Clear weather is a rare commodity in high mountains. Every time the mighty internet tells me the sky will be blue, I get the itch to go outdoors for another adventure. Since I've got my GoPro camera, the desire is even higher.
It wasn't easy for any of us to take part in this tour. We partied, stayed up until late in the night, drinking beer - two days in a row - and the thought of quitting was born in all our minds. We, climbers and mountaineers, always have to fight our sloth when it comes to actually getting something done... Nevertheless, we gathered somehow and left the city at 1.00 PM Saturday (instead of 6.00 AM).
We were supposed to climb Zanoaga ridge and then descend from the main ridge of Fagaras mountains. We couldn't do it... It's simply too long and hard and it needs to be approached with better logistics and time management.
So even though this was a sort of failure, we still had our little victory: we discovered the hunting cabin and a new path that leads down from the mountain. Next time, this will enable us to hike faster through the forest into the alpine zone, avoiding the exhausting three hour ordeal between mountain pines (approx. one km).
My biggest mistake in this winter mountaineering tour was not taking my camera in my sleeping bag overnight. I left it in my backpack and the frost depleted the battery. The following day I was able to shoot just a few clips, two or three seconds long... For this reason, I'm a bit disappointed by GoPro technology and I advise you to carry an extra battery when shooting in cold weather. Also keep your camera in a warm place (inner pocket) when not in use.
And since I started criticizing GoPro, I can add a little more: I'm not particularly impressed by the firmness of the clickable mounts (quick release buckles and adhesive mounts). The buckle moves and thus if you have the long arm of the camera in place it means you'll have a shaky footage - which is silly for an action sports camera! After all, it's designed to shoot at speeds of more than 100 miles per hour and with the moving arm I can't see how you can get a smooth footage!? I fixed this problem by adding three layers of duct tape (stripes) as you can see here and here.
Other things to consider when going on the mountains in wintertime:
- Make sure your base layer of clothing (close fitted) is made of technical fabrics (wool & Coolmax, etc) for your quick dry comfort. The benefit is twofold: no need for additional clothing (less weight in your backpack) and less exposure to dampness and cold for you.
- Carry a pair of two fingered winter gloves. As your fingers are held together, you'll get your hands warm much faster than in regular five fingered gloves. No need to buy expensive stuff - a pair made of a basic waterproof fabric and an inner fleece will do just fine.
- Never underestimate the power of a warm meal and a good fire. If you can get any of these then do it. A hot meal provides nourishment and needs less calories for digestion and a fire will always lift your morale. I always carry matches and my camping mini stove - if I'm not allowed to make a fire then at least I can brew (tea, hot soup, stew).
- If it's cold (minus zero Celsius or lower) then it's advisable to put your boots in your sleeping bag so you'll have them warm and soft the following day. Put them in a plastic bag and you don't have to worry about mud or snow.
- Gather as much information as you can about the route you're going to climb - guide books, websites, outdoor blogs, forums, GPS trails and people. Before leaving, I gave a call to Iulian Cozma, and asked some directions which he kindly gave to us. He's a professional mountain guide and he's been doing this for more than ten years - perhaps the man who knows Fagaras mountains like no one else in Romania.
Enjoy outdoors safely!
Bear Grylls Style - spruce tree and bilberry bush tea
Blowing hot air into my gloves
The cabin used by capercaillie hunters
(one flew just a few meters away from me; a grouse, not a hunter)
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