Completing the Three Peaks Challenge in Transylvania with Crohn’s

Transylvania is probably best known for Dracula’s Castle and vampires so a lot of jokes about eating garlic were made before I set off. Oh and of course, the movie Hotel Transylvania but yes it is a real place and very beautiful it is too. It is described as a “hidden gem” and I believe that Prince Charles also has a soft spot for the place and has been involved in conservation projects in some of the rural villages. After the end of World War One, Transylvania was united with Romania. It is located in Central Romania about a three and a half hour drive from the city of Bucharest. Transylvania literally means, “land beyond the forest” so as expected, there are lots of trees! It is also renowned for bears but sadly, or luckily, we did not come across any in the mountains.

Following my challenging trek last April in Peru, I wanted to set myself another challenge for fundraising without the punishing addition of
the altitude. One of the group who trekked in Peru was organising a Three Peaks Challenge in Transylvania so I asked her if I could join the group. Last year I managed to get a lot more sponsorship and arranged more fund raising events but it is always harder the second time around. At the point of writing I have raised £1703.07 for ForCrohns.

The group comprised eight people and most of the others knew each other from past experiences of walking and climbing. We met at the airport and were transported to our accommodation, which was very different from the “wild camping” in Peru. It was located near to “Dracula’s Castle” in Bran near to the Carpathian Mountains, which is the second largest mountain range in Europe.

The next day our first ascent was to take six hours up the Bucegi Mountain, the highest point of which is 2505 metres. We set off early, which is always difficult for me as dealing with my Crohns in the mornings is usually the worst time. As we set out to climb upwards I fell towards the back
immediately and felt vaguely nauseous. Most of the group were significantly younger than me and there was 36 years’ difference between me and the youngest member of the group. The organisers of the trip, Delia and Danny and their friend, Cristi who accompanied us could not have been more helpful and encouraging. I found it tough going and I was very slow. The weather was not especially kind and it rained a fair amount and was very cold and misty at the peak. I was wearing two coats and wished that I had brought gloves with me. It was hard not to think about England basking in a heat wave. We didn’t stay long at the top and our descent was much faster, although hard on the knees. It was a long day but back at the chalet we were given a fantastic three-course meal of traditional Transylvanian food to build up our strength for the next day’s peak.

The second peak was called the Prince’s Stone Mountain, the highest point being 2237 metres. We were told that it was shorter but steeper and
that it should take four hours to reach the peak. Today I did not feel so good and had to take a lot of toilet stops, which slowed me up and left me way behind the others. The climb was steep and it rained on and off. Cristi was very kind and encouraging and kept me going when I felt like giving up. When I reached the point where we had planned to stop I was way behind the others. Two of the group were eating their lunch there but the others had opted to climb further up onto the ridge to get a better view. It was too late for us to follow them as the weather was deteriorating. I must admit that I was relieved and also aware that a lot of energy was going to be required for the descent. The others told us that they hadn’t been able to see much from the ridge and had fallen over several times due to the rocky terrain. We were pretty exhausted and almost everyone fell asleep on the drive back.

The third peak was not quite what I had envisaged and was a short “hike” up to Poiana Brasov, which is a popular ski resort in the area. At the “top’ we were treated to a fantastic traditional Transylvanian lunch. Delia and Danny wanted to share more of their country with us and also took us to
visit “Dracula’s Castle” and to the medieval town of Brasov. In the evening they arranged for some children to perform traditional dancing for us and we partied until the early hours.

It was not quite the challenge of last year but for me it was still a challenge! I’m wondering whether I am more suited to walking on flat ground, like say in the desert? It was a great experience with a fantastic, supportive group of people who were also so much fun. Danny and Delia could not have been better organisers and nothing was too much trouble for them. They also always ensured that the food was OK for me to eat and often
organised a special meal if it wasn’t suitable. If you are interested in seeing this country and climbing a mountain or two, check out their Facebook page, Transylvania Holidays or go to [email protected]

On another note, I have been prescribed with some new medication because it seems that I am only absorbing 1% of bile due to the resection of the particular part of my bowel and this is contributing to the chronic diarrhoea. It seems strange that it has taken them so many years to figure this out. Who knows, maybe next year I won’t be trailing along at the back as I won’t have to keep stopping and won’t feel so fatigued. Fingers crossed and watch this space!