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When we take tourists to Mount Etna we recommend a thousand times to be careful, not to take this special mountain lightly. Etna is a volcano and like all volcanoes it is a constant and complex mystery. In order to explore it you need to have the right skills and adequate preparation. But then, how will we respond to those who point out those solitary hikers who often publish spectacular videos on social media, braving the cold, the ravines and even the lava fountains?

Experienced hikers

Usually those who post breathtaking videos of the volcano are naturalistic guides or members of the Forest Rangers corps; sometimes they are the volcanologists themselves from the INGV of Catania. The fact that many of these are also young people means that they are mistaken by the general public for courageous kids set on adventures. But it is not so.

The guides, rangers and scientists who work on Etna have undergone years of preparation before reaching certain levels. The preparation certainly consists of physical training (first of all) and in-depth studies on the territory, the climate and the dangers of an active volcano. But it also consists of excursions of various levels of difficulty, carried out even just for their job … They may be going to set up a sensor, to sample a type of lava, checking the health of the woods and so on.

These people have the right preparation to face Mount Etna alone, even at night sometimes and in weather conditions that change suddenly.

etna lone hikers 2Amateur hikers

Among the various “shadows” that wander around Etna, there are also amateur hikers. Or rather, hiking enthusiasts who love to travel alone. These people – men but also women – have lives and jobs far from those of guides and volcanologists. But when they find the opportunity for some free time they immediately run to the volcano. And they almost always do it alone. And on foot!

Are they brave? Of course they are. But they are also people who have studied the route before “taking the plunge”. Sometimes they just discovered interesting points from where to admire an eruption and therefore they traveled those routes several times, until they learned them. Other times they are fond of very long walks, because they love the silence of nature and discovering new corners, new views. Or new species of plants! And this way they literally explore and “learn” the mountain!

Amateur hikers are people of all ages, of all levels of education. But they all have two things in common: love and respect for this mountain. From respect comes prudence which leads them to inform themselves and be well prepared before each excursion.

What should you know before hiking on Etna?

Mount Etna is first of all a volcano. The dangers it hides are as many as its beauties. Before tackling it, you need to become an expert in weather and winds (fundamental information especially in the event of an eruption, to avoid gas and clouds of ash and debris). You need to learn about the type of clothing to wear depending on the time and season in which you climb. You must keep in contact with the Institute of Volcanology to always be updated on any changes in the “behavior” of the mountain.

Before tackling Etna by yourself you must learn about the area accompanied by good guides, and make the experience several times. Finally, you need to try the routes in a group, initially, until you are really sure that you have them well imprinted in your mind.

Can tourists be lone hikers?

No they cannot. And it doesn’t matter that you are used to traveling alone across the peaks of your Alps or Rocky Mountains! It doesn’t even matter that you have already explored other volcanoes in the world all alone.

Each volcano is a world. And Etna is actually an entire unique and special universe.

Before venturing alone on Etna, make sure you come back many times to explore it. And be sure to do these excursions with local guides. (PHOTOS  BY G. MUSUMECI)

Autore: Grazia Musumeci

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