29 November 2014

An icy day!

After a few beautiful  sunny and chilly winter days that followed the snow fall of last weekend, I had big plans for today: first ski tour of the season! Unfortunately, on Friday afternoon it started to rain... This morning (Saturday) it was still raining. It was clear that the weather was too wet for ski touring. Moreover, a quick look on the webcams confirmed my fears that high in the mountains it was also raining as the air higher in the altitude was warmer than in the city.

In the city was raining, but the temperature was below 0C. So everything got covered in a thick layer of ice! The view from my balcony did not look too inviting.

Later, towards the noon the rain stopped so I quickly got equipped for trail running. The most important piece of the equipment were the running ice crampons! Out of the city, the forest road  was covered in a thick and and rock solid layer of ice! Without the crampons it would have been impossible to walk! The icy road lasted for about 5 km. Around 1000m altitude in Poiana Brasov it was already warmer, just above freezing so there were only a few icy patches on the route. At some point I could see the sun through the foggy air so I decided to go a bit higher than the planned route. I soon got above the sea of low clouds and almost immediately the temperature rose to about +7C! There were a few skiers. The slopes on the high part of the mountain looked quite good, but lower, the ski slope was interrupted in a few places.

A higher layer of clouds confirmed the weather report that more rain, and then snow is on the way. I snapped a few photos with my crappy phone camera and started to run downhill, back to the city. Below 1000m altitude the temperature was still below freezing. I chose a different route downhill, along the old Poiana Road. Here, half of the road width was covered in a thick layer of leaves so the ice was not solid like on the uphill route, meaning that I could run downhill with confidence.
Now, in the evening, as I write it, the rain that started again tries to turn into snow, a sign that colder air invaded the higher altitudes... so that first ski touring trip of the season might happen very soon!

22 November 2014

First snow!

Yesterday it snowed quite seriously on the mountains. First consistent snow of the season. In the city it rained, mixed with a bit of snow flakes. Just a a bit higher, the hills around the city got their first white blanket. So today I went up to Postavarul mountain to "inspect" the trails. It was a great run!

At 1000m in Poiana the snow was already about 10cm deep and it gradually got deeper as we went up the mountain. Above 1500m it was deep enough for skiing, over 30cm of quite dense powder. There were a few snowboarders testing the snow... and the rocks under it; the conditions on the lower part of the mountain were pretty bad for skiing...

I started the run at 8:30 with a couple of other runners. Three more runners were 10 minutes ahead of us, on the same route. We went slowly up to Postavarul peak (1799m). On the way back we stopped for a hot tea at Postavarul Chalet. On the way back, from Ruia Plateau (1500m) I returned to the city alone through untouched snow on the trail along Crucur Ridge. The other runners preferred the beaten path as the were afraid that the snow would be too deep and some had to return quickly to the city. The snow on the Crucur path was just perfect for running; not deep, as half of it was up in the trees above the path...

Here is the track of the day. One of my usual weekend routes. I ran slowly at a very comfortable pace. Running in colder weather and on the snow requires more energy so it is a good idea to run at a lower pace.

I also took photos along the route. Unfortunately I only had the crappy camera of my cheap smartphone. Actually the photos are not that bad, especially when viewed on smaller web resolution...

Half-way up!
First glimpse of the sun!
Ghost cable-car...
Above the first layer of clouds
Postavarul Peak
On the Peak! 1799m altitude.
On Postavarul Ridge
The untouched snow on the Crucur Trail
The untouched snow on the Crucur Trail
Stag footprints on the snow!
Around this place I saw a mountain hen quickly disappearing in the forest!
Lower down the mountain, at 1000m altitude, before Stechil clearing
Close to Brasov City, at 900m altitude.

Beautiful Autumn

This weekend we got first snow on the hills and mountains around Brasov. So I can say that the autumn season of 2014 is more or less over. Most trees are now leafless waiting  in silence for the winter snows.

