UA-46324036-2

Thursday, 27 August 2015

BULLETIN REGARDING THE STATE OF TRAILS

Here is the first bulletin regarding the state of trails in the Sorrento Peninsula and along the Amalfi Coast courtesy of Giovanni Visetti.
There will be updates whenever there is anything new to report. 
They can be found on Giovanni's website and downloaded at the following link:
I will also publish the updates on my Blog.
I hope you will find them useful. 

Saturday, 22 August 2015

THE PATH OF THE GODS - SUITABLE FOR EVERYONE?

An awful lot has been written about the Path of the Gods following the unfortunate death of an excursionist a few days ago and it is more than evident that a lot of the people who have been so generous with their comments, have in fact no idea at all about the true nature of the path and have certainly never walked it.
I have read with interest and empathy both Nino Buonocuore's article "The Path of the Gods is not for everyone" published in the PositanoNews and Giovanni Visetti's latest blog Underestimating the risks is the cause of many accidents, but not all of them
Nino, President of the GEA Association, affiliate of the FIE (Italian Hiking Federation) states as follows:
The Path of the Gods is classified E which means that it has characteristics requiring a knowledge of mountainous terrain and a certain sense of direction, as well as a degree of fitness, suitable footwear and equipment.
Although the path is not particularly long (approx. 6,7km) and not particularly high, this does not mean that it doesn't merit attention:
1) a lot of the trail is rough and with loose stones making it easy to slip, so suitable footwear is important.
2) some stretches have no shade.
3) there are some high steps along the way.
4) at times it is very narrow and you need to pay attention.

To these four points, I personally would also add that there are some of it is very exposed and here it is essential that you watch your feet, don't get too close to the edge and don't take photographs whilst on the move.
Mr Buonocuore continues, evidently in reply to someone's suggestion that additional fencing or parapets are necessary, if not essential:


As for the parapets, in my opinion, it would be very difficult and counterproductive to have them along all the path, also in consideration of the known technical difficulties; it would be better to have a few strategically placed parapets (discussed and agreed by the appropriate authorities), but only if proper maintenance can be guaranteed (in order to avoid them collapsing the moment someone leans on them). If this is not possible, then best not to have them at all, since they would become a source of danger rather than  security.
With regards to signposting, since the Path of the Gods is classified as an  "E" , further signs are not necessary since it is clearly indicated as a mountain trail suitable for hikers with certain skills and techniques.  We must rather fight the"misinformation" that makes people believe that the path in question is suitable for everyone and can be covered without any problems. 
After all, the Path of the Gods is  a mountain trail. If in any doubt at all, it is always advisable to contact and be accompanied by trained and experienced people rather than venturing out on your own. Expert guides are not only experts in explaining but also and above all in safety, capable of dealing with any problems or difficulties. Let us not forget that in the mountains the unexpected is always round the corner and knowing how to deal with it can make all the difference. 
With regard to greater control, I believe that this topic deserves a separate discussion, be it a long discussion in the appropriate forums, since this important subject involves the various authorities, associations and volunteers.
Giovanni Visetti fully agrees with Nino and emphasises the need to limit as much as possible futile railings (for example at the start of the path coming from Nocelle there are two overlapping rails protecting a drop of roughly one metre..). He  concurs that it necessary  to put a stop to superficial and often incorrect information provided by people who just want to make a sale, thus sending people unprepared and inadequately equipped onto the trail putting themselves and others at risk. He also stresses the importance of consulting the experts, namely the Club Alpino Italiano, professional hiking guides and the various local hiking associations, about any planned interventions or proposed signage along the paths, since these are the people who know the terrain and can identify the points in greatest need of protection. 
Let it also be said, that there has been no indication as to the dynamics of the accident the other day. We do not know if the  lady slipped, tripped or was simply distracted, whether she had a dizzy spell, fainted, lost her balance or was taken ill. The only certainty is that the Path of the Gods holds no blame.
Giovanni continues with the assertion that prudence and good sense can certainly help minimise problems both to ourselves and others, but they are not total guarantees. There is no sense in restricting freedom of choice (one suggestion was to close the path entirely, or to limit access to people with appropriate qualifications unless accompanied by an official guide).It is however appropriate to provide the correct information (including warnings), so that each individual may evaluate, analyse and choose what to do on the basis of their own skills and abilities, ultimately taking responsibility for damage caused to others or to themselves without seeking other scapegoats when things go wrong. 

I myselfconfirm that it is NOT a path for everyone. I already touched on this subject in one of my previous Blogs back in January when I wrote:
It is not the simple, flat, shady path that some cruise ship companies, keen to sell the excursion, make it out to be. It has some fairly ferocious uneven and steep stretches, both up and down, whichever way you decide to walk it. It is definitely not for anyone suffering from vertigo or having gammy knees or hips.
It is also not for people in flip-flops or flimsy sandals (yes, they can sometimes be seen limping sadly along), since the surface is often rough, stony and slippery. It can be blisteringly hot in summer and there are long stretches without any shade at all, but suitably clad and shod, and with a good supply of water, if you are unable to come at any other time, do not be put off.
Having occasionally helped out my guiding friends  accompanying cruise ship customers along the path, I too have had some dodgy experiences with a variety of extremely unfit and overweight people in the groups, who had been sold the excursion as a pleasant stroll along wide, flat and shady paths...and this in the height of the summer. On one occasion, what  was programmed as a 3 hour hike  took almost twice as long and apart from the risk involved, the customers faced the prospect of their ship sailing off into the distance without them. How many times during my own weekend hikes,  have I encountered classical Sunday day-trippers just a few hundred yards from the start of the path asking how much further it was, as they teetered along in their totally unsuitable footwear and not only? How many times do people venture forth with no idea of where they are going or what the trail is like,  with insufficient water, intent on walking the path just because it is famous?
It is not the path in itself that is dangerous. Yes, you need to be careful and watch your feet and yes, best not to go if you suffer from vertigo, but a main road, a beach, a swimming pool or even our own homes have a far higher incidence of mortality and accidents than the Path. Mis-information   coupled with the fact that some people   over-estimate their own capabilities and under-estimate the trail's difficulties certainly play their part, but as Giovanni quite rightly says in conclusion: in the mountains and on the trails you have to go equipped and prepared, both physically and mentally, but this does not necessarily protect you from the unexpected.. even the best Alpine guides sometimes die during an excursion. 

