Climbing in the mountains of Brasov

When I planned my year long trip through Europe one of my goals was to discover climbing in eastern Europe. Nobody talks about it, no one knows anything about it, so I thought I’d better go check it out myself. When I set my mind to spending some time in Romania it took some time to decide where to go. After looking at some possibilities I decided on going to Brasov. It is not as hot as some of the other big destinations and quite easy to reach for potential climbing partners.

I’ve had a great time discovering the area but I don’t think I’ll come back for climbing very soon. This has to do with the grades of the routes. Since I max out at 6a most routes are impossible for me to even try. However, if you climb 7’s then there is a lot to choose from. The rock is of good quality and even the classic routes are hardly polished at all.

I visited the area in the beginning of August and had perfect weather. Temperatures were around 26 degrees even though there was a heat wave going on in the Balkan, and the nights were nice and cool. We did have a few thunderstorms, but after that the rock was dry pretty quick.

Traveling to Brasov

The city of Brasov, also known as Kronstadt, is situated in the middle of Romania, close to 200 km north of Bucharest. If you’re traveling by plane it’s best to fly to Bucharest and then take the train to Brasov. It’s necessary to have a car to get around in this area and make it to the crags. If you travel with your own car make sure you get a vignette, you need them on basically all roads. The vignette is very cheap, I paid 13 euros for 90 days.

One thing to keep in mind when visiting the area in the summer vacation time is that the roads are very full. Trips that should take about 30 minutes often end up to be more or less an hour long. Because of the altitude it’s cooler and that attracts the people living in Bucharest and the roads don’t have the capacity for the amount of cars.

Where to stay

In winter this area is a skiing destination, so there are enough options to choose from. I ended up choosing to stay at Camping Cheile Rasnoavei and only later realized there are some very beautiful crags within walking distance of the campground. The campground is on the expensive side of Romanian standards, but the facilities were in a good state and the owners were very welcoming and helpful.

If you’re traveling with a van I can advise you to make use of the wild camping possibilities of this country. You’re allowed to park and camp almost anywhere you like. Since the crags are a bit spread out and the traffic can be horrible it can be a good idea to stay a few days in each area.

Topo Guides

Once there was a guide for climbing in the area of Brasov, it was made in 2010, but it isn’t available anywhere in the region anymore. Some online shops do still sell it, but the information in it is very out of date. If you still want to buy it, the title is rock climbing in Romania, a climbing guide of Brasov Crags. However I do recommend using the online guide instead, called Romania Quest. The full guide is available there and some of the new routes have been added to the page. Another option is downloading the full guide. See below for the links.

Beware of the multi pitch grading, as I understood they’ve used the Russian grading style for that and it has nothing to do with the french grading that has been used for the rest of the guide.

Climbing

As I said, there isn’t much easy climbing available. But when you warm up in a (french) 6a then this is definitely a place I recommend checking out. One of the things that I really enjoyed was the different style of climbing per crag. The crags offer slab, vertical and overhang climbing.

I enjoyed climbing at the Postavaru crag the most, it’s technical slab climbing on mostly very solid rock. We could hike there from the campground in about half an hour. The crag Prapastiile Zarnestilor was my least favourite. The main wall at La Refugiu was very polished and when I wanted to climb a route on a different sector some hiker decided that right beneath the route was a good place to take a shit. Besides that you also need to pay an entrance fee for the park there. However I do recommend visiting it once, because the gorge is very beautiful to see.

One last note on finding the crags. We often had a hard time finding the crag, since there aren’t many climbers in the area and there is really no marking used for the trails towards the crags. So calculate some extra time when you’re exploring a crag for the first time.

Via ferrata

There are supposed to be two via ferratas in Cheile Rasnoavei, installed by Jump Adventure. They want that every user pays for the use of the route, so they sort of booby trapped the start of the route. The first portion of the route has some poorly installed ropes for support when climbing up and down. Since there are also climbing routes there I figured that I should be able to downclimb if necessary. When you make it to the actual start of the route you can pull down a thin cable with a thin rope. Since I was doing the route alone I was feeling very uncertain. I didn’t know for sure how to use the cable setup and if it would catch me if I would somehow fall. After that I could see there was a properly installed cable, but I used up so much time and it was getting hot that I decided to downclimb instead. That wasn’t easy at all, but made it back to the ground safely.

So my advice to anyone who would want to do this route. If you don’t mind paying, get in touch with Jump Adventure. If you do mind paying, go on a weekday, since they are there only on weekends as far as I’ve seen and I read that they will force you to pay. For finding the start of the route use the website of Trasee Romania. I recommend going with at least two people and it might be a good idea to use a rope for the first section of the via ferrata.

Gear

With my 70m rope we were able to climb the routes that we wanted to climb. However there are routes in the guide that should be longer than 35 meters, but I noticed that the length wasn’t always as accurately noted in the online guide. Something to also keep in mind is the amount of pitons still used in routes. The start of a route can have new expansion bolts and after that it’s suddenly pitons spaced about 1 meter apart.

The anchors vary a lot per climb. Often two bolts have been connected with only rope and the lower offs can be made out of the strangest carabiners or quick links. As for quick draws I recommend that you have a good amount, at least 14-16, of which a few are longer or extendable, since climbing on pitons doesn’t always offer the straightest line for the rope. Bring a clip stick if you have one. Especially the easier climbs have some high first bolts.

I believe there are trad routes in the area as well.

Climbing partner

I think this is the worst place I’ve been to so far to find a climbing partner. There are hardly any climbers in the area. Often we were the only climbers at the crag. If you need to find a partner, your best bet will be at the climbing gym.

What else to do

First of all, this area is amazing for hiking. It’s possible to do anything from short hikes to multi day treks. Best places to go are Parcul Național Piatra Craiului and Parcul Natural Bucegi. The area is also a popular winter destination and (some of) the ski lifts are also open during the summer. So you can take the lift up to enjoy some of those amazing views without going through the effort of hiking up.

The organization that offers the via ferrata, Jump Adventure, also offers bungee jumping and many other thrilling activities in the Cheile Rasnoavei area. All in all this area is very touristic so there will be more than enough activities to do besides climbing.

Websites

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