Corno Piccolo,wich name means “Little Horn”, is a real little massif: despite of his smallness, it has so many alpinistic history that every tower, pinnacle, shoulder have an own name, like the most celebrated mountains. It’s the “more alpine” mountain of whole Apennines range and many people think it’s the most beautiful too. Sure, it’s the most hard to climb!
Campanile Livia, on the south ridge
On his smooth rock there are some of the hardest and beautiest climbing routes of all central-southern Italy, and the rock quality it’s like Marmolada south face, they say...
Anyway, not only skilled climbers can found their heaven on this mountain: there are routes for every kind of climbers, via ferrata, scrambles; for hikers there are, beside Corno Piccolo, the two beautiest valley of all Apennines: Val Maone on west, Vallone delle Cornacchie on East.
Click to enlarge the map
Corno Piccolo, with an elevation of 2655 m, is the third summit of Gran Sasso range and one of the highest in the whole Appenines.
Placed on west of his big-brother Corno Grande (Big Horn), and linked with it by Sella dei Due Corni (Two Horns Saddle), Corno Piccolo has three ridges: the south-east toothy ridge, separating Vallone delle Cornacchie from Vallone dei Ginepri; the north-east ridge, separating Vallone delle Cornacchie from Prati di Tivo; the west ridge, separating Prati di Tivo from the deep Val Maone; this ridge is composed from three shoulders (Le Tre Spalle), many celebrated by climbers because of their excellent rock.
The three ridges delimit three rock faces: the north face is smooth and ploughed by many couloirs; the east face is vertical, with cracks and overhangs: very dolomitic! The south-west face is the less austere: here the rock is broken and there aren’t the big smooth slabs of the other sides... The normal route passes by here.
The best access to Corno Piccolo is the small resort of Prati di Tivo: you can reach it by car from L’Aquila or Teramo (easily accessible cities) taking A24 highway until the station of S.Gabriele-Colledara. Then exit from highway and take the route ss491 to Montorio al Vomano. When you reach Montorio, take the route ss80 until you reach the crossing to Pietracamela and Prati di Tivo: follow the indication and you reach it (about 70 Km from L’Aquila, 30 from Teramo)
Prati di Tivo is also linked to Teramo with a bus service: Autolinee ARPA
Even if Corno Piccolo is mainly a mountain for alpinists, there are also two routes to the top accessible to hikers, wathever they have some difficulties and require a little experience of climbing.
The easier is Normal route from south: it starts a few hundreds of meters below Sella dei Due Corni pass, on the southwest side: it’s a marked path (3D on the Cai Map) with some short passages of non-exposed climb (I-II UIAA).
The other is Via Ferrata Danesi, that starts not much before Normal route, when you come from Sella dei Due Corni: it’s a quite difficult Via Ferrata, quite exposed and with some spot not equipped with iron cables (I-II UIAA).
Most demanding, but still accessible by expert hikers in summer, is the Abbate-Acitelli couloit (Normal route from north): it starts on the west part of the North face and leads to the wide basin under the summit. It's an easy climb (F+, II UIAA) and the easier route when the mountain is covered in snow.
Another via ferrata route - but it doesn’t reach the summit - is Sentiero Pierpaolo Ventricini: this marked path, equipped in many stretches with steel cables and iron ladders, starts from La Madonnina, on the summit of Arapietra ridge, and crossing the north and southwest slopes of Corno Piccolo, reaches Vallone dei Ginepri. It’s an amusing route, quite difficult, very useful for climbers who want to reach the climbing routes of Spalle.
Via ferrata Brizio, reaching Vallone dei Ginepri from Sella del Brecciaio, was the shortest and fastest way to reach Corno Piccolo from Sella del Brecciaio and Campo Imperatore, but, because of its dangerousness (many people died on it), it’s not mantained and closed.
Climbing routes are a lot: it’s impossible to make a list, but you can see some of the easiest and classic among the routes attached at this page.
