04 August 2014

Run of the year!

After so many rainy days and weekends that forced me to stay close to home, the weather forecast for Sunday was looking very good, although it was a bit hard to believe it after the stormy Saturday afternoon. A good opportunity to venture further on higher mountains than Brasov's home mountain Postavarul.

On Saturday afternoon I phoned all of my runner friends trying to organize a run in the mountains. To my disappointment nobody was available. So it looked like I will have yet another run on the usual paths on Postavarul mountain where I feel comfortable to run alone.

On Sunday morning I reluctantly prepared myself for my usual running tour to Postavarul. Lightweight equipment: a pair of good train running shoes, shorts, t-shirt, my belt with the 600ml bottle, my running cap, my phone and some cache. I quickly eat my usual portion of oats, then hit the trail that starts just behind our house.

Just five minutes later into the run, up the hill I get a first glimpse of the mighty Bucegi Mountains. I see the beautiful and massive rocky peaks shining in the distance under a perfect blue sky. Quickly an idea takes shape... well, it is a beautiful day, with stable and warm weather and I feel full of energy... So why not! Let's run all the way to the Bucegi Mountains and if the weather is good maybe I can reach the top! Actually it is not that far away... so let's do it!

After running and hiking for 36 kilometers, and 2400 meters of elevation gain, 5h30 after leaving my home I reached the Top of Bucegi: the famous Omu peak at 2505m! What a great feeling! I did all this on my own!

Here is the GPS track that I recorded of yesterday:

And a few photos taken with a cheap phone camera.

On the beautiful Malaiesti Valley, climbing towards the Summit of Bucegi 
A look back from Bucegi. That mountain in the distance is Postavarul and behind it, my city Brasov. I ran all the way from there!
Last ascent towards Omu Peak. The meteorological station and the hut are visible 
Now a shot note of caution...
Do not attempt a run like this alone, unless you are well prepared both physically and mentally. Running alone for long distances on high mountains is quite different from running in the park!
In my case, I am well trained for long trail runs in the mountains since I train on hills and mountains almost daily. Very importantly, I also know the area quite well. I can visualize it 3D in my mind, I know the distances and the elevations. In case the weather turned bad I knew my route options. I also did this run on a Sunday with beautiful weather and ran along popular paths where I knew that I will meet many other hikers. So although I ran alone, I wasn't alone in the mountain!

19 July 2014

Top of Madeira

During June I visited Madeira Island for one week. I really enjoyed this place! Great scenery and nature, impressive mountains and nice not too hot weather. Of course, I took my running equipment with me and didn't wait for too long before heading to the mountains.

Here is the impressive mountain route I ran on my second day on the island. The route was suggested to me by a guide in a bike rental shop. Indeed, it is a very nice route, passing through really impressive mountain landscape, reaching the highest peak on the Island, Pico Ruivo (1,862m).

The route has two sections. Fist section starts from Encumeada mountain pass at about 1000m altitude and ends on Pico Ruivo. It starts ascending through the lush forest then follows an impressive mountain ridge. As it was quite early in the morning I did not meet anybody on this section of the trail.  I could tell that not too many hike along this route, because there were plenty of tasty wild strawberries along the trail.
Stairs on the way above Encumeada
Above the clouds
On the way from Encumeada to Pico Ruivo
On the ascent to Pico Ruivo
On Pico Ruivo
The second half of the route is the most popular hiking route in Madeira. It links Pico Ruivo (the highest) and  Pico do Arieiro (1818m), the 3rd highest on the island. The route is impressive, carved on the almost vertical sides of the mountains and has many sections with stairs. The route passes several times through tunnels beneath the mountain ridge.
I was lucky with the weather as the clouds were low during my hike. I started in thick fog, but soon I was above the clouds in the sunshine. The subtropical mountain sun can be quite powerful., but luckily, long stretches of the trail were protected by the shadow of the mountain peaks.
On the spectacular trail from Pico Ruivo to Pico do Arieiro
Tunnel shortcut...
Steep Stairs
With Pico do Arieiro in sight 
From Pico do Arieiro,, there are several options to get down to Funchal, the main city on the island. The peak can also be reached by car on a modern paved road. I ran all the way down the mountain on steep roads., often, as most roads in Madeira, too steep for running. I got lost in the thick fog that was covering the lower slopes of the mountain so I cut out this section from the track above. Nevertheless, all downhill roads lead to Funchal...

This was my mountain running adventure in Madeira. I highly recommend this route to experienced trail runners and hikers. However, before leaving check the weather report and check that the trails are open. Also make sure that you have good equipment, especially good running/hiking shoes and a rain coat, as the weather can change quickly on the mountains.

Down in Funchal I ran almost daily on the beautiful seaside promenade from Funchal Lido to Câmara De Lobos village. A great route for morning runs. One day I ventured further and ran all the way up to Cabo Girão, an impressive almost vertical cliff that rises 600m above the sea. The way up was hard, but the downhill on the extreme steep streets of Madeira was even harder!

The complete album of my Madeira photos can be found here.