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The Gravone snowfield.

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The Gravone snowfield is situated in the Gran Sasso chain, under the ridges that go from Mount Camicia, Tremoggia (2331 m), Forchetta di Penne and Dente di Lupo. It turns towards north-east and its height goes from 1700 m. to about 1900 m., varying from season to season. The whole snowfield is boxed between high walls and it lays on a bed of a great quantity of rock debris that guarantees an efficient draining with no rivulets or fusion torrents, nothwithstanding its largeness, especially in the beginning of summer. Very often there is falling of rocks and debris from the walls and from the natural terraces that are on top of the snowfield and that can even cover part of the snowfield.

The supply of the snowfield is principally from avalanches (in a small part direct), most of all thanks to the significant watershed surface that conveys to the Gravone every avalanche that comes from all the numerous canals that we find between the top of Dente del Lupo, of Mount Camicia and Mount Tramoggia. Since this part of the Gran Sasso is exposed almost exclusively to precipitations coming from the “east” that is the gregale formed by the Ionio/Baltic depressions, the amount of snow may vary considerably from year to year so that in the years when the circulation of the air originates principally from the west, the “suffering” of the snowfield is already evident in the beginning of summer with very reduced surfaces and depth. These climate conditions, together with its not very favorable exposition (it has sun for most of the morning, both directly and from the reflection of the vertical and light colored walls close by) and its not high altitude has often and willingly mined its survival, especially after the 90’s.

Its dimensions were significant during the 60’s and 70’s (at the end of the season it could reach a lenght of 250 – 300 mt. and a width of 30 – 40 mt. After, the hot summers and not very snowy winters (period between 1989 – 1997) have notably reduced its dimensions so that it “disappeared” during the long and very hot summer of 1998. After that it never recovered and it forms itself depending on the conditions of the winter seasons. A revival was noticed from 2004 to 2006, but, like all the appennine snowfields, it disappeared again in 2007 (we are not excluding that a nucleus of firn has survived). In its place we see only dry stones and part of the valley has been colonized very quickly by herbaceous plants and shrubs. At the beginning of the season (end of May – middle of June) the Gravone snowfield goes past the Gravone canyon and covers part of the stony ground down in the valley (about 1400 – 1500 mt) almost up to the edge of the woods and it reaches a second snow tongue formed by avalanche debris that comes from Mt. Coppe and Tremoggia.

As the warm season proceeds, the two tongues divide itselves, but while the left one disappears, the one that comes from the Gravone withdraws into its real “see”, that is the ending part of the canyon, in the altitude from 1850 to 1650 mt., where more protected and deep, it can reach and survive the next summer. In the more snowy years (for example in the 2005 - 2006) the snowfield can remain connected to the one on the left even in July (as we can see in the photos at the end of this article). Its dimensions in August can reach 150 mt. in lenght. We hope for better situations so the snowfield can form again.

During the last glaciation there were hanging glaciers that coming down the walls of Mount Tremoggia would flow in the gully of the Gravone forming an ice tongue, that perhaps went under the 1200 mt. while in the PEG the Gravone was surely an important and visible snowyglacier.

2008: has survived

gravone medio 8-08-2008 (2) (Custom).jpg

Fabrizio Sulli, 8-8-08

With the permission of the CAI (thank you Cristiano!)

Data of the CAI section of L’Aquila 09-26-1982

Collection basin: 2 sq km (about 2470 mt)

Ablation zone: 1,5 sq km (about 1200 mt)

Starting from the top the snowfields are:

1° snowfield: 300 sq mt – 3 mt deep (2020 mt)

2° snowfield: 70x30 mt – 8 -10 mt deep (1840-1900 mt)

3° snowfield: 300 sq mt. – 4 mt deep (1760 mt)

Domenico Alessandri, the author of the article assumes that in favorable seasons there is a snowfield that connects the two other ones.

Infact, up to the altitude of 1770 mt, there is an area covered by debris and without vegetation.

Article kindly revised by Dr. Massimo Peocci.

To reach the snowfield you must go along the road that connects Rigopiano to Castelli, when you reach a very tight bend where the road has become narrower for a landslide coming from the mountain above the road. You will notice the white rock just discovered. If you stop near the landslide you should be able to see the snowfield in the center of an amphiteater, in a wood, and the gully to walk through.

The bend cuts this gully, so you can park even at the base, or in the close-by picnic area with benches.

The trail is not indicated, if not only for a sign that says “follow the trail” and some hard-to-see indications in the woods, that disappear shortly after. From this moment on you must be careful, and keep on the bottom of the gully following the traces of the trail where the vegetation is less, and keep to your right. Going a little further on you will be out of the woods and walking across thick vegetation you will reach the scree and then the snowfield. Interesting is the blossoming of the peony and the sorb of the fowlers, as well as the ash and beech trees.

Watch out for the belladonna!

If you want to, from here, using harpoons, if necessary, you can continue towards the mountain, on the snowfield.

When on your way back, it is easy to get mixed up, you must keep on the gully, and do not follow the yellow and red indications for trail n. 4 on your left.

The hike is easy, it takes about 20 minutes to reach the snowfield (at the beginning of the season), and about an hour to reach the canyon, the difficulty is in making your way through the thick vegetation bent by the avalanches and in some 1° degree passages. Infact in Winter the Gravone snowfield sends down avalanches all the way to the tar-road below!

gravone superiore 7 agosto 2008.jpeg

Top part of the Gravone

Antonio Pisanu, 7-8-08