Grotta del Gelo, ice cave of Mount Etna
The Grotta del Gelo is the cave par excellence of Mount Etna. The cave is about 125 meters long and its temperature inside is always kept below zero. The cave is located at an altitude of 2030 meters below the famous “Sciara del Follone”.
Start: Via Mareneve
Distance: circa 23 km roundway
Duration: 7 hours
Altitude: 2040 m
Difference in altitude: 600 m
Mappa sentiero: Etnanatura
How to get to the Grotta del Gelo
There are several paths that lead to the Grotta del Gelo. The easiest is certainly to reach Rifugio Ragabo, which is located in the municipality of Linguaglossa. Start from here, the walk on the famous “Pista Altomontana”, for about 10 km until the Grotta dei Lamponi.
No difficulties during the first stretch of dirt road, which can also be followed by bicycle, towards the Passo dei Dammusi, the junction for the Rifugio Timparossa and the Grotta dei Lamponi which, as one of the longest lava flow caves, is definitely worth a visit.
Once here, you’ll have to leave the road and start a long climb on the compact lava, following a path marked by stones (small towers of stones, called ‘omini’ in Italian), sticks planted on the ground and a few sprays of paint.
The path is now much more challenging and has a difference in height of about 400 meters over a distance of about 5 km and a considerable inclination. Despite the difficulty, the path offers scenery of absolute beauty as the huge lava field in which you are, and the Monte dei Morti.
Mount Etna Glacier
The Grotta del Gelo is considered the most southern glacier in Europe because of its stalactites and stalagmites, which have been formed and maintained inside the cave for over three hundred years.
The cave, formed by an eruption of the Etna volcano dating back to the years 1614-1624, is about 125 meters long. Its temperature inside, thanks to natural ventilation, is always maintained below zero degrees.
The Grotta del Gelo risked to disappear in March 1981 because of an eruption that started not far from the entrance of the cave, but indirectly its ventilation was modified reducing the mass of ice inside.
Sciara del Follone
The Sciara del Follone, is considered the most spectacular lava formation of the Etna volcano for its shapes assumed after cooling.
This eruption lasted about 10 years (1614-1624) and covered the northern side of Mount Etna starting at 2550 meters. It has covered only 6.5 km, but has covered about 21 square km of territory after having poured at least 1000 million cubic meters of lava.
This eruption produced pahoehoe-type lavas. The lava flows were superimposed, forming slabs of rock of a few centimeters that resonate when you walk on them. From this they took the Arabic name “dammuso”, which means ceiling, so it is called “lava of Dammusi”.
And the main streams created deeper tunnels and later the Grotta di Aci and the Grotta del Gelo at 2000 m and the Grotta dei Lamponi at 1700 m were discovered.
The Sciara del Follone is certainly one of the strangest and most interesting natural formations of Mount Etna. The bottom on which rest your feet when you enter the lava of Follone is in fact compact, stable and without asperity. Contrary to what happens in other flows, where the rocks are disaggregated into shapes of various sizes having sharp surfaces and difficult to cross.