Cosmin in the technically challenging line "Fachirul" (7b+),...aterfall crag, Herculane, Caras-Severin county
Cosmin Andron, the Tendon Ambassador, presents his native country, Romania, to you from the perspective of a climber. By the way, it is no coincidence that the Petzl Rock Trip took place there in 2014.
So, you have decided to embrace adventure and travel East! Good for you!
You’ve got your Master Pro 9.2, and for good measure you threw in a couple of Master Pro 7.6, about 20 quickdraws, your belay device, some belay glasses, climbing shoes, a harness, a chalk bag and a helmet. As for the latter, Orbix is a good choice, it is among the lightest helmets in the market and only 70 grams heavier than the lightest model, but really durable and comfortable. Now stuff everything in the Tendon Gear Bag – it has a rope tarp stashed inside, so no way you’ll forget that.
However, don’t forget to check if your car suspensions are working well. Once you’re off highways, and there aren’t that many, your telescopes will take the beating of their life…
Enter Romania, coming from Hungary, by Nadlac border crossing, don’t waste yourtime and head straight to Baile Herculane (about 3 hours drive and 264 km from the border crossing). Nowadays, this is the number one sport climbing spot in Romania, the sport climbing pilgrimage grounds for at least the last 20 years.
Vanturatoarea waterfall crag, Herculane, Caras-Severin county
It has been a climbing destination since the mid 1960’s and the climbing in the area has undergone a major development since 2002. A local climbing “Alternative” club from the city of Timisoara begun organising an annual climbing festival / competition and re-bolted many older routes, as well as opened ten times more of new ones.
Cosmin in the way "Beef power" (7b+), Vanturato area …aterfall crag, Herculane, Caras-Severin county
Today the area comprises of more than 12 sectors and hundreds of routes. It helped a lot that Petzl Rock Trip of 2014 took place here and resulted in development of hard routes in the upper 8’s and also the 9th grade. Adam ticked a few over the years, and October 2021 brought the first 9a climbed by a Romanian climber: Black Cobra climbed by Darius Rapa (15 years old at the time).
Ideal access to Vanturatoarea waterfall crag, Herculane, Caras-Severin county
The royal crag of Herculane is the “Vanturatoarea” waterfall where the hardest and longest routes are situated – and we don’t take into account the potential for further development here, which is still huge. However, since all crags have been developed for festivals/competitions, even the most hardcore crags have routes in the 6 and 7 grade range,so they are not exclusive to athletes. An online guide to the area is available here: https://twodirtbags.com/climbing-herculane-romania/ and a paperback guidebook is available for sale for 10 eur though the last edition is 8 years old (see the details on the website).
Cosmin in a technically demanding line "Fachirul" (7b+),…aterfall crag, Herculane, Caras-Severin county
Once you’re done with the modern style climbing it’s time to travel a bit towards north, in the heart of Transylvania, towards the city of Cluj Napoca (Kolozsvár in Hungarian: and Klausenburg in German). An affluent IT centre nowadays and the second largest city in Romania, Cluj is an ancient city (+2000 years) later on a Roman city and then the capital of Transylvania when it was a part of the Hungarian Kingdom or the Austro-Hungarian empire.
Beautiful rock structure in Pestera Ungureasca, Turzii Gorge, Cluj county
History and the present is striking at every step as, lately, in the real estate prices… One of the best things about the city of Cluj is that is surrounded by climbing destinations, all on good limestone. Although the rock climbing here is not olderthan two millennia, the pioneers of modern sport climbing, arguably, hail from here (mid to late 80’s). The main rock climbing destination is, undoubtedly, the Turzii Gorge (Cheile Turzii in Romanian).
Pestera Ungureasca, Turzii Gorge, Cluj county
Less than 50 km away from Cluj Napoca this 3 km long gorge holds both the old and the new. Old school, 80’s style slabs on spaced bolts in the 6a – 7b range, modern 15 m long roofs at 8a-8b range in Pestera Ungureasca (Hungarian cave) or multipitch routes in the 5c to 7c range, whether on bolts or on pegs. Just to spice it up, there is also a via ferrata and a couple of modern aid routes…. There is a couple of editions of the paperback guidebooks by Dan Anghel and Nicolae Budeanca, however, they are both out of print and hard to find, besides not being really up to date. The names are mostly written at the base of the routes and with ww.8a.nu one can get around the new stuff especially when using this old, on line, topo as a starting point: https://unireaclimbing.webs.com/documents/topo_turzii_1.1.pdf
Do you want to test your strength in overhangs? I… Pestera Ungureasca, Turzii Gorge, Cluj county
Sandwiched between the city of Cluj and Turzii Gorge there is a “boutique” crag, Cheile Turenilor (Tureni Gorge), which is attractive for three reasons: it is rather quiet as it is quite hidden, it’s a good crag to visit from spring to autumn as a quick dash after work in the city, and it has a wide range of short, technical, slabby routes mostly in the 5c to 6c+ range with a couple harder routes.
