Corsica, la montagne dans la mer - the mountain in the sea, is best known for its 50 2000ers, all of which are made up from granite and are located on a winding S-shaped crest which runs from the north of the island to the south. On these mountains granite is the grey variety, always formed in large blocks with impressive faces. As you go south the ridge runs out and drops lower than 2000m and here the typical Corsican rocks named Tafoni take over. Also made up from granite, rocks are reddish and perforated with caves and windows. Over the ages moisture within the rocks dissolves the inner rock structure and capillary forces bring them to the surface. Here they get deposited, forming an extremely hard crust. Thus the inside of the granite rocks gets soft while the outside gets an increasingly hard cover. Over the ages bizarre formations have been created. On Corsica the got their name: Tafoni from the Corsican word for perforation. And here you can find two of the most bizzare regions showcasing this rock from: the Calenche de Piana on the north-west coast and the Aiguilles de Bavella in the south centre of the island.
Named after Col de Bavella, the aiguilles - needles stretch for several kilometres on both sides of the saddle. Close to the col you find low towers, perfect for a day of sports climbing whereas farther out the aiguilles tower above deep canyons and ravines. It is Carsicas best known canyoning area - but that's a topic for another page. To the north of Col de Bavella you find a ridgeline of towers, which the visiting climbers like to number by their sequence (tour I, tour II, etc.) but which all carry local names. The best known ones (also most important for climbing) are tours I and II, Punta di Acellu and Punta di l'Ariettu, followed by the broader Punta di a Vacca.
The latter, topic of this page, is the only of the Aiguilles di Bavella, which can be climbed without rock equipment. It is located close to the alpine variant of GR20, which heads from Col de Bavella to Monte Incudine, Corsica's southernmost 2000er. The path is an extremely steep (!) scramble, which winds between the aiguilles, traversing steep scree slopes and in one point requiring either slab or chimney climbing in the south face of Punta di l'Ariettu. The GR20 trekkers with their huge back packs are challenged while the day tourers negotiate these cruxes far more easily. Punta di a Vacca is climbed from the north-east, a UIAA II chimney route, which quickly reaches the summit.
Punta di a Vacca is twin peaked. Unlike its direct neighbours its faces are rather jumbles of rocks, real mazes if you want to climb them. Therefore it is mostly climbed by hikers and trekkers along the short nort-eastern normal route. Summit views are somewhat disappointing, at least after all the excellent impressive views on the trail
You start the climb towards Punta di a Vacca from Col de Bavella. The saddle can be reached as follows:
- From either Bastia or Bonifacio and Porto Vecchio
- Take the coastal highway RN193 to Solenzara.
- Switch to RD268 which takes you through a long and beautiful valley to Col de Bavella
- From Ajaccio
- Take RN196 to Sartène
- After Propriano but before Sartène the road to Col de Bavella, RD268, turns off to the left
The route to Punta di a Vacca follows the alpine variant of GR20, north of Col de Bavella.I It is decribed in a separate route page.
Red TapeThere's not much red tape here. Parking space at Col de Bavella is limited and for the parinkg lot to the south of the saddle you have to pay a fee. To the north there is another parking lot belonging to the restaurant at the col and if you are early you can find a space there. Further onward there is a bigger free parking lot but the road is rugged and you need high clearance to get and park there.
Along GR20 camping is not permitted except for the areas around the huts and the road passes. At Col de Bavella it is tolerated at the big rugged parking lot to the north of the col.
AccommodationAccommodation has changed a lot during the last ten years. Today it is possible to book holiday homes, hotel rooms or apartments from any travel office. Also, there are a number of sites on the internet dedicated to Corsica accommodation. You can get apartments and holiday homes in any of the villages nearby but in the summer season most of them will be booked.
The closest location for camping and cabins is Col de Bavella. Ask at one of the inns in the village.
The closest town on the east coast is Solenzara, on the west coast it is Sartène.
Maps & Books
- Aiguilles de Bavella - Solenzara
1 : 25.000
Carte de Randonnée 4253 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)