canyon exploring with Michele Angileri

Gola del Caldanello - tratto inferiore

To the east, the Pollino range ends with majestic dip slope mountains known as Timpe. The last is Mount Sellaro, a world of limestone, mediterranean woods and extraordinary beauties overlooking the near Ionian Sea.

On the edges of Mount Sellaro there are two of the most great and peculiar gorges in Italy: the Raganello at west, and the Caldanello at north-east.
The name Caldanello refers to the hot, sulphur spring coming from a cavern at the end of the gorge, Grotta delle Ninfe (Nymphs' Cave). It is the exit point of a kast system to which it belongs the Bifurto Abyss, a vertical cave 700 m deep.
The north wall of Caldanello canyon served as a natural defense for the ancient, charming village of Cerchiara di Calabria, overlooking the Gulf of Sibari and dominated by the high, steep slopes of the Sellaro, a giant that watches over the villagers but also a place that rises towards the sky, closer to God. That's why high up on the mountain stands the monastery/sanctuary of Santa Maria delle Armi.

Caldanello canyon is awesome and long. Halfway through, however, the left wall becomes for a very short stretch a steep rocky slope covered by bush, from which you can enter the gorge or exit, thus descending only half of the canyon. This page refers to the lower part, the first that was explored.

Name Gola del Caldanello - tratto inferiore
Area Calabria, Pollino
Nearest village Cerchiara di Calabria
Elevation loss 150 m
Length 1300 m
Highest cascade 8 m
Rock Limestone
Rating4
Shuttle Possible
Explored by Michele Angileri, april 1st 2002

 

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I remember ...


The exploration Caldanello canyon was heavily influenced by the presence of the two purifiers of Cerchiara di Calabria, which discharge sewage directly into the gorge. Since the torrent flows only in the wettest seasons or at snowmelt, this means that for most of the year the waste water is the only one flowing through the gorge.
In march 1991 I tried the exploration. Clean water reached the beginning of canyon, and mixed with sewer becoming very very dirty. In 1991 depurator didn't seem to work at all. I gave up, but the call of that harsh and mysterious place kept strong.
10 years later, in summer, I was driving on the road to Cerchiara and I stopped at the viewpoint over the gorge, a wide, unpaved square located approximately at the half of the gorge, where left wall becomes a steep slope which allows reaching the creek with no rappel. From the viewpoint I could see the bed and, of course it was dry. Wait ... though Cerchiara's purifiers were working, no sewage reached that point ... evidently they go underground, but this means sewage flows through lower Caldanello canyon only during floods or at snowmelt. Might this mean lower Caldanello has cleaner water than the upper part?
To find an answer I rappelled on single rope to the bottom of canyon, and ... water was not so dirty, cleaner than some stagnant pools you find in canyons. However I planned to try exploration in winter, to find cleaner water.

At Christmas there was no flow in intermediate segment. I rappelled again inside last segment, and ... there was flow! Clean emerald water! Where that water was coming from? I found that water gushed out little springs in right wall of canyon. Sources were between two contiguous layers of rock, to mean water had flown between them. Rock layers in Caldanello Canyon are inclined right to left, and so that water must come from Mount Sellaro, probably from the other side of mountain, nothing to do with waters coming from high Caldanello, nor with sewer from Cerchiara.
Ok, this is the right time, I thought. But weather went bad, and I gave up again.

The day after Easter of year 2002 all conditions were right to try. So I could finally look at the most secret beauties of Caldanello Canyon, a continuous sequence of awesome sceneries carved in rock! I gave news of the exploration on this site, also publishing the few photos I had taken during the Christmas reconnaissance. The news attracted attention and interest in the canyoning community and more generally if mountain lovers, but also in the locals, who starting to realize that was a really extraordinary place and so they began to plan tourist exploitation and environment protection. The repetitions of the descent, however, were very few. In my exploration I had found particular conditions, but usually Caldanello water remained dirty even in the lower part. Although it was much less dirty than in the upper part, that was enough to discourage the descent. I myself had no intention of going through the Lower Caldanello again, as long as those damned purifiers would remain in operation.
Giuseppe Antonini was the first repeating Lower Caldanello. Years later, in May 2010, Antonini completed the exploration of canyon descending the whole upper part, leading a mountain rescue team of Calabria. The trip report increased interest in the Caldanello, and the canyoneers began to descend the gorge on a regular basis (low numbers, altogether less than 10 descents per year) and to publish photos. As the years went by, those who traveled the gorge reported of an increasingly clean stream, then absolutely clean! I could not believe it: the Cerchiara purifiers were always there, apparently always the same. The rumors, however, agreed, so I went to check, and ... it was true! The Municipality of Cerchiara di Calabria had solved the problem of Caldanello pollution by making the purifiers work perfectly, probably entrusting plant management to a serious and competent company, perhaps renewing some part of the plants ...
After having polluted one of the most extraordinary natural monuments in Italy for years, the Cerchiara purifiers have become the most efficient I have ever seen, and I hope they will continue to be so in the years to come.

Copyright © 2002- Michele Angileri. All rights reserved.