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Gran Sasso d’Italia, Dolomites in Central Italy

The Gran Sasso (“Large Stone”) is the highest mountain chain of the Apenines, completely located in the Abruzzo region, not so far (about 100 kms) and easily reachable from Rome.
The main peaks are Corno Grande, formed by 3 tops (eastern, central and western, the highest one,  2912 metres high) and Corno Piccolo (2655 m) “The Sleeping Giant” for its characteristic profile.
The rock coloration of the mountain, as ash, comes from its dolomite and limestone composition that also makes the vertical sides some of the most desirable for climbers from around the world.

Prati di Tivo

Our itinerary starts from Prati di Tivo, a bucholic touristic site at the feet of the Horns, where we take the chair lift to the “Madonnina”.
Probably we’ll see all-barded downhillers bikers enjoying the mechanized climb in the well managed local bike-park.
We could also walk, but the hard slope and the poor track isn’t so inspiring, better save energies and, above all, time for better altitudes.
As advice, don’t forget to have water from one of the fresh springs in the place, absolutely the best (and free) choice compared to bottled one.

After about 10 minutes of sitting relax, trekking starts from 2100 metres high at the arrival of the chain lift, and after a couple of hours (breaks excluded) we’ll reach the top of the Western Horn, at 2912 metres, enjoying an unbelievable view and a mostly relaxing hike.

We follow a large path  directing to Rifugio Franchetti and in a couple of minutes we reach a man made cavern with a bronzee statue of the Virgin Mary.

Virgin’s Mary cave

The path continues in a craggy environment, suspended between sky and ground. In front of us the hard and heavy slopes of the Corno Grande (“Big Horn”), at the right the pointy ones of the Corno Piccolo (“Little Horn”).

Climbing at the foot of Corno Piccolo

Ascending to the refugee takes about one hour, it’s the easiest stretch of the path, last chance to have fresh water (if we don’t want to be forced to drink melting snow, as we’ll encounter later).

Corno Piccolo with raw vegetation

The path makes its way narrower, coming with a serpentine to a saddle between the 2 Horns. From here we follow a ridge and climb the critical point before the Cannone Pass helped in its harder piece by a wire rope.

Corno Piccolo, the Sleeping Giant

Hidden and protected below the Main peaks lies the glacier of the Calderone (“Cauldron Glacier”) the southernmost european one, unfortunately nearly vanishing by the hottest climate in this years.

The Cauldron Glacier, almost gone

After the pass we can relax 10 minutes due to a slight descent before the easy, but very tiring, final climb to the top.

From the top, at 2912 metres high, the view is endless, from Adriatic sea to internal hills, tops and plains. The contrast between white rocks, darker ones and blue sky is blinding!


The signatures book has lots of writings, certainly Corno Grande of Gran Sasso is one of the most reached peak of the Apenines, for its beauty and, why not, its good excursionistic accessibility.

View from the descent from the top of Corno Grande along the Crest Path

The descent is better, but harder, from the Crest Path, where a good signed track follows a slight crest with 1st degree hiking passages and  terrific view.
If you’re not suited to mountain hardness, better follow the former track, reversed.

The final part of the itinerary follows the forward one, but the light in the afternoon and the opposite view makes it mainly as a new one.


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