11 October 2014

Piatra Craiului Marathon 2014

Back in October 2012, one year after I begin to be serious about trail running, Piatra Craiului Marathon (MPC) was my first ever marathon.  Last year I participated again and got a very good time. This year however, I decided not to participate. Since May I did nor attend any running race. I actually ran more than the previous year, but I did not feel the urge to participate in any races. It is a sort of downshifting... I try to run slower and without any constraints so I can enjoy more the mountains and the nature also avoiding to put too much stress on my heart and joints.

Although I did not participate in the race, I visited Zarnesti on the day of the race. Together with my wife we were at the start area around 9AM, the start time. As the start was delayed and the weather was quite cold, we decided to move on, so we walked a few kilometers along the race route before the runners overtook us. We took photos of all participants. I hope I did not miss anybody. Well , the photos are nor artistic, but they help documenting this great race.

Here are a few of Photos. The whole album can be found here: MPC 2014.
Sheep on the streets of Zarnesti... Good that the race did not meet them...
First runner! This guy finished first wit a new record of the race: 3:42:46. Amazing time for a technical mountain race with over 2000m of accumulated  climbs
The elite runners
The tail of the race
After taking photos of the runners, we followed the race route up to the picturesque Magura Village. From there we walked down to Moieciu Village, taking beautiful photos along the way. The first autumn colors add color to the landscape. Here are a few photos. The complete album can be found here: First signs of Autumn at  Magura

The trail to Magura Village
Pastoral Landscape in Magura
Birch Trees
Autumn flowers
The road to Moieciu
Moieciu Village

21 September 2014

Piatra Craiului Ridge

One of the top of the list trail running day tours planned for this year was Piatra Craiului Ridge; especially after the failed attempt of last year. However the very unstable weather of the 2014 summer made it hard to find a good day for this trip. Doing the ridge in safe conditions requires dry and stable weather. Then I also had to find someone with comparable fitness level as it is not a good idea to do the technical ridge hike alone.

The higher section of the main ridge of Piatra Craiului measures about 10km in length, and most of it is above 2000m altitude. It is one of the most spectacular routes in the Carpathian Mountains. It is a technical hike, recommended only on good weather and for people in good physical shape and without fear of heights. In fact only about 10% of the route is suitable for running. On many sections of the ridge route one has to also use the hands when hiking up and down on the rocky sections.

On Saturday the 13th of September, most trail runners in the area were participating in the Ciucas Trail Marathon races. After doing the half-marathon in 2012 and the marathon last year, I have decided not to participate this year. I was however hiking on Ciucas mountains where I met and encouraged the racers in the 105km ultra-marathon race. The weather was very good for trail running. Dry, cool and sunny, a bit windy though. For the Sunday, the 14th of September the weather forecast looked even better. Same stable weather but less windy. So I knew that it might be a good day for a hike on Piatra Craiului Ridge.

I was wondering if I was the only trail runner in the area who did not participate at Ciucas marathon, so in good shape for a hike along Piatra Craiului Ridge next day... Around 19:00 I phoned Mihai, a passionate trail runner that also lives in Schei district of Brasov where I live. I first met him this spring at the Brasov Marathon, where we ran together the last kilometer of the race. He told me on the phone that he tried to call me, but realized that he might have lost my number... His idea... Piatra Craiului! We quickly agreed on all the details and next morning at 6:30 we left Brasov.

As expected, the day turned out to but to be perfect for hiking along the ridge. The weather was sunny, stable and not to warm. The constant but quite weak wind kept us cool and dry. We progressed very well along the ridge, making short breaks to admire the landscape, take photos, eat, and talk to other hikers. It took us 4h30 from Turnu Peak to Funduri Saddle; a good time. I am sure that we could have done it faster, but we were not competing in a race and also wanted to enjoy the amazing landscape.

Here is the GPS recorded track of the day:

Here are some of the photos I took along the ridge, in chronological order:
On Turnu Peak. The main ridge starts here!
Looking East.
And west, towards Fagarasi Mountains
1000m below, Plaiul Foii
On the north section of Piatra Craiului Ridge
Looking down on the "gentler" east side of the ridge
And on the rocky and steep west side of the ridge
"I was here" photo on La Om peak (2238m), the highest point of Piatra Craiului.
Looking north towards La Om peak (2238m), the highest point of Piatra Craiului.
The spectacular south section of Piatra Craiului Ridge
Cliff edge...
Same cliff edge... with a wider angle of view
Looking east towards Brasov Depression
Looking east from the south ridge
On the south ridge
The beautiful descent from Funduri Saddle - This is the only gentle trail to Piatra Craiului ridge!
On the return way, Looking up to Piatra Craiului Ridge