Coltul Balaceni, Fagaras. Winter climbing

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Together with Silvia, we spent  New Year’s Eve with the tent at the foot of Coltul Balaceni (2196m) in Fagaras Mountains. During 31 Dec-02 Jan 2012 we enjoyed a small vacation and did some winter climbing in this remote and special place from Romania. Below is a Topo with the routes:

On the 1st January 2012, we’ve started climbing route no 3. We’ve climbed 4 pitches (out of eight-we used a 40 m rope) and then decided to rappel down as the time was late and our progress slow. This is the hardest route in Coltul Balaceni (5B, Romanian grade). See our video:

On the next day, 2nd January, we’ve climbed route no 1 (3A, Romanian grade). The conditions we found during our climb were not the greatest, but we had fun, see in the video:

The rock you will find in Coltul Balaceni is granite and schist, mostly solid and very nice to climb. I heard the last 2 pitches from route no 2 are not as solid…

There are pegs on the routes, but is good to have 3-4 pegs with you for route no 3 (the hardest). We also had a set of nuts and 3 cams with us (small size). We used a 40 m rope. If you use a 60 m rope, you will get to the top in 5 pitches.

The climb starts at an altitude of 2000 m. From the top you can follow the path to the South till you get into the Fagaras Main ridge (marked) and then go West to Fereastra Mare a Sambetei where you can descend back to the North. 

You should consider a full day for approach if you start from Sambata de Sus Monastery, or 2 h from Valea Sambetei Chalet.

Some picture from route no 3 (climbed on 1st January):

Pictures from route no 1 (climbed on 2nd January):





 For a more detailed story of our climb, please see Silvia’s articles here and here.

Tina, the climbing dog – Arpasel ridge, Fagaras Mountains


This was my Winning photo at an International photo contest. I received Emails from people questioning about the story behind the photo and I decided to write it down.

It happened back in the early spring of 2006. A lot of snow in Fagaras Mountains. Together with Corina, we made plans to climb Arpasel-Vartopel ridge.

(Arpasel-Vartopel ridge is the most technical part of the main ridge of Fagaras Mountains. It is situated between Portita Arpaselului and Fereastra Zmeilor, not far from Balea Lake chalet and Paltinu Chalet. The highest point on this ridge is Turnul Vartopel (2385 m). The snow conditions are crucial not only for climbing the ridge safely, but also for the approach and descend, as the avalanche risk is high in the area.)

So, back on 2 April 2006… At 5.30 am we started our approach, leaving Balea and Paltinu Chalet behind.

It was me, Corina and… a small black dog full of energy. He was fascinated by our trekking poles and did his best to bite them each time he could. We tried to make him go back, but he was very stubborn and made a lot of noise. All our effort was in vain. We hopped he will soon get bored and leave us alone.  But he didn’t…

Later we found out the dog’s name was Tina, a 5 months cocker girl that belonged to the Paltinu Chalet Keeper. The beautiful sunrise in front of us let us speechless.

Tina seems to enjoy the view also. Better than the usual view she has at Balea Lake 🙂

From this point (Revolver) we descended a slope of 45° full of snow, very careful not to start an avalanche. As we were heavy, our feet soaked deeply into the snow. But for Tina it was very easy as she was so light. She kept running like a racket in front of us.

Then we had to ascend again, as quickly as we could. The sun is up in the sky, melting the snow.

Again, we tried our best to make Tina go back home. But this dog had strong personality. From one point, we realized there was no return possible for Tina,  as the ridge got steeper. So, we decided to make Tina our climbing partner.

All 3 of us tied in one rope.  Me and 2 gorgeous girls. What a team !

The ridge became like a knife blade on some parts, but the dog was brave.

The weather was perfect. As soon as the difficulties lowered, we made some stops to eat and drink something from our backpacks. Tina was invited too.

After marking the ridge all-over with her footprints, Tina got a little bit tired. There is still a long way back to the Chalet.

The dark came.  One 40 m rappel with Tina in my jacket and we are safe on the easy ground again. One more piece of chocolate and in one hour we arrive back on the Paltinu Chalet.

We found the keeper of the Chalet worry about Tina. When she saw Tina in one piece and after we told her that Tina was our climbing partner for that day on Arpasel ridge, she was so proud! And as a reward we took care of Tina, we didn’t have to pay for that night spend in the Chalet.

Tina is still fresh in my memory even now. Such a brave dog!  She made our climb to remember.