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canyon exploring with Michele Angileri

Gola del Caldanello (tratto inferiore - lower part)

Among the most beautiful canyons in Italy, as beautiful as unlucky. Unlucky because on its walls rises a village, Cerchiara di Calabria, and people used to throw all trash into the canyon. From some years, however, trash is moved to a more suitable place, so only few trash is thrown into the canyon at present times. Pollution by trash seems to be going to belong to the past. Another pollution remains, unfortunately: sewer.

Commune of Cerchiara had the "great" idea to place sewer depurators on the edge of Caldanello Canyon. They don't purify enough, so sewer can flow through the canyon. In dry seasons that is the only water flowing through canyon, though it is catched by detritus in a few hundred meters, to begin an unknown subterranean path.

So it's strongly unadvisable to try going through Caldanello canyon. In wet season, however, it may happen that springs wash away sewer from the last kilometer of canyon, which is the tightest part, where are most deep and long pools. When this happens it becomes possible to come and taste the extraordinary beauty of this natural monument.

I hope that one day people of Cerchiara will give Caldanello Canyon its original cleanness, preserving this masterpiece of Nature for future generations.

Name Gola del Caldanello (tratto inferiore - lower part)
Area Calabria, Pollino
Nearest village Cerchiara di Calabria
Entrance altitude (above sea level) 340 m
Exit altitude (above sea level) 190 m
Length 1300 m
Longest rappel 10 m
Rock Limestone
Rating3 (winter, spring)
Shuttle Possible, though not indispensable.
Explored by Michele Angileri, april 1st 2002


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I remember ...

The exploration of Caldanello

Explorers had to face pollution. Since first eighties many canyoning enthusiasts renounced to exploration of Caldanello scared by sewer at the beginning of canyon. Moreover there is a second depurator 1 Km after, throwing other bad purified sewer. Some canyoning enthusiasts thought winter might be the right season to try exploring Caldanello, because in winter sewer is not the only water flowing.
In march 1991 I tried, but gave up. 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.
Coming back to my car I met Mimmo Francomano and Mario Santagata, 2 cavers from Cerchiara di Calabria. We talked about pollution in Caldanello canyon, then went back to give another look.
Some months later I met Mimmo Again. He told me they had been in canyon again, to try exploration. They got to explore the first segment of canyon, only 200 meters long, avoiding the dirty pool at the bottom of the artificial waterfall which marks the beginning of canyon. Then he met other bypassable pools, then a 10 meters dry waterfall with an unavoidable pool at its bottom. They had to swim in sewer! Then they exited canyon as soon as possible!
Caldanello Canyon was really off-limits.

Three paths reach the bottom of canyon from the village of Cerchiara. The first is the road to first depurator, to the beginning of canyon. The second brings 200 meters downstream. The third brings half kilometer down from the second one. In late years these 2 paths were protected by steel cable (they have some exposed part), but IMHO cable is placed badly, don't trust in it. On the ledges over first two segments of canyon (between the ending point of paths) was placed cable too, in a better way. Soon after third access waters by second depurator reach the bottom of canyon.

First segment is deeply engaged. Second starts with engaged pools (avoidable by far on left side), followed by tight narrows introduced by a 20 meters waterfall. It has waterfalls and deep pools, again. After these second narrows canyon opens a little, becoming easy to hike for 200 meters, till the ending point of third path. Downstream other waterfalls and narrows follow.

It should be understood that first 1500 meters of Caldanello Canyon are affected by foul water. However this water is absorbed by detritus, so that there is usually no water in the intermediate part on canyon. Here canyon's bottom is wide, with trees, blocks and low waterfalls. At the end of intermediate part it is possible to exit canyon on left side and reach highway 92. Final part of canyon has the tightest and longest narrows: the most beautiful and interesting part of Caldanello. Highway 92 has a bridge over this. From the bridge we have a spectacular look of narrows and the bottom of canyon 60 m below.

But ... if dirty water flows in this last segment only a couple of months each year couldn't it be clean pools here? It was summer 2001 when I ask myself this question. Torrent has its own means of purification ... could they be enough for this segment being it far from depurators and their sewer? 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 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 (about 30 degrees above horizontal plane), 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 wonderful canyon!

Note, december 2008: Antonio Trocino has told me he went through the intermediate part. In dry season he found no unavoidable pools and (as I said before) no waterflow.

Note, may 10th 2010: A team made of members of Alpine and Caving National Rescue, led by Giuseppe Antonini, descends the upper Caldanello, explores the intermediate canyon under flow and documents the descent on the web, publishing many beautiful photographs. In intermediate part they find wonderful narrows, numerous deep pools, cascades and a stone-arch.

Photographs in this website show ultralight ropes (6 mm ropes made of high tenacity fibers). Read multimedia book Ultralight ropes canyoning technique to learn how to use them.

Copyright © 2002- Michele Angileri. All rights reserved.