Camp Imperatore

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October 30th 2005
Published: December 13th 2005
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View from valley floorView from valley floorView from valley floor

off the 'highway' at a rest stop and double check the map
Hey there beautiful people, yesterday (actually, almost a month ago!) not only did we gain an hour of light we also manage to tak advantage of the time change and get to the Italian National Park of GRAN SASSO (BIG o'STONE) If you'd like to know more go to Wikipedia's Gran Sasso page or the Climbing Gran Sasso page.

One evening last week, Sean returned from a hard day's work (as usual) in the office writing about space and says Marcus wants to go up a mountain this weekend. I’m like sure and thinking - knowing Marcus the likelihood of him getting up before NOON that it just might not come to fruition, right?

WRONG! Not only did Marcus get up early he also managed to get six of us to join him on his mission to ascend Gran Sasso. We all communicate with Marcus Saturday night to figure out where and when we are meeting. It’s decided that we meet at 8.30am current time which is actually 7.30am on Sunday due the fall back of an hour in time. Earlier in the day Miia called to say she would be joining us too since

it wasn’t a guy thing and you're going

along with the boys. I’m happy to have
Campo ImperatoreCampo ImperatoreCampo Imperatore

parking lot - base camp leave the car and go ahead on foot
another woman join as I tend to be the only girl on most outings ma non lo so per che??

Sunday morning arrives and Sean and I are thinking on our way to the parking lot that maybe no else will show or maybe they have overslept or I was sure we got the time wrong as I was a bit confused about the meeting time to begin with. We wait and surely, one by one tired eyes awake from the sleepy morning dew of Frascati.

Dan zooms in his fab red mini with white racer stripes parks up the lane then joins us in the parking lot near Fiorionda a bar and dining place that’s BOHO in a clinical white walls kind of way. Cool place to get a blazing headache from on their house red.

But I digress, Christian walks over and ask where the others are. Miia and Guilam haven’t shown up, yet while Sean and Dan decide they are in need of cash so they were headed out to the bank-o-mat.

Christian gets a bit antsy so decides to go get his car just in case he needs to drive.

Gran SassoGran SassoGran Sasso

from the parking lot
is surveying the maps for the best route to our chosen destination.

Sean and Dan return from their mission to get duckets.

I suggest getting a coffee somewhere but no ones biting meanwhile Miia arrives sleepy eyed like the rest of us.

Miia has been working A LOT of over-time at the office for that last few weeks in order to meet a deadline for her project.

Guilam arrives last but not least in his sporty blue car and declares the gas pump has eaten his credit card! Incredulous, the attendant says just come back tomorrow and we should have it for you!

Christian returns with his car. We all gather round decide do we get petrol in Frascati or en route. It pretty unanimous en route. Marcus drives; Sean rides shot-gun as his navigator while Dan and I get to be passengers which ain’t so bad as long as the roads are straight. I get car sick sometimes.
For all his effort Christian doesn’t get to drive because he doesn’t have music in his car. Guilam has music but unfortunately for Miia NO CD player. Auck-well, the youth of today no priorities, gotta tell
Up and over...Up and over...Up and over...

you can see the trail with people scattered here and there along the length of it like ants up an ant hill

Essentially, the divide in cars was YGT (young graduate trainees) in one car and older less responsible ones in the other, so to speak. We make time on the road before making a pit-stop for petrol.

While at the station we walk across to get snacks for the car ride over. We persuade Guilam that maybe he should cancel his credit cards - maybe he’s being scammed by the gas attendant? Better safe than sorry, right. It’s too early for him to reach anyone in France so he waits until the next stop to make a call to his sister in Paris.

At this point we are at the base of the mountain at a rest stop. We take photos of the view and it’s gorgeous in everyway. The light, the colour everything seems to be running smoothly. Time for that cautionary phone call Guilam needs to make.

Once he’s off the phone he’s astonished, as I can safely say we all are, that he HAS his credit card in his wallet. It wasn’t eaten by the gas pump but somehow he thought it had been. A bit odd, guess, getting up before mid morning

massive wild horses on the road enroute to Campo Imperatore
on a Sunday isn’t easy for most. We all had a laugh at the great news! No need to cancel that card after all…

On that good note we jump back into our cars to set off again. Guilam returns to the benches to get his backpack that he almost left behind. Sitting in the back seat I notice there is another small bag sitting on the bench so I get out real quick to see what it is. It’s a camera bag so I go over to the other car is this yours? Yup, you guessed it. It belong to Guilam perhaps we are witnessing a trend, maybe, maybe not?