Autumn is always a wonderful season in Brasov, a great time to take photos. Here are two albums of photos I took this autumn around Brasov along the trails where I normally run:

11 October 2014

Piatra Craiului Marathon 2014

Back in October 2012, one year after I begin to be serious about trail running, Piatra Craiului Marathon (MPC) was my first ever marathon.  Last year I participated again and got a very good time. This year however, I decided not to participate. Since May I did nor attend any running race. I actually ran more than the previous year, but I did not feel the urge to participate in any races. It is a sort of downshifting... I try to run slower and without any constraints so I can enjoy more the mountains and the nature also avoiding to put too much stress on my heart and joints.

Although I did not participate in the race, I visited Zarnesti on the day of the race. Together with my wife we were at the start area around 9AM, the start time. As the start was delayed and the weather was quite cold, we decided to move on, so we walked a few kilometers along the race route before the runners overtook us. We took photos of all participants. I hope I did not miss anybody. Well , the photos are nor artistic, but they help documenting this great race.

Here are a few of Photos. The whole album can be found here: MPC 2014.
Sheep on the streets of Zarnesti... Good that the race did not meet them...
First runner! This guy finished first wit a new record of the race: 3:42:46. Amazing time for a technical mountain race with over 2000m of accumulated  climbs
The elite runners
The tail of the race
After taking photos of the runners, we followed the race route up to the picturesque Magura Village. From there we walked down to Moieciu Village, taking beautiful photos along the way. The first autumn colors add color to the landscape. Here are a few photos. The complete album can be found here: First signs of Autumn at  Magura

The trail to Magura Village
Pastoral Landscape in Magura
Birch Trees
Autumn flowers
The road to Moieciu
Moieciu Village

21 September 2014

Piatra Craiului Ridge

One of the top of the list trail running day tours planned for this year was Piatra Craiului Ridge; especially after the failed attempt of last year. However the very unstable weather of the 2014 summer made it hard to find a good day for this trip. Doing the ridge in safe conditions requires dry and stable weather. Then I also had to find someone with comparable fitness level as it is not a good idea to do the technical ridge hike alone.

The higher section of the main ridge of Piatra Craiului measures about 10km in length, and most of it is above 2000m altitude. It is one of the most spectacular routes in the Carpathian Mountains. It is a technical hike, recommended only on good weather and for people in good physical shape and without fear of heights. In fact only about 10% of the route is suitable for running. On many sections of the ridge route one has to also use the hands when hiking up and down on the rocky sections.

On Saturday the 13th of September, most trail runners in the area were participating in the Ciucas Trail Marathon races. After doing the half-marathon in 2012 and the marathon last year, I have decided not to participate this year. I was however hiking on Ciucas mountains where I met and encouraged the racers in the 105km ultra-marathon race. The weather was very good for trail running. Dry, cool and sunny, a bit windy though. For the Sunday, the 14th of September the weather forecast looked even better. Same stable weather but less windy. So I knew that it might be a good day for a hike on Piatra Craiului Ridge.

I was wondering if I was the only trail runner in the area who did not participate at Ciucas marathon, so in good shape for a hike along Piatra Craiului Ridge next day... Around 19:00 I phoned Mihai, a passionate trail runner that also lives in Schei district of Brasov where I live. I first met him this spring at the Brasov Marathon, where we ran together the last kilometer of the race. He told me on the phone that he tried to call me, but realized that he might have lost my number... His idea... Piatra Craiului! We quickly agreed on all the details and next morning at 6:30 we left Brasov.

As expected, the day turned out to but to be perfect for hiking along the ridge. The weather was sunny, stable and not to warm. The constant but quite weak wind kept us cool and dry. We progressed very well along the ridge, making short breaks to admire the landscape, take photos, eat, and talk to other hikers. It took us 4h30 from Turnu Peak to Funduri Saddle; a good time. I am sure that we could have done it faster, but we were not competing in a race and also wanted to enjoy the amazing landscape.

