The Apennines are the longest mountain chain in Italy. They are divided in three main parts: Northern, Central and Southern Apennines.
The Northern Apennines run from West to East, separating the greatest Italian continental North Plane (Pianura Padana) from the Italian peninsula, bordered by the Mediterranean Sea.
The Northern Apennines are divided into two parts again: Appennino Ligure to the West and Appennino Tosco-Emiliano to the East.
The Appennino Tosco-Emiliano, situated between Emilia-Romagna and Tuscany administrative districts, shows some different areas: it’s named Appennino Parmense Orientale (Eastern Parmese Apennines) the area located inside the Eastern part of Parma Province administrative boundaries and running between Passo del Cirone in the Western side and Passo del Lagastrello in the Eastern side.
The main valleys of this area are Val Parma in the Western sector and Val Cedra in the Eastern sector. As in all the Northern Apennines there are not very high mountains; the highest mountain, Sillara, is lower than 2000 m. In late spring, summer and early fall, when the area is the domain of the hikers and the trekkers rather than the mountaineers, the highest peaks show a typical landscape: the majority of the summits are covered by high prairies, with few rocky buildings emerging from, and all of them are simply reachable by hiking.
Nevertheless, both rock climbers and ice climbers can find an interesting and suitable play ground. The most interesting peaks to climb on multipitch routes are Monte Scala, Rocca Pumacioletto and Stagnoni. Moreover, some fine cliffs had been equipped to enjoy sport climbing in early spring and summer inside the magnificent Lagoni or Laghi Gemini (Twin Lakes) area, as Falesia del Lago Scuro, Falesia dei Lupi Mortacci, Il Canyon and the new Falesia degli Anelli.
The district is also renowned to practice bouldering on several blocks of excellent "macigno" in Lagoni and Lago Verde areas.
During the cold season the district offers magnificent winter ascents to several peaks, which summits can be reached along their Normal routes with low technical engagement, while ice climbers can climb some interesting gullies and little ice-falls.
As told, the highest peak of the whole area is the secluded Sillara 1861 m, located in the Eastern sector of the area, with its fine Laghi Sillara (Sillara Twin Lakes), situated one hundred meters below the mountain summit ridge, on its Northern side. Among the highest mountains there is the Monte Orsaro, 1831 m, located in the Western sector, considered as the symbolic peak of the area in reason of its shape and location.
Marmagna 1851 m is otherwise the best known and more frequently climbed peak inside the whole Appennino Parmense. The reason of its reputation is mainly due to three important factors: its closeness to Rifugio Mariotti, a popular hiking, mountaineering and ski-mountaineering destination; the easy access both in winter time and in the other seasons along its Normal route starting from the same refuge; the renowned view over Alpi Apuane and Tirrenian Sea with Gulf of La Spezia, Portovenere, Palmaria - and even Corsica in the clearest winter days - enjoyable from the summit.
The rocky peaks are few and as a general rule they are not localized along the main watershed, but on secondary ridges that originate from the watershed and head northwards, such as Monte Scala, Roccabiasca and Rocca Pumacioletto.
Parma is the nearest town to the area; it’s a 200.000 inhabitants town, the capital of food valley, the famous food production and factory district. Its airport offers some domestic flies and only a few international ones. A good choice of international flies is provided by Milano and Bologna International Airports, both at a reasonable distance (about 110 km to Milano and 90 km. to Bologna).
Parma is linked to other Italian and European towns by A1 (Autosole) and A15 (Autocisa) motorways, so logistic is not a problem.
Access from A15 (Autocisa Motorway) – Following A15 towards North exit Pontremoli and follow the road to Passo del Cirone and Bosco di Corniglio. From here follow the road towards the locality named Cancelli. If you’re driving on A15 towards South it’s better to exit to Borgo Val di Taro and follow the road to Passo del Sillara and Bosco di Corniglio.
Access from Parma
-To Lagdei and Lagoni sectors: from Parma follow the SP 665 (Massese) towards Langhirano and Capoponte; here turn to right, reaching Corniglio, Bosco di Corniglio and the locality named Cancelli.
-To Valditacca and Pratospilla sectors: from Parma follow the SP665 (Massese) towards Langhirano and Capoponte; here carry on straight following the road towards Palanzano and Monchio delle Corti.
The area, usually as far as 1.600 m. of altitude, is covered by a dense magnificent forest, perfectly preserved through several years of massive deforestation (in the beginning of the twentieth century), due to mountain people’s poverty situation in that period. Due to the great difference between the winter climate – snowy and cold – and the summer climate – relatively warm – the arboreal species grown up in this environment have developed a good adaptation to both the climatic extremes.
The autochthonous beech (Fagus Sylvatica) is the original and largest specie in the area. We can find a lot of wonderful specimen which can reach heights of 20-30 mts, with characteristic straight trunks.
