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  • Writer's pictureHiker Tom

A Simple Reminder

Bucegi Natural Park, Romania

This image is one of my all-time favorites, and definitely one that I plan to have hanging on my wall one day.

I was hiking in Transylvania with my close friend of 12 years, Kieren. The trip itself was a sequel-of-sorts to our time together in Slovenia earlier in the year. On that trip, Kieren had met me in the middle of my tour of Central Europe, we had enjoyed a fleeting couple of days exploring the environs of Lake Bled, and he had flown back to the UK almost as soon as the whole adventure had begun. So this time we headed to Romania in late November for a full week, determined to make the most of it!

The trip started in a run-down hostel in Bucharest. Paint was peeling off of the walls, the floorboards creaked, and the pipes made all manner of unsettling sounds; it was perfect for the purpose that it served us – a cheap place to bunker down after the flight. But it wasn’t comfortable. After one too many Weiss beers that evening, we rose the next morning with eager anticipation to leave it in our wake and head to the mountains.

The beginning of our week was spent hiking through forests, visiting castles, searching for waterfalls and keeping an eye out for the illusive brown bear (remaining in constant indecision between excitement to catch a sight of the beasts and fear of what that might entail). Ultimately, however, one thing caught my attention above all else. After two days of rain, the valley sky cleared for the slightest moment, long enough to reveal a fresh layer of snow upon the Carpathian peaks, and I couldn’t wait to get up high.

When a few days later we were greeted with blue sky, our wait was over, and we ascended. The trip was made simple thanks to a cable-car that took us straight to 2000m. I was struck blind by the snow as we stepped out of the gondola, but as the blindness receded there lay before me a vast vista of snowcapped mountains. I felt in my element.

There is something about those clean, white backdrops of fresh snow that bewilders me more than any other sight. Similarly, the harsh sub-zero temperatures that are found in such places draw me in. I think it is the severity of the scene - the knowledge that so few beings can survive in such an environment – that entices me.

And so, with an unmarked canvas before us, Kieren and I set off to create our own exploratory tracks. We scaled cautiously down a steep slope, stopping every few steps for fear of an avalanche, until eventually we were clear of the danger zone. In my excitable state I soon found myself striding off ahead of my companion. Turning to stop, I saw him 100m away, trudging step by laborious step through the snow; in the sky behind him there had formed a menacing dark cloud, and I brought my camera up to my eye.

As soon as I pressed the shutter button I felt as though I had captured something memorable.

The desolate frozen foreground and the scale of the mountain background emphasize Kieren’s solitude as the lonely figure battling nature. The shear bleakness of the sky – and the dark shadow that it casts – provides a stark contrast to the pristine snow which contributes yet again to Kieren’s isolation. Meanwhile the whole image purveys, to me at least, an air of silence: the calm before the storm.

The mighty cloud passed us by as quickly as it had appeared, uninterested in us mere humans. Yet, for a brief period it served as a simple reminder. A reminder that mother nature’s mountains should never be underestimated.


🌏Where can I find: Bucegi Natural Park 🌏


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