Multi-longitudinal path "Peretele Suspendat", Coltul Sansil wall, Turzii Gorge, Cluj county
Cheile Valisoarei & Rimetea
Past Turzii Gorge (in the same karst) butcloser to the city of Aiud there are two interesting, yetstill “old school” (that is face climbing style) crags: Cheile Valisoarei (mostly multi-pitch routes, but also some technical crimpy sport climbs) and Rimetea (above the eponymous village). Rimetea crag is a favourite destination for those who are looking for technical, slabby, crimpy and compact limestone routes where big muscles are useless but good footwork and jedi mind tricks are essential.
Rimetea climbing area and its scenery, Alba county
It is also the best crag if you like traditional Hungarian food, paragliding or seeing the national flag of Romania being replaced periodically by the national flag of Hungary and vice versa on the geodesic markers from the top of the crag (some people’s idea of fun…).
Romania is definitely an interesting country from the climber's point of view, Rimetea area, Alba county
Limpedea & Creasta Cocosului
Being done with the main destinations in Transylvania (I will not mention other smaller crags reserved for a second or third trip) one can wonder up to the true north next to the city of Baia Mare. Just on the outskirts of the old Roman mining town there is an old basalt quarry sporting a dozen of bolted climbs.
For the modern sport climber this crag called Limpedea is of no interest and maybe of some distress, as the holds are monotonous and dusty. However, for a climber interested in more exotic sites this is the one place in Romania where you can climb on basalt columns (in case that is on your bucket list and Waterfall rock crag of Hong Kong is too far for you).
No shortage of overhangs in Romania
Since you have travelled this far already, an hour hike from your car parked in the Gutai pass will put you on the andesite formation named Creasta Cocosului (Rooster’s Comb). You won’t find any hard climbs there – most of these are in the 5a - 6c range (with a couple of 6c+s or 7a+s), however, the views are amazing and it is the crag where the author of these lines learned how to climb 33 years ago, so there you go, I’m definitely biased. (http://www.maramuresgreenways.ro/wp-content/gallery/trasee-catarare/096_panou.jpg ) As you are in the Maramures county, you can relax a bit, give your fingers some rest and visit this amazing county full of old traditions, great food and straight-shooting people.
Rarau crags & Cheile Bicazului
Carry on with the cultural part and cross from Maramures to Bucovina by the Prislop pass, visit the old monasteries and drive all the way to Rarau crags (not far from Campulung Moldovenesc). Here we are, back in the land of limestone, back to the demanding face climbing, but this time many of the climbs are modern and have higher grades (without neglecting the moderate ones, either). You will definitely need excellent footwork and rested fingers for this one. A topo by two local climbers is available here: http://www.cjsuceava.ro/2016/salvamont/topo_trasee_escalada_rarau.pdf
Impressive wall in Peretii Gri crag, Suncuius, Bihor county
From Rarau, drive further to the South along the Oriental Carpathians and just when entering the Transylvania again, stop at another historical crag: Cheile Bicazului (Bicaz Gorge). It is an old stomping ground from the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s for the Soviet-style inspired climbing competitions, where running up as many pitches as possible pulling on pitons or anything available decided who was the champion/ Today its intricate walls are being repopulated with long or short free routes, old routes are being re-equipped and some old school 7c to 8b are being rediscovered without the aid of chipped holds as during their first ascent.
Croatian Paklanica? No Turzii Gorge in Romania
Postavaru, Prapastiile Zarnestilor & Sinaia
On your way back to Transylvania a short stop in the old city of Brasov ( Kronstadt in German) will give you access to a few limestone crags that were for many years the testing grounds for the strong local climbing community: Postavaru, Prapastiile Zarnestilor (the Precipices of Zarnesti in a very loose translation) or Sinaia crags, outside the town of Sinaia in the heart of the Bucegi mountains.
Now that I mentioned the Bucegi Mountains, there are three things that could make this place memorable: the royal palace of Peles (a must on your list of places to visit!), the chance of being chased by a brown bear (not only in the forest but also in towns) and the biggest wall in Romania: Peretele Vaii Albe (the White Valley Wall – about 350 m).
Cosmin verifies Master 9.7 TeFIX
This conglomerate wall is home of some famous multipitch routes from the 1950’s The Blue Crack being the most sought after. More recently it became famous because of some unrepeated or rarely repeated multipitch routes from the mid 2000’s (in the 6c-7b range) and even more recently by a couple of new multipitch routes that created controversies even across the national borders (style and all that discussions) in the 7c – 8a+ range. If this all feels too much to you, check out the nearby Costila Wall or Vulturilor Wall for less controversial, less long, yetequally interesting and demanding multipitch climbs in the 6a – 7a range on both pitons and bolts.
Closing the circle and driving back to the West your last stop can be the roadside crag of Sohodol. Definitely not an attractive setting, this crag gets the conglomerate and runouts out of your mind and puts you back on limestone and into “a bit of everything for everyone” routes. An online topo is available here: https://www.climbromania.com/Masiv.aspx?ID_Masiv=147
Somewhere in the West of Transylvania, not far from the city of Oradea there is a crag where a Tendon crew opened a couple of routes (8a and 7a) in 2018 andsupported the opening of a dozen new ones just four years before. And where the opening sequences of the “Bolt trip to Romania” movie, unjustly ignored by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences (Oscars) take place: https://youtu.be/0P7-JPQYbmk