Evergreen conifers as White Firs (Abies Alba) where added later as the result of forestation’s work.
Rocks, forests and climate create a landscape similar to the north Scandinavian one.
The climate is a sub-continental one, so we have cold and snowing winter and summer not too hot due to the sea influence and wind action.
Inside the area there is a thick network of trails, marked and maintained by C.A.I. Club Alpino Italiano Sezione di Parma, introducing the hiker to the discovery of all the main landscape’s features, to visit the numerous small lakes and to the observation of the ancient glacier’s traces.
An easy and very satisfactory trail marked 00 and oriented W to E crosses the whole chain along the main boundary’s ridge dividing Emilia-Romagna and Tuscany. This trail constitutes the Parmese tract of G.E.A. Grande Escursione Appenninica (Great Apennines Trail), a 400km trekking that runs along the ridge of the Appennino Tosco Emiliano between Passo dei Due Santi on the borders with Liguria and Bocca Trabaria on the border between Umbria and Marche.
A list of the most interesting walks, on well worn paths:
- Trail 00 from Passo del Cirone m. 1255 to Passo del Lagastrello m. 1153 (Parmese tract)
- From Lagdei to Lago Santo Parmense
- From Lagdei to Capanna Schiaffino
- From Rifugio Mariotti to Monte Marmagna
- From Lagoni Forest road to Capanne di Badignana and Sella del Brusà
- From Lagoni Forest road to Fontana del Vescovo and Passo Fugicchia
- From Lagoni to Lago Scuro and Capanne del Lago Scuro
- From Lagoni to Lago Verde
- From Lagoni to Buca della Neve (Snow Hole)
- From Valditacca to Laghi Sillara and Monte Sillara
- From Pratospilla to Lago Ballano and Lago Verde
- From Pratospilla to Lago Palo
Main Summits (in order of height)
With a few exceptions, the peaks are mainly lined on the main boundary ridge - called "crinale" by the local mountaineers - between Emilia-Romagna and Tuscany and run along the North West - South East direction from Passo del Cirone m. 1255 to Passo del Lagastrello m. 1153.
M. Sillara m. 1861 is the highest summit of the range and it's situated above the namesake twin lakes in the Eastern sector - M. Marmagna m. 1851, located in the group Marmagna-Braiola-Orsaro in the Western sector, is the second highest summit and the most popular one - Monte Nuda di Iera m. 1840, in the past considered as a fore-summit of M. Sillara, is a well identified summit located on the ridge between Bragalata and Sillara.
M. Matto m. 1837 consists of a main summit, dominating the basin of the small Lago Bicchiere, and a well separated fore-summit, known as Anti-Matto - M. Bragalata m. 1835 is located in the Eastern sector, close to Sillara and Nuda di Iera - M. Orsaro m. 1831 is the most representative summit of the whole area, though not the highest - M. Braiola m. 1821 is separated from Orsaro by the Bocchetta dell'Orsaro o dei Contrabbandieri.
M. Paitini m. 1814 - M. Brusà m. 1796 - M. Bocco m. 1790 - M. Aquila m. 1779 - M. Uomo Morto m. 1773 - Rocca Pianaccia m. 1762, is one of the few mountains not lined on the boundary ridge - M. Aquilotto m. 1747
Rocca Pumaciolo m. 1711 - Rocca Pumacioletto m. 1690 - M. Fosco m. 1680 - Navert m. 1654 - M. Tavola m. 1508 - Sterpari is a minor summit, located above Lago Santo, near Rifugio Mariotti.
Ice climbing main peaks
All the mountains belonging to this range can be climbed also during the winter along easy normal routes, that usually do not require rope use; although easy, these itineraries in wintertime may often require a specific gear - ice axe and crampons - in the presence of conditions with icy slopes and ridges, which tend frequently to occur during the winters with reduced snowfall or in early spring.
Besides the Normal routes, there are some mountains that offer the possibility of winter climbs along remunerative and more technical ice-gullies, such as Monte Scala 1715 m, Roccabiasca 1727 m and Torricella 1728 m.
Some summits of the Appennino Parmense Orientale offer the opportunity to make some interesting rock climbing in a beautiful setting. The kind of rock we find in the various walls and cliffs is a rough sandstone. Generally the rock climbing period runs from mid-May to mid-October.
The best sites to climb multipitches are Monte Scala 1717 m. - Rocca Pumacioletto m. 1690 - Stagnoni m. 1200, plus other minor buttresses in the immediate vicinity of the Lagoni, such as Placche dei Lagoni, Placche dei Sorbi and Placca del Rifugio.
Still the best crags to climb up single pitches are located in the Lagoni Area. There are various crags full equipped, as Falesia del Lago Scuro, Falesia dei Lupi Mortacci, Falesia degli Asfodeli. Il Canyon, Falesia degli Anelli.
