Fagaras Mountains at Balea LakeMonday 16 February, 2009
Skiing and possibly a first ascent…
Another sorry attempt to ski brought me to another beautiful trip to the mountains. This time i went with my friends from Cluj, Adrian and Oana, to Fagaras Mountains (Balea Lake area). In the previous week Adi tempted me with some pictures of some alpine walls there while, I dare to suspect, his (not-so) secret plan was to actually get me on skis…
Heavy snow obvious on the ascent to Balea lake made two things clear: not so great being on walls and great powder for skiing. Upon arrival at the mountain rescue hut we had a quick lunch and we set off skiing – me on borrowed Silvrettas and in my climbing boots. Not such a great idea. Uphill was sweet, especially since the snowboarders were battling hip deep powder snow. Downhill in the adjacent valley was not so great…. I am no good skier by any means but decent enough to hold my own on moderate off-piste. On these skis, however and in climbing boots it was a whole different ball game… At times it looked like i was the ball…. The snowball. Nevertheless the trip was a good opportunity to eye some walls and mentally trace some routes on a a couple of them.
With an hour or so of light left i decided to let Adi and Oana do what they were best at and me to head back to the hut, set my bones straight, have a cup of soup and have a go at a potential line I saw on a spire behind the hut in order to get introduced to the area and its climbing type as a preview for the following day.
The last rays of sun caught me dropping my skis at the base of the spire facing up a very narrow couloir ending on a sharp, snow capped summit. I turned on my BD Zenyx headlamp and my iPod Shuffle, shouldered the pack with a Powergel and an Arc’teryx Dually Belay Parka in it, grabbed onto my BD Cobras and set off. First few meters were quite pleasurable on hard, icy snow. I moved then onto rock and with night all around me and Metallica’s Unforgiven II in my headphones it all felt perfect.
Of quite some difficulty proved to be, in the lower section, a small ramp with unconsolidated powder-snow on which I had no purchase upon an exit from a slightly overhanging section of the couloir. I down-climbed a couple of meters and traversed some delicate moves on rock to a big flake on the right then, back to the left and i continued upwards on an overhanging, narrowing, dihedral to a more straightforward section. Fairly close to the summit i came under a small roof that made me wonder if all this was indeed such a great idea after all… In the valley below i saw a small light and heard some hollering. It was Adi breaking trail and coming to meet me in the col. I took a couple of minutes to relax then I swung one tool blindly over the lip of the small roof and got good purchase. Swung the other tool and let my feet cut loose in the dark. Couple more moves and i was over, on a fairly flat platform and facing the summit few meters ahead. A bit more moderate climbing and cutting trough a powdery cornice put me on the summit. I begun down-climbing southward on a quite corniced thin ridge then down to the col where Adi was waiting for me having climbed a snow slope to provide me with a quicker descent route. We recovered my skis while avoiding a small avalanche slab ready to go and we returned (myself more tumbling than anything else) to the hut to some yummy food, light talk and good sleep.
Next morning climbing was out of question. Heavy snowing and total whiteout sent us playing on the ice with hopes of improvement in the weather. When that didn’t happen until early afternoon we headed back and i was the luckiest person to get a ride to Pitesti from some guys in the mountain rescue team from Arges, then a minivan to Bucharest, being home by 8:30pm. The grimmer alternative would have been a ride to Sibiu and waiting to a train at 12am to take me to Bucharest by 5am. Phew….
All in all it was lots of fun!
Being so close to the hut and the main trampling area i hold back claiming a first ascent… It seems highly improbable, but one never knows…
The height gain measured with the GPS was 90m, the actual time it took me to climb it was 1 hour and 10 minutes. I suggest an M5 rating, however it is quite possible the conditions and lack of perspective to have made it feel harder than it actually is…
Red – the line of ascent
Blue – line of descent
Green – Adi’s climb up to meet me and the continuation of the line of descent
Adi’s TR on his blog: http://snow-trace.blogspot.com/2009/02/infinite-powder.html