Mountain Pirates is what we decided to call ourselfs. We are a group of adventure loving friends from Bucharest, Romania. Adventure, freedom and a sense of purpose is what drives
us to go on our trips. We climb, we hike and walk alot if needed in order to pursue what we enjoy. It all started around 8 years ago with a crazy idea of walking on the
railroad like in the cartoons. This walk would be from our hometown Bucharest to a mountain city of Azuga, a total of 136 km. This is exactly what we did, literally walking
on the railroad with heavy backpacks. A feeling like we never felt before followed us on this trip and we were hooked. From then on we try to hike every year as many times as
we can, through mountains, hills, valleys and the beautifull romanian rural landscape.
When we go on our trips we want to free ourselfs from the constraints of society , thus the idea of "Pirates". We take on dangers, get lost, walk during nighttime, we face winter,
rain, mud and anything that stands between us on our goal. This can only be achieved because we have each other and a great feeling of friendship.
If you wanna see more of our story, you can follow us on Facebook, Instagram or see our episodes on You Tube.
We had never seen Ciucaş - Red Mountain under thick snow. With this in mind, Saturday on the 18th of March at 07:00 AM we were already leaving Bucharest. This time there were 5 of us: Vodă, Shaggy, Giulianni, Tifos and me. The car stopped in the northern part of the town Cheia, and after gearing up we began our trip on the blue line marked trail towards Bratocea Pass, Ciucaş Peak (1954 m) and finally spending the night at Ciucaş Cabin.
The town of Cheia is 150 km north of Bucharest at about 950 m altitude, situated at the base between Ciucaş and Red Mountain.
At the start of the journey a couple of hawks blessed us while doing circles over the car.
In the next 20 minutes it started snowing easily. We knew that the weather wasn’t presenting itself very optimistic in the coming days. The blue lined track started through the forest, intersecting the main road from time to time.
The snow in the woods was more and more present during our start-up walk and after a while we had to put on our snow-stoppers.
We changed the footpath from blue line to blue triangle, after that leaving it for good, guided by GPS and eager for a little off-road terrain.
11:40 AM -- We split up. I, Vodă and Tifos started climbing towards the road, while Giulianni and Shaggy followed Mioarelor River’s upstream path.
Let’s not forget that spring was already here.
It stopped snowing when we got on the road again and at 12:05 PM we reached the pass first.
The Bratocea Pass is a few kilometers north of Cheia, at about 1230 meters altitude. It sits at the junction point of two counties, Prahova and Braşov, also separating two mountain groups: Grohotiş and Ciucaş.
The guys would arrive after a short while and a small break followed. We made the best of the warm rays of sunshine making their way through the cloudy sky, knowing and at the same time being able to see that in Ciucaş it was snowing for sure.
The small break lasted for about an hour, then we started moving up on Ciucaş.
In just a few minutes the scenery began to get cloudy and snow started to fall before us.
We started to pick up the pace, only to be met by strong winds up ahead. In the distance we could see the second day’s objective, Gropşoarele-Zăganu, the two main peaks of Red Mountain, which we had to cross to descend to a place called The Hunter’s Lodge at the base of the mountain and finally reach the car back in town.
From the south we could see Grohotiş Mountain (1650 m), that being the last clear image of the day.
1:55 PM -- We were amongst the pine trees at about 1490 meters altitude when it started snowing again. The snow was getting stronger as we ascended up the mountain. The wind stopped, which was excellent. The snowflakes were falling towards the ground undisturbed, in a straight line and a peaceful pace.
Once we got out of the forest, we walked directly into a cloud. The wind started to pick up and this way we figured that we must have made good distance. The snow was rising in height, going only a bit over our ankles. At just a few meters around us, a massive, seemingly impenetrable wall had risen, that would change its colour from white to gray and back. From that point on, the transition from snow to blizzard was fast.
2:45 PM -- Two and a half hours separates us from the top of Ciucaş Peak. At least that’s what the National Committee for Marking Alpine Trails and Stuff (The N.C.M.A.T.S.) tells us. We do know that their specialty is assessing the time on these kinds of routes.
The trees that we could see around us were half adorned with snow thrown around by the blizzard, forming an interesting shape that indicated the direction of the wind.
With small deviations from the markings, caused by very low visibility, we found ourselves walking on unbeaten terrain with waist deep snow, guided by the GPS and with an honest intention to reach the path. The marking polls would appear out of nowhere, at first sight with a ghostly shape, confirming our position.
Encapsulated in space and time, we appeared as entities foreign from the land, displaced on a completely white canvas. In the thick of it all, our footsteps behind us quickly filling up with snow were the only vague signs showing a direction from an initial point of start.