Near the Asfodeli there is also a crag with mixed single pitches: some full equipped and others for trad climbing. Three sectors: "I conquistatori dell'inutile", "Fisici", "Filosofi".
Lakes and ancient glaciers
The area is best known as “100 Lakes Park”, because of the presence in the whole territory of several attractive very small and bigger lakes, having an ancient glacial origin, giving to the landscape a charming look.
During the Wurmian period the whole area was interested by a great glaciation. The landscape was sculpted by glaciers and today shows to the visitor’s eyes an undoubted evidence of the biggest glacier ever established in the Apennines (very likely it was longer than 8 Kms, larger than 2,5 and higher than 200 mts). The particular features of the rocks, the circular holes in the sandstone, the rocky steps in the valleys and the lateral moraines are a visible evidence of.
The action of the huge glacier created numberless cirques, mainly oriented to North-North-East, having become the seat of the actual lakes. The best known of them are Laghi Sillara (Sillara Twin Lakes), Lago Santo (Holy Lake), the great Laghi Gemini or Lagoni (Twin Lakes), Lago Scuro (Dark Lake), Lago Pradaccio, Lago Verde (Green Lake), Lago Ballano, Lagastrello, Lago Verdarolo, Lago Palo, Lago Martini, Lago Bicchiere. The Lago Santo Parmense (Holy Lake) is the largest lake of glacial origin in the whole Northern Apennines. Located at 1507 m s.l.m., it can be reached from the Lagdei basin. Near the lake there is the Rifugio Mariotti, where you can find refreshment and overnight accommodation. The Laghi Gemini, or Lagoni, are two twin lakes, called Lago Gemio Superiore at 1355 m above sea level, and Lago Gemio Inferiore at an altitude of 1329 m. They are located in a glacial area, which also includes the Lago Scuro and the Lago del Bicchiere, which can be reached from the locality Lagoni.
The Lago Scuro Parmense (Dark Lake) at a height of 1527 m is located within a secondary glacial cirque dominated by the Monte Scala. It's a small stretch of water surrounded by marsh grasses among which very rare species, characteristic of humid habitats. Lago Pradaccio located at an altitude of 1370 m within the Guadine-Pradaccio Nature Reserve, is a semi-artifical basin derived from hydraulic-forestry works in a circus of glacial origin. The area can be visited only by booking and by accompanying in organized groups.
Since 1995 the highest part of this area is situated under the regulation of a regional park having the evocative name of Parco dei Cento Laghi (One Hundred Lakes Park), in reason of quite a lot of small lakes existing inside the park’ s boundaries.
In late years this area was included inside a largest park, named Parco Nazionale Appenino Tosco-Emiliano (Tosco-Emiliano National Park); wood fires are prohibited as well as free camping and other harmful activity. Walking and climbing are allowed and many trails are marked by Club Alpino Italiano Sezione di Parma.
The hikers can enjoy the trails all around the year; all the main summits can be easily climbed without the use of technical gear from May to November. Winter’s ascents along the normal routes - from December to April - are not difficult, but require the use of axe and crampons. Best months for ice-climbing (gullies) goes from middle December to the end of March, while the period to climbing ice falls is very short (from the end of December to the end of February); conditions can change very quickly even during the coldest months on account of marine wind’s action. Best season for rock climbing and bouldering goes from May to the end of October.
- Rifugio Giovanni Mariotti m. 1507 (CAI Sez.di Parma)
Situation: Shore of Lago Santo Parmense
Owner: Club Alpino Italiano Sez. Parma
- Rifugio Lagdei m. 1250
- Rifugio Lagoni m. 1342
Situation: shore of Lagoni (Laghi Gemini)
- Rifugio Pratospilla m. 1360
- Bivouacs and Emergency shelters
Capanne del Lago Scuro m. 1528 (Keys available at Rifugio Lagoni), Capanne di Badignana m. 1480 (Keys available at Rifugio Lagoni), Capanna Roberto Schiaffino m. 1610 - always open, Capanna Cagnin m. 1589 – always open, Capanna Forestale della Pianaccia m.1250 – always open
ArrampicaParma - climbing, bouldering & mountaineering
Alberto Rampini - Silvia Mazzani
Rock climbing, ice climbing and winter mountaineering in Appennino Parmense guidebook - II updated edition
Pareti Ed. 2011
Appennino Ligure e Tosco-Emiliano
M. Salvo - D. Canossini
Guida dei Monti d'Italia
“Le valli del Cedra e del Parma (The Cedra and Parma Valleys)” Map 1:25.000 (CAI-Regione Emilia-Romagna)
“Alto Appennino Parmense Est” Map 1:50.000 (CAI-Regione Emilia-Romagna)