Now we are back on the road again and we won’t stop again until we reach camp imperatore. Along the route the roads are curvey and dangerous which if you know Marcus means drive as fast as you can and hope you don’t go over the edge. At one point we need to slow way down and get into the other lane going the opposite direction to ‘over take’ these ginormous beautiful horses. What a sight …

Upon arriving at campo imperatore Miia and I make a bee line to the ladies. Back at the car we take our bags and have a good look around. The lot isn’t full by any means but there are a lot of people around. Looking at the other people I begin to feel perhaps this isn’t the hike for us?

Thinking it’s a good 4.5 to 5.5 hours of walking it’s 10K one-way and 2,624 teet (800 meters) up the mountainside. Ummm, everyone around us seems to be equipped with climbing gear, ropes, belays, helmets, etc. Half our group have street shoes on I think the only person truly prepared for this gear wise is Marcus - wooden mug and all.

For instance, I have a shoulder bag because my backpack broke, a slightly heavy jacket. Sean, Miia and Christain don’t have the right type of shoes on. Miia has a great bag but again not really practical for this journey of an ascent. Guilam has a backpack and a GS grocery bag with his sustenance. This we quickly learn is no ordinary walk.

Corno Grande the summit is at 9,554 feet (2,912 meters) where you can see Europe’s most Southern Glacier. Trail begins at Campo
At the cave...At the cave...At the cave...

we make a brief stop at patch of solid ground to have a snack as fuel is a definate to get to our destination at the top (Esther, Sean, Dan, Miia, Christain, Marcus)
Imperatore. What I do know is that in 1943 at least for the summer months Mussolini was imprisoned here because it was so remote and difficult to reach - only to be rescued by the Germans who arrived via gliders.

We begin our hike and it is up hill pretty much the whole route. The first part leaving the parking area is basically dirt trail we veer to the right and carry on. We are passed up by people of all ages some of whom are better kitted out than others and their pets.

Dan and Marcus lead the pack they are eager to get to the summit. Walking at a nice pace we follow along the trail. Arriving at a plateau that we refer to as the Cave very rocky good spot to have a mini break, snack, water, etc. we take a few group photos and eye the path ahead of us. Decision needs to be made: do we go right and scale the summit or remain on the left as originally planned.

As we aren’t really prepared gear wise for this


walk the decision is made to stick to the original plan/route. Dan

Esther, Miia and Sean
leads the pack the whole route until we return to the car on the flipside. Now the ascent begins. The path (if you can call it that) is loads of loose rock that shift with every step and at certain points you stop walking and the silence is breathtaking all you hear is the breeze and the birds.

The path is steep you must use both your hands to secure a safe passage onward and be aware that the rock you are stepping on is solid placed and not going to give way or you may be in dire straits.

Nearing our destination, you can see the countless other people on the summit, early risers I’m sure of it. They look, we must all, look like ants following the path leading to the Corno Grande to be awed by Mother Nature herself. Along the way Sean and I spot a memorial to a climber who must have lost their life earlier in the year the only identifier was the number 18 with the date of the incident in blue paint.

There are climbers on the mountain they look like dots. Thinking Judy and Joel my climbing friends in San Diego California would love this place. Don’t climb myself I prefer to be on solid ground personally.

Reunited, the group gathers to admire the views and take additional photos. the final ascent ice is upon us, the path ahead is icey every step is carefully placed before planting the next step forward. In the shadows the previous year’s snow fall remains as ice for us trekkers on the trail.

At this point it’s clear Miia is ill and we should perhaps stop. Dan and Marcus have gone ahead as they have been consistently a good 20-30 minutes ahead of the pack. Sean decided to catch them up and he does.

Christain, Miia, Guilam and myself stay together for the time being. We kind of guilt trip Miia with ‘we’re almost there’ stupidity and push onwards and upwards. At one point I lose the trail pausing to gather where it’s gone. We spot the markers about 10 feet away. Deciding the trail is marked for a reason we head that way. By this time Christian has bypassed me and is further along off the trail - not good.

Christians is like no problem it’s okay

not sure what's happened here? I imagine a bit of theatre...hmmm
meanwhile Miia, me and Guilam are insisting he return to the trail as danger is one false move ahead. From where we are on the trail it seems very dangerous to be in Christian’s position. We are all tired and maybe a bit dehydrated, too. Rejoining us on the actual trail we regroup to figure out how much further the summit is we see it above us.

The summit is approximately 200 meters away! Miia decides she can’t go any further they guys want to reach their destination. I’m content with what we’ve seen and done already its beautiful everywhere you look.

