Hiking the Transylvanian Alps Traverse

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Transylvanian Alps

Fall in the Transylvanian Alps

“I read that every known superstition in the world is gathered into the horseshoe of the Carpathians, as if it were the centre of some sort of imaginative whirlpool; if so, my stay may be very interesting.” —Jonathan Harker, Dracula

The wolf tracks cross the trail and disappear straight over the edge of the precipice. It makes no sense. We’re descending from the summit of Mt. Moldoveanu, at 8,346 feet the highest peak in Romania. The trail, a stony, knife-edge arête with thousand-foot drops on both sides, runs along the spine of the Transylvanian Alps. Steep, grassy slopes with wooded ravines drop away to the south; but to the north, just 3 feet from the muddy trail, sheer black cliffs plunge down into the mist. The wolf tracks—huge prints with claw marks dug deeply into the mud—come up from the south and go right over the edge, as if the wolf had simply leapt into the abyss, transforming itself into some kind of flying beast.

Two hours earlier, at 3 p.m., we’d reached the Refugiul Vistea Mare, our original destination for the day. The hut was a tiny, red-and-white striped stone building. Other than a wall-to-wall sleeping platform and anti-communist graffiti, it was empty. At least it appeared cozier than the first trail shelter we’d stayed in—a corrugated metal hut that clanged in the wind all night long—but Martha, my hiking partner, wasn’t ready to stop.

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