The Horezu Mountains

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The Căpăţânii Mountains belong to the Southern Carpathians, namely to the mountain group between the Olt and the Jiu rivers. They consist of a high ridge, approximately 50 km long, oriented from West to East, with perpendicular Northern shorter and steeper ramifications and longer, gentler Southern ramifications. The greater part of the summit is wooded, but there are also vast areas of clearings, who have favoured the pastoral life and the creation of a dense network of paths.

Geological Composition

According to the predominant formations, the Căpățânii Mountains can be divided in several distinctive sectors. In the Western sector (Olteț-Horezu) and in the Alpine area the predominant formations are the autochthonous crystalline ones, on top of which came the Getic canvas crystalline. Apart from granite, granodiorite and deep igneous rocks, there are also sericite schists, chlorite schists, graphitic clay, crystalline limestones, and, rarely, quartzite.

In the middle and Eastern sectors predominate the rocks of the Getic canvas, represented by micaceous gneiss with inclusions of banded amphibolites, mica schists that form the crystalline of the Lotru series. The presence of mica sheets is characteristic to the area.

In the Southern area, the Arnota – Buila – Vânturarița – Stogu summit, consisting of Jurassic limestone, creates an almost uninterrupted ridge of over 14 km, showing extremely varied and picturesque shapes. On the higher part of the Căpățânii Mountains (Negovanu, Nedeia, Căpățâna, Ursu) there are vague traces of the nival activity. A well-contoured high valley, with a cirque-like aspect, can be noticed on the Eastern side of the Ursu Peak, and a similar one next to Turcinu Negovanului.

The Fauna

In the Căpățânii Mountains, the fauna is the one specific of the Southern Carpathians. The bear, the giant of the Carpathians, is present in all the forests. The chamois was colonized on the Vânturarița and Narățu Mountains. Stags and deer have found a favourable area, especially in the Olteț, Roman, Olănești and Latorița streams basins. One can also find other animal species, such as: the wild boar, the wolf, the marten, the hare, the squirrel, etc. Among the bird species we mention the capercaillie, the raven, the jackdaw, white wagtail, the eagle, etc.

The reptile species are common in these mountains: the common adder, less the horned viper, is present in the hidden places. In Buila-Vânturarița, Stogșoare, Stogu, Narățu, it is more common.

The flowing waters are populated with fish, and, often, the mountain lovers go angling. The trout is common in the clear waters of the Latorița, Olteț, Romani streams and even in the reservoir lakes. In the middlestream and downstream can be found the bullhead, the nase, the chub. In the narrow path of the Olt river can be found the carp, the catfish, the crucian carp and the barbel.

The mountain jay has thick, soft feathers, of a dark brown colour, and each feather has an oval white spot. It builds its nest next to the tree trunks. The jay is omnivorous, eating seeds, insects and small vertebrates. The mountain jay has an ingenious system of preparing for the cold season, by gathering food supplies; starting from the autumn, it gathers great amounts of pine nuts or hazelnuts, burying them in various places. When winter comes, the jay, having an amazing memory, finds most of the reserves, even under the snow. Even though it is very agile on ground or on tree branches, it is insecure when flying. This is why it avoids long distances. Its voice is strident and it can imitate other birds.

Though it is often taken for a snake, the slowworm is not one. It has a thicker body, and the shape of its head is different. The slowworm is a legless lizard, a fact which allows it to crawl easier through the vegetation and to enter various narrow spaces. When in danger, like any other lizard, the slowworm sheds its tail, a thing that snakes cannot do. Its brown colour and the smooth aspect of its body create an impression of fragility, whence its Latin name, “fragilis”. The males are different from the females through a series of fine blue dots, often visible on their backs. The ventral side, in both sexes, is grey. The species is ovoviviparous and the young, usually born in August, initially fed on small larvae, and later on all kinds of arthropods, snails, worms, etc.

The green lizard is a beautifully coloured lizard. In males, the dorsal side is yellow-greenish with black dots, and the ventral side is bright yellow. During the mating season, the throat of the male is often bright blue. The female are less coloured, the dorsal side being green, and on each side there is a light longitudinal stripe. The colour of the green lizard helps it to disguise itself, both on ground and up the trees, thus escaping predators. The green lizard feeds on insects, spiders, worms and caterpillars. Its tail, that represents almost two thirds of the length of its body, has an important role in its movement, helping it to advance faster. During the winter months, the green lizard hibernates in tree hollows or in rock crevices. They reproduce during summer.

The Vegetation

The Căpățânii Mountains have a vegetation similar to the one of the Southern Carpathians, being characterized by vast clearings and pastures.

At the Alpine level grow the tall fescue, the alpine sedges and other herbs, as well as the mountain peony, the blueberry tree, etc. (Nedeia, Funicel, Ursu, Văleanu). At the sub-Alpine level grows the matweed, and the shrubs are dominated by the mountain pine, the green alder and the juniper.

