The Bucegi Mountains, almost free of snow this summer, keep on tempting hikers with their green heights, where the air is fresh and everything tastes better – from simple fruit tea to sausages with sauerkraut (if you’re lucky and they serve it in your hut).
By Julia Leescu
Yet it’s not always the places in the mountains with hot food and easy access that we keep on remembering. Contrary to that, the harder to access is your potential place to sleep, the more rewarding can be your whole hiking adventure.
So where to spend your night in Bucegi? If you or your group is looking for something slightly different from Cabana Babele or the comfort of newly renovated Hotel-Cabana Piatra Arsă (https://www.facebook.com/HotelCabanaPiatraArsa/), keep reading on.
The northern side of Bucegi is less explored and wilder. It does not have many big huts or “cabanas”, but rather simpler refuges nestled amongst dwarf pines, blueberry bushes, rocks and bears. Yes, many brown bears call these mountains sweet home and we’ll get back to that topic later.
Northern side of Bucegi attracts more passionate hikers rather than just tourists enjoying going up to the Sphinx from Busteni with the cable. My two favourite refuges of this side are:
1. “Refugiul Șaua Bătrâna” (“Old Saddle Refuge”) is a red and white dome shelter that sits just on a “saddle” that offers one of the most unforgettable views from Bucegi mountains to Moeciu de Sus, Bran and all the neighbouring villages. Shelves to sleep on are the only thing you’ll find inside: this shelter comfortably sleeps 20, but if more tourists all gather here for the night, everyone will just make space for everyone else. It’s also really windy on top, so make sure you are completely prepared for your stay here: have enough water and food with you, take a really comfortable sleeping bag and your warm windproof clothes.
When our group of 10 reached Șaua Bătrâna in the evening, we realized there was not enough water to cook dinner on the camp stove. Luckily there was another group from Israel staying at the same refuge and lacking food, so we traded the extra 10 kilos of mushrooms we gathered in the nearby bushes for some drinking water. Win-win. Please prepare better than us for your trips!
The easiest way to reach “Old Saddle Refuge” is to follow a part of trail # 28 of “Munţii Noştri” app: http://muntiinostri.ro/en/traseu/01mn-traseul-nr-28-moieciu-de-sus-saua-batrana-hotel-pestera-2/ just until you reach Șaua Bătrâna and the refuge with the same name.
2. Right near “Refugiul Șaua Bătrâna” there is the “Șaua Strunga” shelter, recently renovated in 2016:
My friends have recently enjoyed staying there overnight with the reported conditions like electricity form solar panel and really cosy space that can fit from 7 to14 people. It even had cleaning tools to maintain the shelter in the clean state, which they, of course, did. Someone left the cookies and candles in the hut and friends continued the good karma by leaving their extra pairs of dry socks for the next people to come.
To reach “Șaua Strunga” refuge following the picturesque route, follow the trail #29 of “Munţii Noştri” app: http://muntii-nostri.ro/traseu/01mn-traseul-nr-29-moieciu-de-sus-saua-strunga-cabana-padina/
On the different side of Bucegi, there is one famous place that you shouldn’t miss.
1. “Cabana Omu” needs no introduction and I am still going to include it here, because nothing beats one of the oldest huts situated on the highest top of Bucegi Mountains. At the elevation of 2505 m high above sea level, this place offers incredible views and some food and drinks on top of that. Accommodation is done in a big common dormitory with a fireplace and in a few smaller rooms. Prices are between 30 lei and 45 lei for a person, which does not include food or drinks. The hut does not have its source of water, so the only liquid you can get there will be in a form of tea or coffee, so take plenty of drinking water for everyone form your group.
It makes sense to reserve places in advance at Omu hut, especially if you are going there on weekends. The information about reservations and prices, albeit not always updated, can be found here:
http://www.carpati.org/ghid_montan/muntii/bucegi/cabana_omu-37/. Get a Romanian to help you :)!
There are many ways to reach the Omu hut and my favourite is actually this medium difficult and spectacular trail #21 starting from Bran: http://muntii-nostri.ro/traseu/01mn-traseul-nr-21-bran-saua-tiganesti-cabana-omu/
It might take a bit longer than indicated 9 hours, so plan accordingly. Starting your journey from Bran at around 6 or 7 in the morning helps you to make sure you’re at Omu hut before it gets dark.
Last but not least, humans share beautiful Bucegi with bears, and, in order to minimize the possibility of awkward encounters, behave reasonably safe: follow only the marked paths, make some noise while walking on your path from time to time, to keep our friends with four paws informed that there is a group of humans walking.
And, the most important thing, if you decide to camp in Bucegi, please consult with mountain rescue service about updated list of places specially designated for this purpose: http://www.salvamontbucegi.ro/
Spending a night in the mountains can become one of the best experiences of Summer 2018, you still have half of this summer to make it!
Photography by Anna Petrauskiene