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Retezat Mountains

The entire surface of limestone in the upper West Jiu (Jiul de Vest) and Cernisoara form a unitary system. Because of this intense process of Karstification of this massif the surface water infiltrates underground. They are removed from superficialcirculation and get routed to Jiu, to a route underground, to flow into Cernisoara Basin through Cerna Stream.

The geologicalcomposition of the investigated region is made up of two major tectonicunits: the Danubian Field and the Getic Cloth.In the range of the Danubian Domain a foundationconsisting of crystalline shale anderuptive rocks has been broken and eruptive precabrian rocks and its sedimentary depositswhich are composed of Paleozoic, Mesozoic and metamorphosed.
Mesozoic deposits of the area began withthe lower Jurassic period, which is represented by sandstones quarto-feldspar, artificial rocks and conglomerates.

The Average Jurassic forms are made of limestone that give rise to massive morphological stones - Iorgovanului Stone- Piule- Plesa, occupying almost entirely the leftside of West Jiu Valley ( Valea Jiului de Vest). Starting in the valley of Buta to the springs, at the junction with Valley Soarbele, these limestonesmake up the filling a trough with asymmetric faulted southern flank. This trough is developing in the south of the Peak Plesa to Ratii Lake (Lacul Ratii). The package of limestones has, on the northern side, a thickness of 1500-2000m, which reducesboth to the east andwest.

The stack of detrital rocks, of superior Cretaceous age, are ordered transgressive and discordant over the limestones.

Tectonic, the region is characterized by the presence of longitudinal dislocations, leading to the formation of Cerna - Jiu Graben.

The range of limestone in the West Jiu - Cernisoara area is41km. In this area there were inventorieda total of 10 active sinkholes during 1982.It is also known that the sinkholes were inventoried by researchers at the Institute of Speleology and I.M.H., andwere partially cloggedduring this period.

Photo 1, 2 - Iorgovanu and Albele Peaks
The linear path would explain the major role in the Cerna- Jiu fault drain. Also we mention that a chemical analysis of water samples collected at source from Cerna shows that it retains calcium-sodium bicarbonate from Scorota Slope area and not pure Calcium Bicarbonate water, which provides evidence, that the underground water flow is not achieved solely through the limestone, but through their contact with the crystalline shale along the major fault Cerna - Jiu.

The karst topography

The extension of karst relief is required by the type of carbonaterocks, their purity,and the degree of the cracking and tectonic process (gradul de tectonizare- diaclazare). The vegetation type and the coverage of the rock play an important role.In the case of the studied area we mention that an important role corresponds to the periglacial, geomorphological processes: disaggregation,the frost-melting down and nivationprocesses.

Thegroups of mountains that can be found between Bute Valley,the Valley of the West Jiu and the Valley of Lapusnic and Godeanu Mountains are also called Piule - Iorgovanu Mountains or Mount Retezatul Mic.

The last namenot only diminishes their importance, but it is improper for Mount Retezatul Mic to be called this way as it is not at all "small”. Unlike his brother to the north, with peakscut as borders, withits myriad ice lakesand clear streams, Retezatul Mic,which was formed almost entirely of limestone, is distinguished by alpine karst development, having its broadest spread of this kindin our country.

It has original, spectacular forms, which are hardly known. The Jurassic and Cretaceous limestonesform a thick stackof about 1500 m,in the Mount Albele.

The limestones were heavily cracked. This, as the absence of a thick plant carpet makes deep waters infiltrate, where they gather strand by strand, and also all the brooks, forming a powerful underground river,which after a journey of nearly 14 km in a straight line (which lasts 12 days) on the path of unknowngalleries, it bursts into the spring Cerna.

In terms of structure, the Southern Retezat is framed into massive isolated karst, according to the classification made ​​by T. Rusu and M. Bleahu (1965). The same authorsare the first to render the Carpathian carstoplene with the level surfaces.

Thus, Carstoplena Albele is identified in the Carpathians, in Mountains Iorgovanu - Piule, at 1900 m, synchronousto Borascu surface.

V. Trufas and V. Sencu (1967),using different lithologiccriteria, distinguish two main types of karst: karstsoluble rocks, including karst developed in limestone,dolomite, crystalline limestone, calcareous tuffs, gypsum,anhydrite and salt karst rocks and clusters, which differed from the karst developed on calcareoussandstones and conglomerateswith cement, from the tuffs and volcanicconglomerates, the loess deposits andclay deposits.

