Springtime has come to the upper slopes of the Apennine mountains. With meters of wet and heavy snow still covering the highest peaks and the spring sun eagerly at work, an ascent above the 6,000ft mark is not promising to become a pleasure trip. This time around in the Pollino National Park the easternmost part would be the destination, more precisely a mountain that had caught my eye repeatedly from afar: Timpa di San Lorenzo (1650m / 5413ft).
On a very beautiful morning, short after sunrise and with the nightingales still singing in the treetops of the evergreen oaks, I started out from an improvised trailhead right at the base of the eastern escarpment. There is no official hiking path on this mountain, no indications or similar. A goat trail might be your best shot for the ascent to the ridge.
Avoiding scree ramps and the almost impassable and prickled thicket formed by low-growing hawthorn and oak trees, the initial uphill scrambling progressively turned into a climbing tour. With the morning dew still under the soles especially the large and slick limestone slabs proofed to be difficult to negotiate.
After a final struggle with the unrelenting vegetation I reached the first objective, the craggy and steep ridge. From here the view opens towards the still snow covered peaks of Serra Dolce Dorme, Mt. Pollino and the impressive east face of Serra delle Ciavole.
The vertical drop is awe-inspiring, and from almost 2000ft below the relentless rushing of the Raganello torrent is well audible. In order to reach the highest spot of San Lorenzo I would now have to follow the line of the jagged cliff. A toilsome progression, no doubt, but all difficulties of this long and quite demanding ascent are more then recompensed with a formidable view.
At every turn the eye will find something worth a halt (or a snapshot). But its a good idea to also watch your step carefully. Some of the deep incisions in the crest line should be evaded, as the brink often holds small rocks and lose dirt.
After climbing the first jag of the ridge the terrain changed again, unfortunately not for the better. The already mentioned limestone slabs are a very characteristic feature of this mountain. They are generally known by the name ‘i lisci’ (from Italian ‘liscio’ = slick, smooth). Since some of them are really large in size and lacking almost anything that might be used as a handhold, they are hard to climb and traverse, – harder still to descend on.
Now clouds were closing in from the sea, and I decided to be quick about the ascend. Rain had been an option in the weather forecast for the late afternoon. Something told me: “Don’t even think about trying to tread these rocks when they get wet!” – The last part of the summit ridge is also known as ‘la cresta delle Aquile’ = the Eagles’ Crest. It is a very fine piece of rock. And the view is even more impressing. The vertical drop from the highest spot to the gorge of the Raganello comes to 2600ft!
The final slope, right underneath the summit, is extremly rocky (but without ‘lisci’!) and was cluttered with aromatic herbs and beautiful little flowers, like Viola calcarata.
The biggest surprise of the day, however, was still waiting for me. Right on the heap of rocks marking the actual summit of Timpa di San Lorenzo I would find an entire colony of ladybirds, so many indeed, that their number was well beyond counting.
The ascend had taken me 4 hours, a good deal more than I had expected. The way down took me another 3 hours and, to be honest, I would not recommend the route I took in order to cut short. The best way to descend is either on the north side – towards the small rural chapel of St. Anna and the Falconara, another beautiful rock face not far to the north, or on the same side as for the ascend, – but well before reaching these silly limestone slabs.
Foolish enough, I decided to return on my tracks. Now I could tell some stories about what it means to actually climb down the ‘lisci’ of San Lorenzo, notably in a hurry and with all signs of imminent rain … but I’m not going to.
(click to view)