My time was running out, Monte Velino (2487m) was going to be the crowning end of my unforgettable journey in the Apennine mountains. Salute!
A night in Rocca di Cambio
It was a scenic drive from Vettore in the Sibillini mountains down to L'Aquila and then onwards to Rocca di Mezzo on the northeastern side of Monte Velino. Rocca di Mezzo was not up to par with the beauty I had seen elsewhere in the Abruzzo region of Italy. Instead I decided to have a closer look at nearby Rocca di Cambio, a small village perched on the side of a steep mountain. Being further away from the main roads, its location was not only more spectacular, but also more tranquil.
At first glance, Rocca di Cambio looks like a classic medieval village, slowly turning into a skiing resort. It was off-season, hence a few hotels seemed to be closed already. I settled for Hotel Cristall which has spacious and comfortable rooms for a good value, 45 Euro including breakfast. I took a walk around the town and couldn't but notice that some of the buildings had crumbled due to the strong earthquake in 2009.
Back in my room I started to do a bit more research about Monte Velino. Previously I had read that the northeastern approach would get me higher up with a car, due to all the skiing installations on this side of the mountain. True, but the hike is also substantial longer in distance. I was not sure if the higher located trailhead would be any benefit at all, because there is a few passes (ridges) to cross along the trail as well.
Driving to Rosciolo dei Marsi
Next morning I woke up to low and dark clouds obscuring the views of the surrounding mountains. I decided that the longer northeastern approach to Monte Velino was less safe in these conditions. The long route at high elevation would be more of a hazard due to the risk of electrical storm, as well as the obvious navigation issues in low visibility. So I decided for the more direct approach from south. That meant I had to drive down to Massa D'albe, hence loosing a lot of elevation.
When I arrived Massa D'albe the clouds had vanished on the southern flanks of Monte Velino. The glorious sunny morning came as a big surprise on me and it really cheered me up. I drove a bit further to Rosciolo dei Marsi and the start of trail #3 (the standard Sevice route). There was a large car park at the trailhead, and I measured the elevation to be 1020 m.a.s.l. There was no other cars to be seen here, so I knew with great pleasure that this was going to be another day in sheer solitude.
Loosing the trail
Initially I walked on a broad track (dirt road). I had some problems figuring out if I should leave it or not, because there was numerous paths around in addition to some confusing signs. After 1 km I started to feel that the track/road took me in the wrong direction, so I decided to leave it and try to aim for the big gully coming down the southwestern side of Monte di Sevice. I knew that trail #3 would go up that gully, no doubt about that. I went off-trail and crossed a relatively open field with little vegetation, only a few bushes and trees here and there. At the start of the gully I found trail #3 as expected. The nice trail zigzagged steeply uphill on the right side of the gully, and I was sweating excessively because of my fast pace under a bloody hot sun.
To the top of Monte Velino
I passed a few horses along the trail and arrived Rifugio Capanna di Sèvice (2119m) after 1 hour and 40 minutes. I continued immediately and around me I could see the clouds starting to build up really fast. I arrived the summit of Monte Velino (2487m) approximately 2 hours and 25 minutes after setting out from the car (the normal time is more than 4 hours according to summitpost.org).
I looked across to the eastern twin summit, Monte Cafornia (2424m). I was tempted to head over there but the weather looked a bit spooky. I didn't want to get trapped in an electrical storm so I skipped it and continued back the same route. I did a short side trip to Monte di Sevice (2331m) before I descended to the car park. This time I avoided to do the same mistake as in the morning, because I found the correct trail above the car park.
Goodbye to the Apennines
My time was running out, an unforgettable week in the Apennine mountains had come to an end. I decided to drive straight to Pescara Airport and deliver my rental car. Then I would spend a night at the Adriatic coast in Pescara before I continued to Rome by bus the next day.
My GPS-track at EveryTrail