Hârtopul Darei Peak and Dara Peak, Făgăraș Mountainsăraș

The fifth stage of Romania’s 2500’er

Gura Bândei (1.300 m) – Valea Bândei – Brâul Darei – Vârful Hârtopul Darei (2.506 m) – Vârful Dara (2.500 m) – Vârful Iezer (2.429 m) – Fereastra Mare a Sâmbetei (2.188 m) – Fereastra Mică a Sâmbetei (2.196 m) – Fereastra Răcorele (2.297 m) – Șaua Gălășescului – Șaua Galbenele – Căldarea Galbenele (2.300 m)


In the 2500’er of Romania project, I proposed to tackle the conquest of all the high peaks over 2,500 meters in Romania, on the fastest route. After studying several options, I came to the conclusion that the peaks of Hârtopul Darei, Dara, Viștea Mare and Moldoveanu are worth tackling “as a package” starting from Valea Rea, in a 2-day, difficult tour.

I thought about 3 options. The classic one involves the approach of Dara and Hartopul Dara peaks on a marked route starting from Valea Sambetei, about 8 hours of ascent and 5 hours of descent. But then we had to move the base… Another idea was to set up the base on Valea Rea, from where one day we could climb the unmarked Hartopul Darei and Dara and the next day the marked Vistea Mare and Moldoveanu, with the possibility of thinking of some routes in the loop, but with the difference of level of + / – over 1,300 m on each of the days.

You can read the article about the conquest of Moldoveanu and Vistea Mare peaks on the link https://mytravel.express/drumetii-mte/en/vf-moldoveanu-si-vistea-mare-muntii-fagaras/

In this article I will present the third and least chosen solution, but the fastest and most optimized: first day Gura Bândei – Hârtopul Darei – Dara – main ridge, second day main ridge – Viștea Mare – Moldoveanu – Gura Bândei.

About the Făgăraş Mountains

The Făgăraș massif has 8 of the 13 peaks over 2500 m altitude located in Romania. This time the target of the hike was Hârtopul Darei Peak and Dara Peak. Hartopul Darei Peak – 2,506 mdm and Dara Peak – 2,500 mdm – are almost twinned.

Route Map

(click on objectives for extended version)

Technical Box

Difficulty: difficult, climbs the ridge from Caldarea Bândei to Brăul Darei // medium after Hârtopul Darei Peak

Duration / distance: 5 + 4 hours / 8 + 10 km

Marking: unmarked // blue dot / red band

Water sources: on the Bândea stream, under Fereastra Mare, under Fereastra Mică, in Caldarea Galbenele

Minimum altitude: 1,300 meters above sea level at Gura Bândei

Maximum altitude: 2,506 meters above sea level at Hârtopul Darei Peak

Difference in level: + 1,300 m + 570 m / – 0 – 750 m

Remarks: 1. To avoid the segment of Gura Bândei – Hârtopul Darei Peak by those who do not know how to orient themselves depending on the situation in the field, according to details, landmarks 2. Prohibited in winter, to avoid the ridge route in periods with electrical discharges 3. The information above are segmented up to Hârtopul Darei Peak, unmarked route, for which the map is not shown above, and respectively Hârtopul Darei Peak, marked route

1. Gura Bândei (1.300 m) – Valea Bândei

1 hour 50 minutes // unmarked

Gura Bândei is located on Valea Rea, 1 km below Stana lui Burnei, where the forest through which the bumpy road – DJ731 – passes by car from Slatina, Nucsoara, Arges is visibly thinning. There are 37 km that can be covered in almost 2 hours. Here is also the tent camp. We are at the confluence of the Bandea river with the Valea Rea.

We start from Gura Bândei. We cross the Valea Rea on the wooden footbridge and position ourselves on the right bank at Bandei, where we identify a former TAF road that goes up the “bisection” of the angle formed by the 2 rivers. It climbs boldly from the first through raspberries and lingonberries and other tall plants, which in some places have invaded the road. The road becomes a path and initially runs much higher than the Banda riverbed, but in its direction, on the left bank.

In the background you can see the Scarisoara Mountain, which is located over the Valea Rea. We pass a landmark that confirms that we are on the right path. After 40 minutes, the path cuts a small grohotis on the level curve, then approaches the river bed. Although the path is narrow, here and there unclear, getting lost in the grass and flowers, there is no risk of getting lost as long as we follow the right bank of the river in the direction of flow, (left as we go up).

We pass by an enclosure 1 hour after departure. Although you can walk on any of the banks, the path becoming increasingly difficult to guess, I recommend not crossing the first bridge you meet. The butterflies get confused with the flowers, but pay attention to the few stones, because I met a viper!

