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Munții Carpați - The Ciucaș Mountains

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The Ciucaș Mountains

The Carpathians, issue no. 23
English version by Bogdan Kory Mercea (Cluj-Napoca)


        This fascinating realm covering the Carpathians Bend is dotted with landforms of exceptional beauty, fashioned in limestone and conglomerates. Rising up to a height of 1, 954 m and extended over 200 sq. km only, these mountains present an extraordinary rich and varied relief, rarely encountered in the Romanian Carphathians.
        The upper part reveals a unique association of towers, needles, columns, mushrooms, bare rocks and sphinx-like forms. The crests and steeps bordering them make it appear less accessible. The Ciucaș Mountains are like a water tower for rivers such as the Teleajen (named Pa++ra++ul (Brook) Berii at the source), the Telejenel, the Buzău and the Ta++rlung.
        The Ciucaș Massif consists of two main ridges: Bratocea (N-E, S-W), with its two peaks Ciucaș (1, 954 m) and Bratocea (1, 827 m); Zăganu (N-W, S-E), dominated by Gropșoare (1, 833 m) and Zăganu (1, 817 m) peaks. Besides them, the Ciucaș area also include the Tesla (1, 613 m) and Dungu Massifs, both situated in the north-western part.
        The Ciucaș relief is modelled in a 700-m thick pile of conglomerates, the so-called Zăganu conglomerates, that appear at 1, 300-1, 350 m altitude. It consists of crystalline schists (ocular gneiss, granite gneiss, micaschists, sericite-chlorite schists and quartzites), sandstones and limestones. All these gravels and rounded blocs are embedded in a limestone-sandstone matrix.
        The conglomerates are subject to strong modelling of cryo-nival processes (freeze-thaw, snow). The big limestone blocs form highly spectacular landforms.
        A residual relief is found especially in the upper part of the summits, but also in some levelled areas, at about 1, 700 m and 1, 350-1, 650 m absolute altitude. The association of the two morphological types engenders a wide diversity of landforms that delights the spectator's eye.
        The 500-700 m thick conglomerates, overlying a marly-sandstone flysch, form a hanging syncline with an extended western flank. Conglomerates absorb the water from precipitations, directing it towards an impervious base, favouring the development of a rich aquifer layer, where-from streams would spring at 1, 200-1, 350 m altitude. Above this altitude there is no permanent water network, valleys are dry and their bottom is covered with a thick layer of sediment. During heavy rainfalls the water filling these valleys, together with blocks of rock, run down the very steep slopes, becoming a real danger. Often enough, the dry small valleys modelled in conglomerates turn into avalanche corridors.
        The large as well as the small structures have led to the development of levelled structure-controlled steeps (cuestas), structure-controlled surfaces, berms, mountain paths etc.
        What makes the relief so spectacular is its behaviour to the modelling agents. The process that generates the development of residual landforms like towers, cliffs, columns, mushrooms etc. is the detachment of rocks from their matrix under the action of moisture, and freeze-and-thaw cycle.
        The major landforms found on the main ridges have been built by the deep fragmentation of the crests by cryo-nival processes (freeze-thaw and snow).
        The residual relief, building up an interesting landscape, may be found also on the slopes. Incipient forms of erosion surround the rocky buttresses and the former structure-controlled cliffs-rills, avalanches, rockfalls, tumbles - and look like rocky spikes or towers. Besides freeze-thaw and rilling, deflation and corrosion govern the morphological evolution of already isolated towers.
        Mushrooms (rocks of characteristic shapes) are the outcome of deflation and corrosion. Sphinx-like forms, for example, have emerged through excessive widening of some fissures and uneven detachment of strata bedding planes. Big blocks of rock loosened by ease of bedding planes and fissures, left bridges behind. The materials generated by disaggregation are falling and accumulating at the bottom of steeps or of isolated stones.
        All landforms are undergoing a relatively rapid evolution, especially at over 1, 500 m (the realm of subalpine meadows and shrubs), due to the rough climate. Freeze-thaw is common 180-200 days /year, the snow coating lasts for 150-180 days, heavy rains are frequently falling and winds are among the strongest in the Eastern Carpathians.