There was only one time when we found ourselves going down instead of up and realised that something’s not right. The group would then scatter across the area and look for indications of the right sort to follow up. With the GPS unreliable at the time, abandoned by technology, we would deal with the problem instinctively. It seemed normal for us to keep going up. We did find the right track. The snow was thicker and easily reached our knees.
3:35 PM – Because of the blizzard and the low visibility that came with it, we decide that going for the peak isn’t worth it. The problem wasn’t reaching it, but the white nothingness that would have surrounded us all the way. Beside that, everything was really nice. It was just us marching on. At the right distance the ones in the front would look like vague and shadowy figures.
The whiteness stayed around us for about one more hour, then it seemed to go up, above our heads and reveal some small parts of the environment.
As time passed, fatigue started to catch up on us. The reasons were plenty: waking up at 5:00 AM after a week’s work, climbing all day and the relentless white matter that was playing with our eyes.
Once the cloud lifted, the pine trees started to appear around us. I assume they had been around us the whole time.
We all had our headlamps in our backpacks but we didn’t really want to catch any night time on the path. Thus we started to hurry. It was 5:00 PM and we figured that we had about one and a half hour of light remaining. Each of us started to enter the so called “robot mode”, in which you kept on walking, not feeling any sort of tiredness of the legs or feet and not very talkative to each other. The small disappointment everyone had was because we didn’t get to climb Ciucaş Peak in favorable conditions.
5:33 PM – The great white sheet was beginning the stretch out around and above us again, accompanied, of course, by the wind. Finely particles of frozen snow were being carried by the wind and smashed against our faces. The amount of small impacts made our tiredness go away and woke us up for a bit.
Once again the nothingness embraced us. We felt very comfortable being engulfed by it, and the sense of comfort was amplified by our growing fatigue. It felt really good even with the icy winds battering our faces. After all, we did feel lucky for not going across any serious portions of ice on the terrain, either on course or around it. Maybe this was in fact the hawk’s blessing.
6:07 PM – We reached the plaque informing that we were about 30 minutes away from the Ciucaş Cabin. We didn’t want to get caught on track as it got darker, more out of laziness. Who would have stopped to look and get their headlamp out of the backpack? No one. We were set on reaching the cabin fast.
The clock showed 6:32 PM when we had arrived at the cabin. Our main target there was warm food. Our time was good considering current weather conditions. That translated into more time for resting. The plan for tomorrow morning was to get an early start.
After the 8 and a half hours of walking, it would have been interesting though if the dark catched up on us.
Sunday, 19 march, 7:15 AM – Shaggy’s alarm goes off and we both jump out of bed. After some small preparations we go and have breakfast, the rest of the guys arriving shortly after.
Ciucaş Cabin is at the foot of Ciucaş, roughly at the middle of it and Red Mountain.
10:20 AM – We leave the cabin. The weather this morning was presenting itself better than the day before. The wind was still active, letting us know of its presence, and scarce snowflakes were dropping from the skies above.
The clouds were being passed around rapidly by the wind and sometimes the Sun would catch a hole through all of this, sending its beloved rays down below. The cloud gap wouldn’t last very long though and the gray fluffy ceiling would cover the sky once again.
After a night well slept and a couple of hot meals we were feeling grand. We hit the road in high spirits and full of enthusiasm. The path went down. We thought it was great, just a good downhill start to get us warmed up. After five minutes we realised that we were going the wrong way. We turned around and headed back up to the cabin.
11:00 AM – We were in the front of the cabin again, more tired and less enthusiastic than half an hour ago. Another round of cigarettes was smoked and we took the right path, marked with a red cross. The highland was stretching in front of us and above it angry clouds were gathering.
11:20 AM – The wind has softened down and it completely stopped snowing.
The pine trees started to guide us along the way, them being placed on both sides of the pathway. They looked grandiose, not fully loaded with snow, but decorated enough to delight the eye, counterposing the image of the still predominant dark gry sky. The clouds kept moving quickly above us and from time to time we would get a glimpse of the much wished-for blue sky.
The sight of the trees wasn’t the only delightful element of the landscape. The fresh pine scent released by the forest would make us just stop and take a deep breath with a fulfilling look on our faces. Let’s not be total hypocrites though. Tobacco was quickly lit up after the phrase „These trees smell incredible, it clears your lungs”. City folk don’t know much.
Shaggy and Giulianni were way ahead of us.
Me, Tifos and Vodă were following the footsteps made by the two hurried members. At one point we stopped between the trees because we hadn’t seen any markings for quite a while. The footsteps continued in front of us, in a straight manner.
