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Michele Angileri

Fosso delle Pratelle

When I think about mountains in central Italy I think of tall limestone mounts with sweet shapes, naked tops and sides covered with beeches forests, from where appear a few rock walls. Most water flows in the underground, through karst networks: that's why you find almost no stream on these mountains down till aquifer level, where water springs out to feed streams, rivers and aqueducts.
Monti Ernici have such typical features. They are a very good place to hike, but they appear as a bad place for canyons. But even here you find a nice canyoning trail: Fosso delle Pratelle. It gives you a rather long descent featuring a few short narrows and many rappels, all surrounded by the beautiful landscape of Monti Ernici.

Name Fosso delle Pratelle
Area Lazio meridionale, Monti Ernici
Nearest village Veroli
Elevation loss 380 m
Length 1200 m
Highest cascade 35 m
Rock Limestone
Shuttle Advisable.
Explored by Michele Angileri, Fabrizio Ameli; june 20th 1991


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I remember ...

This was the first canyon I explored with rope and harness. Before it I was able to go through non-technical canyons only, scrambling the little waterfalls with the aid of some non-technical gears (like a hook launched bottom-up). Together with me were friends with hiking experience only. We played the game of "canyoning" with the taste of discovering a new kind of environment. In those years one of my best partners was Fabrizio Ameli.

Fabrizio and I were class-mates at the university. Once I told him about majestic Raganello canyons and my adventures there. He was fascinated by my tales and so we planned a trip to descend the two Raganello canyons in one day. We did it. It was september, it was cold, but Fabrizio felt good wearing a wetsuit jacket. I never thought about wearing a wetsuit jacket when hiking a canyon ... I must buy one!

That trip gave start to our canyoning partnership. Though Fabrizio was not involved in canyoning as much as me, we did great trips together in a couple of years: Chiauci canyon, the gravina di Terranova and the best: canyon of river Lao.
In Lao we scrambled into the last part of the tributary canyon Fosso della Montagna, up to the bottom of a high dry waterfall, where a 20 meters rock wall stopped our trail, making me realize we needed other knowledges and gears to move into such a hard environment.

That day I knew yet what we needed were ropes and harnesses. I learned it in a scuba-diving store of Roma, where I had gone some months before to buy the wetsuit jacket I wore. The salesman realized soon that I was not a scuba diver and asked me for what I was really interested in. I told him, and he said canyoning, yes! You are in the right place!. Canyoning? You mean there are other people doing things like the ones I do? Sure! there's even a book describing italian canyons! The people going through canyons are usually cavers, because canyoning is a branch of caving: a canyon is like a cavern without ceiling.
I bought that book (Profonde Gole by M. Sivelli and M. Vianelli) and my horizon became suddenly much wider than I could have imagined.

That's how I came to a climbing class in autumn 1990 and a caving class in 1991. One of the training lessons of the caving class was done in a rocky valley of Monti Ernici: it was the valley of Fosso delle Pratelle. I had six-years experience in finding hidden canyons, and that valley looked much like a hidden canyon. During a break of the lesson I went up in the valley, till I reached the bottom of a two little waterfalls sequence. Yes, it was a technical though few-engaged canyon.

After the end of caving class I proposed to the members of caving team to come with me exploring the Pratelle canyon. None was interested in it, maybe because none believed it could be a canyon there. So I did exploration with my old friend Fabrizio, after having taught him the indispensable techniques.

And there we are Fabrizio and I in a late spring morning, going up the steep wood to the beginning of a great adventure. I cannot forget any detail, I can see again us climbing, placing bolts, talking. I see myself descending that dry waterfall higher than the top of trees, overhanged, with water tickling on my head.

It took a lot of time. We were finally at the exit on sunset. The path to the car was lighted by the full moon, while dogs (or wolves) were howling from afar.

Copyright © 2002- Michele Angileri. All rights reserved.