Climbing the Majella Peaks by Carmine de Grandis

Climbing the Majella Peaks by Carmine de Grandis

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Climbing the Majella Peaks

Scarpa Athlete Carmine de Grandis is not one to shy away from a tough challenge. An accomplished Trail Runner and a passionate accordion player – Carmine likes to combine these two passions by running up hills with his (4KG) accordion on his back and playing on the summit.

So to honour his late father’s memory, Carmine couldn’t think of a more fitting tribute.

So sajiutu a la Majella… I Climbed the Majella peaks in my Dad’s memory!

A look and the sounds of a Mountain run with my vintage accordion and the memories of my Dad in my heart.

I climbed from the Rifugio Bruno Pomilio, Majelletta (1888m) to Monte Amaro (2793m). I also summited Monte Focalone (2676m), Cima Pomilio (2656m), Monte Rotondo (2656m) and Tre Portoni (2653m). I chose to follow mostly the main path (Sentiero del Parco), but diverted from it to reach Monte Rotondo, which was the right choice.

I have been on holiday visiting family in Abruzzo, my home region in Italy. Whenever I can, I take the chance to reconnect with my roots. I have had a deep desire to go on an adventure to remember my Dad who passed away almost two years ago. I believe that to do something worthwhile all those involved must get something from the experience… I love the mountains and running and my dad loved music, dancing and the accordion. I decided to have a go at a mini-adventure which I would call “So saiut a la Majella… music in the mountains”. I started looking at the weather. It seemed either too hot or stormy most days. I kept looking and finally found an opportunity on Wednesday, 10 August.

I reached the Rifugio Bruno Pomilio by car. I knew that I had only limited time. Starting high was going to offer more time to live the experience of “music in the mountains”. I got my kit on. I was ready for a warm day, with a possibility of low cloud and low NE winds. I chose to use the Scarpa Golden Gate Kima, I took my Leki micro trail poles, some Mountainfuel jellies and protein bars and my small (around 4kg) accordion.

The aim for this adventure was to remember my Dad and to take him to the top of the Majella mountains with me in my heart. He had been ill with silicosis and most of his later life going up hill had not been something he could do easily. However, he had been strong until the end and his determination always allowed him to do much more than his body should have allowed. I decided to share my adventure and music with other hikers and runners along the way. This idea stemmed from the amazing experiences I had doing this in the UK during my Montane Tea Round with Accordion (30 miles, 3000m elevation in the Lake District) and on the Highest Carol Singing in England, on Helvellyn.

The day turned out to be warm with a breeze, at times it was cloudy with low visibility. I first played the Accordion for two families near to the peak of the Majeletta. I asked them if they wanted to listen to some Accordion Music and they thought I was joking! It was great to witness the pleasant surprise (thank goodness!) when they realised I was serious and was actually carrying an accordion on my back.

The path followed pleasantly around Blockhaus while gently ascending and descending before the steep climb to the Rifugio Fusco. At this point the terrain was technical and, at points, challenging. I reached the refuge, which looks over the Cima delle Murelle, a beautiful Mountain, always in sight from my Italian village, Tornareccio. I played a classic “Abruzzese” tune, “Vola, Vola” to the mountains, but I could see four hikers ahead who stopped to listen while moving to reach the top of Monte Focalone. I then restarted my run and passed the hikers, reaching the top ahead of them. I played again. This time I talked to Romina and Paolo from Rome. Two more hikers from Tuscany and Salento were there too. I played ”O sole Mio” and the “Quadriglia” breaking the magical silence with the beautiful sound of my traditional vintage accordion.

Climbing the Majella Peaks

Many shepherds would regularly spend time on the Majella with their flock and play music while tending to their sheep. Paolo, a Rugby player, asked why I was carrying the accordion and I shared my story with him. He kindly took a picture and said he would share it with his friends. He had reached Monte Focalone for the first time. A great achievement.

After saying goodbye I ran onwards along the lovely path which goes towards Cima Pomilio, a short scramble later I reached the peak where I found two hikers having lunch. They were amazed that I had carried a heavy musical instrument with me and they enjoyed listening to two tunes.

The views were incredible! We talked about our families and our lives, while sharing our day in the mountains. Cima Pomilio provided a great view towards Monte Amaro, the highest Mountain in the Majella range at 2793m, a sea of rocks and crags with jaw dropping views all around. I ran on keeping in mind my objective of playing for my dad at the top of Monte Amaro.

Looking west I saw a peak I had not visited before, Monte Rotondo. It was a perfect day so I decided to visit this top during my “So saiut a la Majella… music in the mountains” day. I really enjoyed the scramble to reach the top. It wasn’t a challenging one, but it was technical in places and made my run really exciting. From here I moved towards Three Portoni where I saw a glimpse of colour lower down, looking towards the Rifugio Manzini. Led by curiosity I ran towards it.

I found a group of young people having a rest. They were a group of Italian Scouts from Forli’, Emilia Romagna. They were running low on water and were hoping for their friends to return with supplies. While waiting, there is nothing better to raise the spirit than a good sing along. I took the accordion out and they asked about it. I explained my adventure and in turn asked a question: “What shall I play?” The reply came in unison: “Romagna Mia!”, the classic Waltz from Emilia Romagna. As soon as the tune started, they all joined in singing at the top of their voices. It was a special moment. Well done, Scouts from Forli, Reparto “La Quercia”!

Climbing the Majella Peaks

I was now feeling tired, but I was close. I powered up the steep final climb and reached the cross at the top of Monte Amaro where other hikers were resting. Here I met Romina. She had arrived just before me. There were also a father and son hiking through, having come up from Fara San Martino along sentiero H1 (2400m elevation) and descending to Piano San Leonardo. Another couple was also enjoying the views. This was the high point of my adventure (pun intended!). I played a classic tune dedicated to the beauty of Abruzzo’s mountains and sea ( It was amazing that the others joined in with a great sense of shared purpose. I felt that my Dad was there watching and proud as he always was whenever he listened to me playing. Papa’ Aldo and myself had had a great adventure, not one I will forget ever!

The weather was closing in with dark clouds from the west. I decided it was time to leave. Romina was also ready to move on so we decided to share the return journey. Though we had just met, Romina and I had lots in common and did not stop talking for a while. At this point she was meant to go on a different path deep into the cloud. We agreed it would be safer to continue together. I decided not to run, but was happy with the fast hiking pace we set. True adventures call for adaptation and being open to surprises. Sharing a hard, exciting path is a metaphor for life. I was happy to be adjusting my plan and expectations to make room to hike down with Romina… The mountains do not only bring us closer to ourselves and those we love, but they also bring us closer to others, real people. I consider this meeting a gift from my dad.

Climbing the Majella Peaks

Along the way we met other weary hikers who were starting to suffer from the changing weather conditions. We reached Rifugio Pomilio just before 5pm. It had been a great Mountain Day and a happy one, full of positive memories.

There are so many ways I enjoy the mountains. I love to race, I love to run, I love Fastest Known Times, I love training in them… but most of all they are my spiritual place, my “OUTDOORSPIRITUAL”. They help me find myself, reconnect with my roots, welcome my uniqueness (oddity?!?) in choosing to carry an accordion along tough mountain trails and play for strangers on the peaks. Most of all I love sharing with others a deep desire to find ways to build community, a community of people who love Nature and are committed to help Nature save us!

Enjoy the photos. Enjoy the Majella National Park in Abruzzo and come to visit it. If you love wild places you will not regret it.

I am thankful to my family, especially my wife Jenny, who allows me to have the time to follow my passion, to my sponsors who provide me with equipment I trust.

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