On the Southern slopes, the spruce forest usually represents a thin band at the upper limit of the forest (altitude of 1700-1800 m). This band is larger on the Northern slopes, being even wider at the origins of the Repedea and Malaia valleys and on the Zmeuretu, Târnovu, Negovanu Mountains. At the lower level, the beech trees forest, sometimes mixed with resinous trees, occupies important areas. Apart from the beech tree, with imposing trees (Stogu, Buila, Târnovu, Roman), the other vegetal species are the mountain elm tree, the ash tree and the hornbeam. At lower altitudes grow the common oak, the blueberry trees and the raspberry trees, common on all the mountains, from Olănești up to the Olteț. The richest flora can be found in the area of the Narățu and Buila-Vânturarița mountains, where the gentian and the Edelweiss grow alongside many other plant species.

The mountain peony is a plant specific of the Balkan area, growing spontaneously in the alpine area as small shrubs. It needs special climate and landforms conditions, which is why it cannot be moved and grown in gardens. It has long twigs with leaves grouped at their ends, hard and persistent. It flowers are extremely beautiful, having a sour cherry-like perfume and aroma. The mountain peony flowers usually bloom at the end of June and the beginning of July. Being a rare plant, it is protected in Romania, its picking being forbidden. It is a perennial plant and its leaves remain green all year round. Its flowers, just like the rose petals, are used for syrup, jam and medicinal tea.

The cornel is a shrub tree between 5 an 12 m high, with dark brown bark and greenish twigs. The fruit is red, elongated and with one stone. They are edible and have an astringent taste when fresh. That is why they are used more in the cooked form, having an acid flavour, described as a mix between cranberries and sour cherries. They are used mostly for jam and sauce, being boiled with sugar and oranges. They are also very tasty in the dried form. In our country, they are also used for the cornelian cherry brandy, an alcoholic drink obtained through fermentation with sugar and alcohol. The bark of this tree is used for dying, and its leaves are a tannin source.

The blueberry tree is a small, branchy shrub, with a green stem and angular branches. It grows in the alpine regions, especially on the shady and humid slopes, in the coniferous forests, on the alpine meadows, on rocky terrains and siliceous soils.

The fruit is called blueberry and it is of a dark-blue colour, of a round shape, with a violaceous juice and an agreeable, sweet and sour taste.

The blueberry leaves contain: tannins, arbutin, hydroquinone, myrtillin, sugars, provitamin A, vitamin C, organic acids (citric acid, malic acid, oxalic acid, succinic acid, lactic acid). This is why from the blueberry are collected both the fruit and the leaves. The leaves and the branches are picked during the summer, until the autumn, from May till September, then being dried in the shade, in well ventilated places. The fruit is picked when ripe, between July and September, being used either fresh or dried. Due to the tannin, both the leaves and the fruit have astringent qualities. The leaves can be used for infusion or decoction, and the fruit for juice or decoction. The blueberries are also used of blueberry brandy or all types of sweets.

The Landforms

The main summit of the Căpățânii Mountains rises above the “Cârligului Mare” of the Olt river through the Foarfeca Narățului Peak (831 m) and it continues, very rugged, across the Narățu Peak (1,509 m), until the wooded saddle “La Mocirle” (1,045 m). After going round the Valea lui Stan spring (1,491 m), the summit grows higher again towards the west; Stan’s Peak (1,491 m), Folea (1,647 m), Zmeuretu (1,979 m), Văleanu (1,847 m), Ursu (2,124 m), Căpățâna (2,094 m), Beloaia (2,039 m), Nedeia (2,130 m), Negoveanu (2,064 m), Bou (1,908 m). From here, it descends in the ravine of the Olteț, at 1,615 m. On the Southern slope, the summits are longer, the best-known and the most attractive being the Govora – Lespezi – Buila-Vânturarița summit. The rocks, of a bright white, reveal themselves from the spruce forest, and the summit becomes a wondrous succession of shapes, dominating through its grandeur the entire landscape. Another important Southern summit is Piatra Roșie – Roman – Vaideeni table-land, where a series of tourist routes enter the central area of the Căpățânii Mountains.

The Climate

The influence of the milder climate of Oltenia can be felt on the Căpățânii Mountains, especially on the Southern slopes. The dominant wind blows from the north-west, sometimes being channeled along the valleys of the Lotru or of the Olt rivers.

The average annual rainfall reaches 1,200 mm at an altitude of approximately 1,400 m. The average temperature in January is of -70 C, and in July of +120 C, at the same average altitude. The Căpățânii Mountains have six cold months (November-April) and six temperate months (May-October). In the areas above 1,500 m, the first snowfalls occur at the and of October and the snow melts in May.