Further developing this classification criterion,Sencu V. (1968, 1973 and 1983) distinguishesthe following types of karst: karst limestone and dolomite in the crystalline limestone and dolomite karst in theMesozoic, developed on limestone karst Neozoic,salt karst, karstin gypsum karstin the tuffs andvolcanic conglomerates, sandstones and conglomeratesand clastocarst inloess deposits, while bringing further notice on numerical values​​and percentage of area occupied by these rocks.

In 1972 I.D. Ilie makes a more complex classification of karst in the Southern Carpathians trying to distinguish, based on several criteria, the taxonomic units andtheir territorial distribution. It uses three criteriadefined: morphogenetic, morphostructural and bylocation.

The morphogeneticcriterion (proposed by J. Cvijic, 1918, 1960 andEmm Martonne, 1926) after which he distinguishes the following types: the merokarst characterized by a slow evolution of karst under a blanketof soil and vegetation (Rucăr-Bran, the upper of Dambovita, metamorphic limestonepatches of Fagaras,Parang and Latoriteilimestone from GrădişteaMountain, karst ofPiule-Iorgovanu - and one of Vâlcan; the karst transition(type Jura-Causses),characterized by the alternation of nude limestone with the merokarst (in the southern Bucegi Bran-Rucar,Vâlcan, karst basin of Dry Motru and Cerna ) the holokarst discovered, strongly developed (Stone Craiului, Motru an Sohodol Basins, in the valley of Dambovita, in the south-west of Sureanu Mountains, in Oltetului and Galbenului Canyon), karst or fossilized criptokarst.

Gr. Posea and his collaborators (1974) based upon this criterion the complex geomorphologicallandscape of the Carpathian Mountains exemplifying thekarst of Piule- Iorgovanu.
C. Goranwithin places the Piule- Iorgovanu Karst Plateaus flanked by valleys andforming canyon or steep slopes. This disruptionhas advanced karsthydrographic network, with the presence of endorheic basins. Underground drainage isdivergent and the river that is born has a radial character.Caves are those receivingon the set and thosebased on the debtor. Inside the caves appear fossilsand also gravitational traction processes.

The Exokarst

The left slope of the Jiu Valley, hasimportant differences from the right and also a different distribution and variety of the exokarst relief.
The limestone extending to over 2000 m altitudein Piule Massif (2081m) - Iorgovanu(2014 m) gave rise to forms of relief including the alpine exokarst.

In contrast, in the right side of Jiu de Vest, the karstic rocks have a much smaller expansion in the limestone conescalled "ciuceve" having altitudes of about 1400-1500m.

Due to intense falier slopesof the region there are common subverticale (Peak Iorgovan, faleza Mare and Faleza Mica - Sohodol Canyon) andcliffs, which risealmost abrupt slopes, sometimes with overhangs at the top and the overcrowding ofboulders, up from the bottom. The existence of vertical or highly inclined diaclaze causesthe separation and collapse of hugeblocks, which explains the formation of large slopes, limestone slopesof steep, thelofty ridges.

Valleys in the canyon have sometimes the aspectof the canyon due to high fragmentation, depth and the verticality of slopes. We mention the suspended canyon sectors (Caprei Valley located on the right side of Scorota DryValley, The Ice Scoc, The Canyon Valley, Scocul Infundat) thehandcuffed meanders sectors (Scorota Valley,Western sectors of Jiu Valley).
Marmiteis observed especially in canyon sectors that have large flow fluctuations.These landforms are the result of lateral erosionmodeling and depth of the watercourse.
The limestone clints formed on Retezat Mountains are remarkable. Being composed of water,on the alignment offissure, the clints are oriented in most cases on the largest slope line.This explains the huge vertical clints rocks formed on the top of Peak Iorgovan.

Clints differmorphologically. They can be simpleor composite clints(developed during the Pleistocene glaciation, showing only residualforms over whichthere is superimposed a new generation of clints).
Natural Bridges present inSouthern Retezat resulted fromthe partial collapse of caves (ceilingor side walls). Such forms can be encountered in the GreatAven Găuroane, near the pothole in Tomii Sheepfold and CaveNo. 5.

Dolines also have a different distributionon the two slopes of Western Jiu. The Northern side of the valley, becauseof the higher slopes of mountains andthe glacier modeling of the characteristics, have no characteristics of thedolines. Plateaus and dolinare valleys are found only near Jiu - Cernastep in theTaul Ratii.
The sinkholes are where the wateris disappearing underground. The assets are located
in the riverbeds, where water is lostgradually or suddenly,through impenetrable cracks.