Here is the GPS recorded track of the day:

Here are some of the photos I took along the ridge, in chronological order:
On Turnu Peak. The main ridge starts here!
Looking East.
And west, towards Fagarasi Mountains
1000m below, Plaiul Foii
On the north section of Piatra Craiului Ridge
Looking down on the "gentler" east side of the ridge
And on the rocky and steep west side of the ridge
"I was here" photo on La Om peak (2238m), the highest point of Piatra Craiului.
Looking north towards La Om peak (2238m), the highest point of Piatra Craiului.
The spectacular south section of Piatra Craiului Ridge
Cliff edge...
Same cliff edge... with a wider angle of view
Looking east towards Brasov Depression
Looking east from the south ridge
On the south ridge
The beautiful descent from Funduri Saddle - This is the only gentle trail to Piatra Craiului ridge!
On the return way, Looking up to Piatra Craiului Ridge

30 August 2014


Today I did a speed hiking/trail running tour in Bucegi Mountains. A wonderful route through the highest and wildest area of Bucegi mountains. Here is the track of the day. Only 20km, but hard, with steep and often rocky slopes and around 1800m of accumulated elevation gain. The highest point of the route was the imposing Bucsoiu Peak, at 2492m.

At some point along the route, Cristi, my running colleague of today spotted lots of edelweiss flowers, just a few meters below the trail! There were lots of them. I have never seen so many... In fact I am not sure I have seen edelweiss flowers in the wild before. Of course we left them untouched and I hope that nobody will harm them as they are quite rare and of course, a protected species of flowers.  Here are a couple of photos:

04 August 2014

Run of the year!

After so many rainy days and weekends that forced me to stay close to home, the weather forecast for Sunday was looking very good, although it was a bit hard to believe it after the stormy Saturday afternoon. A good opportunity to venture further on higher mountains than Brasov's home mountain Postavarul.

On Saturday afternoon I phoned all of my runner friends trying to organize a run in the mountains. To my disappointment nobody was available. So it looked like I will have yet another run on the usual paths on Postavarul mountain where I feel comfortable to run alone.

On Sunday morning I reluctantly prepared myself for my usual running tour to Postavarul. Lightweight equipment: a pair of good train running shoes, shorts, t-shirt, my belt with the 600ml bottle, my running cap, my phone and some cache. I quickly eat my usual portion of oats, then hit the trail that starts just behind our house.

Just five minutes later into the run, up the hill I get a first glimpse of the mighty Bucegi Mountains. I see the beautiful and massive rocky peaks shining in the distance under a perfect blue sky. Quickly an idea takes shape... well, it is a beautiful day, with stable and warm weather and I feel full of energy... So why not! Let's run all the way to the Bucegi Mountains and if the weather is good maybe I can reach the top! Actually it is not that far away... so let's do it!

After running and hiking for 36 kilometers, and 2400 meters of elevation gain, 5h30 after leaving my home I reached the Top of Bucegi: the famous Omu peak at 2505m! What a great feeling! I did all this on my own!

Here is the GPS track that I recorded of yesterday:

And a few photos taken with a cheap phone camera.

On the beautiful Malaiesti Valley, climbing towards the Summit of Bucegi 
A look back from Bucegi. That mountain in the distance is Postavarul and behind it, my city Brasov. I ran all the way from there!
Last ascent towards Omu Peak. The meteorological station and the hut are visible 
Now a shot note of caution...
Do not attempt a run like this alone, unless you are well prepared both physically and mentally. Running alone for long distances on high mountains is quite different from running in the park!
In my case, I am well trained for long trail runs in the mountains since I train on hills and mountains almost daily. Very importantly, I also know the area quite well. I can visualize it 3D in my mind, I know the distances and the elevations. In case the weather turned bad I knew my route options. I also did this run on a Sunday with beautiful weather and ran along popular paths where I knew that I will meet many other hikers. So although I ran alone, I wasn't alone in the mountain!