Serra Dolcedorme – Between the seasons

There might be no better way to sense the shifting of the seasons than by taking a prolonged walk on the mountainside, with nature, the mountains, the forests and plains already in silent anticipation of the first snow to fall. We decided to start early in the morning from this day’s trailhead, Colle d’Impiso, for a repetition of a ‘classic’ route, the north ridge of the splendid Serra Dolcedorme.

Although the weather forecast had been rather patchy, approaching the Pollino massif we were rewarded with a spectacular view on the Lucanian Apennines, Monte Alpi and the Sirino massif aflame with the red of the early morning sun. The peaks of Monte Pollino and Serra del Prete instead appeared both wreathed in mist and clouds.

Hoping for these brooding clouds to break later, we started out from Colle d’Impiso, cut across the autumnal colored beech forest and took the broad forest track in direction of the central high plains of the Pollino massif.

The light underneath the leaf canopy was changing rapidly and, as hoped for, by reaching the first high plain the darker clouds had already begun to dissipate. This slow but constant process would create an absorbing play of light and shadow on the vividly green herbage and the white limestone rocks of the morainic landscape ahead.

Most impressive, perhaps, the north face of Monte Pollino which literally materialized before our eyes out of the blur, thus revealing also the beech trees higher up its slopes, their rust-brown leaves capped with the silver shimmer of frozen dew.

Proceeding towards the col between Serra delle Ciavole and the elongated north ridge of Serra Dolcedorme, today’s destination, even thicker clouds were shifting south and allowed only glimpses on either of these mountains. Only meters after passing the actual col we came upon the first small spots of fresh snow, lingering in trough-like deepenings and the shadows of larger tree trunks.

Beyond the small glade which usually allows great views on the central plains (right) and the Gulf of Policastro (left), the terrain steepens increasingly. The carpet of multicolored leaves began to show larger and larger spots of white, the visibility conditions grew poorer and soon we would find ourselves smothered by the clouds, right amid the already bare and iced branches of the last beech trees, right beneath the timberline.

Also rocks and stones and the tufts of high grass were coated by a layer of delicate ice needles. The higher we got the thicker and more articulated this layer became, eventually forming true ice sculpures on some small specimens of the Bosnian Pine.

The changes in temperature were appreciably now, with the cold rushing over everyone’s face in palpable waves. The second col; now the last steeper passage would take us in no time to the final ridge. And, again, the light began to change and invigorate the muted colors. Just before reaching the crest line the sun finally began pushing through the grey curtain.

On reaching the summit the clouds opened and the icy wind waned. I knew by now that, with a little patience, we would be able to catch at least some glimpses on the lowlands and the remote mountain tops of the Pellegrino massif and, maybe, the Mediterranean.

And right, as the grey began to disintegrate a broad corridor opened towards the south thus allowing some splendid views, subtly corniced with the wavering clouds.

After a while the wind freshened again, now driving even thicker clouds over the summit ridge and closing our small window on the world below. So we decided to descend on our traces and traverse the second col in direction of the lower ‘Colle del Malvento’ (also known as ‘Sella Dolcedorme’).

Skirting the gentle south slopes of Monte Pollino, by now all invisible again, we soon passed the forest ‘Bosco del Pollinello’, the minor peak Serra del Pollinello and circumnavigated the vast depression of the southern dolina.

Following the normal route to Monte Pollino in the opposite direction we descended to the clearing ‘Colle Gaudolino’ and took another forest track leading back to our trailhead.

That day we were fortunate to become witnesses of a special scenery between the seasons, on the very edge of winter, all silent and in anticipation of the first snow to fall and cover the peaks and plains, the rocks and ridges, the trees and ravines of these shiny mountains. I’ll be glad to be back for more, soonest.

Colle d'impiso - Serra Dolcedorme via the North ridge - IGMI 1:25.000 - Click to enlarge
Colle d’impiso – Serra Dolcedorme via the North ridge – IGMI 1:25.000 – Click to enlarge