If you have chosen our guide, you are fond of high altitudes and beautiful places and you want to discover and enjoy Mt Etna in its most secret and original corners. By jeep cars you can get where no other vehicle arrives. On top of the lava desert that surrounds the main craters, close to the caves, at the edges of the gullies. But the beauty of Mt Etna is that -then-  you can choose many ways to go back down to valley. Many, alternative and even funny ways if you are well trained.

Enjoy Mt Etna by mountain bike

etna alternative002Climbing to the top of Mt Etna with a Mountain Bike is something very few people can face. You have to be really trained with years of experience “in your legs” in order to succeed in the enterprise. In addition, the rough and sharp lava soil does not facilitate the paths. Go downhill is much simpler, but you still have to pay attention to speed to avoid ruinous falls.

Almost all of the Etna area is good to practice mountain biking, even the areas around the summit craters. From here, in fact, if you are good bikers, you can “launch” towards Valle del Bove following steep paths. Make sure, however, that you are experienced and confident or that you have a trained instructor with you before attempting this exciting descent. Enjoying Mt Etna by riding a  Mountain Bike -on routes such as Passo dei Dammusi, the 1981 Lava of Randazzo, Pista Altomontana, Pineta Ragabo, Piano dei Grilli- is an experience to do.

Snowboarding on Etna

In winter Mt Etna fills with snow and on the northern flank it can last even until early May. Skiing, sledding and snowboarding are sports that can be practiced very well on the volcano. It is not uncommon, in winter, to see athletes who go down rough and dangerous slopes with their snowboard (for example the Montagnola or Valle del Bove). Those who follow instead the authorized tracks go to  Piano Provenzana and Nicolosi.

For some years, now, some snowboard instructors have launched a new idea: sandskiing, or “skiing on volcanic dark sand”. By imitating what happens in Namibia, on the highest desert dunes in the world, even on Etna you can make the descent to the valley in the summer. No snow, but you can still use your  snowboard. Try it! Descend on the black volcanic sand carpets, with an effect similar to that of winter snow. Be careful, though! Make sure you are always guided by a good instructor in the adventure.

Run down into the gullies

The many eruptions that have marked the body of Etna have created gradients and depressions that are called “gullies” here. The gullies are perpetually filled with black sand, or in winter with snow. The fun of this alternative to the usual trekking sport is to make the descents right along these steep lava slopes.

Usually you arrive at the summit craters or at the base of the cableway to find yourself at the panoramic point. You will then descend from there into the Valle del Bove towards Zafferana Etnea. Or you will go down to the Sapienza refuge. Or again – but it is more dangerous – come down from the flanks of the Montagnola.

These are exciting descents, exciting but also very tiring, not to be attempted even if you are not in shape or at least trained for high altitude trekking. (the photo above the title is by Véronique Mergaux)

Autore: Grazia Musumeci

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