It was February. It was a depressing winter. With the snow cover they had, the nearby Bucegi Mountains were more suitable to pretty much anything beside skiing. So we packed our stuff and went to the snow Mecca of Romania.
Balea is THE place for off piste snow sports around here. Coming from Bucharest, you’d have a 4 hour drive to km 104 of the Transfagarasan. From there the road is officially closed. But if you’re OK with driving on ice, then you can push it another 4 km, to Cabana Capra. The guys there keep the road snow free – closed roads are bad for business.
We stopped just before Cabana Capra and put our skis on. Climbed the valley up the Noob Route – it’s when you reach the Southern Salvamont Chalet on the Transfagarasan and then you’re left with going on the road up to the tunnel, on terrain that is not very friendly and in some conditions even dangerous. Best approach would have been keeping the valley floor for as much as possible.
We stayed at Refugiul Balea Tunel. It’s not actually a shelter, more like a chalet. You can even order food, as long as you talk to the guy there in advance and let him know, so he can cook you something. It’s a great place to stay, not as fancy as the chalets on the north side, but a lot cheaper and with a great atmosphere.
We crossed the tunnel and got to Balea Lake. There was quite a crowd of off piste skiers and snowboarders there. With the warmer weather, there was a risk of avalanches. Also, the snow on sun-beaten slopes was pretty difficult to ski. So we kept to the slope above the tunnel, with the snow there already tested by others and in the shade.
There was going to be a full moon tonight. After eating at Paltinu Chalet, we went back out around dusk. The first descent was in complete darkness. That’s hardly an inconvenience with a quality headlamp. For the second descent, the moon was high enough to light our way. It wasn’t very strong yet and we still relied on headlamps.
On the second day we were back to the car by lunch time. The snow didn’t look very stable on the south side and we weren’t going to risk it. Climbed up to the ridge beforehand just to have a proper goodbye.