The sinkholes, withthe remaining temporary activitiesare suspended from the bed or on the dry valleys,taking water from melting snow or the water from the slopes, from torrentialrains.

The penetrating, large sinkholes (Ponorul de la clopotnita, the sinkholes 14, 42 and 51) show a variable degree ofclogging, depending on the season and the intensity of rainfall or the flood production.Clogging was done withdifferent grain size sediments, with plant debris and, from November to August, with snow and icedeposits.

The Endokarst

There are a lot of cavesin Western Jiu- Cernisoara Perimeter.
In this area there are 630 known caves.Their spatial layoutis contingent on several factors thatwill be presented as follows.
The Retezat Mountains have shaped the reliefin three stages, consisting of three platforms of erosion.
1 - The Eocene age Borascu Platform, 1800maltitude.
2 - Platform Ses River, age between 1800-1400m liocene.
3 - Platform Gornovita, developed at about 1000maltitude.
The caves in Retezat area can be divided on three levels, corresponding to the three platforms of erosion.

The level of platformBorascu presents a relatively small number of caves, all with verticaldevelopment. The next level has the same feature according to Raul Sesplatform, which develop potholes with an average of 50-60m. It is possible that some of them present more bumps, but impenetrable, because of the snow stoppers, which never melt because of the altitude.

To the third level it corresponds to 85% of the caves of this area.They develop in the Jiu slopes at an altitude of about 100m. Most caves are typicalversions of small fractures formed on the support of major fault Cerna- Jiu.
On the third level of development of the cavessome tried groupingseveral floors, which however are not conclusive, because many of the caves were assessed at a relative altitudeand not measured by an altimeter.

Since we can see that the caves are grouped around the three sinkholes (both horizontally andvertically) and in the tributary rivers the confluencewith the fractureswere formed on thesupport of major fault.In conclusion, the high abundance of cavescan be found at the intersection of fractures.

The ratio of the number of caves groupedalong the Jiu and the number of limestone caves found in the southern slopeis high. In the southern slopes are located only four caves, of which, only one is measuringover 100m andis an evidence of drainage from south to north.
For this reason we assume the existence of complex fractures in the limestone of the Jiu, of which the fault that is limit-impermeablelimestone (south) and the one along which was established by the river Jiu,there are a set of active sinkholes and fossils.

We must alsohighlight the role of the support fractures, corresponding to this complex, where were formed the affluents on the right of Jiu River.

Statistical study of caves frequencyof area WesternJiu- Cernisoara
Of the 630 caves and potholes covered land is not known lengthto 32 and theother is not determinedbump 73. Caveswith development in the 10m was not close at all inventoriedand therefore can not be taken into account in staticcalculations.

Of the 630caves and potholes in the covered land, the lengthof 32 of them is unknown and the bumps are not determined for another 73. Caves with development in the 10m were notat all close inventoried and therefore cannot be taken into account in staticcalculations.

Zeicului Cave

Locationand access roads. By the confluence of Great Scoc and Scorota Valley, there is a place where you can camp (there is the last place where you can make supplies of drinking water and carbidelamps).
From the junction, go on a wide pathon the valley of Scorota that creeps among steep wooden slopes. After approximately 15 minutes of walk (500m), go througha short passage ofcanyon. Then follow the widened left side,and the curve to the left (right as you climb)as you start attacking a path, quite abruptly. From here the cave is just visible in the first meters, but after 20-30mit becomes very clear.In switchbacks climbstraight up about 80m, then the trailstarts on the level curve to the north, crossing over a limestone porches.From this place only, the entrance of the cave becomesvisible. The normal duration of the journey from Scorota to the cave is of 40 minutes.

Historical data. Zeicului Cave was knownin its first portion by the locals as a place of shelter for livestock. It has also served as a hideout for the outlawsof Zeicu, which is strengthened by the discovery of rusty muskets in the cave.

Description. Zeicului Cave is ajoint cavity, because the development to horizontal is close to the vertical. This raises interesting questions concerning its genesis. At the same time it sorts the regular tourists, from those provided withequipment and technical descents and climbingverticals.
From the portal with6x8m size you can get down a scree slope in a hall room,with the floor covered with clay and rocks andthe ceiling drilling of short chimneys and corrosion bells. You can also seethe thick trunk room,once carved as thegutter to collect water, now being completely rotted.
At the end ofthis hall, 50m long,the daylight is not beating. Igniting our lights, we can see a promising opening in the ceiling chimney, whose escalating,although only 10m,requires skill, for the outlets are very slippery. The escalation may be easier in the left side.

