Essential Summit Info
Target summit: 8 pointer YO/EC-062 "Cearcănu" - https://summits.sota.org.uk/summit/YO/EC-062
Our Route: Maramures County. At Prislop mountain pass/monastery there is a gravel road that takes you north then west on the ridge near Cearcănu peak. The trail is marked by a blue triangle, but you can't rely on it too much as it's quite random. The last kilometer or so is through thick bush of Pinus mugo (bog pine or dwarf mountain pine).
GPS Track: http://www.wandermap.net/en/route/3638141-cearcanu-yoec-062-best-option/
(download the track by clicking on "Export GPS data").
GSM coverage: Decent.
Summit conditions: Exposed, rocky, bushy, no real shade. Has a wooden pole and cross on the top good for anchoring the antenna.
We wanted to activate Cearcanu ever since we first saw its majestic rock teeth, years ago. We thought of doing it in winter, but sat imagery showed some thick vegetation and some exposed areas as well which seemed hard to tackle in deep snow. A previous bad experience dealing with Pinus mugo (a species of dwarf pine that grows on relatively high altitudes) made us postpone the activation for a couple of years. Finally, we've decided to try it this August. The trail on the GPS sure looked easy enough, with barely any climbing (some 250 meters of vertical climbing which is regarded as piece-of-cake). Some friends were joining us as well. Weather was fine (too hot) and the scenery spectacular.
After a two and a half hour drive we started hiking and soon the hot sun of August melted our skin away. I am particularly prone to sunburn and overheating. If I could control the sunburns fairly easy by applying obscene amounts of sunscreen, the heat proved a much tougher adversary. After only 4 kilometers I was exhausted. My head hurt and I felt dizzy. Others were complaining too. We took a break next to an info panel where the trail split in two. The left trail went up to the secondary summit, while the right trail was supposed to lead to Cearcanu itself, but kind of disappeared into the shrubs. It was not marked and it looked really bad. I crawled through a section of Pinus mugo, some 20 meters maybe, and as I couldn't see any improvement in the trail condition I turned back. We decided it was best to climb on the secondary summit and from there, maybe follow the ridge on a hopefully better trail. Nope, not really. No trail and no accessible ridge. At first it looked better, but it turned into horror soon enough. Andrei pushed onward and we stayed behind in hope of good news. The others decided to turn back to the car. Marian and I followed Andrei into and under the waves of green. This shrub, Pinus mugo, is not that widespread in the world and is pretty nice if you don't get to know it up close and personal. Its branches are very flexible and either push you away or snag on you. Going forward through this vegetation is done by a combination of ducking, crawling, pushing, pulling, bending and brushing against the rugged branches. It's exhausting, sometimes even painful. We did this for maybe half an hour before getting on the ridge where things improved a bit. Still there was some shrub to be fought, but nothing as extreme as before. The summit was ours, no doubt. The thought of turning back via the same way seemed to increase my headache, so I decided not to think about it.
The lack of shade at the top was pretty nasty, but the view of Rodnei Mountains somewhat compensated for this drawback. We activated the summit in 20m SSB and in digital modes. At around 5 PM we had everything packed and left the top. From our position we could clearly see the path following the contour lines marked from place to place by blue triangles and decided to try it. Except a few minor sections of medium difficulty, this new path was completely superior in every way (less shrubs, less climbing, had markings, overall easier to hike on). The exit (where the trail split and where, on our way up, we decided to go the other way) was the worst part. Once out of the bushes there was nothing else to worry about.
The heat and shrubs made this activation pretty harsh and we're not looking to go back there anytime soon. This is probably our third summit that made the list of `summits to not return to', next to Hasmasul Negru YO/EC-070 and Tomnatecu YO/EC-047.
Hi, we're a team of hams from Romania. We're into SOTA and other activities. Thanks for stopping by!