Sweating pouring down my back, muttering expletives under my breath as I carried my On-One 456 on my shoulder. Seat digging in and the pedals constantly clipping my leg. As I emerged from the woods I put my bike down to find 4 ticks on my legs. That was it. I lost it.
Mountain bike the West Highland Way?! Who’s stupid idea was this?
I got into Mountain biking thanks to the first lockdown and living in West Yorkshire this meant that I had to get stuck in with hard routes. Being new to biking the idea of gravel rides made me think was just a fancy name for the type of cycling I did as a kid. Tow paths, old railway lines. What’s special about that?
Its impossible to deny that Mount Etna is fascinating – the most active volcano in the world, its impact on the local landscape and history of Sicily cannot be ignored. Surrounding the volcano the landscape is covered in smaller vents, plateaus of lava and rock formations from centuries of eruptions.
It is however incredibly touristy.
At Etna South, the southerly main active crater, there is a cable car and chalets reminiscent of a ski centre. It is indeed a popular ski area in winter, but in summer you must be guided to the summit on foot or by vehicle.
As two mountaineers the prospect of being guided up a large dome of ash and lava didn’t appeal to us. Thankfully there are alternatives and hiring bikes turned out to be the perfect day out.
All around the Etna national park there are trails, both hiking and mountain biking which are well marked and available on the national park map. As it was, the company we hired the bikes – Etna bike tours – from gave us a pre-loaded GPS for the main trail – the Giro dell’Etna. Including the descent back to the rental place in Milo the total loop would be 55km.