This route allows to climb the beautiful Pampanosa couloir in the Trimbolaccio cirque and reach the summit of Corsica from the top of the couloir. Be aware that this route is not very direct, the normal routes from the north or even the south are much shorter.
This route is worthy only when the couloir is snowy, usually up to early to late July.
Trailhead is at Haut-Asco (1422m), reached by car through D147. The junction of this department road and the RN 193 Ajaccio - Bastia is a little north of Ponte Leccia. Before the little town of Asco the narrow road follows the deep-cut Asco george. At the trailhead some kms further on there is a hotel and a GR20 refuge.
From the parkground a signpost "Punta Minuta / Capo Largia / Monte Cinto" indicates the start of the trail, contouring at about 1400m in S direction into the Cirque de Trimbolaccio, sure one of if not the most impressing Cirques of Corsica and frontpage of many guidebooks. You get the same view from the last kilometers of the road already.
The path is marked with lots of cairns and red dots. After half an hour a bridge comes into view. The red points direct to the other (eastern) side of the creek and lead up to Monte Cinto. Stick to the western (orographical left) side following cairns into the Cirque. Guideline may be the impressive pillar of Capu Larghia, i.e. southern direction.
At 1650m a rocky height is circumvented. The couloir coming down from Capo Rosso can be met at 1750m, usually the snow starts at this altitude. There are several small rocky islands in the snow couloir which either can be climbed straight or circumvented either left or right. One has to judge by appearance. The steepest sections can reach up to 40-45 degree depending on conditions.
Capo Rosso divides the couloir into two branches, the eastern one coming from Bocca (pass in the corsican language) di Pampanosa (2385m, next to Capo Larghia) and the western from Bocca Rossa (next to Punta Minuta). In contrast to the obvious take the eastern branch up to near the bocca Pampanosa. Reach the bocca Pampanosa by the rocks in the centre of the couloir, or use (if snowy) the left slopes leading to the ridge left of the pass.
Time : 2 to 3 hours
From the pass go down on the southern slopes along the Capu Larghia cliffs in order to reach the souhwestern slopes going from the Tighiettu shelter to the Capu Falu. It's possible, to get not below 2200 meters and then not to lose too much altitude.
Go to the pass located on the left side of these slopes, just north of the quoted point 2499 m in the IGN TOP 25 4250 OT map.
Time : 3 to 5 hours
From this point join the main ridge by traversing the northern slopes below the quoted point 2499 m. This part of the route includes some snow up to late July. Reach the main southwestern ridge (between Monte Cinto and Punta Minuta) by a step of scrambling. Follow the ridge to the northeast, first to get to Pointe des Eboulis then to Monte Cinto.
Time : 4 to 7 hours
Descent : use the Bocca Borba route described in the main page and go back to . This uses the northern slopes of Monte Cinto.
Overall round trip time is 6 to 10 hours with good conditions. Belaying sections in the couloir of course would add to this.
Crampons and ice axes are advisable when the couloir is snowy, usually until July. Rope and ice screws might be necessary in case of frozen snow, slippering could be dangerous.
For unexperienced people a rope could also be useful for the last meters below the top of the couloir, swhen some scrambling can be found and be impressive with the 600 meters of the couloir below your feet.
Don't forget to bring very warm clothes, a jacket to be protected against the wind and the rain that can be encountered during any day, and plenty of water, especially at the end of the summer when the water coming from the melting of the snow becomes rare.
Corsica's natural park regulations apply : no open fire, no bivouac.
Corsica is mainly known for its fair weather during summertime, hot and dry. But this only applies for the lower parts and the beaches. During a hot and sunny day on thhe beaches, with an air and sea temperature reaching 35°C and 28°C, you can encounter very harsh conditions in the mountains, with thunderstorms, hail or even snow. These mountains, high and located in a small island, present also very strong winds that can be freezing if they come from the north. It's usual to see 100 mph high winds on the ridges, even during summer.
When to climb
It's better to climb this route when the couloir is still snowy, usually until early to late July. The couloir or even this whole route can be an interesting goal for well trained and experienced ski hikers during the winter and spring. It's common to see ski hikers in the Pampanosa couloir in June, where it allows 600 meters of vertical descent with only one hour of walk before finding the snow. Be aware of very high avalanche danger during the winter months and after snowfalls and during warmings ; the couloir is dominated by very steep slopes and huge cornices.