Mt Corno Grande:
We're glad to introduce one of the most amazing routes of Abruzzo: the Mt Corno Grande (its literal translation is the Big Horn) in the Gran Sasso and Laga Mountains National Park! All enthusiasts of skialp and mountaineering will fully agree that this is the most impressive summit of the center of Italy and certainly the richest of routes suitable for a variety of skill levels, from pure mountaineering to ski alp, hiking and climbing.
In this article we will focus on the classic winter climbing route and on a very insidious, but equally beautiful and technical, descent. The itinerary starts from the Campo Imperatore top ski station (2100 mts) reachable by cabin from the "Fonte Cerreto" locality near Assergi (AQ).
Passing by the Astronomical Observatory, heading to the summit and crossing the Mt. Aquila pass (2355m asl). Depending on our means and season, we will choose to climb the summer trail on the foot of the observatory (on foot) or go down the blue track called "little road", located just to the right after a pair of bends; From here the route will hit the top just following the main channel (beware of meteo and snow conditions and check the Italian Army Meteomont reports before even start the ascent!).
The next step is represented by the wonderful basin of Campo Pericoli, which, with its awesome shades and snow features, accompanies the sight from Mt. Pizzo Cefalone along all the Malecoste ridges passing through Mt. Pizzo Intermesoli, Mt. Corvo and finally, on the right, the final destination : The western summit of the Big Horn!
Continuing along the pass facing the Mt. Corno Grande and leaving on the right the round top of Mt. Aquila the path starts to get steeper and until reaching the huge rectangular rock (2500mt slm) that rises clearly from the landscape; just behind it the famous "straight path" starts following a narrow passage between rocks and ice walls.
Quickly, the climbing channel gets very challenging and will require all your concentration, if you haven't worn yet them, it is time to use the crampons and axes to face the steep climb!
Use the break moments to take a breath and enjoy the monoliths located at the sides of the channel and the beauty of the verticality of this path.
As the passage becomes steeper progressing from 35/40 degrees to 45 in the last bottleneck that leads us to the summit Cross of the Mt Corno Grande (2912 mt).
Reaching the top, make sure to get some time to silently admire the spectacle and the greatness of the sight that will open just in front of you. The view on the eastern chain of Gran Sasso with Mt. Prena and Mt. Camicia is wonderful; The same Central and Eastern peaks that, almost paternally, guard the Calderone Glacier, the southernmost beneath the Alps line, are stark and magnificent at the same time. Looking at 360 degrees you'll see the entire central Italy sight opens; in a clear sky from the Abruzzo roof you can spot both the Adriatic Sea to the Tyrrhenian Sea and sometimes even Croatia coasts, a show without comparison with a free ticket!
After this unique experience is time for descent.
From the summit cross, the path starts to slightly get lower towards the west ridges (along the "summer normal" path) reaching the beginning of the Bessolati channel, the direct way down from the Mt Corno Grande.
The channel is often insidious because of its South exposure and therefore it is always advisable to evaluate the snow and if it is the case to venture for the first stretch, with crampons and axes still on, until you pass the initial part with its significant 40 degrees slope.
At this point, the channel extends to the right and the slope becomes less steep allowing a pleasant skiing to Campo Pericoli fields.
Pay attention only to the final part where, depending on the snow, some insidious rocks and snow mounds may be tricky to detect.
At this point the most is done and you'll have just to do get across Mt. Aquila pass without losing too much altitude and go down the respective climbing routes according to the available means (ski or crampons) until you resume the ski stations and finally.. home!
Remember that skiing outside the ski runs is governed by municipal laws and it is always advisable to inquire about local weather and snow conditions (weather forecast and Meteomont newsletter) and/or contact an Alpine guide, trained and certified in the regional board of the Abruzzo mountain guides to practice mountaineering and ensure your own and others' safety and fun.