If you ask anybody, who visited the island of Corsica, for the most important mountains, Monte d'Oro would feature high on the list. It is neither as high as Monte Cinto nor as impressive and diffcult as Pagla Orba nor as beautiful as Monte Rotondo but it would probably rank in fourth place way before any of the higher mountains of the Cinto Massif in the north of the island. Why?
Monte d'Oro is a standalone mountain towering about 1000m above Corsica's most important road pass Col de Vizzavona right in the centre of the island. It's huge bulk stands sentinel above the pass and its signature cone shape with the summit block on top can be seen from just about anywhere on Corsica. To be seen is to see and from the top of Monte d'Oro you have the best views anywhere on the island. There are no higher mountains close by obstructing the view and only in the far distance the likes of Monte Renoso in the south or Monte Rotondo in the north bar the view.
However, reaching the summit involves more dedication than you'd expect for a mountain less than 2400m high. The ascent routes are long, scaling more than 14m elevation gain. They are steep and relentless taking a toll on your stamina on your way up and on your body on the way down. They involve an exposed ridge traverse sneaking around several gendarmes and at least one requires crossing a hanging scree field, which is tiring and scary (in my eyes). The final summit block requires UIAA II climbing along exposed ledges and through chimneys but once on top you are rewarded with the whole island spread out beneath your feet.
Another challenge is the weather. On an island, mountain weather can change quickly anyway, but here close to Col de Vizzavona, the lowest pass across the mountain backbone of Corsica, winds can often get fierce. Monte d'Oro often is the first mountain to be shrouded in clouds but also often the first to be released. A beautiful morning can easily turn into a stormy afternoon forcing you to retreat befor the final summit bid. A return trip Vizzavona - Monte d'Oro takes at least 10 hours so that you should plan the climb according to the forecasts.
Monte d'Oro is located close to but not upon the famous Corsican trekkking trail GR20. It passes "close" to the summit at Col de Muratello from which a two hour hike (one way) can take you to the top. This is the most difficult part of the Monte d'Oro ascent which gets even more difficult if you carry heavy backpacks. Still, many of the trekkers head for the summit thanks to the proximity of Col de Vizzavona, the only place along the treck, where you can find accommodation in like rooms with showers. The additional effort before - or after - a good night's rest is worth it.
There are two hiking routes to Monte d'Oro, both of which start at Vizzavona (village or saddle). The more popular route is the one across Col de Muratello, since you can start higher up at Col de Vizzavona and follow well marked GR20 for two thirds of the way. The La Scala route from Vizzavona village often is covered in snow until late June so that you need proper equipment to do it. Difficulies of both routes are similar. They can be combined into a loop, which takes a whooping 14h to go full circle. Recommendation for the loop is to start with La Scala since the Muratello route is less steep and thus easier to descend.
2 x 180° summit panorama
Trailhead for Monte d'Oro is Col de Vizzavona (you may take a short side road to the north until you reach a radio compound after about 1km), where you can find a huge parking lot. The saddle is one of the main road passes across the mountain backbone of Corsica. The road RN 193 connects the two main cities of the island (as well as airports). Bastia in the north and Ajaccio in the west. Thus the trailhead can't be missed.
Info from dmiki:
Check out the railway tunnel. The cool (even cold) air rushing out is really refreshing in Summer. (Of course, watch out for trains... (although the track is a dead-end).)
Be wary of using the toilets at the train station without consuming something at the bar. Staff might turn rather nasty if you do not.
In 1971 the Parque Naturel de la Corse was established. It comprises 2500 square km, mainly in the centre of the island and Monte d'Oro is part of it. The usual restrictions apply.
No Parking pass, no Permits required. Take care of the wild pigs, though. Especially at Col de Vizzavona there are a lot of them and they'll come to beg. These are no squirrels! At first it seems funny but I've seen a lot of people hastily jumping into their cars.
When To ClimbThe adequate season is May through October. You certainly can climb Monte d'Oro in winter but you'll probably have problems finding accomodation.
AccommodationIt's getting more and more easy to find accomodation on Corsica. However, most of the hotels or holiday apartments as well as campgrounds are located on the coasts. In the villages along RN 193 you'll find occasional inns and hostels and at Vizzavona there are still some big hotels which date back to the 1920s. Camping is only allowed near the huts and bergeries along the GR20 trekking trail and the rules are enforced by rangers.
Weather quickly changes on Corsica, especially in the mountains and even more especially near the passes through which fierce winds blow almost every day. Quite often a perfect morning will turn into fog around noontime but settle to calm weather in the late afternoon. Temperatures on the mountains are often less than what you would expect when starting from the valleys or the coast.
Maps 'n' Books
- Monte d'Oro, Monte Rrotondo
1 : 25.000
Carte de Randonnée 4251 OT
There are quite naturally quite a number of guidebooks, most of them in French. I found the following as good as could be expected:
- Corsica (Corse / Korsika)
ISBN: 978-3-7633-4819-0 (English)
ISBN: 978-3-7633-4907-4 (French)
ISBN: 978-3-7633-4280-8 (German)