The north face
The south side
Le Tre Spalle (west ridge)
The east face
The south ridge
When to Climb
The best season is summer. Depending by the years and by the exposition of the routes early october and late may can be good (but keep attention to verglas on rocks on shadow!). In early summer, axe and crampons can be useful to cross some residual snowfield
In early summer, you can still found snowfield
Fog is usual even in summer, when in the plains sun burns!
High summer is the best season for rock climbing
Late winter and spring are the best seasons for climbing on snow
Free camping is not allowed in Gran Sasso National Park. To camping you need of a permit granted by the Park Office.
Many climbers sleep with their sleeping-bags under the roof of the chairlift station in Prati di Tivo (they call it “Hotel Chairlift”...): it’s tolerated and, obviously, free.
The best accomodation is Franchetti Hut, placed in Vallone delle Cornacchie under the awesome Corno Piccolo east face, but it’s usually overcrowded, especially during weekends, then take reservation early.
Corno Piccolo is located within Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga National Park: no fees are dued, no access permits are required, but free camping is not allowed (you need a special permit) and you have to respect the rules for environment protection in force in the Park.
Mountaineering History of Corno Piccolo
On Corno Piccolo rocks, there are some of the hardest climbing route of all Appennines
At the end of XIX century, Enrico Abbate from Rome, with the guide Giovanni Acitelli from L’Aquila first climb Corno Piccolo. This climb, with the first winter climb some years later, represented a real breackthrough for mountaineering in Appennines Mountain, but the technical skill was still enormously inferior compared to Alps
In the 20ies the roman alpinist Enzo Jannetta is the most important personage in the field of mountaineering in Gran Sasso range, and, obviously, he took his sign on Corno Piccolo’s rocks
The 30ies are the years of local climbers, the group of “Aquilotti” from Pietracamela, but it’s also remarkable the visit of Giusto Gervasutti, one of the best alpinist in the Alps
After a stop due to WWII, in the 50ies and 60ies the “stars” are again climbers from Rome, in particular some members of the Univesity Section of Alpine Club of Rome (Paolo Consiglio, Franco Alletto, Franco Cravino, Gigi Mario).
In the 70ies, mainly thanks to a true outstanding climber as Pierluigi Bini, many routes on Corno Piccolo can compete for the difficulties with the hardest climbs of Alps! During the ‘80ies very strong mountaineers and climbers (like Massimo Marcheggiani, Paolo Caruso, Giampiero Di Federico, Roberto Barbieri, Luca Grazzini, Andrea Di Bari, and many others) climb the smooth faces of Corno Piccolo, performing great climbs! It’s the Golden Age of Mountaineering in Gran Sasso Range...
From 1990 since today, we had a big work of opening of new routes: among the most active climbers, we can remember Bruno Vitale and Roberto Iannilli, who opened dozens of routes on Corno Piccolo rock-walls, many of them very hard.
Here you can see a chronological list of some important climbs on Corno Piccolo. It doesn’t pretend to be exhaustive.
