Crossing Gennargentu (Grande Traversata del Gennargentu)

Every hiker’s dream is to reach the highest peak and take a look at the landscape below contemplating the beauty and the uniqueness of the moment. As far as I’m concerned the ‘no pain no gain’ approach isn’t always true as the intimacy between (wo)men and nature might reveal itself in any moment even if it isn’t obtained by an overwhelming physical effort. Well, this time we are talking about a 3-day trek, 40 kilometers and about 2500 m elevation gain. So there was some pain at a certain point. But now I’m going to show you the gain part. Welcome to the Grande Traversata del Gennargentu (GTG)!

This rocky area which includes the highest peaks of the entire island is called Gennargentu but don’t just get your oxygen masks and your ice axes yet as the top of Sardinia is at 1834 m so you won’t be needing your gear here. No abseiling, no canyoning, no climbing, just good old-fashioned walking (sometimes more than 9 hours a day) in the mountains. Did we miss those things for a minute? Not at all!

But let’s start at the beginning. On a shiny early fall morning we (me and my mates: Giuseppe and Enrico) woke up in Belvì and we thought we would walk to Aritzo to find the path leading into the wild….

Day 1 Aritzo – La Dispensa (11,5 km) +860m/-745m

First of all I would like to make it clear that this is not a closed circuit trek so there is a starting point (at a church in the countryside) and a finish (3 days later under a sculpture of Saint Mary – what else…?). That means that you need a ride after you have arrived at the end of the road as no public transport is available there in the middle of nowhere.

Anyway as we got impatient while we were walking towards Aritzo we decided to hitch hike and we got lucky as a very nice local man offered to take us right there where our adventure would begin.

Although we reached Aritzo early in the morning the actual starting point was on the other side of the village

One of the main differences between GTG and Selvaggio Blu is that you don’t have to worry about water as although some of the springs might be dry but there are still many of them if you know where to find them. As a matter of fact like I said before hiking in Sardinia might become tricky if you should lose the track. As much as I love exploring places off the beaten track I would highly recommend to go on this hike with a guide or at least get the complete guidebook which we were following written by local guide and friend Corrado.

As for the weight, counting food and supplies for three days + water refill every day we were carrying around 16/18 kg but at least there is no need to carry a tent as there are some mountain huts along the paths which are definitely not 5 star hotels, but then again that’s the whole point of trekking, right?

This little mountain hut (bivacco Onistri) was undergoing some maintenance work at the time we got there. If it wasn’t an hour walk from the beginning of our trek we would have definitely stayed here for the night.
Inviting, isn’t it?
The first glimpse on the surrounding area of Gennargentu

Another major difference between Gennargentu and Supramonte is the soil and as a consequence the landscape. While Supramonte almost blinds you with its constant white rocks and occasionally with the amazing contrast between the bluest blue of the sea below, Gennargentu is apparently more homogeneous with very few trees or bushes and beyond 1400 meters even the shrubland disappears leaving almost entirely naked peaks.

Even if you have the description of the path or even a gps track it’s always a good idea to take a look from above (a compass might come handy too!)
When I told you that water shouldn’t be a problem on GTG consider the fact that it hadn’t rained basically for more than 4 months before we started our trip so springs usually have a very low capacity but you can still fill up your bottles with cool and refreshing water
This first part of GTG is not very demanding from a physical point of view but you should pay attention not to lose the right direction as the path disappears frequently. Can you see that plateau right across the valley? Well it took us about 3 hours to get there…
River “Su Fruscu” that reminded me a lot of some random river in Corsica
It gave us a certain satisfaction to reach this point not only because we could have some rest but it was the exact spot where we were supposed to be to begin our ascent towards the plateau
So this is us being very proud of not being lost…. yet!
Ladies and gentlemen let me show you the roof of a sort of mountain hut (cuile – you may recall this name from earlier posts) we were trying to reach all day long!  – Cuile Pranu e Girgini

Once you get to this point you could stay for the night but I would rather choose the second option (la dispensa) which is about a 20 min walk from the cuile. This cuile has a wonderful view upon the surrounding valleys, cliffs and mountains but it isn’t very comfortable and many of the windows are broken so it might get a bit cold and windy at night.

This is home! Cheers!!!! (Moments of self – gratitude for having carried  – and will be carrying – wine all along….)

By choosing this accommodation called “La Dispensa” you’ll have a nice fireplace, lots of space to sleep (even though we moved our sleeping bags on the huge tables because they were more comfortable than the floor) and fresh spring water about 50m from the hut.