Technology was called upon once again. The GPS pointed us pretty far off course. We shouted for Giulianni. We shouted for Shaggy. Nothing. Apparently they were too far ahead. We waited, thinking that after they would make the same GPS check-up and return on their own tracks.
12:00 PM – After they confirmed their mistake, they headed back. They felt happy discovering where the path WASN’T, thus eliminating a wrong way and leaving space to find the correct one. Just always make the best of it. We weren’t far from the cabin. They too followed a couple of footsteps considering that the direction is good, but at some point the footsteps disappeared.
We would imagine that people who would follow our own footsteps left in the snow, would go on the same premise until the footprints would split up, going a bit to the left, a bit to the right, a bit in a circle manner (that being the moment when Giulianni and Shaggy realised that they were going the wrong way and they deviated trying to find the right path) and eventually they would point towards the direction from which they came.
12:24 PM – We were back on track. 10 points to technology! The wind picked up and it began snowing again. Maybe snowing, maybe the snow blown off the trees, it’s debatable.
The sky had mostly blackened and left the appearance of a lumpish and weighty substance. The land around us was starting to feel wild and cold.
12:45 PM – Looking on the map, we realised that we had covered terrific distance. Approximately a fifth of the whole journey proposed for the current day. We were thrilled.
I’m joking, the covered distance was miserable and we weren’t proud of it at all.
1:10 PM – We arrived at the crossing named Chiruşca, leaving the forest and basically just starting to go up Red Mountain. On the same crossing sign wrote „Ciucaş Cabin – 30 minutes”. It was pretty late at this time. Besides that, we could feel an early start of a familiar blizzard while the clouds were pressing on us more and more. Visibility also decreased gradually.
1:15 PM – At less than 5 minutes from the crossing, the wind shifted and started to blow violently. On skin level we could feel it harsher than the one from yesterday.
1:34 PM – The blizzard was getting increasingly stronger. We were very close to another crossing on our route, named „The Crossroads”.. The snow was being hurled around and slammed against our bodies at great speeds. Mostly the wind blew from the west, in the direction of Red Mountain Cabin. But it would quickly change direction at times and the discovered parts of our faces had to suffer.
2:50 PM – We came and went past the crossroads and kept continuing our path towards the weather station just before Gropşoarele Peak (1883 m). At this point everything around us was white and windy.
The blizzard was really powerful. At this part of the journey the winds always came from the west, with such power that I could lean my body towards the west and wouldn’t fall. To put things in perspective I weigh around 92 kilograms (202 lbs). We couldn’t hear each other screaming at a relative close distance. I remembered that yesterday a group we’ve encountered heading towards Ciucaş Cabin told us about 50 km/h winds foreseen for today. Whatever was the number of kilometers per hour, I’ve never experienced such a snowstorm.
The mist was so thick that we barely could see a few meters afar. The clouds were moving incredibly fast alongside us. There were brief moments when we could see the Sun breaking through the dense white matter, only to disappear again throwing us into the nothingness all over again.
We were feeling like walking across the surface of an alien planet. A frozen and not very welcoming one.
The wind was whipping across the fields constantly. We were knee deep in the snow with the rest of our bodies in a never-ending state of imbalance while trying to walk in a straight line. We always had to lean towards the direction from where the wind was raging.
We met up with another group that was coming from the opposite direction, from Cheia. I guess we helped each other by clearing the snow and meeting halfway through. But the tracks didn’t last long. They were continuously struck by the snow and eventually covered whole. It was splendid.
I personally loved the atmosphere surrounding us. Walking with a big smile on my partially frozen face. In any case, the fun was just starting.
I remained at the back of the group trying to see the maximum distance between us at which the guys were still visible. Mostly they appeared as vague forms. It was comforting to be alone in such weather conditions.
We were halfway between “The Crossroads” and the weather station when Tifos came running at me.
„I think I’ve lost the camera!”. It was about 2:00 PM. Initially I hadn’t heard him very well. He got closer to me, briefly explaining what happened while running back towards the crossroads, on our footprints, thinking he would find it for sure. The rest of the gang was out of sight. I found out later on from Tifos that he told Vodă to wait for us while going back.
I started to help searching by going down thinking that the camera was blown by the wind into the valley below. The blizzard wasn’t showing any signs of stopping just yet. I was getting pushed into the valley just by walking in a straight line. Below the track there was half frozen snow and no trace of a path. I had to make my own.
Tifos was looking on the track and I was walking parallel with him at a few meters below. I was trying to locate his position once every 10 seconds. I couldn’t stare at him all the time because the wind was blowing from his direction straight into my eyes. Most of the time I could barely see him, either from the poor visibility or from the frozen snow particles animated by the winds.
