Excursion to the 52 tunnels of Monte Pasubio

Excursion to the 52 tunnels of Monte Pasubio

Saturday 18 August 2012 we decided to retrace the "strada delle 52 gallery", a hiking trail leading up to the top of the Mount Pasubio and skirts it along what was once a war walkway built by the Italian army to bring weapons and supplies to the top of Pasubio without being exposed to enemy fire.
It is one of the most interesting hiking trails in the Veneto as it is one of the few paths that leads to the discovery of history, nature and the great engineering works of the past.

History

The road of the 52 tunnels is a hiking trail that retraces the 52 tunnels that lead up to the "gates of Monte Pasubio". These galleries date back to World War I when the Italian military troops clashed with the Austro-Hungarian army along the lines that crossed the valleys between Veneto and Trentino.
Monte Pasubio was right in the heart of the battle and while from the top the Italian army fired its artillery towards the Trentino valleys, its slopes were bombarded by the Austrian artillery that was trying to break through the Italian lines.


At the beginning of the conflict, the Italian military went up the slopes of the mountain through "The road of the Scarubbi" which led up to the "Pasubio gates" but with the advance of the Austrians this path became very dangerous as exposed to enemy artillery bombardments. So the Italian Army decided to start the construction of a war walkway on the southern side of the Pasubio massif. The construction work lasted only 9 months and led to the creation of a path set between the slopes of the mountain between spiers and almost vertical walls. In order to reach the summit, wells were obtained 52 gallery, a work carried out by numerous military and civilian workers' teams.
The Route of the 52 tunnels was never the thief of the direct confrontation between the two armies as it was one rear, however its construction allowed Italy to maintain control of an important mountain such as the Pasubio e barring access to the Po Valley to the enemy advance.
Retracing this walkway you can understand how much effort and audacity of these men was forced to carry out a defensive work in a impervious territory with often adverse weather conditions and a harsh climate, with the constant danger of falling into the gorges that characterize the southern side of this mountain.

Our excursion

The ascent to Pasubio through La strada delle 52 Gallerie starts from Passo Xomo, a pass located on the slopes of Monte Pasubio at an altitude of 1100m. At the pass there are parking spaces (not many) where you can leave your car (or motorbike) or you can climb up to Bocchetta Campiglia (1219m) and park in the paid parking lot (costs € 5 and is often crowded).
We opted for the departure from Colle Xomo. From the pass up to Bocchetta Campiglia there are about 10/15 minutes on foot along an asphalted road, after reaching the starting point (easily recognizable by the iron structure with the inscription "strada delle 52 galleria") we leave for the excursion real.

entrance to the Pasubio galleries

Entrance to Pasubio tunnels from Bocchetta Campiglia

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Immediately at the entrance of the path there is a shelter with panels that tell the story of this territory and the conflict that took place here. In 2-3 curves you arrive at the entrance of the first tunnel that shows the references to the troops who gave life to this daring engineering work.
The Galleries were excavated following the natural conformation of the mountain and therefore alternate with more or less long path sections. Some tunnels are very short (40-50 meters) while some are very long (300 meters) and as you walk through them it seems to enter more and more into the heart of the mountain. control and attack. In fact, in one of the tunnels there is a 75mm Howitzer that was firing towards Monte Majo.

First gallery of the Pasubio

First gallery of the Pasubio

75mm howitzer shooting towards Monte Majo

75mm howitzer shooting towards Monte Majo

Many tunnels are low and therefore you have to walk bent over to avoid banging your head on the rock ceiling, moreover the water that filters wet the walkway and therefore the climb can be difficult (and dangerous if not approached with caution). To tackle this path we had to bring some electric batteries (it is recommended to have one per person) in some tunnels you have to face pitch darkness (as if it were the dead of night) and therefore without the help of torches it is impossible to continue.

inside of a gallery of the Pasubio

inside of a gallery of the Pasubio

At the end of the 15 tunnel (approximately) the path is increasingly exposed to the vertical of the mountain, you walk leaving on the left side a wall that descends for tens and tens of meters with gorges and cliffs that leave no hope and invite you to continue with the utmost caution as possible. You go up on the right side and in some places the path forces you to continue in single file.
The lack of protection can represent a danger but if you walk carefully (as you should always do in the mountains) you can enjoy a magnificent view and admire the spiers that rise as if the mountain wanted to keep hikers company.

