2012-06-12: From Etna Sud to Etna Nord -Taormina

12 Jun

(I’m getting behind as one post don’t want to be uploaded) Waking up was easy: the sun shine on the biwak was nicely warm…
So what would I do? Go down the same way as with Dino? First I went to the restaurant it was open. I had a chat with some guides: yes, you can’t go to the top, but it is possible to go to Etna north.
My smile was huge again. I mean, even the last evening and night was worth every meter up.
So a coffee in the stomach, some food for lunch and new water, Inwas ready for the first test up to about 2900m were all Touris go per 4×4 Bus. I was happy: I could cycle every single inch… Just with stops for pictures to avoid dust from busses. I guess it was easier because I was “fresher” than the day before and because I had the backpack on the steer bar-not as yesterday. That meant less weight on the shoulders (kind of hurting) and less weight on the back wheel: the wheel did dig itself less into the hard sand.
At 2900 I met the guides again. I felt as having proven them that I was trustful enough to take the next step: the high alpine track around the top, smoking summits.

***professor mode on***

you can imagine: the folowing is not meant to be a motivation for others. Neither there are some risks that have to be “calculated”. Wrong preparation can end with death.
Sorry, one has to be warned.

***professor mode off***

After some last tip, I started by pushing the bike. Yes, even don’t think of cycling! Or you must be lucky and having snow/ice cowered by a fresh thin layer of volcano ashes.
The path is going slightly up. There is something I don’t like is going down if the correct way was from beginning “up”. So in the end, I arrived about 100 meter to high but always low enough not to be to near to the crater boarder.
Video: windy below summit

The guide said it would be ok to sleep where I slept. Just thought about someone sleeping higher and then wind turning… You won’t wake up fast enough. 😐
So as I was to high I put the digicam on the bike and had my first try. Luckily I had some experience with mountainbiking on snow and ice… ;-). Will try to upload the video when possible.
Then a lot of fun started: the terrific wind was now pushing me around the top.

Quite interesting: from the south side nearly nothing is marked while on the north some machines had dig meter of snow to free the “road”.
I arrived where the guide told me to go done to the left. I wanted to see the observatory and still pushed by the wind a fast headed towards it. With that speed I wanted to climb up the hill very fast – I was still at 2800m. And I quick enough realised that I was breathing like a locomotive. The volcano fume coming from the 500m higher top was quite near but not to be smelt. So I brought my pulse and respiration down because the last I wanted is to inspire to much of that toxic gas. New experience for me: smells like sulphur and burnt tire.
Finally I continued the way down on the sand street. What the MTBiker and guide told me could be easily seen: don’t get out of the track, you will arrive at the end on lava rivers instead of sand. Those rivers are blocks and have cutting edges. No way to cycle. When walking it possible to cut yourself by the sharpness of some rocks.
So in the end I arrived at Etna North where I met a very interesting and friendly couple from Geneva. It was a pleasure to chat with then “even” the time was running to get a place to stay.
The descend to the sea was nice as well, feeling the heat coming. Unfortunately, I had a Japanese driving in front of me: not used to drive right, not willing to let me pass and drive so slow, that in the end it did cost me more break pads then on the Etna dirt road. So I stopped for a break and could check out: there were some “in between” roads: not really trails but old, shaking roads full of small rocks. 🙂
Finally I made it to Taormina where a long search for a place to stay started. But in the end it was worth it: Hotel Schuler is very nice, quite, have a very good price performance ratio, friendly staff and as I would see the the day after a unbeatable breakfast! And Mr Schuler himself is present… Not always usual today…
At the end I can say: keep your dreams and try to realise them! Four years ago, when sitting with Dino on the warm crater I dreamt of sleeping on the Etna and joining the south with the north side by bike. Today I have fulfilled two of my dreams…
I’m soooo happy: it was majestical!
Pictures follow…
Sun in the morning…

Night camp:

No, the lift is not working;-)

The softer way up. Dino and I took the harder one…

Not yet crossed the 3000m line, june and still some spots of snow (my guess: were the slope machines did put some more snow during the winter)

Smoking Etna

Not fully but nearly “all dead” region:

Crunchy cornflakes? 🙂

By Georges


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