Monte Amaro (2793m) is an ultra prominent mountain in the Central Apennines of Italy. The summit is fairly remote from the road, so you are likely to see more wild chamois than people around.
Picking up a rental car in Pescara
I was able to find a really cheap flight from Oslo to Pescara. I paid only 18 Euro (all inclusive) for the 3 hours flight, obviously avoiding most of Ryan Air's excessive fees. At arrival in Pescara I picked up a rental car from Avis, which I already had reserved for 7 days through internet (140 Euro including insurance). Usually you get what you pay, still I was somewhat disappointed when I saw the ridiculously small Fiat 500. I was really worried that its tiny engine would fail to climb the steepest roads in the Apennines.
A pleasant stay in Caramanico Terme
I arrived Pescara in the afternoon, so it was too late to do any major hikes the same day. Instead I was going to have a look around Majella National Park, where Monte Amaro is the highest peak. Leaving the highway west of Pescara, I drove up to a mountain pass, just some few kilometers west of Amaro's summit. Unfortunately the dense afternoon fog obscured everything before I was able to study any direct routes to the summit from this pass.
I drove back down again to Caramanico Terme, which is a really beautiful medieval town with hot springs and fantastic mountain views. It was soon getting dark, so I decided to check into a B&B which set me back 35 Euro. Instead of visiting the hot spring and spa, I spent the major part of the evening on wireless internet searching for the best route up Monte Amaro. I realised that it was not from the pass I had just visited, because you can get substantial higher with a car from the south side (Blockhaus).
The trailhead at Blockhaus
Early next morning I drove up to Blockhaus, which is the most frequently used trailhead for Monte Amaro. I had already uploaded the Garmin road map of Europe to my handheld GPS device, so I had no problems finding my way via numerous small roads from Caramanico Terme. I parked my small Fiat next to a building (refuge) at almost 1900 m.a.s.l, a really ugly and windswept place littered with a dozen of antennas in all kind of shapes and sizes. The paved road actually continues further up, but it's closed for cars due to environmental reasons.
At the start I took a shortcut on my righthand side to avoid the first bend in the road, then I continued walking on the road. The weather was absolutely gorgeous and I could easily see Pescara and the Adriatic Sea far below, as well as Corno Grande (2912m) in the horizon.
Beware of dwarf pines
The road eventually ran out after 2 kilometers where I continued on a grassy trail. I had some troubles identifying the main trail in the grass, because there were a few variations to choose between. To avoid any loss of elevation, I foolishly chose the upper alternative, which eventually got me stuck in a thick belt of dwarf pines. I was fighting my way through roots and branches, before I was able to find an escape route back down to the main trail after 15 minutes of struggle. The horrendous dwarf pines ripped up my trousers and gave me several painful scratches. However, from this point forward, I had no troubles following the main trail. It was a really gentle hike along a fairly level ridge, before I started on the steep and taxing uphills to Monte Focalone.
Wildlife and solitude
Shortly before the summit of Monte Focalone (2676m), I could see Monte Amaro and its easy recognizable red dome on the summit. But it was still far away and a substantial loss of elevation in between. First I descended to the saddle between Monte Focalone and Cima Pomilio, where I spotted a dozen of goat-looking antelopes (Abruzzo Chamois) crossing the trail. I spent a long time trying to catch them on my DSLR camera. After Cima Pomilio (2656m) followed another descent and ascent to Tre Portoni (2657m). But from here it was just a gentle hike towards Monte Amaro (2793m), and no more intermediate summits or ridges to cross.
The 13 km hike from Blockhaus had taken me 3 hours and 45 minutes, and I had only seen two small groups of hikers on the trail, no one aiming for Monte Amaro though. I spent more than half an hour on the summit, enjoying the solitude and nice views, when I realised that I soon have to return to avoid bad weather and nightfall.
Enveloped in a dense fog
Returning the same route to the car took me another 3 hours and most of the time I found myself enveloped by a dense fog. But the trail was easy to follow and I had my GPS as a backup for navigation. The only thing that worried me was the frequent occurrence of afternoon thunderstorms in the Apennine mountains, because I would really be exposed to lightning on such a high route. But the electrical storm didn't start before later, when I was safe inside my car heading for L'Aquila and my next target, Corno Grande (2912m).
Monte Amaro at EveryTrail