Once you are out of the chimney, you get in a very high room (15m), with the floor covered with boulders and walls adorned with leaking stalagmites and walls adorned with huge waterfalls of cream-coloredstone of monmilch. In the northern end of thehall, a niche on the left side houses some beautiful formations. On the floor there are calcite cemented remains of cave bears (hence a copy of harvesting huge skull of spelaeus Bear), whose presence in this room makes usthink of speed speogeneticprocesses that have changed so radically the cavity and led to the disappearance of bears 10 millenniaago, until today’s times.

In the end of the room there is the 2 x 2m opening of a 40m deep shaft.
We anchor the rope to lower a thick pillar that was at 3m distance. In its conduct we will be careful not to put trigger separation of calcite crust from the hopper shaft.
After a descent of 12m we will meet a small wall that deserves prominence to stop to look around: we are in a vault large hall of 20 x 15m. Beneath us there is a gap of about 40m. Looking in the right, we see the limestone platforms, covered in concrete and at the left side, on the ceiling stalactites hang in the form of a group of stylish, perfect conical shape, adorned with coral and crystallites. The longest is probably over 5m and it is among the biggest stalactites in our country. From this point, it can be photographed.
We continue our descent, keeping contact with the wall. After another 25m we land on top of a huge stalagmites dome, 8m high, from which we can go down easy, without using a rope.
The bottom room is horizontal and is covered with clay. Some beautiful formations retain our attention. However, what deserve the most to be admired and photographed is the vertical descent and the ceiling of the room where we can see huge stalactites and huge discoid formations.
Zeicului Cave was formed by the connection of a vertically hollow, like potholes, which are common in this area with a slope cave-like Cave with Reef or Cave Dalma with trees.

In the first phase there existed independently, a subhorizontal gallery corresponding to the entrance hall and two cavities with verticaldevelopment of a chimneyand a well, to the end of it. Collapse led to the formation of a superior room and opened the accessto the lower hall.

Cave No. 5 above sinkhole No. 4 (2105/19)
Location. The cave is developed in the left side of Jiu West at 200m downstream ofthe confluence with Jews Valley. The two openingsof the cave (0, 4 x0, 5 and 4x3m) occur at a relative altitude of 45m above the limestonewall, below which is the main Jiu Sinkhole.
Dimension L =320m, D = 63m, E = 86m, Cr = 3.7m, Aa = 1155m, Ar = 45m.
Description. The large opening allowsthe descent of a verticalcave-8m, whose baseis in a 24x20x8m room,the floor covered with the collapse of the ceiling in the western extremityof this hall continues with the main gallery of thecave, from which emergesa short diverticulumwhere there is a shaftof 37m, its terminus being cloggedwith boulders. Fromthis branch, the main gallery gradually reduces its size, while the amount of formation is more abundant.
The terminus isclogged by a parietal drain, before which the floor is covered withgururi.

The cave is locatedabove the active sinkhole of Jiu River, the cave plansuggesting the idea that it functioned as a sink,forming a kind of gallery during the actualmeander of Jiu. Butthe slope of the meanderis upstream andit is an evidence of water flow to the source of Cerna spring in remote periods.

Maps taken by the Commission bulletin Central Caving Sports (1- Cave No. 4 in Scorota Scoc / by George Ponta / FV; 2- Cave No. 5 above pothole 4 / by Cristian Panaiotu / FV)

Cave No. 4 located in Scorota Scoc (2104/26)
Location. The opening of the cave is located inthe left side of Scorota,100m upstream of the confluence with the Western Jiu.
Dimension L =377.2 m, D =26m, E = 48m, Cr = 7.8 m,Aa = 1150m, Ar = 50m.
Description. The cave has two largeopenings (10x6. 5x5m)that unite behind a single pillar in the gallery, which branches outin two, in a room, the two branches making a centralpillar. This room is full of concretions. The North-west of the hall consists ofa well of 23m with a bump of theterminus at the bottom of it. Opposite to the shaft (crossing the shaft) there can be found that finalroom that has two branches descending, being clogged with clay.Genetically, the caveis a valley of meander Scorota. In the first phase, the currentopenings functioned as a resurgence cave, and oncewith the change of the level of the region, it remained as fossil, mainlydrained by the well lost in the the central sector of the cave.

