly look for trees on the side of the road so that we can head for their cooling shadow. Because of the steep climb and the annoying heat we reached the glacier sight in almost 2 hours! With many breaks included, it’s true 🙂

At least, in the few portions where we had to do push bike, we had landscapes to look at and what beauties! This area is fascinating and extremely picturesque. The hay stacks, the calm mountain tops, the forests and the welcoming people you can find here, you cannot find anywhere! We love Apuseni! 🙂

landscapes
Scărișoara Glacier
Scărișoara Glacier

When we finally get to the glacier we are amazed by how many people are waiting to get a ticket to visit. Most of the tourists are foreigners, I must say. We buy the ticket and we’re next to climb down to the glacier.First I want to tell you that I haven’t visited this glacier since 5th grade and boy have things changed! To the best, of course 🙂 I remember that back in those days we had to telephone a guide to come and open the entrance since there was no permanent ticket office here. Then I remember that inside there was no electricity and we were able to see only due to our guide’s petrol lamp! The funniest thing I remember is that the last stretch of stairs, which lead into the cave where the glacier is, were nonexistent or were completely covered in ice. So we basically slid into the cave on ice :)) It was fun for us, but I can’t imagine how fun it was for our accompanying teachers 😀 You can imagine that going back to the surface was no easy job 🙂

Now things are different: you have electronic gates, a permanent ticket office, modernised stairs leading to the glacier and the cave is electrified. Scărișoara Glacier is unique in Romania because it is the largest underground glacier you can find in our country.

Scărișoara Glacier
Scărișoara Glacier – ice formations
Scărișoara Glacier – The “Church”
bridge on the ice

The glacier formed because at some point Ocoale Valley used to flow on the surface. Once a dissolving process began the water started carving in the ground and formed a cave and the valley moved underground. The empty space that was left, after the collapse of the entrance pit, is filled with ice as the Ice Ages came.
After the weather got warmer again the ice started melting and half of the ice volume disappears, but is “refilled” every winter with a new layer on the surface. The oldest ice, at the base of the glacier, is 4000 years old! Scientists from Cluj come year from time to time to extract ice and determine the evolution of the weather along the millennia. Extraordinary!

Scărișoara Glacier – the entrance
Scărișoara Glacier – the entrance

The entrance to the Scărișoara Glacier is made through an impressive pit with a diameter of 60 meters. In order to get to the glacier itself you must climb down the 48 meters deep pit and at the bottom you find the cave entrance, 24 meters wide and 17 meters high, where the glacier is. The ice is 15 meters thick.

The ice volume that you stand on is 80.000 cubic meters and is 4 milenias old! The superior face of the glacier (the one on which you walk) has a surface of 3000 square meters and it represents the floor of the Great Hall. To the right of the Great Hall you can see a massive ice drop and beautiful ice formations, one of which is named The Church. Here you can also see the first ice stalagmites and stalactites.

towards Ordâncușei Gorges
towards Ordâncușei Gorges

You can imagine that we were pretty shocked to make the transition from 40 degrees Celsius outside and 1 degree Celsius on the glacier. In the winter the temperature is constantly 7 degrees Celsius. However, it was a really nice cooling down but we recommend you have a jacket with you when going on the glacier!

After we come back to the surface we continue with a …. climb :((( About 4 km more to be exact 🙂 However, it’s not so steep and the sun was friendlier this time around. We reach an area called Ocoale and the surroundings are as picturesque as you can imagine and we were so concentrated to admire them that we almost didn’t realise that we reached the point where a fast descent was waiting for us. The descent we have waited for since we began this tour! 🙂 

Ordâncușei Gorges
Ordâncușei Gorges

I want to skip the details and just tell you the facts: 11 km of continuous descent, 50 km/h average speed, almost 70 km/h top speed, rushing adrenaline, wind in your ears and a lot of joy! This is what we’ve been looking for and this is what we got. What a finale! Incredible! You must do it too!

With 2 km to go until we come back to where we began, Gârda de Sus, we reach Ordâncușei Gorges which are very spectacular. We got off our bikes and admired them and took some photos. They are beautiful! Here you can also see Ionele’s Gate Cave.  While we were in the gorges the temperature never exceeded 20 degrees Celsius but as soon as we reached Gârda de Sus the temperature rose up again to almost 30 degrees Celsius. It’s incredible how the temperature can change so much in just 2 km!

Ordâncușei Gorges – cooling our wheels
Ordâncușei Gorges – cooling our wheels

Finally we want to thank our hosts for an excellent accommodation: Lia Guesthouse. We have been treated royally here, we felt like home. We enjoyed the beautiful garden and the fresh food they provided and the stream that flows right behind the house. The tens of geraniums they have, made our noses and eyes happy. Thank you! 🙂 

Lia Guesthouse
Lia Guesthouse
Lia Guesthouse
Lia Guesthouse
Map:

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