A solo ice adventure in the Apennines
In this winter, when snow is scarce, the channels of our Apennines are covered by a very solid tongue of ice.
⛰ Category : alpinism, adventure, mountains
📅 Date : 2020-01-11
🗺 Location : Corno alle scale, Italy
Early days of 2020,
Finally we are in the cold season. This year’s, due to the low snowfall, we could define it more as a "never ending autumn" instead of a real winter. Mount “Corno alle Scale” - the name of the most interesting mountain close to my home - I can reach it in about an hour and a half by car. Being so close I know it very well and I could call it "my home mountain". This massif, in spite of being in the Apennines, has interesting geological and environmental features that give strong emotions in every season. We are talking about a grassy mountain with several spurs of stratified rock. On the Northeastern side, the Corno plunges steeply into a closed valley through prominent gullies with a difference in height of between one hundred and four hundred metres. Due to its position, this valley is completely isolated from the rest of the landscape and for this reason it is called "Valley of silence". Although the valley is not very big, being enclosed between rocks and grassy heights, it immediately gives you the idea of finding yourself alone in nature, in the almost total absence of human artifacts. These characteristics make it one of the most magical places I know in the Apennines. The Corno is therefore perfect for getting away from the daily city life and having some outdoor experiences.
As soon as I returned from my beloved Dolomites, my great passion for adventure and the desire to keep on mountaineering made me feel the need to get out and set off for the mountains. So I decided to have a nice ice experience nearby. After loading the equipment in the car, I set off towards the base of the Corno alle Scale. Seeing the frozen lake and the forest with no snow surely made me sad... I started walking in the beech wood and then in a short time I reached the famous Valley of Silence which despite the little snow is still able to fill my heart with joy. It was a freezing: despite the sun the temperature were still sub-zero. I stared at the valley for a few minutes, looking at the hike couloir that I would have climbed shortly after. I decided to climb one of the first couloir, I was quite unsure whether it was a great idea. You should be aware of climbing frozen couloirs, in fact, being alone took me to evaluate with particular attention the difficulty of the road. Having finally reached the end of the prairie, I prepared myself for the climb by sitting next to the solid tongue of ice that forms the base of the gully. Crampons on my feet, ice ax fastened to my wrist, helmet and backpack on my back and I told myself “here we go!”
The gully was not too steep at first, the ax only served as a support and the ice was fantastic. I really loved the sounds that crampons made when they pierced the smooth surface of the ice, it was a sound that is almost addictive for those who love the winter environment. As I was climbing up, I realized how exciting the scenery around me was, even though it wasn’t strictly winter. I decided to stop to take a few pictures and to secure myself to a crack nail that someone had previously planted. Shortly after I resumed the climbing and I entered in a bottleneck between two rocky walls, I noticed the greater slope in which I found myself almost deceptively. After looking behind me, I looked at the inclination that was always much steeper than it seemed when I climbed up, so much that if I had opted for a turn-around, I would have needed a rappel to be able to descend safely. After passing this large room between high rocky walls, I passed through a bottleneck where I found a small crevasse that I climbed carefully giving me an excellent view of the top of the gorge that with the last but very hard efforts took me to the top.
Once I put my feet on the top I was really proud and enthusiastic about the route I had just done. Then I was totally alone and my highlander spirit was proud. At the top such a strong wind was blowing that I was forced to descend a less scenic and exposed slope, I couldn’t stand the powerful blowing! Back to the car, I found myself thinking about how much emotion even such a small and little known mountain can give. The little-known environment and the isolation from civilization make the Corno alle Scale a beautiful adventure terrain, useful for those who, like me, are trying to learn winter mountaineering techniques, and for all those who want to broaden their horizons by living new experiences.