THE STONEY MOUNTAINS. It is well worth cutting across this range to get from towering Prince’s Stone to Romania’s tallest summits. Winding, westering peaks, craggy grasslands, grassy crags stretching nearly two and a half thousand meters into the air: Iezer and Păpuşa are as inseparable as their rains and mists. We climb out of the Dâmbovița River valley into eastern Păpuşa, pitching camp on a steep hillside at forest-fringe and pasture-brink. Our fire flickers upon the only flat ground, and a three-legged dog limps about its flames. I can only guess who took its leg: bear, or shepherd: to put an end to its hunting. Timidly, it eats any leftovers it finds.

A new day and a new dog follows us across white, wandering plains. In the company of fog and wind, we stray together, Iezer-Păpuşa does not have the thickest network of tracks and paths. Mists disperse with evening, and a pale sun sets behind southern slopes. We descend near the mountain of Piscanu and settle upon the most beautiful, windswept, alpine campsite. Tents stand among dry lake grasses and silver-flowering marshes. The quiet sound of falling water can be heard somewhere in the distance as mountains dim in the solitude. Dry rhododendrons crackling in the fire fill the air with smoky fragrance; there is no other wood to be found. 

Early morning: most beautiful time of day. Two slender, snowy, flute-like clouds stretch across an azure sky. Gaze now, long and silent, into the red and rising sun. Amidst a softly wafting breeze, the Leaota Mountains climb above a southeasterly horizon. Few have been mornings as beautiful as in the Iezer-Păpuşa Mountains!

The view northward from Roşu Peak, highest mountain of the range, is striking too. There, the eastern Făgăraş stretch into the distance like engravings of ancient Asia, the only link between us and them: a narrow ridge, long and parched, which must be crossed. We rest near adders in the grass and drink from murky sheep pools, and at evening’s fall, we find ourselves amid the peaks of the windy Făgăraş.