Elia Origoni Hit by Avalanche, Breaks Ribs on 7,000km Hike Across Italy

Adventure Travel
In bed in the hospital after his close call
Photo: eliaorigoni.com

Elia Origoni started his 7,000km hike across Italy in February. After walking for 16 weeks, and making his way across 10 regions, the walk has come to an abrupt halt. Origoni is in the hospital with several broken ribs after an avalanche.

Foggy mountaintop with a cross on top

Photo: eliaorigoni.com

On May 29, Origoni crossing Monte Prado, a mountain in the northern Apennines. The snowfall had been heavy in recent weeks, and he was assessing which route to take.

“Suddenly I hear a large noise…and I am overwhelmed by a ‘small’ avalanche that broke off 50 metres above me.”

The snow dragged him downhill, but luckily it deposited him with one of his arms and head above the snow. The rest of his body was trapped. Trying to remain calm, he slowly began to dig with his one free arm. Once both arms were free, the next impediment was his backpack.

“It was trapped under the snow like an anchor trying to hold me,” he explained.

Location of the accident.

On a mountain peak in fog

Photo: eliaorigoni.com

He eventually managed to dig away the snow and remove his backpack. He found his SPOT device and sent an SOS signal. As he waited for the rescue team, he used a stick to “break the blocks of snow crushing my legs against a tree”.

It took well over an hour to free his legs. Then he tried to warm up in his sleeping bag.

The fire brigade found him through the GPS coordinates sent by his SPOT and took him to the local hospital with multiple broken ribs. He’s still there, trying to stay chipper.

“I don’t want to predict the future,” he said. “I am just thinking about getting well and back on my feet as soon as possible.”

Photo: eliaorigoni.com

It had been going well until the avalanche

Since our last update, Origoni had hiked another 1,300km, bringing his total to about 2,500km. From Sicily, he made his way through the regions of Calabria, Basilicata, Campania, Molise, Abruzzo, Marche, and Umbria. He was in Tuscany when the accident occurred.

He started Week Seven in Madonie, a mountain range in northern Sicily. When locals told him that snow had arrived, he was thrilled. For weeks, the rain had kept his feet and boots constantly wet.

Black lava on Mt. Etna. Photo: eliaorigoni.com

Over the next few weeks, the sporadic snow became a challenge. Sometimes the fog was so heavy that he had only one or two metres of visibility. Despite snowshoes, his pace slowed significantly.

After Madonie, he reached famed Mt. Etna, which he’d been looking forward to. Still, the dramatic change from lush green valley to black lava shocked him.

A cool and foggy day. Photo: eliaorigoni.com

After almost two months in Sicily, Origoni rowed across the Strait of Messia to Calabria. Unlike his first row on this trip, 345 km from Sardinia to Sicily, the strait took a mere 20 minutes to cross.

He was now back on the mainland. From Calabria, the snow became more constant. He regularly woke up to whiteouts, fog, hail, and winds up to 70kph. Even though it made the walking arduous, Origoni preferred it to the rain he faced in Sicily. He reveled in snow country and its panoramas — before the avalanche reminded him of the other side of snow.

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About the Author

Rebecca McPhee

Rebecca is a freelance writer and science teacher based in the UK.

She is a keen traveler and has been lucky enough to backpack her way around Africa, South America, and Asia. With a background in marine biology, she is interested in everything to do with the oceans and aims to dive and open-water swim in as many seas as possible.

Her areas of expertise include open water sports, marine wildlife and adventure travel.

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Don Paul
Don Paul
10 days ago

I’m not able to recognize avalanche danger, have walked across danger zones clueless and been told later I walked right across an avalanche chute. People are killed by them every year in Colorado, who don’t even realize they’re in danger. If you want to see a scary video, look at some of the first person go-pro videos on youtube of people being buried in avalanches. Other than that it sounds like he went on a dream vacation.

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Last edited 10 days ago by Don Paul
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