So please let us  not over-react. The Path of the Gods is not for everyone, it is true, but it certainly does not merit being renamed the Path of Death.

Saturday, 15 August 2015

NOT MUCH TIME LEFT BEFORE THE HIKING SEASON ....NOR MANY TRAILS LEFT INTACT.

Unfortunately my last 2 posts and photo albums have all revolved around one subject, that of the recent fires that have plagued the Sorrento Peninsula affecting in particular the Sirenuse Trail and  the slopes of Monte San Costanzo.

Hiking has always held a certain importance in this area but over the last few years more and more keen walkers have been coming to visit. Greater visibility has been given to our paths and trails, and improved signage and, dare I say it, a little more maintenance from both the local authorities and  various associations has certainly helped. Even the impact of the  recent closure for maintenance of one of the most walked paths of Massa Lubrense, to Punta Campanella, had been mitigated by the clearance of the ancient trails behind Termini and the creation of the Giro di Santo Croce. 

Now everything has  to some extent been compromised. Yes, the views are still spectacular, but the vegetation to either side of the paths is completely black and burnt and certainly neither inviting nor a pretty sight.

In his latest blog, Giovanni Visetti describes in more detail the present state of these paths and underlines the urgent need for intervention prior to the start of the autumn hiking season. In brief, this is what he writes:

The steep descent of the Sirenuse Trail to the south-west of Pizzetiello is now a little trickier and requires greater attention. In fact a lot of the wooden steps and fencing/handrails have burnt. What is left has dubious stability (even less than before...) Giovanni has always sustained that rickety and unstable rails/steps are more dangerous than none at all, giving as they do a false sense of security that can easily result in someone coming a cropper. In its present state, anyone who is not totally sure of step should avoid the descent from the Pizzetiello whilst ascending should not be particularly problematical.

He appeals to the Local Authorities, the Pro Loco and Tourist Boards, to guides and groups of excursionists to intervene as quickly as possible prioritising as follows:

The Sirenuse Trail   beneath Pizzetiello - if more extensive repairs are not feasible at the moment, at  the very least  the unstable wooden steps and rails need removing. The signage between Pizzetiello and the chestnut trees on the small plateau, direction Torca, needs restoring since there is no longer a clear passage through the vegetation (completely destroyed) and it is easy to find yourself off track and in the middle of the rocks.

Nerano - San Costanzo - here too, the signage needs restoring to evidence the trail.

Giro di Santa Croce - urgently requires signage, since it is just about the only valid (and for the time being still pleasant) alternative to the Athena loop, closed until the end of the year due to work on via Campanella.

He reiterates that there are only two weeks left before the guides and tour leaders of the walking or hiking tours return to the the paths of the Sorrento Peninsula and so there is not much time to save the situation.

Giovanni has also published two series of photographs showing the consequences of the fires which can be found at the following links:
Sirenuse Trail fire
Monte San Costanzo fire

Photos above courtesy  of Giovanni.

Mine are at the following links:

Sirenuse Trail 

Monte San Costanzo and Giro di Santa Croce

Monday, 10 August 2015

THE SIRENUSE TRAIL (Malacoccola) FOLLOWING THE FIRE


Yesterday afternoon I went to see what damage had been done to the Sirenuse Trail following the scrub fire last week. I decided to set off from the eastern end of the path starting from the Madonnina at the bend on the main road  to the Colli di Fontanelle.

About 50 metres up the trail the undergrowth to the right was already black and charred, but the fire hadn't crossed the path which was clean and clear. Even the wooden slats forming the steps were perfectly intact and untouched.

Once up the hill and round the bend heading west, the damage became much more extensive and extended to both sides of the path, right up to the top of the hill and right down towards the sea.  However the path had never been cleaner, with no ash, no debris and no soot, probably thanks to the storm a couple of evenings ago.The vegetation at either side was completely burnt, although there were still lizards scuttling around and ants galore. There were a dozen crows circling overhead, disturbing the peace.

At the top, at Pizzetiello, the terraces were untouched, a welcome sight after all the devastation along the way. 

I ventured on towards the start of the steps which lead steeply down the other side. It was a bit of a hit and miss situation to find the track to the edge, since this stretch had succumbed to the flames and there were a lot of loose stones and burnt out shrubs that made it a little trickier both to keep clean and keep to the path. Once there however, the wooden rails  seem to have survived and looked no ricketier than they already were before the fire, be it a little scorched at ground level.
I didn't go any further but from the edge could see that the fire had descended right down to the bottom of the hillside and across, fortunately not getting as far as the red house, which was still happily surrounded by its green trees.
Fortunately, (dare I say it), the weather seems to be changing and with a bit of luck some heavy rain will put paid to the arsonist's fun and games for another  year.




UA-46324036-2