1887: First climb by Enrico ABBATE and Giovanni ACITELLI 1893: Enrico ABBATE, Giovanni ACITELLI, Orlando GUALERZI and Ignazio Carlo GRAVINI do the first winter climb
1922: Enzo JANNETTA, Michele BUSIRI and Giulio TAVELLA climb first time the dolomitical east face (Via del secondo camino a a sud della vetta, PD+, III+) 1923: Enzo JANNETTA and Aldo BONACOSSA climb first time the north-east ridge (AD-, IV-)
1930: Ernesto SIVITILLI, Bruno MARSILII, Osvaldo TRINETTI, Antonio GIANCOLA and Venturino FRANCHI, all alpinists from Pietracamela, open a route on south-west face of Seconda Spalla (Via Sivitilli-Marsili, AD, IV) 1934: Giusto GERVASUTTI, great alpinist from Turin, with Aldo BONACOSSA climb south spur of Punta dei Due, for many years the hardest route of whole Gran Sasso range (Via Gervasutti, TD-, VI-)
1956: Franco CRAVINO, Lino D’ANGELO and Silvio JOVANE climb first time Monolito, a big shield of smooth rock on the summit of east face (Via del Monolito, TD-, V A2 – VI on free) 1959: Luigi MARIO and Emilio CARUSO, alpinists from Rome, climb an edge on east face; because of his difficulty, it will be for almost 15 years the reference route for Gran Sasso’s climbers (Via Spigolo a destra della Crepa, TD, VI, A2) 1963: Luigi MARIO and Giancarlo DOLFI open a direct route on Monolito, using 20 bolts (Via Rosy, TD, VI, A3) 1968: Franco CRAVINO opens a route in free-solo on south face of Prima Spalla (Via Falco Albino, D, IV+)
1977: Strong roman alpinist Pier Luigi BINI, the best mountaineer from central italy of all time, with Massimo MARCHEGGIANI and Vito PLUMARI, opens a route on the SW face of Seconda Spalla: the last pitch, not protected, it’s the first VI+ of all Gran Sasso Range! (Via del Vecchiaccio, TD, VI+) 1978: Pierluigi BINI, Giampaolo PICONE, Beppe ALDINIO open on Prima Spalla south face the route Stefano Tribioli (TD+, VI+);Pierluigi BINI, Angelo MONTI, Giampaolo PICONE and Vito Plumari open on Prima Spalla Placche Manitù (TD+, VI); again on Prima Spalla, Perluigi BINI with Vito PLUMARI open Placche del Totem (TD+, VI) 1982: Paolo ABBATE and Maurizio TACCHI open on Seconda Spalla Icosaedro (TD+, VI, A1 or VII-), and on south face of Prima Spalla Zarathustra e nonna Iole (TD+,VI+). Paolo CARUSO and Massimo MARCHEGGIANI open a route on east face, that makes a breakthrough for mountaineering in Gran Sasso (Via Cavalcare la Tigre, ED-, VII, A3) 1985: Andrea DI BARI climbs on free-solo La notte delle Streghe on Seconda Spalla (TD, VI-) and Zarahtustra e nonna Iole on Prima Spalla (TD+, VI+) 1986: Strong roman brothers Paolo and Roberto CARUSO open on Monolito one of the hardest route of Gran Sasso (Via Baphomet, EX-, VIII-, A with bolts); Pier Luigi BINI and Alvaro DE LIVIO concatenate 9 routes in 6 hours on Seconda Spalla
1990: Great exploit for Luca GRAZZINI and Alfredo MASSIMI: in few hours, they concatenate Kronos (EX-, VIII), Baphomet (EX-, VIII-), Golem (ED-, VII) and Emanuela (TD, VI) 1995: S. ROMANUCCI and R. BESSIO open on south face of Seconda Spalla La vendetta di Montezuma (EX, VIII) 1997: Roberto IANNILLI and Antonello BUCCIARELLI open on Monolito Curre Curre Guagliò (EX, VIII) 2004: Roberto IANNILLI opens in solo on the east face the second half of L’eredità di Marco (dedicated to Marco Soldini, who opened the first half) (EX-, VII-, A3)
Books, guides, maps, external links
Fiamme di Pietra, seen from Sella dei Due Corni (photo by as)
L. Grazzini, P. Abbate, “Gran Sasso d’Italia”, Cai-Tci, 1992
S. Ardito, “A piedi sul Gran Sasso”, Iter, 1992
S. Ardito, “A Piedi in Abruzzo” vol. 1, Iter, 1996
A. Alesi, M. Calibani, A. Palermi, “Gran Sasso – Le più belle escursioni”, SER, 1996
ALP monografie “Gran Sasso d’Italia”, n. 167, marzo 1999
Best map is “Gran Sasso d’Italia. La carta dei sentieri”, edited by Cai-L’Aquila.
The excellent site of Guillaume Dargaud (in english and french), with many useful informations for climbers and ski-tourers