The road of Sibilla
The ascent to the mythical Mount Sibilla along its spectacular and criticized road. A unique experience, one of the most fascinating to do in the Sibillini area. The view over the Aso and Tenna valleys. The feeling of being in a magical and fairy world. The satisfaction of reaching well over 2000 meters of altitude. Welcome to the kingdom of Sibilla and her fairies!
|Elevation gain||1140 m|
|Elevation loss||4 m|
|Min elevation||975 m|
|Max elevation||2111 m|
Sibilla, the queen of a mythical underground kingdom out of time, which was accessed through the famous cave, often never to return. Sibilla, the priestess who used to predict the future. Sibilla, the sorceress accompanied by the fairies, mysterious creatures who used to descend to the valley to meet with the shepherds, appearing to them as beautiful women. Sibilla, the queen who could be gracious or terrible and who inspired fear into the inhabitants of these beautiful and ruthless lands. I have already spoken of the legend in Fairies of the Sibillini and in The Ring of the Sibillini.
Today Sibilla is only the name of a mountain, but not just any mountain. The charm of its legend and its mysterious stories survives and it is difficult to climb on its sides without being influenced by it. Certainly an important role is exercised by the sudden changes in weather conditions. Here, in an instant, you go from the blue sky to the thick fog and to the black and stormy clouds. The wind suddenly rises, passing from the most absolute quiet to the most frightening storm. In a few minutes of being hot and sweaty, you find yourself with the chills of freezing cold.
Sibilla, the Mountain, still appears to me as a female divinity with a strong, sometimes capricious character, certainly to be treated with respect. She can welcome you, but it will hardly make things easy for you. He will try to dissuade you, to make you change your mind, to force you to turn back, making you think that you are doing a big stupid thing to venture up there, in her kingdom. I can’t help but think that Sibilla’s apparent hostility towards the traveler is also due to the construction, in the ’60s, of the road from Collina di Montemonaco to its ridge. The road looks like a real wound that crosses the whole southern slope in a zigzag. Some have called it an unnecessary scar. Difficult to disagree and not feel, climbing along it, to somehow cause suffering to our Mountain Goddess.
The idea that has been going on my head for a long time was to climb to the top with my gravel bike. I had tried several times, but Sibilla, in different ways, had always rejected me. The first time I had tried with an old cyclocross bike and I had stopped after the Sibilla Refuge, where the stones became too big for my gears and my legs. I had tried again, stopping this time at almost 1800 meters above sea level, in view of the famous Crown. Then I had gone with the new gravel bike, much more suitable, but I had started from the sea and I had turned to the Sibilla Refuge, at an altitude of 1540 m, because I realized that continuing I would not be able to go home by nightfall. On a beautiful winter day I also attempted to tackle the partially snowy road. Unfortunately I had to surrender to the effort of pushing the sinking wheels, like on the sand.
I had tried. I hadn’t reached the goal, but I never felt disappointed. Each time I had different sensations, always beautiful. I shared the ascent with a friend. I experienced the beauty of complete solitude of the nature. I met virtual friends of social networks who had become real people in Sibilla’s magical world. I felt like never before that the sense of travel is in the journey itself and not in the destination.
So, on a nice Saturday at the beginning of June, I leave for the latest attempt, aware that, as much as I can try, Sibilla could refuse me once again. The sky is clear, of an intense blue and cloudless. The peaceful ascent from Comunanza to Montemonaco is already a sight, with the Sibillini Mountains reflecting in the Gerosa Lake.
Immediately after Collina di Montemonaco, on the left, the gravel road begins. The brown sign reads “Monte Sibilla”. The ascent begins. The altimetry of the climb inspires fear. Data are clear: length 12.2 km, elevation gain 1140 m, average slope 9.4%. I try not to think about it while I fill my bottle at the fresh and panoramic spring under the road in the initial section. In my heart I hope that the next source, the one at the Sibilla Refuge, is open, because otherwise I could run out of water before reaching the top, adding another difficulty. Meanwhile, a few white clouds have formed at the top of the mountain. Hopefully good!
Soon the slope starts to rise: 12%, 13%, then 14%. The road surface however looks good. The trees create a pleasant shadow and the hairpin bends follow one another, helping me psychologically. I can take a good pace and go up with satisfaction. Meanwhile, the view of the road traveled and the hills to the sea puts the usual pleasant euphoria on me.
I reach the Sibilla Refuge, at an altitude of 1540 m, and I discover with pleasure that the water flows, albeit weakly, from its source. I take this opportunity to take a little break and leave without thinking too much. In the meantime the clouds have enlarged, becoming gray and threatening. I pray in a low voice that Sibilla will not reject me with one of her sudden storms.
A long straight stretch of a couple of kilometers begins. This is the cut that can also be seen from Mount Gran Sasso. The main wound on Sibilla’s side. I walk it as on tip-toe in order not to disturb her. The sun is no longer seen. I feel some shivers for a sudden gust of fresh wind on my sweaty body. A short and very hard ramp at 18%. Sibilla is testing me. I do not give up, pampering myself with the view on the left, the last part of the Aso valley, with Foce di Montemonaco at the bottom.
The straight ends at the fork for the Banditella Refuge. A couple of difficult hairpin bends, with a gradient above 10% and with the gravel becoming coarse and insidious. At a certain point I meet a landslide, where the road gave way. I put the bike on my shoulder and walk over it. I listen to the stones tumbling down in total silence.
I continue. The road is now really difficult. The stones become bigger and bigger and make the ascent a continuous game of balance. The effort is accentuated by altitude. We are almost 2000 meters above sea level. The gray cloud is invading all the visual space. The landscape fades away. I’m alone, with Sibilla.
Still a couple of hairpin bends and still slopes that exceed 10%. Then a final straight, where the bottom improves considerably. One last turn to the right and I am on a grassy area. The end of the road. The view also opens onto the Tenna valley. There is a path on the right. I take it, a little pedaling, a little with the bike on my shoulder, and after a few hundred meters I am on the ridge, over 2100 meters high. The photo is mandatory. On the left the blue sky, on the right the gray cloud. The image will set a wonderful moment forever. Thanks Sibilla!
I stay a while to enjoy the silence and the spectacular view. I don’t want it to end. Then I decide to go back and face the descent, beautiful, long and sometimes demanding, because with Sibilla nothing is easy, nothing is taken for granted, but everything is special. Seeing is believing!
Recently, at the beginning of November 2020, I climbed again up to the Sibilla ridge. The day was nothing short of wonderful. The blue of the sky dominated the mists that could be seen in the distance towards the sea and the hills. The wind was absent and the temperature was perfect. In short, one of the rare days when Sibilla seems to be there to welcome and pamper you. I had my GoPro with me and this video has resulted, which tells one of the rides that I will certainly never forget. The music, which I already had in my head while I was climbing, is the beautiful Angel’s Wings by Diego Mercuri, my friend and lover of our Sibillini Mountains.
If you liked this post I ask you to share it with your friends clicking the social buttons below. You will contribute to the growth of this blog. Thank you.