With the exception of Monte d'Oro, Monte Rotondo is considered to be Corsica's finest lookout mountain. What it lacks in location (Monte d'Oro is located basically directly in the centre of the island) it makes up in elevation. At 2622m it is Corsica's second highest mountain after Monte Cinto. However, reaching the summit is a serious undertaking, thanks to the remoteness and the low altitude of the trailheads for this mountain.
The closest trailhead at Pont de Timozzo is at roughly 1000m, while the southern trailhead at Canagila is at 720m! A third option is to start at Bergerie de Grotelle (1370m) at the end of Restoniza Gorge but this route is roundaboutish and includes 400m descent to the Petra Piana Hut or an insecure ridge traverse from Bocca Muzzella across the summits of A Maniccia and Punta Muferna. An even longer route follows Val Rivisecco which ends underneath Monte Rotondo's east face.
Thus reaching the summit of Rotondo requires quite a bit of dedication. The only reasonable daytour route is the one tthough Val Timozzo towards the beautiful glacier lake Lavu d'Oriente. From here a steep block and couloir scrambe takes you up to the west ridge, from where UIAA I sections lead to the top. This route can be done roughly in a 9h return trip (excluding breaks).
Most climbers, however, take the approach across Corsica's trekking trail GR20 which runs through Bocca Muzzella close by. Refuge de Petra Piana offers accommodations to treckers and summitters alike, which stretches the ascent into a two day affair. Stone cairns take you Lavu Bellebone and onwards to Monte Pozzolo before heading up the south-east ridge of the mountain.
In any case weather has to be taken into account when climbing any mountain on Corsica. Fine mornings can quickly change to stormy, oversact skies and even in summer you are not safe from snowfall. We had to turn around in Bocca Muzzella, while attempting the route across A Muvrella, since within minutes the weather changed for the worse. Later - also typical for Corsica it cleared up again over the valleys while Monte Rotondo still stood shrouded in clouds.
One a fine day, however, views can be exceptional. The Cinto Massif to the north, the close-up views of the Restonica Mountalns and the long curving band of Haute Corse's backbone mountains to the south: all combines into a wonderful 360° panorama. German 19th century historian and traveller Ferdinand Gregorovius wrote in his travel work on Corsica in 1852: "The horizon that you see from Monte Rotondo, is by far more awesome and beautiful than the one seen from Mont Blanc".
Corsica can be reached by ferry or by plane. Major gateways are Ajaccio in the west and Bastia in the north. Usually both ferries and planes start from Marseille or Nice on the Côte d'Azur.
There are three possible trailheads for Monte Rotondo (and - like any other of the highest summits on Corsica - trecking trail GR20 is not far away - treckers certainly will come near the mountain anyway). They are are rather far off and the ascent altitudes are enormous 1600m or 1700m from Restonica Gorge, 1800m from Manganello Valley.
The gorge is one of the major climbing centers in Corsica. You reach the gorge either from Ajaccio in the west or Bastia in the north by taking RN 193 to Corte. There turn into D623 which immediately leads into the gorge. 11km behind Corte the first trailhead is at the bridge Pont de Timozzo, the second at the end of the gorge at Bergeries de Grotelle. If you don't have a car, two options are the shuttle bus from Corte () and (especially off-season) taxi from Corte, which costs about 30 EUR.
One of the most beautiful valleys of Corsica, Maganello is some 15km of cascades, waterfalls and rock pools. You can reach it from RN 193. Between Tattone (south) and Vivario (north) a narrow little side road RD23 heads east into Manganello Valley. The trailhead is at the very end of this road at Canaglia.
Red TapeIn 1971 the Parque Naturel de la Corse was established. It comprises 2500 square km, mainly in the centre of the island and Monte Rotondo is part of it. The usual restrictions apply. Camping is only allowed besides the huts along GR20, in this case Refuge de Petra Piana. You will have to pay a fee at the refuge. Also, the parking lot at Bergeries de Grotelle requires a fee.
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 Corte and Vizzavona there are hotels. 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 & 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)