canyon exploring with Michele Angileri
When rains or melting snow fill the torrents of northern Tyrrhenian mountains of Calabria, the roar of water jumping down the perennial waterfalls of Ntrunaturo creek
becomes powerful and, amplified by the walls of the gorge, rises up to the houses of Aieta, a beautiful Calabrian village perched on a rocky hill a few kilometers from the sea.
This is why Aieta's gorge is called U Ntrunaturo, the place where the noise of the falls reverberates loudly like a continuous thunderclap.
The canyon is among the most beautiful and monumental in southern Italy.
||Possible with SUV
||Walter Filattiera and friends; year 2000-2001
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What you find in the detailed description
I remember ...
The gorges that are located at the foot of a village are afflicted by a kind of curse ...
It was the end of the '90s when I first came at the beautiful medieval bridge that marks the beginning of the Aieta gorge.
It was Christmas, all the creeks in the area had plenty of water, yet I sensed the unmistakable smell of Aieta's sewage, which ended up in the stream just near the bridge.
And if the smell was felt at Christmas, with all that water, I could imagine what it would be like in summer ...
No, I told myself, no, there are so many other canyons to explore ...
One or two years later the exploration of the Ntrunaturo was made by Walter and his friends, rafting and canyoning guides looking for things to offer to their clients.
Walter told me it was beautiful, and a couple of years later also Pino Antonini told me, advising to go there.
But if my strong desire to explore new canyons had not been enough to make me decide to bathe in the water contaminated by Aieta sewers, now that the canyon had been explored
I was even less motivated ...
The years pass. In Calabria mountain activities begin to spread, and with them canyoning too, although in its more playful and summery version.
Alpine Rescue stations are born, and volunteers begin to practice in canyons too, even in challenging gorges and in spring conditions ...
No one, however, seems to go to Ntrunaturo: on the gorge of Aieta there are no news, no one talks about it on the internet, and no picture of the canyon can be found on the net, ...
And I regret not having explored it nor descended it. Every time I find myself in the area I go to the creek to see if Aieta's purifier works well
and the canyon can be descended without risks to health ... And now the water seems clean enough, as if the purifier had been improved, was regularly maintained
and functions properly.
So finally I decide: I want to descend the Ntrunaturo. But not in summer, when the population of Aieta quadruples and the purifier might fail
to dispose of the increased loads of wastewater ... So when? at Christmas? no, at Christmas there is too much water. At Easter, while the snow melts?
The ideal would be June: long days, warm but not hot temperatures, no "tourist" in Aieta, flow-rate close to summer conditions.
But the work commitments prevent me from coming to Calabria in May or June (and often also in July) and so the years pass, and the desire to descend the Ntrunaturo increases ...
In the end I go there in July, with my friend Carlo. Flow-rate is perfect and water is quite clean: yes, Aieta's purifier is working fine now.
The canyon is really beautiful, and it tightens as we go forward. There are very few bolts, rusted, unusable. We anchor rope on trees every time we can, even if they are far
from cascade's edge or in an exposed position. At the first waterfall where there are no trees, I take out the drill ...
... and it doesn't work. It is broken, unusable: yesterday it worked (the day before we had used it in the exploration of
Vietri narrows) not today.
The following part of canyon looks much more rocky and tight than the former, so ...
what do we do? do we check if we can escape from canyon or do we continue bolting by hand? as it is possible to escape we decide, wisely, to go away ...
The following year I can not have two free days in a row between May and June ...
The same happens next year, 2017 ...
Enough! I must resign myself to reality: the only period in which I can complete the descent of the Ntrunaturo is August.
Just to make sure I go first to check the quality of water at the exit of canyon: it seems good, clear and without bad smells even in August, proving that Aieta's
purifier now works really well. So I organize the descent with Giuseppe.
Once at Aieta sadly we find that the whole area is affected by wildfires.
2017 is a year of extraordinary drought (the least rainy in the last 2 centuries!) and summer is characterized by intense and persistent heat, which does not give a respite ...
All of Italy is ravaged by fires. Even regions that are substantially immune, such as Lazio or Abruzzo, see huge fires devouring entire mountains.
And there's a fire on Ntrunaturo's side, so ... what do we do? we risk ending up poisoned by smoke or postpone?
We postpone, damn it, postpone it ... but this time only for a week or so, just enough for these fires to go out.
I try again about ten days later, with Domenico and Fabio, and this time it seems we can do it.
The water is clear and almost without bad smells, yes, but walking inside we raise a huge quantity of microscopic brownish algae, evidently developed thanks to the intense and
persistent heat (and to the organic elements that are in waste water).
The algae are dragged downstream by water, at a speed higher than ours. In short, the stream becomes brown, really ugly to see, especially if in that water you have to swim ...
We come to the point where I had exited the canyon two years before, and we go further.
That was the last escape possibility: from that point on the canyon becomes very narrow and almost all the waterfalls must be bolted, because the old bolts in place are rusty,
unreliable. Rock is very hard, and even with the drill it takes a long time to make a hole (I doubt that the bits are worn out, but it is not: they are perfect,
it is the rock that is extraordinarily hard!). If we had continued the descent two years ago, I do not know when we would have managed to get out ...
We arrive at dirt road's bridge. You can exit from here, but a little further on there is the last narrow awaiting us. We get there. First fall needs to be bolted.
I start to drill ...
... and realize the power decreases fast as I drill: the battery is exhausted, because of that rock so hard, and I have no backup battery
(accidentally short-circuited a few days before while I was doing maintenance). I can complete the hole but it is the last I can do, and more falls surely need a bolt further on,
so ... what do we do? do we continue bolting by hand or do we return to the bridge and exit the canyon?
We must exit, or we would make night in the canyon.
For the last, monumental narrow I had to wait another year.
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