canyon exploring with Michele Angileri

Grande Gola del Lao

The abundant springs on western Pollino range and Mount Rossino give birth to a river of clean green water whose path begins in a fertile green basin completely surrounded by mountains and dotted with ancient villages made of stone. In its first part the river is called Mercure, but then its name turns to be the ancient one, given thousands years ago by the Greeks: Lao.

Lao river exit the Mercure basin through a monumental canyon which is among the most extraordinary places in Italy: the Grand Canyon of Lao. Today anyone can see the extraordinary beauty of the canyon thanks to commercial rafting companies, who go through the canyon (every day in summer). During most of the year Lao can be traveled on kayaks or inflatable rafts, and in winter or spring descent is difficult and dangerous. In summer flow-rate lowers so much that you can descend the canyon on foot, canyoning style. Descent requires whitewater skills to deal with strong current and dangerous rapids but this is the way to experience more deeply the nature of this majestic place: letting yourself go to the stream, traversing on rock to avoid the most dangerous points, looking the Viadotto Italia (the highest in Italy) from below knowing that cars and trucks (invisible and inaudible) pass 260 meters over you, enjoying at every step the grand scenery around you.

Name Grande Gola del Lao
Area Calabria
Nearest village Laino Borgo
Elevation loss 60 m
Length 4,5 km
Highest cascade 0 m
Rock Limestone
Shuttle Needed
Explored by First canyoning-style descent: Michele Angileri, Vincenzo Lombardi, Battista Santagada; august 1988


Detailed description: type your passcode  
Click here to buy passcodes
What you find in the detailed description

I remember ...

The Grand Canyon of Lao was the third I did in the first years of my canyoning activity (the first were the two canyons of Raganello). I had no experience of white water. My gear consisted in a k-way, a helmet and an industrial rope. I was a good hiker, a decent swimmer, a very bad climber, and that was ... what? a paradise of green water and grey rock or a hell of impracticable rapids embedded in tight corridors of stone?
I didn't knew it, but I wanted to discover: the stateliness of that hidden environment was a call to which I could not resist.

So I began exploring Lao gorge from the bottom: I tried to go upstream because if I could get it I would surely succeed in turning back. Once, twice, again, ... Each time the excursion ended in a point I wasn't able to pass, but once back home I worked out a strategy and the next time I succeeded. I was becoming more and more confident with the rapids and the current. Once I came not far from drowning, and surely I was lucky that and other times. I never met anyone in the canyon.

Finally, with my friend Battista, I succeeded in going up the whole canyon, except the entrance narrow (the first coming from Laino): stream was too strong to swim up and walls were too smooth to climb or traverse. I was ready for complete descent. I did it a few days later, with Battista and his cousin Vincenzo. We descended the Grand Canyon and continued descending to Papasidero.
It was in the tightest part of the canyon that comes before Papasidero that I met someone else in Lao for the first time: a group of kayakers from Salerno. They told us the Lao Canyon was frequented by kayakers since years.

I came descending Lao Canyon many times in the years. As I learned rope techniques the world of tributary canyons of Lao opened to me, but this is another story ...

Copyright © 2002- Michele Angileri. All rights reserved.