Monte Vettore (2476m) is a prominent mountain in the Sibillini range. Anyone with a great passion for Tibet and Lhasa will simply love this corner of the Central Apennines.
From San Marino to the Sibillini mountains
Leaving the upper class in San Marino behind, I was utterly happy to head back to the Central Apennines and the more grandiose mountains found there. I didn't know very much about Monte Vettore beforehand, other than it was the highest mountain in the Sibillini mountain range. First I had to drive to Ascoli Piceno, where I continued on narrow roads behind a few camper vans (I hate them!). The winding road took me first up to Montegallo then onwards to a high pass (Forca di Presta) just south of Monte Vettore. This pass is actually the most used trailhead for Vettore and there is a car park and a hut, Rifugio Forca di Presta, with served food and beds.
Stunned by the beauty of Piano Grande
It was almost sunset and way too late for a hike up Monte Vettore, so I continued driving across the mysterious landscape of Piano Grande, a huge karstic basin that once was a glacial lake. I wasn't quite prepared for what was in store for me. The low angled sun created an extra magic to this immensely beautiful mountain plateau. When I spotted a medieval village on top of a small hill, I thought for a second that a time machine had sent me back at least 100 years to Lhasa in Tibet.
A few minutes later I arrived Castelluccio di Norcia, which from a distance resembles a smaller version of Lhasa and Potala Palace. This village has several small lodges, and after a few inquires I ended up with a room for approximately 35 Euro. Castelluccio di Norcia lies at 1452 m.a.s.l, which makes it the highest settlement in the Apennines. A nice place to spend the night, although a bit chilly at this elevation in autumn.
Strong winds on Monte Vettore
Next morning I drove (5-10 minutes) back to the pass Forca di Presta. I measured the elevation to be around 1540 m.a.s.l at this trailhead. There was already a few cars parked here, but some of the hikers seemed to be in serious doubts because of the dark clouds and an icy cold wind. So a few of them actually drove away, probably hoping for a better opportunity another time. I knew this would be my only chance, so I didn't hesitate at all, off I went on the well trodden trail.
The strong headwinds somewhat halted my progress uphill, but my overall pace and fitness felt quite good. I ascended into a dark cloud but eventually emerged from it, and I could see a small hut in a saddle above me. I didn't stop at the hut (Rifugio Zilioli), because from the saddle it was just a short and easy stretch to the summit of Monte Vettore (2476m).
Bagging two more summits
The ascent of Monte Vettore had only taken me 1 1/2 hours, so I had plenty of time to rest here, although the icy cold wind made me break up after a few minutes. The clouds didn't look so spooky anymore, so I decided to bag a couple of peaks west of Vettore. First I had to retrace my steps to the saddle and hut, before I started on the interesting ridge to Cima del Lago (2422m) and then onwards to Cima del Redentore (2448m). The ridge was not narrow or exposed, but I continuously had to watch out for the strong winds, to avoid becoming airborne off the ridge. I reached the latter summit 45 minutes after I had set out from Vettore.
The cold wind made my break on Redentore a very brief one, and I started traversing back the same way to the small hut at the saddle (Rifugio Zilioli). A large crowd of maybe 20 people were hanging around the hut, no doubt that Vettore is a frequently visited summit, especially on Sundays. Then I hurried down for another 35 minutes or so to the car park.
Back in my car I was not sure where to drive, but I was most likely going to do Monte Velino the next day, and that meant I had to drive towards L'Aquila.
My GPS-track at EveryTrail