Normal Route

Page Type
Corsica / Corse, France, Europe
Route Type:
Hiking, Scrambling
Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter
Time Required:
Most of a day

Route Quality: 4 Votes

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Normal Route
Created On: Mar 2, 2004
Last Edited On: Apr 14, 2013


Summit view Calenche de PianaSummit View across Calenche de Piana

The normal route to Capo d'Orto traverses the whole Calenche de Piana. While the most popular sites are close to D81, the road between Porto and Piana, they are also overcrowded. In contrast the route to Capo d'Orto is rather solitary, except for the very summit.

The character of the route is a hike. However, you often have to bushwhack through Macchia brushwork and the final ascent to the summit requires a bit of UIAA I. The shorter, direct route through Foce d'Orto requires a long UIAA II gully section to get to the top. The Calenche can be scorchingly hot, even in late spring / early summer. Make sure you are equipped for this.


Summit view towards Paglia OrbaSummit View across the Spelunca Gorge towards Paglia Orba

Capu d'Orto is located a little south of Porto, the main town in the northwest of Corsica. You'll reach Porto from Ajaccio via the coastal highway D81. It is not very far but the highway winds around and over a lot of bays and passes. Shortly before Porto you have to go through the Calenche. The road is VERY narrow, and since the Calenche is a major tourist attraction lots of coaches use it. So it can take up to an hour to drive the 5km between Piana and Porto! Again, you might want to start early. The various trailheads are all on this road.

From Bastia you need to take RN 193. At Francardo you turn right onto D84 which will lead you through the famous gorge of Scala Sta. Regina. On your right hand side you will soon see Monte Cinto and Paglia Orba before you head upwards to the pass of Col de Vergio (1477m). From here you can already see Porto as well as Capo d'Orto though the actual drive will take you about an hour due to the winding narrow road.

Route Description

Capu di u VitulluCapu di u Vitullu seen from the Gully Route to Capu d'Orto

  • General:
    • Start altitude: 480m
      • Summit altitude: 1294m
    • Prevailing exposure: S
    • Type: Hike and Scramble
    • Protection: None

  • Effort: 2 - 1100m elevation gain
  • Power: 2 - Long and Strenuous
  • Psyche: 1(3) - Easy, exposure on the gully section
  • Difficulty: 1(3) - Hike, very steep scramble in the gully
  • Orientation: 1(3) - Marked and easy, upper section of the gully difficult

From the abandoned sports field of Piana follow Val de Riviere de Piazza Moninca. After about one kilomettre the trail coming down from Piana Village joins from the right while to the left another trail heads up towars Bocca di Piazza and the plateau west of Capu d'Orto (also a possible route). Stay in the valley, which now starts ascending towards Piazza Moninca (948m). Before you reach the Piazza the route splits.
Tafoni Rocks
Tafoni Rocks
Tafoni Rocks

The western trail takes you to Bocca di Piazza and the plateau west of Capu d'Ortu. A short ascent takes you close to the Bocca before the path to the mountains turns off to the right (east). It is well marked (and well visited) so that there are no orientation problems. Otherwise the almost karst-like tafoni plateau would post serious challenges. Right before you reach the summit block the path descends into a dell from where it re-ascends via a UIAA I scrambling section. Also the final ascent to Capo d'Orto has some UIAA I sections.
Capo di u Vitullo
Tafoni Rocks
Capo d Orto summit block

The eastern trail heads up towards Piazza Moninca, where the Capo di u Vitullu Route turns off to the right. Instead head east, descending towards Foce d'Orto, the saddle between Capo d'Ortu and Capo di u Vitullu. Here turn left across some rocks to head for the gully route (some cairns but still rather difficult to find). Here a long UIAA II section through a gully leads you towards a saddle west of the south summit. The gully is very steep but not much exposed. Once you reach the saddle, however, things change dramatically, as a chasm opens right in front of you, across which the main summit can be seen.
In Foce d Ortu
Heading out of the gully route
Saddle Pine

Turn left here, going straight leads you to precarious ledges above the chasm, which actually lead nowhere. Instead, circle the south summit from east to west until you find yourself on a balcony-like plateau beneath it. From here the plateau and the route from Bocca di Piazza can be seen. Descend towards it (don't try to head directly to the main summit as a deep saddle separates the two summits and opens towards the aformentined chasm) using your best judgement as there are few marks to be found. You'll reach the marked path a bit east of the aforementioned dell, which requires you to scramble the UIAA I sections to the top.

Descend using the Bocca di Piazza path, which gives you the opportunity to extend the route across Bocca Larga and return to the sports field from the north (see GPS track).

Essential Gear

Hiking gear and warm clothes (due to the gusty winds). Lots of water on hot days.