Shelters

Taking into account the fact that there are not too many chalets on the Căpățânii Mountains, the main type of hiking, will have to rely on tent accommodation, splendid natural camping sites being available. For the tourists who leave on a trip starting from the town of Horezu and who do not wish to camp in a tent, there are numerous possibilities of finding shelter. During the last 4-5 years, in the Roman Peak area (Bolca, Piscul lui Țigan, Ludeasa, Pietriceaua, Piatra Roșie and Marginea), the Horezu land-owners community, the owner of this land, sold by plots more than 1,000 parcels of land of 1,000 sq m each, sublicensed through superficies contracts, for the building of holiday homes. Nowadays more than 60 accommodation and leisure units, with over 250 beds, are already available.

There are some alternative shelter possibilities:

From the Roman Peak to the Ursu Peak

  1. The Ursu (Romanu) Peak Chalet (altitude of 1,650 m), located on the Western slope of the Piatra Roșie Mountain, can provide accommodation, occasionally, to groups of 4-6 people;
  2. The Piatra Roșie sheepfold (altitude of 1,625 m), located on the Eastern slope of the Piatra Roșie Mountain;
  3. The Ursu shelter;
  4. The Ursu sheepfold;

From the Văleanu Peak to the Cocora Peak

  1. The Cocora sheepfold
  2. The Barcaciu sheepfold
  3. The Văleanu Chalet
  4. The Văleanu sheepfold

From the Văleanu Peak to the Zmeuret Peak

  1. The Rodeanu sheepfold
  2. The Zmeuret sheepfold
  3. The Zănoaga sheepfold

Tourist Routes Starting from Horezu

Tourist Route no. 1

The town of Horezu/ Olari Street – Tănăsești village – Măgura Dobrii – Urșani Peak – Roman Monastery – Roman Peak – Piatra Roșie Mountain – Ursu Peak (junction with the Parâng-Căpățâna ridge itinerary)

Walking time:.................. 5 hours until the Roman Monastery and approximately 7 hours until the main ridge of the Căpățâna Mountains.

Departure point: ............ The town of Horezu / Olari Street

Arrival point: ................. Roman Monastery or the Căpățânii Mountain ridge

Shelters: ........................ The Roman Monastery, the sheepfolds on Marginea and Piatra Roșie Mountains

Length: .......................... 21 km

Difficulty: ...................... Average

Junction itinerary: ....... The Parâng-Căpățâna Mountains ridge itinerary and the Piatra Roșie ravine – Groapa Mălăii – Ciungetu itinerary

Access: ..........................Accessible during the mild season: May - October

 Tourist Route no. 2

Horezu/ Romanii de Jos village – Romanii de Sus village – Valea Lungă – Bolca – Roman Monastery (junction with the Tourist Route no. 1) – Roman Peak – Piatra Roșie  Chalet

Walking time: ................. 4 hours until the Roman Chalet, approximately 6 hours until the main ridge of the Căpățânii Mountains

Departure point: ............. Romanii de Jos village

Arrival point: .................. Roman Monastery or the Căpățânii Mountains ridge

Shelters: ......................... The holiday homes on the route, the Roman Chalet, the sheepfolds on the Bolca, Pietriceaua, Ludeasa, Piatra Roșie Mountains, the Roman Peak Monastery.

Length: ........................... 18 km

Difficulty: ....................... Average

Junction itinerary: ......... The Căpățânii Mountains ridge itinerary

Access: ........................... All year round

This route, starting with the visit of the Hurezi Monastery and ending at the Piatra Roşie chalet, will lead you through very beautiful and interesting places.

The route is easy, 3/4 of its length coinciding with a commune road, car transportation being, therefore, possible until the end of the route.

The Hurezi Monastery can be reached by DJ 669, deriving from DN 67 Rm. Vâlcea – Tg. Jiu (at km 40), on a length of about 5 km. By starting on foot from the town of Horezu, entering DJ 669 (at km 2), after crossing the Luncăveciorul stream, the route continues on the Constantin Brâncoveanu and Romani street, and after approximately. 2.5 km you will reach the Romanii de Jos village. At the northern end of the village lies the famous place of worship, historical and architectural monument included on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1993.

Taking as a departure point the monastery on the left bank of the Romani stream, the route continues for 2.8 km on DC 147 A Romanii de Jos – Romanii de Sus, afterwards following the route on Valea Lungă.

Mounting on the valley of the stream, on the left bank, under Seciul Romanilor (East) and then through the Ștevioarei clearing (West), the route crosses more and more often the Lunga stream, the slope rises, finally reaching the Lunga saddle. The road mounts the eastern slope of the Piscul lui Țigan, on the left there is the Stoicului clearing and the heavily forested and abrupt mountain ridge. At the altitude of 1,350 m, the route reaches the upper Pleșa valley, continues another 2 km to the north-west and it goes on towards Bolca (1,400 m high), then mounting among holiday homes towards the Pietriceaua Mountain (1,650 m high) or to the right towards the Ludeasa Mountain. The route continues on the slope, where there are other holiday homes, until reaching the Roman Peak, a great ridges junction point, towards Marginea, Ursu, Piatra Roșie. On the top there is a beautiful monastery, whose construction was started a few years ago, and whose consecration took place in 2014.

The route can also be covered by car, the largest part of the road having been modernized.