A couple of years ago I realized that if we did not do anything to support young talent, we would have one big sad hole in the teenagers around, who are looking at mobile phones with a broken screen and slow data.
In cooperation with Funn, we have started the project youGUNS three years ago to support young bikers. But the idea soon fell asleep, just like my long plan to get out and ride the iconic Stromboli volcano, which belongs geographically to Italy.
The volcano lays in the Tyrrhenian Sea and while I had prepared several times in the past to ride it, there was always something to stop the dream from traveling the volcano to the ice…
Young People Go Into It
That was until this year. After lots of preparation and communication with the local authorities, everything began to roll out in the right direction and the dream began to head to a successful end. This event involves 12-year-old Adam Franc and Vojta 'Klokan' Klokočka. Both are talented bikers that I have had experience with in the past, and I know they can cope with such a challenge as the volcano downhill.
In the middle of April 2017, we prepared an adventure car and threw baggage for an unbelievable amount of eleven people into it. In addition to the riders, along for the journey were cameraman Márty Smolík, photographer Miloš Štáfek (finalist of Red Bull Illume International Photo Competition), both of the young boys' fathers, and things for a support team. For the sake of saving time part of the support team would travel by air and meet us a few days later. The first camp was in the amazing resort in the shadow of the Sicilian Etna volcano, below Biancavilla, where during the Second World War a raging battle between the Wehrmacht and the Scots troops was raging. Despite the deposits of rusting shells and shrapnel, this is a freeride paradise here.
For the next few days, we explored the lava terrain beneath Etna, so that the boys would not be struggling with the rocks that they have not been used to. On the loose, rugged gravel you cannot turn very well, let alone brawl, but the boys handled everything well.
We Make It To The Top
Day D is coming and I get up at 2:30 in the morning. We have only the necessary equipment; sleeping bags, film equipment, and cameras. Excited for the anticipated moments we jump into the car and drive to catch the morning ferry that takes us to the mysterious Stromboli Volcano. Although it is just over nine hundred meters above sea level, it is impressive when viewed from the sea level. The boys stared at her with open mouths, but surprisingly no-one asked: how do we get up there?
At the highest point of the island—the Vancori peak, 924 m high—we climb under the guidance of a volcanic guide and with the support of the local community. The trip takes three hours, and I have to say that I admire the two boys' fathers who pull their backpacks and wheels up for their young riders. The more we approach the peak, the more often our 'guide' calls the radio to control the volcanic activity around the craters. The volcano is active and has been for the last two thousand years, and the lava splashes can be seen at peak activity two to three times per hour. Access to the volcano is therefore regulated by the Mayor of Lipari. In spite of exhaustion, I try to keep the two boys in psychological well-being and I encourage them to overcome other difficult meters to the very top.
Now we're going down! The guys are a little nervous, but after a few turns and a few freeride races, they calm down and run faster, so the media team with cameras must guard the lenses to avoid them getting hit. Back to the sea, we are as fast as we can be to get the afternoon ferry. Finally, we can say; yes, we rode Stromboli! Somewhere in the distance, another destination is waiting for us: the island of Vulcano, which gave its name to all the volcanoes of the world.
In Hot Sulfur
We fell asleep parched and exhausted and there was not much sleep for us because of the mosquitos. From the morning it is awfully hot and ahead of us another exit, this time to the top of Vulcana—Monte Aria, 499m. On the edge of the crater are fumaroles, which on the surface come out as sulfur vapor—they're hot, up to 1,000°C—which we have to pass. The boys are scared at first, but when they see Mila with a cigarette in the middle of the quenching sulfur, they go into it. The demanding, hot day completely tightens us and we feel dehydration until the second day. But another volcano behind us!
Now, the last one is waiting for us, the biggest one; Etna. After a day of rest, we all have a great motivation to take the highest active volcano, which reaches twice the altitude of Vesuvius. Unfortunately, from the very top, which lies at 3,329 meters, you can not go. In addition, the figure is constantly changing, as, until 1981, Etna measured 21 meters more. The decline was due to an eruption and release of the magma. Currently, the volcano is active virtually continuously.
We are trying to peak at a safe zone that lies in the area of the eternal ice. The boys enjoy surfing on the snow and want to repeat it a few times, but time is running out and from the base camp, where Giuseppe Coco's guide waits for us, we still have a fair amount of ride. After climbing down dusty streets, paths, and several smaller craters, we get to the local trail that leads us to the destination in Zafferan. The third active volcano is behind us! We all leave with the feeling that we have resuscitated it in health and without injuries. This challenging expedition has left plenty of experience not only in the heads of twelve-year-old boys but has moved us further. This is the only thing that no one can take away from us—experiences!
Sleeping in Pinqin sleeping bags is like at home in a duvet.
Little Klokan (kangaroo) is testing the terrain in Calanchi di Biancavilla, a district full of shrapnel and cartridge—a remnant of fierce fighting from the Second World War.
An unbelievable sleeping space under the stars and a view of Etna splashing lava with local wine in a pet bottle.
How could it get in there? Unpacking at the GloB & B Zafferan Etnea base camp at Giuseppe Coco.
There was a strong wind blowing below Etna that not only took the boys off the bike, but also Márty and the camera.
In two seconds Adam catapulted himself over the handlebars when he met a big stone in a very heavy section of Etna. Fortunately, the Vojta didn´t hit him, otherwise, they both would have been flat. But Adam is a strong guy, he kicked the bike, shouted and he's gone through it.
Klokan trains on speed record under Etna near Refiugio Citelli / Markus Stockl at risk.
From the top of the island of Vulcano there is a beautiful view of the Lipari Islands and on the other side you can see the snowy Etna.
The view of Stromboli was fascinating, especially when we registered a rising trail from ca 500m.n.m where the vegetation ends and the lava field starts, unfortunately, the full summit of Vancori is not visible.
First look at the local map.
With a great load on his back in very strong, free-standing stones, it did not go so far, but half of the climb to Stromboli was behind us, and the little island Strombolicchio was gradually diminishing in the distance.
The high-speed truck is approaching and we are still below the top that climbs into the clouds and covers our skidding rails
The Stromboli Peak (Vancori) is decorated with several monitoring stations that transmit information through a stand-alone system to the control center. You will not get a regular phone call here.
When the crater begins to spit, the vapors sometimes cover the top, so the downward ride was all the more varied
Adam sticks to the surf style when the large lava stones have been shattered over time, the boys most enjoyed.
Etna's peak has a partial snow cover, and with a hot lava hand it can do a good mess, so it's better to hurry down.
Sherpa—with their boys—Ladislav and Vojta Klokock / Ivo and Adam Franco. Fathers worked hard as hell.
Training day before getting to Etna and dating with the terrain.
Sulfur fumes and hot spots were a good life experience for the psychological resistance of both boys.
Freeride style on end… steep to deep (gaspi)
Thanks to the whole crew around us!
Funn POC Mitas GloB&BEtna Nikon Fomei
MFFM - Muffin Movie/Marty Smolik
Milos Stafek Nikon/Fomei
Richard Gasperotti (Old Gun)
Adam Franc (Young Guns)
Vojta Klokocka (Young Guns)