The Small Retezat Mountains (also known as the Limestone Retezat) rise parallel with Big Retezat Mountains and are divided only by Lapusnicul Mare River and Butii Valley.
The subdivisions of this massif include Piule Mountains and Iorgovanul Mountains. Although they are not as high as Big Retezat, reaching up to 2086m (Piule Peak), they offer the same extraordinary landscape.
General information: Piule and Iorgovanul Mountains are located on the southern side of Big Retezat Mountains. Big Retezat and Small Retezat Mountains are linked through a ridge which connects Papusa Custurii Peak with Dragsanu Peak.
Another ridge of Small Retezat, which continues south-west from Piatra Iorgovanului Peak, makes the link between this massif and Godeanu Mountains. The relief structure of Small Retezat Mountains differs from Big Retezat Mountains and also from Godeanu Mountains. Their particularity consists is the geological composition.
Geology: Piule – Iorgovanul (Small Retezat) Mountains display an interesting combination of limestone and glacial relief. In the area proposed by us for hiking we shall identify the limestone rocks in Scorotei gorges and the limestone karrens in the area of Albele Peak and Piule Peak. Upstream from River Scorota, traces of glacial relief can be spotted, namely the two cirques glaciers (eastern and western Scorota).
If you pay a little attention, you can also spot some specific glacial relief forms: glacial crossings, basins of former glacial lakes and glacial moraines left behind by glaciers. The glaciers descending towards the two cirques glaciers became united, sculpting a single “U”-shape glacial valley, reaching up to 1400m altitude (below Scorota sheepfold). The limestone versants of the mountains still preserve very well the traces of glacial erosion. At a lower altitude, Scorota Valley has a “V”-shape, specific for limestone relief.
Discovering the Limestone Retezat in wintertime: in order to offer the most accurate information, we shall describe a trip organized by TGR team. The difficulty level of the tour is intermediate. The excursion addresses to people with knowledge in winter mountaineering.
Minimum necessary equipment: the only way to spend the night in the area is to camp (using a 4-season tent) or to bivouac at one of the sheepfolds used by the shepherds in summertime.
We recommend to bring with you: winter sleeping bag, isoprene, emergency survival blanket, waterproof jacket and trousers, jack-knife, gaiters, primus power gas, 2 pairs of gloves, trekking sticks and light food because you`ll have to carry all this in your backpack. Your backpack shouldn`t exceed 45l, for your hiking through the snow to be as easy as possible. We recommend you to come in the area with touring skis or snow rackets, due to the snow layer in the wintertime, which can be from 0.5 m to 1.2m thick.
Access: from Petrosani > Vulcan > Lupeni > Uricani > Campul lui Neag > keep driving on DN 66A (National Road) towards Casa de Vanatoare Campusel (Campusel Hunting House).
When reaching the yellow-dot trail marking indicator on the right side of your driving direction, you will leave your car on the side of the road, at Scocului gorges. The indicator with the marking can be found in line with a bridge crossing the valley.
We suggest you to equip your car with winter tires and chains. Sometimes there is significant snow in the area and the snow removal is not that prompt.
Period: Depending on the amount of snow, you can climb here from December to March (in order to benefit from snow). When planning your trip, keep in mind the weather or avalanche warnings issued by the National Weather Institute. Up to the altitude of ~1600m, above the forest limit, you can climb any time of year. The route is very well marked and you shouldn`t face orientation issues.
In order to reach the alpine area, you follow the yellow-dot marking, through Scorotei gorges. There is an approximate altitude difference of 430m to climb until reaching the place we suggest you to spend the night at. The path crosses Scorotei gorges, where you can find Zeicului Cave (unmanaged cave – we recommend to be visited together with speleologists or tourist guides only).
Scorotei gorges start near the sub-alpine area (where the limestone rocks begin) and reach the confluence of Scorota stream with Jiul de Vest River. The gorge is mostly dry. The walls of Scorotei gorges reach up to 350-400m high. The proximity of the walls of the gorge varies between 3m (in the gorge entry area, coming from the road) to 350m (in the higher area of the gorge).
Climbing Scorota Valley, you`ll notice the water stream branching into Scorota cu Apa stream, Scorota Seaca and Scorota Verde. We`ll continue our hiking along Scorota cu Apa, where our trail marking also guides us (yellow-dot).
At an altitude of 1580m you will come across a sheepfold, where, in wintertime, you can spend the night free of charge, depending on the goodwill of the owners. Your only consideration is to leave the place clean. Waking up early and having breakfast on the sheepfold`s verandah is completely worth it. The view is purely spectacular! Up front and below you`ll see Cheile Scorota and further, Oslea ridge – a subdivision of Valcan Mountains.
Starting from Scorota sheepfold area, you can go hiking across the versants or along the ridge, depending on the period chosen for this excursion. In case you have 2 days at your disposal, you can try climbing Albele Peak in one day and Piule Peak in the other day.
Although the inclination of the versants is not that high, we suggest you bring a pair of crampons + an climbing axe. Depending on the path you choose to climb, on some versants you may encounter ice, hence the difficulty of climbing. Of course, in case you possess touring skis, the distances covered in this trip will increase significantly. This area is very adequate for skiing.
The safest path identified by us to climb the crest is on the left side (in the climbing way) of the eastern cirque glacier Scorota. The area presents a low risk of avalanche, due to the less abrupt versant and to juniper plants. Nonetheless, you`ll have to orientate yourselves on the spot and to avoid cornices formed under the ridge. The altitude of the main ridge ranges is between 1800m and 1900m, connecting all the main peaks of Piule-Iorgovanul Mountains.
It is also mandatory to bring in yourtour a thermos with hot tea, emergency survival blanket and high-calorie food. In case the visibility is not good due to the bad weather, you shouldn`t venture yourselves touring.