Tourist attractions
        Ciucaș - Bratocea Ridge is the highest elevation in the western part of the massif. Residual landforms occur both around the Ciucaș Peak (sugar loaves, mushrooms, isolated rocks towering cuesta steeps) and in the extremity of the Bratocea Ridge, facing the homonymous pass (the Sphinx, Colții Bratocei - cliffs).
        Tigăile Mari Summit is an unexpected association of towers, poles, needles, mushrooms, sugar loaves, polje etc.
        Gropșoarele - Zăganu Ridge shows an alternation of deep and narrow saddles and sharp peaks bounded by impressive cuesta steeps, especially in its south-eastern part.
        Sta++ncoasă Ridge, Șuvițelor Ridge, Mount Tesla and Mount Dungu present a rough, spectacular relief.
        These and other landforms spread out across the Ciucaș Mountains are usually built in conglomerates. Limestone generates a harmonious, sometimes inaccessible relief. Towers, rocky spikes or gorges may be seen in Mount Tesla, Mount Zăganu, Valea Sta++nii Ridge, Pa++ra++ul Alb Valley and Sta++na Valley.
        In order to enjoy these splendours, the wealth of plant and animal life, one must go hiking only when climate conditions are suitable. Average annual temperatures on the highest summits 1-2 °C and 4 °C towards the foot of the mountain (Cheia Depression, main departure point for hikers). Temperature means in summer: 10-12 °C on the crests and 15-16 °C in Cheia Depression. Winter means: -8 -9 °C on the crests and -6 -7 °C in Cheia Depression. Annual precipitations (160-180 day / year): 1, 300-1, 350 mm on the highest crests and 1, 200 mm towards the mountain foot. The rainiest months are May through July. Autumn is the driest season. Late summer and early autumn are best indicated for mountain walks. Snow begins falling in October and a consistent snow coating lasts till May (150-180 days on the summits and 100 days in Cheia Depression). Severe snow-storms rage in winter. Hoar frost is another interesting meteorological phenomenon. In the Ciucaș Mountains, winds (dominantly NE) blow at an average speed of 7 m /sec.
        The massif comprises a few nature reserves (geological, geomorphologic, botanical, faunistic), remarkable for their landscape and unique natural elements, e.g. the Rhododendron meadow in the Roșu Mountain; the Zăganu cliffs sheltering endemic and rare plants and animals; the Tigăile Mari rocks, part of a botanical reserve protecting calciphile and termophile plants (e.g. bellflowers, mountain Iris, edelweiss, Carthusian pink); the juniper in Mount Bratocea; the vegetal associations with edelweiss on Șuvițelor Summit (Șuvițele Berii).

Access routes
        Asphalted roads link Ploiești city to Vălenii de Munte, Cheia resort, Săcele town and Brașov city (through Bratocea Pass); from the Brașov - Buzău national highway, at I**ntorsura Buzăului town, a road forks out southwards leading to Vama Buzăului. An asphalted sideway slopes up to Muntele Roșu chalet (2 km) from the Ploiești - Cheia - Brașov road.
        Of great interest for walks and for tourists orientation are the forestry roads along the main valleys of the Telejenel, Buzău, Buzoiel, Dălghiu, Babarunca, Ta++mpa etc.

Points of departure
        Ma++neciu Ungureni commune (550-650 m) lies in the Teleajen Valley, downstream Ma++neciu Lake and Dam.
        Cheia resort (800-900 m) has a wonderful location in the homonymous depression that borders the Ciucaș Massif to the south. It houses a meteorological station, a Natural Museum of the Upper Teleajen Valley and Cheia monastery (which together with Suzana monastery are outstanding religious monuments in the Telejenel Valley). The resort lies 20 km away from Ma++neciu Ungureni - the railway terminal.
        I**ntorsura Buzăului (700 m) is a town situated in the Upper Buzău Valley, in I**ntorsurii Depression.
        Vama Buzăului (800 m) is an important commune in the north of the Ciucaș Massif, a point of departure for walks on its northern slopes (14 km away from I**ntorsura Buzăului town).

Accommodation
        Babarunca chalet (at the junction of the Ta++rlung with the Babarunca Brook, 900 m altitude); camping-sites near-by (chalets, tiny house, tent-pitching areas). Muntele Roșu chalet (1, 280 m) stands in the very heart of the mountain; lodging available also in tiny houses; electricity, central heating, running water, restaurant. Poiana (Glade) Sta++nei lies in the Upper Telejenel Basin (950 m); Va++nătorilor chalet, situated 11 km off the national highway, is a point of departure for walks on the eastern side of the massif; forest ranger's huts, hunting huts and other buildings close to Poiana Sta++nei trout-farm are available only by consent of their administrators. Ciucaș chalet (1, 595 m), no electricity or running water.
        Cheia resort offers comfortable accommodation in hotels, motels, villas, boarding houses, chalets, tiny camping houses, tent-pitching areas, restaurants etc.
        Meals and lodgings are available also at monasteries and in private homes.

Path signs
Path signs are generally maintained in good condition, with exceptions. Walks on paths in bad weather (rain, mist, wind, snowstorm, lightning discharge) should be avoided. There are risks of avalanches in the high mountain area, not accessible the whole year. Tourists may safely roam in the forest zone in any season.

Pasul (the Pass) Bratocea (1, 263 m) - TV relay - Colții Bratocea (cliffs) - Culmea (the Ridge) Bratocea - Șaua (the Saddle) Tigăilor - Vf. (the Peak) Ciucaș (1, 954 m) - Ciucaș chalet (1, 595 m). Red stripe. 5 - 6 hours walk; should be avoided in winter.

Ciucaș chalet (1, 595 m) - Șaua (Saddle) Chirușca - Curmătura Sta++nei - Culmea (Ridge) Văii Sta++nei - Pasul (Pass) Boncuța (1, 078 m). Red stripe. 5 - 6 hours walk; should be avoided in winter.

Cheia resort (900 m) - Muntele (Mount) Balabanu - Muntele Roșu chalet (1, 280 m) - N. Ioan fountain - Ciucaș chalet (1, 595 m). Yellow stripe. 3 hours walk.

