Sunday, 12 August 2012

Walking Guide - Monte d'Ugni, Majella

Monte d'Ugni and the Feudo Ugni Nature Reserve, CH, Abruzzo

After a week of far too many late nights and early mornings, a chilled Saturday of an amble around the hills was in order.  You pick the route, says I, whilst I finish the chores.  Fatal.

Found one!   Says he.  Here, look.  Not far along the valley and only about 6km, nice circular route through the gorge, a gentle stretch of the legs.  

Yes, darling looks lovely says I, my mind not really on the job.  This is where I errored.    The warning signals of checking out the contours and noticing that we would be “ambling” to over 2000m just didn’t register.  From a starting point of 700m?  That’s 1,300m of climbing.  In 6km?  In 2 hours?  Not a chance.

Seven hours later, with almost 20km of hiking and scrambling, we had completed the most amazing walk with some incredible scenery, fueled only on a pizza slice.

Be warned, however, it is quite a hike - not only a long way up, but also a long way down almost entirely on scree.  Strong knees, food, water and a sense of humour a must.  It gets pretty chilly at the top and the weather can come in quite fast, so waterproofs and warm layers should also be packed.

There are a couple of gorgeous little refugi at the top, well worth overnighting in if you fancy doing the hike over a couple of days, or for just having more time to explore the stunning landscape all around you.

Finer Details

Distance:  19km
Time:  7-8 hours
Highest point:  2040m
Starting point:  Junction of walking routes G4/G5 Confini, Pennapiedimonte, CH (700m)
Difficulty:  A good level of fitness, stamina and strong knees/ankles required
Distance from Kokopelli:  25km 

Directions:  from Kokopelli, go down to the main Serramonacesca - Roccamontepiano road, turn right to Roccamontepiano.  In the middle of Rocca, take the right fork up to Pretoro.  Go through Pretoro and out the otherside, picking up the signs to Bocca di Valle.  Go through Bocca di Valle on the SS263 and head towards Pennapiedimonte, staying on the SS263 all the way.

From Pennapiedimonte keep on the SS263, and after about 5km look out for the hamlet of Confini signposted to your right.  Turn into Confini and make your way sharply up past a few houses.  This track takes you all the way to a picnic area with parking spaces dotted along the side.  Park up anywhere along here and pick up the sign to the U1 (G4 on a more up to date Majella map)

The U1/G4 is a well defined track all the way up until you get close to the top.  Unless you want to disappear well into the wild heart of the Majella (not advisable on a one day hike with limited provisions), just after the refugio Monte d’Ugni (signposted) start looking for a sign to your right indicating the path to the refugio Martellese.  Take the path all the way to and past the refugio.  As you go past, this is where your descent starts so start looking for the path (the G5) that takes you down through the gorge.  It can be a little tricky to spot but so long as you ensure you keep the drop into the gorge on your right you’ll stay on the correct side of the gorge and will pick up the path as it does become very obvious.

It is now downhill all the way!  But don’t relax as it can be pretty steep and technical in some places.  Eventually, however, you will reach the bottom at exactly the same place you started.  Give yourselves a pat on the back and go and find a nice, cold beer in nearby Pennapiedimonte.

The higher you get, the more spectacular the views.
This here looking down to Lago di Casoli

Just one of the many butterflies adding another dimension to this beautiful landscape

The beach woods and the rock formations

The sunlight and green hue through the trees

Incredible to see the Pennapiedimonte gorge from a completely
different perspective.  (Great climbing here btw.)

The walkway through the opposite gorge clearly in view

Views all the way to the sea

The higher into the clouds we went the more stunning the light

The top.  The gorge for our descent.  

And so it starts...

Smiley faces at the top, weary legs by the bottom

A long way down, maybe, but we wouldn't have missed this landscape
 for anything.  Well worth the weary legs at the end.

Even Mother Mary had a little place

...and back where we began.
In the nick of time too - wouldn't have fancied doing that descent in the dark!

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