Precipices, spiers and wonderful views

Precipices, spiers and wonderful views

As the fortieth tunnel approaches, the panorama changes and the upper part of the Pasubio massif (where there is the refuge and the bivouacs) begins to be glimpsed, seeing the point of arrival is always a satisfaction after hours of walking.

The galleries continue and the panorama opens onto the Pasubio

The galleries continue and the panorama opens onto the Pasubio

Continuing the path, at a certain point, you find yourself in front of a crossroads, the path on the right is the continuation of the road of the tunnels, the one on the right is a shortcut that is recommended to avoid the danger of falling rocks. Despite the indications we continued along the road of the tunnels, and like us so many others did.
The tunnels that we find in the final part of the route (from 45 to 52) are almost more difficult than the previous ones, here the water penetrates to the point of making both the ground and the walls of the tunnel slippery and in addition you have to face climbs and descents on natural steps that require the utmost caution.

Only half an hour to go to the Refuge, great news :)

Only half an hour to go to the Refuge, great news :)

Leaving the last tunnel, you find yourself in front of the A.Papa Refuge, a fairly large structure with a bar, restaurant and accommodation. This refuge is managed by the CAI of Schio and is the destination of all hikers who climb the 52 tunnels, the road of heroes and the road of scarrubi.
To reach the refuge it took us about 4 hours but we walked very quietly and stopped several times to take pictures (and because of the scorching heat), the CAI directions provide for 3 hours of walking.

Exit of the 52nd Pasubio tunnel

Exit of the 52nd Pasubio tunnel

Just a few minutes away, here is the Papa Refuge

Just a few minutes away, here is the Papa Refuge

After having lunch at the General Achille Papa Refuge we rested for a while and explored the surroundings. In addition to a splendid view over the valleys and the continuation of the Pasubio massif, we also found some Alpine Stars, which we only photographed.

Edelweiss

Edelweiss

After a break of about 2 hours we resumed the journey descending from the other side of the mountain, that is the road of the scarrubi. This road is far better than that of the tunnels, so much so that mountain bikes can also climb here.

Strada degli Scarubbi seen from above

Strada degli Scarubbi seen from above

The road of the scarrubi has a series of loops long enough to go through, so we (like many other hikers) decided to take the path that crosses the woods. It is very steep but saves a lot of road (not recommended for children).
It took us 2 hours to get back to Bocchetta Campiglia (the starting point of the tunnels).

Technical data

Journey time outward: 3 hours;
Return journey time: 2 hours;
Difference in altitude: 800m (if you start from Colle Xomo);
Difficulty level: E (according to the CAI guides);

Below is the map with the starting point for the Pasubio tunnels (Bocchetta Campiglia):
pasubio galleries map

Warnings and useful advice

If you want to retrace the route of the 52 tunnels, you have to keep in mind some warnings:

  • The tunnel road is not suitable for mountain bikes following numerous accidents, including some fatal ones. (if you want to get on a mountain bike you have to take the road of scarrubi)
  • You must be equipped with at least one flashlight (the ideal would be one per person).
  • Food and water in the backpack, along the road there are no refreshment points so it is good to stock up on water (since the road is exposed to the sun).
  • Although this is not a difficult excursion, it is better not to take it lightly as in some places the path is very narrow and steep.

Conclusions

Una trip to the Papa Refuge via the road of 52 tunnels it is worth doing it at least once in a lifetime. The historical heritage is intertwined with the natural one and at the end of the day you return home with a great satisfaction!

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