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near Urzulei, Sardegna (Italia)
Beautiful hike from the pass Genna Silana down to the magnificent ravine Gola di Gorropu and back. The Gola di Gorropu canyon is one of the major nature attractions in Sardinia. The descent from Genna Silana is one of two major access hikes to the ravine, the other being the easier hike from Ponte sa Barva through the Riu Flumineddu valley. An entrance fee is required (5 € in 2016, see http://gorropu.info/en/). It is only possible to walk about 700 m into the canyon without guide and/or climbing gear.
There is ample parking at the pass. From there you can take a shepherd’s trail (left side) and a cobblestone road (right side). I did the first going down, and the second going up. The route takes you down with the steep slopes of Costa Silana on your left and great views along the Riu Flumineddu valley up to Dorgali on the right side. You will walk through forests with old holm trees, and you will occasionally meet cows, bulls, goats and shepherd dogs (at least I did). Sometimes you have to cross a scree slope. The path can be steep. There is not much risk of losing your way as the path is clear, and there are few bifurcations. You will go down from 1015 m to about 350 m before you get to the Riu Flumineddu. The water reappears here from having flown underground through the gorge, due to the Karst landscape. Unless there are flash floods or a lot of rain, the canyon itself will be dry. In the riverbed, you turn left and will soon find the entrance, where you have to pay and can get information about the canyon. At the entrance you will find large white boulders. From here you initially follow green signs painted on the rocks into the canyon, along a cave and then on to the narrowest part of the ravine with steep rock faces rising more than 500 m up from the canyon floor. Past the most narrow point the valley makes a right turn. There is some scrambling around large polished white boulders and rocks, with the occasional rope provided until you get to a left turn of the valley. Here starts the red zone, which you can only enter with a guide and proper gear. Otherwise, you need to turn back to the entrance. The way back is the same as the way going down, although you might change the last part of the shepherd’s path for the unpaved road (see waypoints).
At the Genna Silana pass is a bar-restaurant and there were two water sources near the entrance of the canyon (one of them indicated by a waypoint) when I was there (I am not sure whether these are there all year round; ask the guards at the entrance for the exact location). Be sure to take enough water. The GPS frequently lost satellite tracking in the steep canyon, so the indicated track there might be slightly off. Don’t worry, you will find your way in the canyon also without the GPS signal.
You can turn left here (going down) on the shepherd's trail or right on the cobbelstone road. They will take you to the same point.
You can turn right here (going up) on the shepherd's trail or left on the unpaved road, which will turn into a cobblestone road just before the pass.
Here is a cave/overhang about 100 m after the entrance on your right hand. The green paint on the rocks point you to it.
You walk right up to the rock face where there are some (remains of) shepherd's huts.
Here is the entrance to the Gola di Gorrupu. You have to pay the entrance fee here. The pictures are made near the entrance.
Holm tree overlooking river bed of the Riu Flumineddu. The last photo is a bit further down.
Here the canyon is at its most narrow.
Here starts the 'red' zone at a curve to the left in the ravine. The first part of the canyon is in the 'green' zone: easily accessible. The second part is the yellow zone (here you need a bit more scrambling), and in the red zone you need a guide and climbing gear.
Here is the river bed of Riu Flumineddu. The water which disappears upstream of the canyon resurfaces here. Only when there is a lot of water, there will also be water in the canyon.
In this zone (yellow zone) you will find some ropes fixed to the rocks to assist you scrambling across it.
The trail crosses a slope of scree here. In front on the rockface I saw a lot of alpine swifts flying, probably having their nests there.
An old shepherd's hut next to the trail. The other photos were made coming down to the hut.
Here the path is at its steepest, across a steep slope with scree. Steps have been made in the path to assist your descent/ascent.
There was a water hose here carrying fresh water from a source. Ask the guides at the entrance of the canyon for a location if you cannot find it. I am not sure if this water source is there all year. The photos are made near the source, not of the source.