Close to the highest summit of the Gran Sasso massif (Corno Grande), belonging to the Appennino Centrale Group (Abruzzo Region), there are a lot of interesting summits, all well above 2000 meters, that attract many climbers all over the year. One of them is the Pizzo Cefalone. The peak, 2533 meters, is located in a wonderful position and from the summit a 360° view to the surrounding mountains, first of all the Gran Sasso, is great.
It is a very interesting alternative to the most famous summits in the Central Italy, such as Monte Sirente, Monte Velino, Corno Grande or Monte Terminillo. Pizzo Cefalone is in front of the W-side of the Corno Grande, separated by the wide Campo (or Conca)dei Pericoli). Three ridges start from Pizzo Cefalone, respectively towards the Pizzo d’Intermesoli (2653 meters), Monte Corvo (2623 meters) and Monte Aquila (2335 meters).It is ascended by hikers and climbers both in summer and in winter. In summer the ascent is less tiring, at most 1:45-2:00 hours. In winter, a snowy route running up-and-down along the ridges and eventually ending with few alpinistic passages, allows to reach the summit by 3-4 hours, depending on the snow conditon. The S-side of the ridge connecting Pizzo Cefalone with Monte Portella (2385 meters) and then Monte Aquila is frequented by skymountaineers.
The astronomic observatory
Campo Imperatore's plateau
The main starting points for Pizzo Cefalone, as well as for the other summit of the Gran Sasso massif, is from the Campo Imperatore (2120 meters). The plateau of Campo Imperatore is not a village, but only the upper station of the cablecar, connecting Campo Imperatore with the base (Loc. Fonte Cerreto). Close to the station there are also an hotel, a refuge (even called Ostello) and an astronomic observatory.
From Rome: The fastest way, by car, is the Highway A24-Roma/L’Aquila. Exit at Assergi (about 120 km) and proceed by the S.S. 17-bis to Campo Imperatore (about 25 km). In summer, when the road up to Campo Imperatore is practicable (no snow), you can reach the starting point by car. Otherwise, generally from November to end April-May, you have to take the cableway, placed few kilometers from the Highway A24 at 1120 meters, connecting directly Campo Imperatore (open from 08:00 to 17:00, +39-0862-606143 cableway station). In summer the cableway can be on maintenance.
The base of the cableway station can be reached even by bus from Rome. The bus transportation service provided by ARPA s.p.a. line, the private company connecting Rome with many destinations in Abruzzo region, starts from the Railway Station “Tiburtina” of Rome. Take the bus directed to L’Aquila (ARPA Terminal Collemaggio): you arrive at destination by 01:40 hours. From L’Aquila take the line “6D” to Fonte Cerreto (about 45 minutes to the destination). The service is always available during the year. 20 runs every day (from Monday to Saturday) from 06:55 to 22:45,and 11 runs on Sunday.
From Campo Imperatore (2120 m), through Passo della Portella and the E-SE ridge (Normal route) – Trail n° 1-1a, yellow-red indication, 1:45-2:00 h ascent. For the descent following the same trail of ascent about 1:15 h. Height difference: 480 meters
From Campo Imperatore, through the Rifugio Duca degli Abruzzi (2368 meters) and the E-SE ridge. 3:00-4:00 h ascent, depending on the snow condition. For the descent following the same trail of the ascent about 3:00 h. Crampons and ice-axe required mainly in the final section of the route. The last 100 meters below the summit are at most 45°. Suitable places for belaying are on the route
Red tape and fees
No fees and parking pass are required. If you get the cableway the cost is 10 Euro (return ticket). You are in the National Natural Park of Gran Sasso and you must respect the specific rules stated for the protection of the environment.
When to climb
I climbed Pizzo Cefalone in winter (March) and the snow was very deep and heavy. Even if it was a fantastic sunny day, I met only two skymountaineers along the ridge. There are low risks of avalanche, but caution is required in advanced spring in the final and steepest part under the summit. As the time requested to come back is quite the same of the ascent, take in mind that the last run of the cableway is at the 17:00. If you lose the run, there is the Albergo Campo Imperatore !
In summer Pizzo Cefalone is more frequented because the easy way to reach the summit and the wonderful view of the Gran Sasso.
In case of need and emergency you can cal the phone number 800.25.82.39, operating in all the Abruzzo region.
Refuges and accomodation
Duca degli Abruzzi
With reference to the ascent to Pizzo Cefalone the refuges are:
- Albergo "Campo Imperatore", tel +39-0862-400000 but you will be probably re-directed to another number (+39-0862-21191) when the Albergo is closed. This is the most expensive solution, even if more confortable (it is an hotel, not a refuge!);
- Refuge "Campo Imperatore", 42-72 beds, open all the year, just close to the upper cablecar station to which is also connected by a gallery of about 90 meters (phone: +39-0862-400011)
- Refuge Duca degli Abruzzi (2368 meters) is recently rerbuilded
The best thing to do, if you have doubts about the weather or the condition of the routes (expecially in winter), is to call the owner of Refuge "Campo Imperatore" (see above).
An international reference can be the AccuWeather, web site.
Two books in Italian including not only routes towards the Pizzo Cefalone but even in Gran Sasso massif:
- Grazzini L., Abbate P., "Gran Sasso d’Italia - Guida dei Monti d’Italia." Club Alpino Italiano-Touring Club Italiano, 1992 - ISBN 88-365-0518-X
- Ardito S. "A piedi in Abruzzo", 2003. Guide ITER (Subiaco, Roma) – ISBN 88-8177-029-6.
The main maps are the IGMI n° 140 III NO (Gran Sasso d’Italia), 1:25000 and CAI Gran Sasso d’Italia (1:25000)