In the background appears the Iezer Peak (not the one from Iezer – Papusa). Towards it and on the bank of the river! Dara is more to its right, as we advance, it appears later. We pass a hut (another landmark!). On our left from the Fagaras Ridge a waterfall descends from under the Fereastra Mică a Sâmbetei (Small Window of Sambăta) – 1 hour and 50 minutes from departure.

the unmarked route + the marked one

the unmarked route Valea Bândei

our group at the start

Gura Bândei (Bandea's mouth)


the trail above the camping area

Banda Valley (before)

Stanisoara Mountain

the path from scree

Bandea stream


bridge over the stream

mountain bells

1st "bordei"

the waterfall under Fereastra Mica a Sambetei

2. Valea Bândei – Brâul Darei

2 hours // unmarked

We climbed a small glacial threshold passing on the left bank of the Bandea river, under a more rocky formation (landmark!). We climb behind it next to a tributary of the Banda. We leave Valea Bandei. In the upper caldera, but on the other side and above, there is a second hut (another landmark!). The idea is to start the ascent on the bank opposite the hut before it. We indulge in blueberries. 40 minutes

The challenge begins now. We climb steadily and steer in serpentines to the right, because we have to reach somewhat higher than the rock bypassed earlier at the base. Avoid portions with scree. Better choose a climb in 4 paws but on the grass. The slope is about 45 degrees. After we gain altitude, Brâul Darei appears in front of us, a secondary peak that descends from Dara Peak. This means that on the left is Iezer Peak and slightly to the right of Dara is Hârtopul Darei Peak, as if aligned with the younger brother. I think the donkeys and the sheep are laughing at me because I am struggling with the slope in front of me, which will soften well once you reach Braul Darei. I will post more pictures for those who will use them as reference points.

After 2 hours from leaving the main line of Bândei Valley, including a little bit of orientation, we are up on Brăul Darei.

already on the left bank

the path is tiny

relax through blueberries

Iezer Peak (no longer go towards, but to the right)

flock of sheep


Brâul Darei

Braul Darei (in the middle), culminates with Dara Peak

detritus, not over there!

detritus, not over there!

we climb Braul Darei

3. Brâul Darei – Hârtopul Darei Peak (Vârful, 2.506 m)

1 hour // unmarked

We are up on the Dara Belt (Brâul Darei). The climb becomes smooth, through tufts of grass. We will climb until close to the Dara Peak, and a little before the peak, we suddenly turn right, towards the Hârtopul Darei Peak, which is clearly visible from now on. After 4 hours and 45 minutes from the start, we are on the Hârtopul Darei Peak, the first goal of this hike.

we climb Braul Darei

Dara Peak (l) & Hartopul Darei Peak (r)

Hartopul Darei Peak (seen from Braul Darei)

4. Hârtopul Darei Peak (Vârful, 2.506 m)

Horizon tour on Hârtopul Darei Peak

To the North is the Dara Peak in the immediate vicinity, also towards the North, on its right is the La Fundu Bandei Peak and in the distance is the main ridge of Fagaras oriented West – East. In Caldarea from the west there are several glacial lakes: Geamana de Sus, Geamana de Jos, Mioarelor and Musetescu. To the South-West, in the distance, is the Iezer – Papusa Massif. To the East is Braul Darei that separates Caldarea Bandei, from where we climbed, from Caldarea Darei, in a closer plane. 5 minute break.

You can watch a video of the horizon tour on the following link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eLF7mY80VQE&list=PLlH9tlgCODG8Bl-3vzuVTpUAIunWRLMmr&index=13

Dara Peak seen from Hartopul Darei Peak

Hârtopul Darei Peak

me on Hârtopul Darei Peak

5. Hârtopul Darei Peak (Vârful, 2,506 m) – Dara Peak (Vârful, 2,500 m)

10 minutes // blue dot

We start our journey towards the neighboring peak. Here, at the top, we met the blue dot marking, newly (re)marked on the segment from the main ridge and the Hârtopul Darei Peak, but that’s it.

The horizon tour from Dara Peak (Vârful, 2,500 m above sea level) is similar to the one from Hartopul Darei. We really wanted to see the Vistea Mare – Moldoveanu trapezoid to the west, our next destination, but the fog did not reveal the champion. From Dara we also see, towards the North, the Iezer Peak, and a little further to the left the Urlea Peak pyramid.