Cave Dalma with Trees
Location and access roads. Cave Dalma with trees is at theleft side of the Great Scoc in the upper basin of the Jiu West at an altitude ofapproximately 150m from the thalweg and1200m altitude, near the confluence of the Great Scoc and Jew River. Next to these bearly visible confluences a trail which goes abruptly at first,then in tight switchbacks, initially through dense forest, then mixed withthickets of shrubsisolated trees. Entering the cave, although relativelylarge (3x2m) is well hidden and it is hard to find.

Description. It is a dry, horizontal cave consisting of a main galleryand a branch, with a total of 226m in length.
The main gallery is 3-5m wide and 10m high. It is heading to north due to a room whose floor is covered in wetperiods with a lake of 1m deep.

The large pothole with snow Albele-Gauroane (2103/15)
Location. The pothole is located inPeak Albele, at the altitude of 1890m, on the slope fromthe West Jiu, at about 100m in the south of the touristic trail Buta -Iorgovanului Stone chalet. Although the opening of the potholes,with dimenssions of25x20m is of the most impressive, it is relatively hard to find, being hidden betweenthe clumps of juniper trees.
Dimension. L = 195.6 m, D = 84.5 m, E = 20 m, Cr = 9.75 m, Aa = 1890m, Ar = 750m.
Description. The opening of the pothole allows a vertical descent of 10m toa cap of snow.Between it and the wall there opens a bumpof 10m, as thevertical scale is in a room with a floormade
​​of snow and ice, which is the continuance of a snowstopper at the bottom of the first scale. Fromthis room with thetwo remaining snowoff that ofthe previous shaft-34m, has a bump of snowon the lower extremity of the vertical ridge of 55m long, 20m wide sloping30 degrees, at its end one can see the truebottom of the potholes,covered with gravel and a few boulders. The room has large ceiling its heightbeing appreciated at approximately 20m.
This ventureraises interesting issues regarding the snow and ice accumulation mechanism. There is also the possibility of climatic information storage.It is the largest glacier that has been explored in the Southern Carpathians.

The Large Pothole under Iara (2103/18)
Location. The pothole is located near the watershedof the basin Soarbele and Iara Basin.

Dimension: L = 87m, 63m =- D, E = 26.5 m, Cr = 3.3 m, Aa = 1700M, Ar = 400m.
Description. The pothole is formedin a shaft of59m, which is based almost vertical in asloping hall thatgoes down to 63m. The floor of the room is covered with boulders. The terminus is the bottom of the bag.

The Pothole under Albele (2104 /1)
Location. The Pothole is in the tourist path,Buta- Iorgovanuluistone chalet, near Spring Bolborosi.
Dimension.L = 50m, D = 28m, E = 35m, Cr= 1.4 m, Aa= 1853m, Ar =0.
Description.The Pothole is formed by a unique gallery in the final slope that has several stages of different dimensions. The width of the gallery decreases from the outside to the inside.

The Large Pothole "Scocul de Piatra cu gheata” (2105/123)
Location: The Pothole is located in thewatershed of "Scocul de piatra cu gheata” and the nextvalley. Downstream of the Jiu Valley there aretwo affluents to the left of Jiu Mare, junction pointsbeing located between the Bear Valley and Jews Valley. From the road climbing Scocul de piatra cu gheata up to 1340m altitude, where the road continues the level curve, on itsleft side for about 350m. The opening of the pothole is hard to spot because of the dense forest trees,its opening size being of 2x1, 8m.
Dimension. L = 188m, D = 92m, E = 88m, Cr = 2.14 m, Aa = 1340m, Ar = 120m.
Description. The Pothole is formedfrom a single gallery,having medium size of approximately 35 degreebeing interrupted by a vertical shaft of a well of about 43m.

This well has to cover small platforms of -3m-13m,-20m, the last 22mdisposed vertically.

At theshaft starts a gallery with the floor covered withcollapsed ceiling, during which are encountered some steps of 2m, the last one being of 6m, upon which isthe final room. From here a gallery opens. The Pothole is in an advanced stage of concretion, generally more representative being the leakage parietal. The most important leaks are at the top of the step of 6m, where there are two leaks which tend section the gallery. It is reported the presence of the motmilchului.