After 5 minutes I returned on the path up top and started walking towards Tifos at the crossroads. I found him wandering back, still searching for the lost camera. He told me that he caught up with the other group but they didn’t find it either. Tifos was sure he lost it after we passed the crossroads sign. He was equally sure the camera was somewhere stuck in the footprints on the path, while I was assuming that it fell and got carried away by the strong wind somewhere below the path. We didn’t have time to lose. The search continued backwards towards the weather station where we expected the rest of our guys to be waiting for us.
2:28 PM – Apparently Vodă hadn’t heard Tifos screaming at him to wait up for us, because there was no one there. We waited in the unused and unlocked station for a few minutes, after which the phone signal caught up with me and with it a message from Giulianni: „We’re at the weather station”. After a couple more minutes Tifos got another message saying „We’ll wait for you at Gropşoarele Peak”. Very strange. Neither of us understood why they’ve left the station in the first place. We agreed on letting them know that we were going to continue the search and meet up back in Cheia.
Said and done. The wind was howling outside of the station’s steel walls. We restored our energy level with some energy bars, water and tobacco, then out we went again.
I returned to my patch of the field, down of the path, still hoping that the wind carried the camera and sticking it into... something. The chances were slim, I know, but it was worth a shot. Tifos carried out the search on the path.
There were times at which we could see much better. I could see Tifos more clearly out of a sudden and for extended amounts of time. As the visibility grew, so did our expectations to spot the black little cubic camera with all the white surrounding it. The Sun would also greet us, warming up our snow battered faces. Nonetheless, such moments were but a few.
3:07 PM – At the crossroads again, with no sign of the camera. From my right pocket, the one pointed towards the wind, I was taking out the 5th fist of swept snow. We turned around and kept on looking.
I’m down, he’s up. Our tracks in the snow were already half full. The blue sky showed itself briefly again, but the wind wasn’t giving up.
I started to fatigue. The part below the path was full of my desperate steps. The snow was knee-high everywhere and it started to tire me out. This is where I encountered full white. I wanted to quit searching the section below the path and started climbing to Tifos. I saw him. With my eyes almost shut and the right part of my face red from the icy projectiles.
That’s when the cloud engulfed me. It came utterly fast and everything was gone. It was completely white just a few centimeters in front, around and above me. Looking down I couldn’t see my feet in the snow. Out of an illogical sense of fear I stopped walking. I evidently knew that in front of me was the path and no danger whatsoever, but not seeing it made me uncomfortable. I was laughing like a fool. I’ve never experienced this. It lasted up to 10 seconds, then the wind swept it away in the valley below.
We met close to the station and decided to give it one more go before climbing down to Cheia, by Red Mountain Cabin, situated below Ciucaş Cabin.
3:37 PM – We lost any hope to find the camera, and at the crossroads we turned left going down Red Mountain, in the direction of the wind which didn’t tire a bit during the one hour and forty minutes while we circled around the area.
The marking was red triangle from now on. We didn’t get rid of the wind yet. Now it was changing direction, raging from left and right. But this wasn’t a problem, our faces were well strengthened. Our faces had been frozen in a frown like expression which would remain for a fair amount of time. Due to low signal we had yet to make contact to the other group.
3:55 PM – We were mistaken to believe the wind wasn’t a problem anymore. Because of us facing it now our faces were being hit straight on. A big part of the time was spent walking backwards or sideways. Our faces were burning up and numb at the same time. But we really enjoyed it. It’s an unique sensation in a situation in which you don’t find yourself very often.
The trees were bent by the wind and weight of the snow.
4:20 PM – We reached the forest. Out of the wind, we finally had the chance to relax the skin of our faces in peace. With a few icy parts in the way, the forest was presenting itself quite fine. In the left we could see, like in the beginning of the trip, Gropşoarele-Zăganu the two mountain clumps where the rest of the gang was descending.
In the meantime the weather on their half of the mountain was quite different. It was a lot calmer than the cold breeze that battered us while searching for the camera.
We reached the cabin. Once we stepped on the roadway it felt funny walking on asphalt. It started snowing slowly. The atmosphere was calm. We were a bit disappointed for losing the camera, but it’s just a camera. In exchange we got the blizzard experience with a lot of time enjoying it. We surely would’ve of forgotten about the camera at one point of our lives. But the 90 minutes spent between the crossroads and the weather station remain priceless memories.
We reached the car a bit after 6:00 PM and we went to get the rest of the guys. They didn’t know why we chose to remain behind and descend to Red Mountain Cabin. They couldn’t believe that we actually lost the camera. Later on when we all met, we compared the sent messages but never really received.
Tifos to Giulianni: We’re going down Red Mountain.
Giulianni to Tifos: You’re idiots.
Snowy Ciucaş? Yeah, we were there. It was great.