Ascent of Vesuvius on 2018-02-12

Climber: David Alexander

Other People:Solo Ascent
Date:Monday, February 12, 2018
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Bus
    Elevation:4203 ft / 1281 m

Ascent Trip Report

Caught the tourist bus from Ercolano Scavi train station. The bus takes you up the forested sides of the mountain along a narrow, paved road with many switchbacks, eventually to the end of the paved road at a parking lot at 3300 feet. It takes about 45 minutes for the bus to get from Ercolano to the trailhead. Here we were told that we would have 1.5 hours to spend up there. At the entrance to the trail is a gate, with a guy taking tickets. Our bus ticket also covered the cost for the trail (20 euros total, as of 2018).

The trail to the crater rim is a wide, smooth, unpaved road, and goes very quickly. It is just over .5 miles with an elevation gain of about 500 feet from the trailhead to the crater rim. This took about 15-20 minutes, and I was walking pretty slowly.

A couple dozen yards before you reach the rim of the crater, you pass by a hut selling trinkets, water, and various additional tours. Steps after this, on the left side, you'll see a small use trail that splits off the main trail, blocked off with a rope. There were no signs or anything, but it's pretty clear you aren't supposed to take this trail.

I was lucky in that the upper part of the mountain was totally socked in (10 meter visibility, foggy, breezy, and sprinkles of rain/sleet). There were very few tourists walking along the trail, and the proprietors of the hut were huddled inside drinking coffee, so when the coast was clear, I stepped over the rope and sprinted up the initially steep use trail, and up and over the small outcrop of rocks out of sight. Within about 30 seconds I was completely hidden in the fog and enjoyed the ~10 minute stroll over to the highest point, on the eastern edge of the crater rim. Along the way I passed a few volcano monitoring instruments. Sadly no views at the top, but that's the price you pay for being able to easily sneak up to the top using the weather as a cloak of invisibility.

I spent about one minute at the summit marker (a 4 foot tall concrete column) and then jogged back down the use trail to meet up with the tourist route, taking care to make sure the coast was clear before I ran down the last steep section onto the main route. I then casually walked back down to the parking lot, and was able to catch an earlier bus back to Ercolano. All in all, about 1 hour, 2 miles, and 900 feet of gain roundtrip.

It would be difficult to poach this on a good weather day, or if the summit rim is busy. You are painfully visible along the first hundred yards of the use trail, which traverses some mellow class 2 terrain directly above the souvenir hut and tourist route. Along the remaining section of the use trail, you are right on the crater rim, highly visible from the hoards of people taking photos from the opposite side. Who knows what anybody would do if they actually caught you. If need be, you could bypass all the drama and just straight line up the side of the hill from a different aspect on the mountain, but this would be tedious, as the entire peak is basically just a huge pile of scree. For best results, try and plan your ascent on a foggy, bad weather day. It was very easy to sneak up undetected in such conditions. Sure, you don't get the views, but at least you get the summit.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:903 ft / 275 m
    Round-Trip Distance:2 mi / 3.2 km
    Route:Tourist Route to Use Trail
    Trailhead:3300 ft / 1005 m
    Grade/Class:Class 2
    Quality:3 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Maintained Trail
    Weather:Drizzle, Cool, Breezy, White-out
Ascent Statistics
    Time:30 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Time:30 Minutes

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