Day 2 La Dispensa – Cuile Sa Funtana Fritta (17,3km) +1136m/-895m

We decided to wake up early in the morning (it was still dark) because we knew that a long and tiring day was ahead of us. As a matter of fact this is the longest part of GTG but it is also the most impressive as it took us all the way up to the highest peaks of the entire island of Sardinia granting us with some truly breathtaking view and a couple of steep ascents.

That particular peak in the middle of the picture is called Genna ‘e Ragas and it is only one of these curious formations in this territory
Ready to go
Waiting for the devil
This second part of GTG is a lot easier than the first one when comes to road signs. Most of them are indicated by CAI (Club Alpino Italiano)

As I told you before the usual landscape of this particular area is often barren with almost no vegetation but that doesn’t mean that there are no animals. Unfortunately  we didn’t have the adequate equipment and the skills to take pictures of these extremely reserved animals such as mouflons and eagles and some fallow deers.

But whether you are in Supramonte or in Gennargentu you are very likely to bump into the guys (picture below)

This curious crossbreed between pigs and wild boars is very frequent in this area. Here they are starting their daily rambling in the mountains.

There are two options regarding the track of this second day of the GTG: they are identical for more than 80% but the ones we did takes you up to the highest peaks and then it gives you the possibility to walk on the crest of the mountain range with some rad view even on Supramonte which is not far away (as a matter of fact at the end of this 3-day trekking one might start the Grande Traversata Di Supramonte…. we’re on it). However the other option which leads on you a path under the summit has its unique views as you can see the ruins of a once famous mountain hut called ‘Rifugio La Marmora

Either way you have to do THIS before:

This is the steepest path in all 3 days as you get there after about a 4 hour walk and you still have 5 hours ahead but once you’re there you’ve reached the highest summit of Sardinia
Gathering strength just before the ascent
This crossroad is called ‘Arcu Gennargentu‘. This is where you can choose to walk up on the top or choose another path (on the left) which is less steep but a bit longer. Eventually both paths lead to the same road
This is actually the summit of Gennargentu and not where a giant cross is (some mistakes in calculating the exact altitude…) Perdas Crapìas 1834 m
Summit photo and lunch break shortly afterwards. We are going to follow the crest you can see behind us…. I’m holding the guidebook. You know just for sure. In case we’ve missed the highest mountain 🙂
After our usual lunch: bread, sausage, cheese and occasionally some carrots + some wine we are back on the track
Beginning our descent from the summit
After about 9 hours we reached Cuile Sa Funtana Fritta – our shelter for the night
This shelter is a great place to spend the night even if it isn’t very spacious you will find a fireplace outside where you can keep warm or cook something but most of all there is a spring nearby with fresh water

Compared to our first night at the ‘Dispensa’ temperature was significantly lower here so we decided to make a fire as soon as possible and eat our cans of soup together with basically everything we had except for the food we needed the day after. But if it hadn’t been for the grappa Giuseppe carried in his rucksack we would have a harder time to get warm. Now I’m totally convinced that grappa is a basic trekking equipment!

Day 3 Cuile Funtana Fritta – Arcu Correboi (9,5km) +453/-557

After having slept surprisingly well we woke up to a beautiful shiny day ready for the final day (this time we even had a long breakfast and subsequently a “shower” at the spring which wakes you up for good instantly.

Us and our invisible guide

 

As usual the last day seems easier than the others, especially if it is preceded by such a long one. We had a deal with the guy who would come to pick us up at around 2.30 pm so we tried to be there on time. The last part of GTG summarizes well the characteristics of this stunning trek. Barren peaks, infinite views and the inviting presence of Supramonte calling you as you get closer and closer.

The final stage with the typical white peaks of Supramonte in the background – Nodu e’ Littipori
Trying to remember every little detail
Here we are after 3 days and 40 km happy as we can be, on the road a couple of minutes from our ride back to Aritzo

Gennargentu and GTG is a lesser known brother of Supramonte and Selvaggio Blu and it’s definitely different. Apart from the famous peak of Punta La Marmora we met almost nobody during these 3 days and certain places are incredibly wild and far from the presence of people if not that of the local shepherds.

What I liked most is a feeling or rather a memory of walking. Lately I have done many fun things in Sardinia and seen some absolutely unique places: road trips, abseiling, coasteering, canyoning ect. GTG gives you another perspective of outdoor activities: the fatigue, the effort to get from one place to another while day by day you feel that somehow you are now part of these mountains, these bare rocks, which will reveal their secrets only to those who are willing to observe in silence, who are here to learn.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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