Moldoveanu covered in clouds as I walked up
Moldoveanu covered in clouds as I walked up

We were leaving Brasov after a good rest day for the 90km ride to Sambata de Sus. There are different routes going up Moldoveanu, and the one from the monastery outside of Sambata de Sus seemed to be the easiest. Unfortunately as we approached the Făgaraş mountains the weather turned. Wind picked up and it started to rain. The peaks were covered in clouds and it was snowing on top.
We checked into Pension Belmonte at the start of the trek and spent the rest of the day with our wonderful host Florin as it continued to rain outside.
For the next day I planned to start my attempt of climbing Moldoveanu at 6am but pushed it out to wait for better weather. Rain got less and I got going at 9.30am; quite late for a return trip so I brought my bivouac equipment so I could use one of the shelters along the route if I had to.
The first 7km of the 21km trek were a rather flat gravel road and I regretted not taking my bike like I did on Hoverla and Rysy. However I made good progress for the first half. Took me under 2hours for the first 11km and 700hm. At about 1300m the snow started. As the terrain got steeper the snow got deeper. From about 1600m the trek was not visible anymore. Still with the gps it wasn't difficult to find the right way. The snow was soft and fluffy and still easy to walk. Another 200m higher I entered into the clouds. I was hoping the sun would break through as forecasted but really the visibility was very bad and a strong wind picked up. At this point I was still excellent in time hoping to reach the ridge at 2300m around 1pm; in that case I should be able to return to the guest house the same day. I kept fighting my way up and kept losing the trek. Fog and the snow gust lead to almost zero visibility. It was incredibly cold and I struggled using the gps with my gloves. My progress got incredibly slow. Furthermore I was hip deep in the snow and the terrain got quite steep. I noticed some rock fall too. At 2pm and about 2200m I made the difficult decision to retreat. It was disappointing because I felt strong and I am sure I wasn't far from the ridge. Who knows, maybe conditions were getting better there; I had almost completed the hard part after all.
After 7.5hours and hiking 27km I arrived back in the guest house.
Looking back I think I made the right decision. The avalanche and rock fall risk was probably low but being alone it was still a significant risk to take. Also going on would have meant to bivouac on the mountain and although I was prepared I wasn't keen on doing that in the given circumstances, even with the provided shelter huts.

All in all it was a nice and challenging hiking day in the wonderful Carpathian mountains.