Miia and I remain ‘off’ trail as best we can greet hiker’s descending the mountain summit. Everyone is helpful and nice. We spoke briefly with an US couple with their two dogs who looked zonked out - the dogs not the couple, that is. He told us they were living in Naples and that he had been apologizing to his girlfriend the whole way up! Like us the trail isn’t what they prepared for.

Like I stated earlier this isn’t exactly the walk we were expecting. Anyhow Miia drank water and waited a bit before

the mist of the clouds hung low in the valleys aroung us like a dewy blanket
we too head down the mountain. Before we got started we ran into a friend of mine Shara and her boyfriend Simon! Shara and Simon also live in Frascati! Small world, aye, that said it was an ideal day to hike and most likely the last weekend to make this ascent before the winter.

Miia and I started down hill very slowly and carefully thinking once we reached a lower elevation she may begin to feel a bit better. Figure she was experiencing a bad case of altitude sickness and dehydration.

Before we returned to the icy bit of the trail - we stopped abruptly. Hearing the most awful sound of boulders coming down from the summit from our vantage point we couldn’t see what was happening just glad it was only rocks sliding down and not people. Scariest sound none the less. Literally, everyone on the peak seemed to have frozen in place at the sound of those rocks…all we heard was someone yelling “watch out below”!

Once the mountain resettled we carried on back down. On lower ground again we stop to gather what direction to go. The trial was clear it was just a

and I think Dan are off the trail looking into what the cave has to offer
matter of which fork to take in the end we asked fellow trekkers where the camp was. Miia and I discussed how different the trail seemed because we could see it. During the ascent most of what we saw is our hands and feet with the exception of the stops along the way.

We were going to wait at the cave for the others but realized that neither of us was sure of where that was? So onward we went only to be amazed to be caught up by Dan! Wondering where my husband was I asked Dan, of course. He let us know that the other four were together and that Marcus had a bad knee that had slowed him down. Sean was the first to reach Dan, Miia and myself.

At first glance, realizing for the first time that day - Sean was the one who caused the rocks to tumble! Embracing he told me he thought he’d never see me again! I could have been a widow that day. .. Sean said he got off trail with out realizing until it was too late.

Every time, he went to take a step everything shifted below him, NOT GOOD. So he remained and thought out his strategy for a while. Once, he knew what needed to be done to get to safer ground he went and thankfully received a helpful hand (walking stick) from an Italian trekker. Recalling the sounds of the tumbling rocks in that terrain is an awful sound because the potential for very serious, even fatal, accidents is probable based on the memorials along the route.

It seems appropriate that we all ended up together on the last stretch of the trail leading to the observatory and parking lot. The sun is setting in the distance the colour of the reds fading to dark night sky is spectacular! With the setting sun, the temperature had dropped considerable since the start of the day we head to the bar for warm drinks and a bit of food.

Those of us who thought to bring a change of clothing did exactly that got into our dry gear and comfy shoes. Sean threw out the shoes he was wearing on the trail all day since they failed to have any grip when it was very much needed!

Time to head back home, Frascati for the moment, as we head towards the cars a woman approaches us and ask if we are headed towards the motorway. We let her know we are and she ask if we have room to drop of her and her friend at their car at the bottom of the hill. Sure, no problem!

Again, we split-up between the cars similar to departing in the morning which seems ages ago by now. Only, this time Sean sits in the back seat with me and the dude who needs a ride down the hill while Dan navigates. Miia, is quite ill, gets to ride with G & K and the woman who left her car at the side of the road. Why they left their car behind is a mystery to us and how they got up the hill more so???

We pause prior to entering the motorway and wait for Miia and co. to catch up. Miia looks very pale and miserable the whole time Giulam is rocking his car back and forth, poor Miia, she needs to get home quick.

Eventually we make it home in good time, run a hot bath and lay our achy bodies to rest for the night. The next morning all my muscles ache a bit in a good way. My arms feel like I’ve done a hundred push-ups.

Additional photos below
Photos: 25, Displayed: 25


On the trail...On the trail...
On the trail...

Christian, Esther and Sean
Amongst the jagged rocks...Amongst the jagged rocks...
Amongst the jagged rocks...

Sean and Dan look into a cave
Fancy meeting you...Fancy meeting you...
Fancy meeting you...

up here! Seriously, ran into our friend Shara and her boyfriend Simon at the peak! Great day to be in thin air...
Sean ...Sean ...
Sean ...

this maybe where Sean had to sit and ponder how to proceed upward with out risking his life!!!!
Balance ...Balance ...
Balance ...

you certainly wouldn't want to misstep on the trail
Hard heads...Hard heads...
Hard heads...

notice the hardhats on these guys - guess they aren't as hardheaded um stupid, more like, unprepared as us....

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