The southern route from Ristorante le Gobbie via the marble works Cave Fondone and Passo Vaso Tondo is the easier of the two routes to Monte Altissimo. While the first half is a somewhat boring walk through dense beech forest the second half rivals the Passo degli Uncini Rouet in views and beauty. Moreover, you get a first hand introduction into the marble quarrying of the area.
Much of the route runs along the old marble transport roads which are still in quite reasonable condition. While at first two marble quaries are passed, the second stage of the route leads directly through one of the works. After a short scramble to Passo del Vaso Tondo the remainder of the route follows fortified WW II support paths, passing several former artillery posiitions. The final ascent traverses the south-east face of the mountain to its east ridge, which leads to the summit.
Getting ThereThe route starts at the Ristorante le Gobbie on the road from Massa to Castelnuovo. The main page for the mountain details the itneraries.
- Start altitude: 1037m
- Summit altitude: 1589m
- Prevailing exposure: North, later east
- Type: Steep, somewhat exposed hike
- Protection: None
From the parking lot at Ristorante le Gobbie cross the road and follow the signpost "Monte Altissimo". The path heads down into a narrow valley, Canale di Grotta Giancona, which it follows for the first part. The path leads through a dense, dark forest and finally heads out onto a dirt road (old marble transport road). Turn left onto the road, which traverses the north-east face of Monte Altissimo. It passes two small marble quarries before reaching the big one(s) at Cave Fondone.
The road passes underneath the quarry, then joins another road which heads up from the east. At the intersection make a sharp turn into Cave Fondone. To the left you can still see the original cave-like beginnings, to the right there are several marble cubes left for display. Follow the road into the pit and follow the signs towards Monte Altissimo. In general it is safe to take the upper road at each intersection but keep in mind that Passo del Vaso Tondo is located to the south, i.e to the left of the mountain.
Once outside the marble works a short path leads you to the saddle, where an exciting view towards the west face of Monte delle Tavole greets you. Turn left (the right hand path used to cross the slopes of Monte delle Tavole via a ferrata, which has been abandoned, however). You'll soon notice that you are now on a military trail dating back to WW II, when there was heavy fighting in the mountains above Massa and Carrara. In a sweeping curve the path leads you to an old artillery position, which offers a wonderful view into the south-west face of Monte Alltissimo.
From here on for the next several hundred metres the route runs on the eastern side of the ridge, which offers a natural protection not unlike parapet walks on medevial castle battlements. Every now and then a gap in these fortifications offers a breathtaking view into the south-west face of the mountain until finally the path reaches the south-east face.
Here it turns right (east and steeply ascends the face in a long traverse, which eventually leads to the upper east ridge of Monte Altissimo. Turn left onto the ridge and steeply climb towards the summit plateau of the mountain.