The 15th of August. The renowned Ferragosto. The day of summer fever, when almost everyone in Italy shuts his businesses and runs to the beach, the restaurant, the club. This year we decided not to take part in this frenzy, and we opted instead for an opposite solution: climbing a mountain. The South of Italy is quite flat, but yet we wanted a real challenge.
We found it in the Corno Grande (lit. Big Horn), the highest peak of the massif Gran Sasso d’ Italia (Italy’s Big Rock), the first respectable peak on the way to the Alps.
Dipped in the Gran Sasso and Monti della Laga National Park, the Corno Grande stands out from a lunar landscape, made of bare, smooth hills which truly recall a desktop background, one of the ones you’d see and wonder “where this corner of the Earth is going to be?!”. Quite excited, we left the car at Campo Imperatore and headed for a stunning warm-up walk towards the Pizzo Cefalone, a smaller peak. While the sun was yet going down the horizon, we moved to Fonte Vetica, a spot onto the southeast side of the plateau of Campo Imperatore. Here you can surprisingly find a butcher shop in the middle of nothing, buy some meat, and decide to grill it on the BBQs located just outside, or take it to the wood and cook it with a trapper-like touch, as we of course we preferred to do.
After a night of feeble moon and sparkling stars, we packed up and moved once again to the starting point of the treks, nearby the observatory. We had to choose between the Normal Route and the Direct Route to the top. “Normal” doesn’t belong to us (here the technical details for hikers). Without ropes and snap-hooks, with some recklessness perhaps, we climbed the harsh south face of the Big Horn. The 360° breathtaking view of a good portion of Italy rewarded us for the exertion and gave us the good dose of adrenaline we were looking for.
Time to celebrate the endeavour was brief, since the weather was turning really bad. We proceeded straight to our next base-camp, the Rifugio Franchetti, a refuge placed as an eagle nest in between the Big and Little Horns, at 2433mt height. We pitched the tents just outside the building, and enjoyed a cold and windy night, which strained our gear and astounded our eyes.
There was the plan to climb the Corno Piccolo (Little Horn) the day after. But the legs hurt yet, and it was meant to be even more technically difficult than the Corno Grande. With the greatest respect the mountain deserves, we had to admit we weren’t prepared for that. We reached the Sella dei Due Corni (Two horns’ Pass), right at the base of the smaller peak, and then made our long way back to the car through the Normal Route.
There was still a night out to be spent. We headed to a spot we had noticed from the top of the Corno Grande. The Campotosto Lake didn’t disappoint our feeling. We took a break at farmers to buy some cheese and meat, and we were ready to camp once again. A mention to the arrosticini: a practical way to satisfy your palate without any grill, plate, knife or tissue. The perfect trapper food.
Photo and Video: Enrico and Matteo Fabi
Special Thanks to Mr. Luigi Pomponi, Secretary of the Teramo section of the CAI, who helped us over the phone to design our itinerary with great kindness and knowledge.