“Brutal und Total” – five mountains in seven days

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My German language skills are quite limited, especially if the Austrian accent is also involved. However, sometimes translation is simply not needed. “Brutal” and “total” were the most used words by our four guests during our seven-day mountain biking tour across the Carpathians.

Day one – warm up in Ciucaș Mountains

Due to a very late (early?) flight, the first day was more of a warm-up mission. We started in Cheia and went on some nice trails around Cabana Muntele Roșu. We were lucky enough to catch the rain in front of Muntele Roșu hut, so we drank lots of teas and coffees while inspecting the downpour through the windows. Eventually the rain stopped, we hit the trails and the mud festival started. Sliding, slipping, swimming, you name it. Fun non-the-less. Once there’s no dry piece of clothes left on you (and that happens pretty quickly), you really start to enjoy the whole situation. A water hose at the accommodation to wash down the mud from both bike and biker at the end of the day is a must, and so is the extra-long hot shower. A nice dinner and a beer provided by our friendly hosts at La Rosa hotel capped a wet but good start of the program.

Day two – Ciucaș Mountain round tour

A local vintage WW bus took us up to Bratocea pass, in a morning that started with sunshine and continued with an unexpected shower. Then it looked promising once we started the climb towards Colții Bratocei, the good weather staying with us all along the nice trail towards Ciucaș peak, and then down towards Ciucaș Mountain Hut.

The first technical related problems started to emerge, and it was not bike related. One of the curtains of my Canon 5D mk2 started to misfire, leaving “artistic” black borders at the edge of the frames. The bad news was that I had to carry the pretty heavy thing for the rest of the day. Good news was that the backpack was getting easier for the remaining six days (albeit with a compromise in photo quality, as you can see in the photo gallery further down).

The rain started after we left Ciucaș Mountain Hut, going around Zăganu. This time we were assaulted by water coming from all directions, making the descent to Boncuța pass seem more like a skiing experience. We survived the adventure with a muddy smile on our faces, but things got uglier and messier when a piece of wood totally compromised one rear derailleur. Manfred had to do the rest of the trail on foot, luckily we weren’t too far away from our destination and the very slippery surface was keeping all of us at a reasonable speed anyway.

After a conference-call with a bike service the broken bike was declared officially out of order for the rest of the tour. We were able to get a rental bike in place for the next morning (thanks to our friends at Probike Brașov), so Manfred was able to continue the journey.

Day three – From Bratocea to Azuga

The same vintage WW bus took us up to Bratocea pass and this time we headed on the opposite direction, westwards towards Doftana Valley and then over Baiului Mountains, to Azuga. A day of vast landscapes, good weather (although rain showers were visible all around us), and good trails. A good number of sheep and dog encounters, the usual barking, the usual shouting. I had to throw a rock at one particularly annoying dog, and surprisingly I hit the target. The poor dog was already running away when the rock was flying towards him, he didn’t see it coming. No big harm done, I kind of felt sorry for the bastard, but sometimes you just need to show them who’s the boss.

The ascent from Doftana Valley towards Baiului, on Plaiul Orjogoaia is one of the toughest ever. I would say every meter is doable on bike, it’s just too bloody long. If you are after the KOM of KOM’s’, there’s your pick. But when you reach the alpine pastures, the effort is totally paid back. Going down to Azuga, on Sorica ridge, is the icing on the cake, the glorious ending to a brutal, total, epic day.

Day four – Bucegi East side, Azuga to Bușteni

We spent our first three days an almost deserted trails – I don’t think we’ve met more than ten trekkers and the only biker we saw was at La Rosa hotel in Cheia. He was there for an upcoming mtb enduro event. In contrast, the trails around Predeal and Bușteni were roaming with trekkers (but not mountain bikers). The level of understanding between fellow users of the trails was really impressive: a situation our Austrian friends aren’t used with, back home they have big problems convincing the big trekking community that mountain bikers should be allowed to use at least some of the available trails.

We rode some trails on Clăbucet Mountain near Predeal, than we moved on to Fetifoiu Ridge before the big climb of the day up to Poiana Izvoarelor Mountain Hut. From here to Bușteni the trail is pure magic. Smooth flowing sections alternating with rough, rocky descents, a few push/carry bike segments to gain more altitude before launching into another super descent.

Day five – up on Bucegi Plateau, 2000+

We decided to arrange a bus transfer in the morning up to Piatra Arsă high up on Bucegi Plateau, avoiding the mighty queue at the Bușteni – Babele cable car. It was supposed to be mayhem, being a Sunday morning, and the wind that kept the cable car at bay in the previous days was still something of a bother.

After a nice breakfast at Piatra Arsă, we hit the trail towards Babele but we were shortly stopped by another technical problem. A bouncing chain went over the cassette onto the spokes and killed the derailleur in the process. The day was about to be cut short for Simon, from Babele he went down towards Peștera/Padina, spending the rest of the day in the friendly atmosphere of the Padina Mountain Rescue facility. We arranged another bike to be brought for rescue for the remaining days, than continued our explorations on Bucegi High Plateau. The trail that leads to Omu Peak was a feast, the trekkers friendly, you could hear all the time “Hello”, “Good Job”, “Bravo”. The remaining of the trail towards Strunga Pass is less popular, we met just a few trekkers and only one group of bikers.

There were, sadly, some motor bikers. They are not allowed to come up in the National Park with their engines. These guys will not hear a friendly word coming from my part too soon.

Day six – Strunga Pass descent, into the Bran Country

With the weekend behind us, and wanting to offer Simon a taste of what he missed in the previous day, we started the day with a cable car run up to Babele and then a nice descent to Peștera Hotel, about 700m altitude drop on tricky, technical trails starting on alpine pastures and ending in the pine woods.

The climb to Strunga Pass was cut in half by a visit to a sheep farm, seeing how the cheese is done, talking with the guys, playing with the dogs. The descent on the other side of the mountain is truly one of the highlights of what Romania has to offer mountain biking wise. It’s pretty well documented here, on this website, with photos and videos, google it and you’ll have tons of raging reports, records and testimonials. There are some flavors to it, some prefer the steep, downhilly descent to Moeciu. We prefer the longer, more all-mountain, cross-country version that keeps you up on the crest all the way down to the main road. Sometimes, as was the case with our four valiant Austrian mountain bikers, we include a loop above and through Moeciu de Sus village, before heading west towards Șimon village.

Day seven – Piatra Craiului National Park

The last day was dedicated to the unique landscape of the Piatra Craiului National Park and the scenic villages of Măgura and Peștera. The uphill through the Zărnești Gorges offers both impressive sights and natural air conditioning, more than welcome after the rain and mud turned into a warm, summer weather. We thoroughly enjoyed some cool air while sweating our way up towards La Table, and Joaca, then up to Curmătura Hut.

The descent to Botorog is another must for anyone coming for a mountain biking trip in Brașov/Bran area. It’s shorter and steeper than Strunga Pass descent, with rock gardens, U-turns, roots, the full menu. Beware of trekkers, though, it’s quite a popular trail for pedestrians, especially during the summer holiday months.

The last day was dedicated to a visit to Bran Castle (“nice, but not as nice as mountain biking”) and the transfer to the airport. Manfred, Dominik, Fabian and Simon are now back home, close to their home trails near Lake Constance, spreading (we hope) good words around about their mountain biking experience in Romania.



Well done Horia!!!
Kind regards from Karin
(Fred’s girlfriend:-)


Hi Horia,
really well done –
fantastic photos and also your text is absolut great .
This is a invitation – come and see the trails here – visit me in Austria
A big hug – Fred (Manfred Wagner)

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