Muntele Roșu chalet (1, 280 m) - Muntele (Mount) Roșu - Culmea (Ridge) Gropșoare - La Răscruce. Red triangle. 1 ½ hours walk; should be avoided in winter.

Cheia resort - Piscul (Summit) Turiștilor - Culmea (Ridge) Buzăianu - Muntele (Mount) Zăganu - Muntele (Mount) Gropșoare - La Răscruce. Red cross. 4 - 5 hours walk; should be avoided in winter.

Muntele Roșu chalet - Pa++ra++ul (Brook) Roșu - Valea (Valley) Berii. Red point. ¾ hours walk.

Cheia resort - Valea (Valley) Cheița. Blue triangle. 1 ¼ hours walk. Accessible if not abundant snow.

Podul (bridge) Berii - Valea (Valley) Berii - N. Ioan fountain - Ciucaș chalet (1, 595 m). Blue cross. 3 - 3 ½ hours walk. Accessible if not abundant snow.

Cheia resort - Piscul (Summit) Turiștilor - Culmea (Ridge) Buzăianu - Valea (Valley) Șipote - Culmea (Ridge) Căzăturii - Poiana (Glade) Sta++nii (950 m). Blue stripe. 2 ½ hours walk; should be avoided in periods with high snows.

Babarunca chalet (910 m) - Valea (Valley) Babarunca - Șaua (Saddle) Tesla (1, 347 m). Red triangle. 1 ½ hours walk; should be avoided in periods with high snows.

Podul (bridge) Teslei (3 km from Babarunca chalet, towards Săcele town) - Piciorul Teslei - Poiana (Glade) Tesla - Piatra (Rock) Dudului - Șaua (Saddle) Tesla - Șaua (Saddle) Tigăi (1, 745 m) - Muntele (Mount) Chirușca - Ciucaș chalet (1, 595 m). Red cross. 4 - 5 hours walk; should be avoided in winter.

Poiana (Glade) Tesla - Muntele (Mount) Tesla - Muntele (Mount) Dungu - Poiana (Glade) Dălghiu - Vama Buzăului. Blue cross. 4 hours walk; should be avoided in winter.

Vf. (Peak) Ciucaș (1, 954 m) - Șaua (Saddle) Ciucaș (1, 525 m) - Plaiul (Meadow) Domnesc - Poiana (Glade) Dălghiu - Dălghiu - Vama Buzăului. Red cross. 4 - 5 hours walk; should be avoided in winter.

Ciucaș chalet (1, 595 m) - Muntele (Mount) Chirușca - Șaua (Saddle) Chirușca (1, 567 m) - Culmea (Ridge) Piatra Laptelui - Izvorul (Spring) Hoțului - Curmătura Sta++nei - Valea (Valley) Sta++nei - Poiana (Glade) Sta++nei (950 m). Blue stripe. 4 - 4 ½ hours walk; should be avoided in winter.

Ciucaș chalet (1, 595 m) - Muntele (Mount) Chirușca - Șaua (Saddle) Chirușca (1, 567 m) - Culmea (Ridge) Piatra Laptelui - Izvorul (Spring) Lăptișorului - Pirușca (forester's hut) - Valea (Valley) Stra++mbu - Muntele (Mount) Stra++mbu - Piatra (Rock) Mitocului - Dealul Seciu - Vama Buzăului. Blue cross. 5 - 6 hours walk; should be avoided in winter.

Poiana (Glade) Sta++nii - Valea (Valley) Pa++ra++ul Alb - Cheile (Gorges) Pa++ra++ul Alb. Blue triangle. 2 - 2 ½ hours walk; should be avoided in winter.

Culmea (Ridge) Zăganu - Colții Va++nătorului (cliffs) - Pa++ra++ul (Brook) Sterp - Pa++ra++ul (Brook) Alb - Poiana (Glade) Sta++nii. Blue triangle. 2 hours walk; should be avoided in winter.


        The Ciucaș Massif is a wonder of nature, a kingdom of forms and colours, a beauty in each and any season. In autumn, when the colours of the leafy forests mix with the green of the coniferous trees, with the yellow of the larch or the white of birchtrees, a mirific world opens up in front of your eyes. In winter, the snowflakes flowing quietly or the snowstorms create fantastic, fragile forms. In spring, when leaves are still in bud, the outlines of rocks fashioned in conglomerates or limestone show up against the sky. It is the time of myriads of delicate, yet resistant, lively coloured flowers everywhere. The green juniper trees and the presence of the bright red Paeonia spot the mountain slopes.
        Standing on the Ciucaș heights you feel yourself master of the world. The cries of stags, mountain cocks, wolves or bears, which populate the forest belt are reaching up to you and the sight of the chamois herds are all unforgettable experiences.
        Up there in the mountain you have the sentiment of living at the source of the major rivers, the Ciucaș Massif being a watershed of streams flowing in all directions - to the north, east, west and south.
Autor: Ică Giurgiu
Înscris de: Cătălin Olteanu
Vizualizări: 11222, Ultima actualizare: Joi, 11 Sep 2003



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