Winter on Moldoveanu Peak: Snow, Starry Sky, The Joy of Ascent and Garmin Technology

#hiking #Făgărași #Moldoveanu #VerticalStories #Garmin #technology

At Transylvania Mountain Festival we rejoice for each mountain story shared by the people close to us. This year, we had the joy to meet Rodica Voicu, a supporter of the TMF initiatives, who has been following us from the distance, online and has won the nice Garmin Instinct Solar, orchid color, offered by Garmin Romania at the festival raffle! Being a scientist and mathematician, passionate by the mountains and mountaineering, Rodica thought to test her new gadget during a winter ascent on Moldoveanu peak (2544 m), in the Carpathians, the highest peak in Romania.

Rodica Voicu, in Făgăraș traversing the Viștea – Moldoveanu ridge / photo: Mihai David

Here we have a few thoughts from Rodica Voicu while learning the good news about the raffle: “I have tried to combine as much as possible studying with outdoor activities. I am a science researcher, a mathematician and I climb mountains for more than 15 years – most of the time in my country, but I have also managed a few ascents abroad (Mont Blanc, Grossglockner, Grand Paradiso, Matterhorn, Ararat). Even if I am a mountaineer at core, I highly appreciate any form of spending time in Nature. Therefore, I cannot wait to test the Garmin Instinct Solar smartwatch during my next outdoor activities and tours. For me, it will be very important to measure oxygenation … mainly for the high altitude ascents! ”

Rodica Voicu on Studlgrat route, close to the Grossglockner peak / photo: W. C. Schuster

WINTER ASCENT ON MOLDOVEANU PEAK

We enjoyed so much the way Rodica describes and writes her experience, that we decided to share with you this winter vertical story, in the way she lived it and felt it.

It was more than a week that we have planned to go by car with 3-4 friends, du to the favorable weather conditions. Thursday evening, our plans are ruined: the friend with the car cannot make it… Friday – I feel lost! However, by the evening I set up a new plan and look for transportation up to Ucea. There was a direct train connection from Bucharest, at 9:55 arriving in Ucea at 14:30… a little bit late, but I cannot find another option. Being on the same stream of thoughts with Mihai, we stick to this plan…we take our tents and camp as close as possible to Viștea Mare, in the Viștea valley. All kind of scary thoughts invade my mind: wolves, bears and foxes…

My instinct tell me to go for it. Mr.l Moldoveanu (the mountain peak) certainly awaits us in perfect conditions: cold and sun, clear skies and no wind! Just perfect to  bivuac under million stars. We are now only 2 persons out of 4, decided to climb. 😊.

Saturday morning, we meet at the train station. Mihai has climbed this route last year, but with less snow. … He informs me about the slope up to  Viștea de sus reffuge. It cannot be as hard as on the Devils Gorge (Strunga dracului) I tell my self (I was there 2 times in winter).

I have plenty of time in the morning… I check my backpack. Harness, ice axes, a stick, helmet, snow protection, crampons, rope, sleeping bag, a thick down jacket for fluffy nights in the tent, food, a mattress, the primus…

Rodica Voicu on the first section of the route / photo: Mihai David

At 14:30 we get down in Ucea. At 15:00 we leave the barrier. I forget to start my watch, but in 10 minutes I set it on Mountain Hiking mode. The route starts with a very loose mud, caused by the transport of wood materials in the area. There is no trace of snow yet. After one hour, some ice and snow appear. In 2h20 we reach Viștea de jos. It gets dark. We take some water from the natural source and continue thinking to cover as much as possible from the Viștea Valley. The snow becomes more abundant, sometimes fluffy, sometimes stable, glittering in the light of our head lamps… Simply dreamy! Soon we get out of the woods and the moonlight reveals the mountain ridges gurading the valley. After 4h40 of heavy walk we decide to camp near a bigger rock. It is about 19:40. At this moment, the slope appears to change its inclination.

Night camping, at altitude / photo: Mihai David

 I have climbed already 1035m says the smartwatch. My small tent, must be barried well in the snow, even if no wind is announced, for it is not quite a winter tent. It seems quite warm outside. We grab something to eat, make a tea and then hide the food a little bit far from the tent, in the snow, hoping to find it when we come down the next day.  : )))

The landscape is amazing, the snow is glittering like in the fairytales, the Milky Way shows off, and soon the Moon will disappear (I even know exactly when this will happen thanks to my gorgeous Garmin watch 😊) and the dark of the night will creep in. We absolutely have to do some night photos … until 23:00 o’clock! Eventually, we withdraw in the tents and I check my oxygenation level with the smartwatch. 95%, that is Ok.