On Dara Peak (Vârful), we took a well-deserved 30-minute lunch break, but we were running out of water, because we were trying to get to the campsite. If necessary, there are 3 solutions, all on the left side of the ridge: under the Big Window (Fereastra Mare), under the Small Window (Fereastra Mică), Yellow Lake (Lacul Galbenele).

towards Dara

Hartopul Darei Peak seen from Dara Peak

main ridge of Fagaras

me on Dara Peak

6. Dara Peak (Vârful, 2,500 m) – the main ridge

15 minutes // blue dot

We leave Dara Peak (Vârful), with the satisfaction of ticking off the two 2500-year-olds and identifying the shortest climb to them. The blue point will lead us another 15 minutes around La Fundul Bandei Peak, among some rocks, on the ridge path. On the left in Caldarea Bandei you can now also see Lake Bandea. We are in the main ridge, marked by the red band.

between Dara and the ridge

Bândea Lake

Urlea Peak

route to the ridge

Urlea Caldera

7. The main ridge – Iezer Peak (Vârful, 2,429 m)

20 minutes //red band

We are on the main ridge, marked by the red band, which we will follow to the left, (west), as long as we can or as long as daylight allows. The first appearance wow, on the right Lake Urlea. We hold the ridge above the Iezer Peak.

marking of the ridge

Urlea Lake

Urlea Peak from Iezer Peak

Urlea Lake seen from Portiță

8. Iezer Peak (Vârful, 2,429 m) – Fereastra Mare a Sâmbetei (2,188 m)

1 hour // red band

We hold the ridge over the Iezer Peak until Portita Urlei. We cut from the coast, on the contour line, Mount Urlea. On the left, you can see very clearly where we left to the right in the steep ascent of the Bandea Valley thread when climbing Dara.

In 15 minutes we pass the branch that goes up to the left to Urlea Peak. We continued at a leisurely pace on the ridge path. On the left, you can clearly see the Dara Belt (Brâul Darei), on which we were a few hours ago, and the Bândea Valley.

We advance to the branch from Fereastra Mare a Sâmbetei, from which a path marked to the right descends to Valea Sâmbetei. Another variant had also descended on the right a little before. We spot the Valea Sambetei Hut and the Sambata de Sus monastery (Brancoveanu). It took 1 hour from Vârful Iezer.

Bândei Valley

Urlea Peak

on the right Dara Peak and Brâul Darei

Bândei Valley

9. Big Window of Saturday (Fereastra Mare a Sâmbetei, 2,188 m) – Small Window of Saturday (Fereastra Mică a Sâmbetei, 2,196 m)

30 minutes // red band

We descended something without realizing it, but now we will climb from the side of Mount Slanina to descend it on the opposite side to Fereastra Mică a Sâmbetei, where there is also a refuge in a precarious condition and from where another path descends to Sâmbăta Valley.


Fereastra Mare a Sâmbetei (Saturday's Big Window)

Valea Sâmbetei and the cottage

you can see Brâncoveanu Monastery

Refugiul Sâmbăta (Saturday Refuge)

Fereastra Mică a Sâmbetei

10. Fereastra Mică a Sâmbetei (2,196 m) – The Răcorele Window (2,297 m) – Galășescu Saddle – Galbenele Saddle – Caldarea Galbenele (2,300 m)

1 hour 50 minutes // red band

The fog seems to want to gain ground, but it succeeds, but not. We go up, we go down and so on. We pass under the peaks and through the saddles of Galasescu Mic, Fereastra Răcorelelor, Galasescu Mare, Galasescu Saddle and we see Galbenele Lake on the left. We decide that we can shoot a little longer, even though there were good places for a tent near the lake, but we were going down quite a long and steep way from the path. Finally, on the other side of Galbenelor, I found the place where I ate and fed last year (when I did Full Ridge), about 50 meters below the marked path, immediately after I made a sharp angle change of direction. After almost 2 hours from the Little Window (Fereastra Mică), we camped near a small lake in Caldarea Galbenele. It will prove to be an inspired choice because we didn’t go far from the path, we had water and it was a bit safer than near the Viștea Refuge, which would have been the next overnight option.

And some images of “Good night!”

the ridge path

ridge landscape

Lake Galbenele

landmark near the place where we camped

the campsite


sunset in the fog

Good night!

Opinions and ratings

Hârtopul Darei Peak and Dara Peak – It is a difficult route that first of all requires orientation experience on unmarked routes, a good physical condition, a considerable effort in the climbing area, a lot of lucidity, but good weather, without rain and without dense fog permanent, water reserves of at least 2 liters, preferably specific shoes, boots, mountain ice, whistle in the lower area of ​​the forest, energizers, fruit, snack, tent with related sleeping bag, mattress. Beware of vipers! The route is superb, offers generous perspectives, depending on the fog and clouds, but also long. Note: it is important to discover one of the access paths from Caldarea Bandei to Vârful Dara in the terrain, otherwise climbing directly on the grohotis and the rock is impossible.

All the best!