I hiked up and down Mount Etna on March 15 (the day before it popped its top in front of the BBC) from the Rifugio Sapienza point, which is the main trail approaching from the south. At first the visibility was quite clear, and the snow and ice provided a splash of (white) color against what is otherwise an almost entirely black volcanic surface. In the interests of getting some exercise in, I avoided the cable car option which gets you up to about 2,500m. Etna’s white plume was visible at a distance, although a narrower black plume and ejected rocks were also visible the closer you got (presaging). There were periodic crumps that sounded like distant artillery, although it didn’t deter some small groups from heading up. The trail starts just east of the cable car station but then contours up west of the cable car run.
I made it as far as this warning sign below the crater area, although by this point the visibility started to decrease and since the snow covered up any further trails I decided to call it a day. To get to this point there is a snow-covered dirt track with a high degree of wind chill, and the terrain is treeless, so it’s not the most idyllic of trails.
That decision may have been wise as the visibility continued to clag in. I was curious as to how recently the black rocks strewn around the snowfield had landed. It was quite windy and a full winter gear set is needed to be comfortable – Etna peaks out at 3,329m so it is quite brisk even in March.
As I returned I managed to get something of a view below the cloud base.
All in all a good 5-hour round trip hike on a well marked out track – the weather is still pretty bleak so an early summer attempt might be optimal.