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canyon exploring with Michele Angileri

Fosso di Castelvecchio

At the end of Salto valley, a few kilometers from town of Rieti, there is an unusual canyoning place. The peculiar feature is pudding-rock in huge compact layers, giving landscape peculiar shapes and colors. Moreover pudding is also tender for water, so every little stream can dig a canyon. That's why we find a very high concentration of canyons here!

The first canyon of Balzi area to be explored, because it is the most visible from the highway.

Name Fosso di Castelvecchio
Area Lazio, Balzi di Grotti
Nearest village Grotti (Rieti)
Entrance altitude (above sea level) 600 m
Exit altitude (above sea level) 410 m
Length 600 m
Longest rappel 31 m
Rock Pudding-rock
Shuttle No
Explored by Michele Angileri, Tullio Dobosz; october 1995


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I remember ...

They were the first days of autumn. Pasquale, Flavio and I were going to Laga Mounts, to do some canyoning at Selva Grande. But beyond a bend there were a branch fallen from an agrimotor. Our car passed on branch and sump broke. So we spent the day at workshop in Rieti rather than in canyon!
We had car repaired at 4 PM. Too late for Laga Mounts. I had an idea: near Rieti, in lower Salto valley, there were an area looking interesting. I had seen there some steep valleys with rocks emerging from forest, and a couple of cascades too!

So we went at the foot of Castelvecchio valley. We wanted to go upstream till the bottom of a cascade visible from the national road. Valley looked steep, open and covered by forest. But we will able to go up for only a few meters, because an unsuspected and very beautiful dry cascade stopped our steps. I couldn't believe it: cascade was hidden so well by forest and rock that never I could have supposed there was a cascade.
Horizontal rock layers formed a kind of half-room. Though stream was dry there was a beautiful deep emerald pool at cascade's bottom. And rock...
... was pudding! rounded stones tied together by geological time. This area in the middle of Italian Peninsula was a beach long time ago ...

Wonderful and unexpected. But worrying too. Pudding rock seemed easy to be carved by water, and so there would have been tight invisible narrows even where valley looked open. Were they really?
but the most worrying question was: would rock be hard enough to be bolted?

The answer to first question came from a reconnaissance I did some days after, alone. In the forest there were many paths still in good contitions though they were almost abandoned. I reached the higher Castelvecchio, and also higher Acquaro and a stream with no name situated at orographic left of Castelvecchio (I will have called it Balzo 45 some months later). I realized that would be a canyoning eldorado, because the very high concentration of canyons. And none of them showed itself as it really was: forest was so dense to hide rocks, grottos and the tight narrows.
And, surprise!, there was water flowing in all higher valleys. Water surely went underground in some points downstream, because none of streams had waterflow at confluence in Salto valley.

Gotta find the answer to second question. I didn't want to hazard, so I began to plan a deep reconnaissance in narrows by using fixed ropes. But placing a fixed rope to descend a pit or a cascade requires preparing belays under pit's edge, to prevent rope to get damaged or broken by the oscillations generating by pulling and releasing rope while going up on it. So I planned to use long steel cords to make belays. That was something I never heard about and never did before, so I had to plan details and do some tests. It seemed to work fine. I left away hesitations and phone to friends to ask them for coming to Castelvecchio with me. Only Tullio gave his ok.

Next sunday we were there. We went up, then started to descend aside river bed. It has waterflow and pools, but we planned not to get wet. Then stream enclosed in narrows, and there were a deep unavoidable pool and a cascade to stop us. Gotta bypass that narrows. We did it. A rappel was needed to bypass narrows. Beyond narrows there were escape ways. Water disappeared: no more flow there.

A bit forward stream fell down other narrows. The 10 meters dry cascade had a deep pool at its bottom, but narrows were so tight to let us do opposition traverse climbing. So we passed pool without getting wet.

More dry cascades. Long steel cords technique worked really fine, but at last we met a cascade impossible to abseil without bolting. That was the moment of truth: was pudding rock suitable to be bolted?
And the answer was: yes, not everywhere but in many points it is hard enough for bolts!

Another deep pool and another traverse and a pendulum. Down, down again, then we saw empty space before us. We could see meadows, the national road of Salto valley and the high rock walls of Balzi: we were on the top of Castelvecchio's highest cascade, the one visible from national road!
We gave a look down. Beyond cascade's bottom there were escape ways. We did it, Tullio! I turned back to uninstall belays and fixed ropes. Then I turned down again by double rope rappelling.

Abseiling the highest cascade was the n-th great emotion in that extraordinary day.

One week after I came back alone to Castelvecchio to explore first narrows, the ones with deep pools.

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.