Night view towards the valley and city of  Victoria / photo: Mihai David

By the early morning, it seems that the frost set in. We wake up at 5:30 a.m. but start with difficulty due to a problem with the headlamp battery, plus all the procedures of setting right our winter alpine equipment… Therefore we manage to leave by 6:00 a.m.. Around 7:00 I see some tiny headlamp lights under the small opening. Some friends, who were luckier than us, arrived Saturday morning, coming from Bâlea, and have climbed up to Viștea de sus. We were hoping to reach them and make ths summit together. I knew the sun rises at 7:57 and we would have loved to catch it on the ridge, but the climb lasted for 2h. No stress, we have all day!

Rodica Voicu climbing towards the Viștei gate / photo: Mihai David

The slope is quite steep and the snow is big but stable. On the ridge towards Viștea Mare we meet the lucky group who have witnessed the sunrise on the crests. One hour later we reach Viștea Mare peak. The smartwatch show 680m climbed.

We dig a little bit in the snow after the pillar with the markings. The thrilling part with the crack between Viștea and Moldoveanu begins. Once we have reached the trapeze everything around us is like in a dream. We take so many pictures!

A few photogenic corners show up on the right. In the crack we use ropes and a few rocks to practice how to secure one each other.

Rodica Voicu / photo: Mihai David

Rodica Voicu on Viștea Mare peak (2527 m) / phto: Mihai David

After one more hour, that is 4h since we left the tents and 892m of altitude gain we reach Moldoveanu peak. 😊, It is 11:00 a.m. We thank the mountain for welcoming us and continue our photo session with chocolate and some tea. 

Rodica Voicu – last steps to Molodveanu peak  / photo: Mihai David

Wow! You can see the entire Romania around us! 😊 ..Dara peak, Viștea Mare peak, Lespezi peak, Călțun peak, Negoiu peak – all there, surrounding us. The sun shines bright and my smartwatch enjoys each beam of ray, at maximum intensity, for Instinct Solar charges in the sun!

Rodica Voicu on Moldoveanu peak / photo: Mihai David

View above the Făgăraș Mountains / photo: Rodica Voicu

With Garmin Instinct Solar on Moldoveanu peak / photo: Rodica Voicu

The descent called for our attention on the part from Viștea Mare to Viștea refuge because the sun was shining straight upon that slope and the snow was sticking to our crampons. It was expected. At 14:00 we reach our tents and gather our stuff. The food is there in the snow, the tomatoes did not freeze, the crampons however are difficult to take off. Everything is frozen and full of concrete like ice.  

A panoramic view above Romania’s ridges / photo: Rodica Voicu

We go down. At Viștea de jos refuge I pour some water over the crampons and I manage to get them off. We reach the barrier at 17:00, where Adriana is waiting for us with a car. When I remember, I stop the watch that has recorded 10h19 of activity, 921 m up,  1963 m down, maximum pulse of 166  😊. At 22:00 we are in Bucharest, and by 23:00, we are all home, according to the law (for we are during pandemic times… uh!) and having a well deserved mug of warm wine! 😊

Graficele drumeției înregistrate cu Garmin Instinct Solar  / autor: Rodica Voicu

As for the TMF2020 Online Film Show, a solution adapted to the covid19 context, Rodica sent us a very constructive and detailed feedback:

“The films I have most and subjectively liked and appreciated are:

  • THE ROAD AHEAD, Sweden, 2020 for the honesty of thoughts and lived experiences during the chosen route; a continuous discovery of self and an ongoing search of motivation and solutions to reach the end objective.
  • THAT’S WILD, US, 2020 for it is an educational film for teenagers, an adventure as a life lesson, for ot depicts ones limitations and how they are overcome; for I also recall the camps I have attended in my teen years and I still think that they have contributed in a decisive manner to my development as a human being, thanks to the direct contact with Nature and reality.  
  • PARADICE is another film that I have enjoyed for the idea of exploring ice climbing.
  • Building Bridges, Germany, 2020, was a really original idea to put in practice😊.
  • The film “La cota 10000” impressed me with the way it presents its subject and the way it was filmed and as an initiative as well. It recalled the guys from “From zero to Moldoveanu” who made the crazy race of climbing the peak,12 times in 23 hours 😊. The cumulated altitude gain equals that of Everest (8.848m).

To sum it up: I wish to see many more Romanian initiatives in the future! I also wish for activities without masks. And I also think the access to online films during the festival will be something to keep, so that more people can join the show from the distance.  

See you soon and in good health in 2021!”

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Thank you Rodica, for the message and the curiosity of testing the new gadget in terrain.  Each review counts both for the development of  the smartwatch apps and functions and for the building of an interesting festival program at Transylvania Mountain Festival!

Cluj-Napoca, 30.12.2020