Sunday 23 December, the Eve of Christmas Eve. Under a leaden sky, a small group of athletes gathered around the start at the Marina di Manarola, between the boats and the cliffs that fall to the sea. Toeing the line are Lorenzo Pellegrini (MTB champion) from Valdipino, the rustless Gianni Moggia from Vernazza and Daniele Battilani (ASD Golfo dei Poeti) and our friends from Valtellina Elisa Sortini (Team Atletica Alta Valtellina), Elisa Compagnoni (Team Atletica Alta Valtellina), Francesco Pedrazzoli and Simone Bertini, all who came to the Cinque Terre to try the “rediscovered” trail that leads to Monte Le Croci, 3.3 km with 726 meters of positive elevation gain.
It’s not an official race but instead a challenge between runners who love vertical courses with significant elevation gain. It is a way to recount the story of a trail through sport: a climb back in time.
Finally the start. Sending off the runners are Alberto Andreotti, President of ASD Cinque Terre and Vincenzo Resasco, Vice President of the Cinque Terre National Park.
The group shoots off like a bullet up the main village street to the first “wall”, the Collora, a staircase of over 300 steps that passes through Mario Andreoli’s nativity scene, and here the gaps between runners begin to open. Lorenzo Pellegrini goes immediately into the lead, followed by Simone Bertini, Elisa Sortini, Elisa Compagnoni, Francesco Pedrazzoli, Daniele Battilani and Gianni Moggia. Local runner Gaetano Bordone of Polisportiva Cinque Terre follows the group as “sweeper”.
This is just the beginning. The sinuous mountains cut by hundreds of dry stone walls and the resting vineyards disappear behind the houses and vanish into the sea. But it is up that we must go, to the summit, where this merciless climb ends and the crosses dominate. The steps continue incessantly through the olive fields of Trail n. 506, until Volastra.
Just a moment to catch a breath, a few meters of asphalt. Then the challenge moves to the forest and fatigue starts to bite the legs, until the deserved arrival at the top of Monte Le Croci.
||Lorenzo Pellegrini🃏||Dec 23, 2018||9:24/km||–||1,373.0||31:20|
|2||Simone Bertini||Dec 23, 2018||9:57/km||140bpm||1,295.8||33:12|
|3||Elisa Sortini||Dec 23, 2018||10:22/km||142bpm||1,244.6||34:34|
|4||Elisa Compagnoni||Dec 23, 2018||10:48/km||–||1,195.0||36:00|
|5||Francesco Pedrazzoli||Dec 23, 2018||11:30/km||172bpm||1,122.3||38:20|
|6||Daniele Battilani||Dec 23, 2018||11:59/km||–||1,075.9||39:59|
|7||Gianni Moggia||Dec 23, 2018||Tempo Stimato 41:00|
A VERTICAL WITH SOUL: THE HISTORY
What’s behind the Vertical Monte le Croci? Behind a trail that is an emblem of fatigue? Where did the idea come from to elongate the course that ended behind the illuminated nativity of Mario Andreoli to make it even bigger?
It was in the woods back in 2005, while searching for mushrooms, that by chance we found ourselves along the backbone of a mountain, and curiosity pushed us upward until we happened upon a rocky outcrop adorned with 3 crosses.
We found the Crosses of “Gio’ Pippa”. The view was incredible, 180 degrees, from the Apuane Alps to the Bay of Silence and beyond.
1 January 2001 on Monte Le Croci, Ubaldo Crovara (known as Giorgio, and nicknamed Gio’ Pippa) and a group of volunteers from Groppo and Volastra repositioned the central cross, handmade from railway track, to protect the valley below.
Fast-forward to early 2018 and after a quick visit to Monte Le Croci we realize that despite years of abandonment the magic is still there. It was decided! The vertical must arrive here.
In July we begin to recover Trail n. 6A (inexplicably removed from the REL). The wood reveals many artifacts from our territory. We discover that along the path there are ancient cableways, as up until the 70’s, the forest was maintained. Wood for stoves and fertilizer for the vineyards came from here.
It is like being in an archaeological park, yet the people who used this infrastructure still live in the villages. How is it possible to lose this memory so quickly?
We are a National Park, the dry stone walls are a Unesco world heritage, and yet the fact is that we find ourselves with a “grab n’ go” type of tourism that looks for what the google algorithm suggests: the coloured houses.
Aware and motivated by the will to not lose this heritage, pervaded by the beauty that surrounds us, in just a few days we liberated the passage that leads to Monte Capri.
The hot summer does not dissuade us because we found the possibility to reach the summit using another old path: the direct route; so we begin to clear it an as we do other cableways and sandstone quarries appear.
It’s perfect, it is the trail that we were looking for: a trail that starts from the sea and reconnects our generation to those behind us. Vertical Monte le Croci is the soul of this territory.
The Cinque Terre are difficult: stairs, sea, a harsh landscape, at times almost cruel. But the summit gives us everything back and the fatigue is transformed into emotion.
By Christine and Nicola, Cinque Terre Trekking
Foto credit: Christine Godfrey, Paolo Bonfiglio, Pierangelo Scolaro, Michele Bordoni, Davide Crovara, Francesca Gigli.