A new tourist path will attract the mountain and adrenaline lovers in Neamt County. At the entrance to Bicaz Gorges from Piatra Neamt, the longest and most exciting Via Ferrata route in Romania was opened last week.
With the main route of 600 meters and a total distance of one kilometer, Via Ferrata Astragalus combines different levels of difficulty and is an enchantment for every tourist with or without experience on this kind of mountain trail.
What’s a via ferrata?
Via ferrata is a climbing mountain trail. The concept emerged in the First World War, when the Italians fought with the Austrians in the Alps. The climbers assembled girders and iron ropes to make the passage accessible for the soldiers to pass. The Italian „via ferrata” means iron road.
After the war, the trails remained in the mountains and during the 60’s, tourists discovered it. The most famous ones are trails in the Dolomites.
The via ferrata’s offer the opportunity to combine two sports: trekking and mountaineering. In Romania, this sport is at the beginning, so there are only eight such trails.
The idea of Constantin Lăcătuşu
Constantin Lăcătuşu is the first Romanian to reach Everest. Today, he is the president of the Romanian Mountain Club and the custodian of the Natural Reserve Șugăului Gorges-Munticelu – the area where Via Ferrata Astragalus is. He came with the idea of building a climbing route according to the pattern and standards of those in Austria and Germany. The company HeidelbergCement Romania sponsored the route for all the necessary materials with the new trail will help promote the region and outdoor sports, as well as knowledge and conservation of biodiversity. They invested 20,000 euro.
Then Constantin Lăcătuşu and his team (a group of friends) worked for this via ferrata for six months. Cables and steel fasteners were hauled up to the top of the massive.
Where is it?
I came from Piatra Neamț to the Bicaz Gorges. At the entrance to the Gorges, you will see a “Via Ferrata Astragalus” indicator on the right and then the panel.
From the main road to the Ecolog Chalet – the starting point of Via Ferrata Astragalus – we climbed about 200 meters. At the chalet, we leared the safety rules and we took the equipment. From here, take the ham and helmet, you do not have to have your equipment. The trail goes up about another 200 meters to the point where the fun starts. At this point, you have a panel with all the information you need for everyone’s safety.
I went to test it!
Although I have never made a via ferrata in my life, I was impatient to test the new route. I started to escalate the first wall, put my hooks to the steel cable in the rock. The route started beautifully and smoothly, even if I was on a rock edge, and the bottom cars seemed as small as some ants. The forest opened and we already had a gorgeous view over the Bicaz Gorge – a view that you must stop to admire.
Right after the corner of the wall, a provocative climbing began. I had to take great care when changing the cable glands, to see where I’m going, where I should put my hand … “Wow, that is a difficult part,” I said in my mind. After the next boulder, I had a harder part. And after this, a perfectly vertical ascension began, where I did not have enough places to put my feet or my hand to climb. So, I pulled on the cable with my hands. It was harder to change the hooks because all my stability was in one hand. Although I often saw the route and I can immediately create it in my mind, I had only one part of three meters where was so hard to decide how to go up. But I managed to get up then on a ridge of all beauty. Left – racket, right – gap. Wonderful! Selfie time!
A little further ahead, the road bifurcated, as the ascent continued on the top, and on the left – the beginner and children’s route. I went down simple and light.
I’m sorry I did not have enough time and the physical condition to make the second wall to the Big Tower (the top of the mountain). I was excited about what I had done so far and I demonstrated that the route can be done with no experience. You just have to have some will and … no fear of heights. Besides some scratches, you will be safe even if you slide.
Who can climb Via Ferrata Astragalus?
As the road is presented as accessible to the general public, I expected it to be smoother. Well, I got acquainted with nature. For the uninitiated like me, the route was somehow difficult, but extremely challenging and delightful due to the area where it is.
A unique name
Via Ferrata Astragalus received this name because of the protected plant Astragalus pseudopurpureus. The plant was first identified here and 95% of the world’s specimens are in the Șugău Gorges. The gorges were declared a natural reserve for the first time in 1971, then became an avifauna reserve, after which they were included in the Natura 2000 site.
About Via Ferrata Astragalus:
- it has a modern gripping system
- the equipment you receive is modern, with a protection in the event of a fall. The equipment is: harness, protective helmet – mandatory – and optionally gloves.
- the rope harness holds up to 120 kg
- the length of the main route is 600 meters – the level difference is 170 meters. The Great Tower has 900 meters altitude
- the trail closes in the winter
- the price is 10 lei for adults (2.5 euro), 5 lei for children (1.2 euro)
- Children under the age of 7 are not allowed on the route.
Tips for Uninitiated
- Do not climb on rain or when there is a risk of thunderstorms, the cable is pure iron!
- Give up gloves if you feel uncomfortable
- Take a bottle of water with you
- keep away from the ones in front of you, otherwise you risk a leg in your head
- Look up carefully, the little stones and dust fall when you have someone upper than you
- Be safe absolutely all the time, even the lean portions!
- If you do not have a bit of experience, take a mountain guide with you. The route is not impossible even if you have no experience. You only things you need is will, love for mountain and a decent physical condition.
- If you start the route, you can not quit!
This article was published in Romanian on corinamatei.ro