The climb of Croce dei Monticelli follows the first stage of the roundabout route to Pizzo Carbonara. It starts at (or near to) Rifugio Crispi and traverses one of the oldest forests of the island to reach the plane of Piano Pomo. From there a steep and almost path-less ascent through a forest of giant old ilex trees leads to Cozzo Luminario, a well-seasoned lookout summit.
From Cozzo Luminario a wide circle leads around and across a wide plain to the base of Croce dei Monticelli, which has to be climbed along its trail-less south side. The character of this last stage resembles a scramble while the rest of the climb is rather a comfortable hike.
If you plan to hike to Pizzo Carbonara itself, between Cozzo Luminario and Croce dei Monticelli you will come across a wide path, heading up the mountain. This will turn around the whole Carbonara Massif and meet the southern normal route west of the main summit.
Rifugio Crispi can be reached via a 11 km long side road from Castelbuono. The main page describes how to get to the town from the closest airport at Palermo.
Looking accross the karst plateau towards Pizzo Carbonara
- Start altitude: ca. 1000m
- Summit altitude: 1612m (1979m for Pizzo Carbonara)
- Prevailing exposure: E
- Type: 3h over narrow forest paths (6h for Carbonara)
- Protection: marked along the nature trail, path-less near the summits
Effort: 700m (1000m) elevation gain
Power: 1 - easy
Psyche: 1 - easy
Orientation: 1 - easy but for the part beneath the Cozzo Luminario Ridge (and the final ascent to Pizzo Carbonara)
The best place to start is Contrada Castagna about 250m below Rifugio Crispi. From there a forest road leads to the hut but the better path runs along a nature trail, heading directly towards the refuge. Though this latter path is very steep, it offers some insight in the peculiar nature of the old forest beneath Croce dei Monticelli. The path climbs very steeply up a narrow ravine and hits the road towards Rifugio Crispi right in its last turn.
Rifugio Crispi is located above a small meadow, which also serves as a picnic area. Cross this meadow into the forest beyond, where the nature trail heads onward. Here now you will find the oldest oaks of the forest but you have to take care of your footing as the forest is so verydense and dark. The path leads to Piano Pomo, an old sheep meadow, where an old sheperd's hut, a Paghiaru, has been reconstructed.
On the Piano turn northward and climb across one of the cattle fences. A sign - the last on the trail - leads in the direction of Cozzo Luminario. At te edge of the meadow the forest of giant ilexes or holly trees starts, again an incredibly dark forest. The path heads upwards in zigzags until it finally draws close to the ridge of Cozzo Luminario and vanishes. Look for openings in the undergrowth and head steadily upwards. Once on the ridge you just have to turn right (east) to reach the cross near the Cozzo Luminario summit. A nasty barbed wired cattle fence has to be climbed in a precariously exposed position but from there on the hike is easy.
From the summit block of Cozzo Luminario a faint path leads around a meadow, which separates it from Croce dei Monticelli. It runs across a path to Pizzo Praina and heads down into the deepest part of the meadow. From there all trails are lost and you have to climb Croce dei Monticelli without help. We found the south-east ridge tough but probably the easist ascent to the summit. A cattle fence divides the plateau of the Cabonra Massif from its eastern drops and runs straight across the Croce dei Monticelli summit. Following this fence leads to a wide path, which, when taken in the northern direction, turns a wide circle to lead to the Pizzo Carbonara summit.
This path will lead into a small saddle out of which you have a perfect view of the Dipilo Group. From there it descends a bit (decending all the way would mean to scramble through Vallone della Trigna to Isnello) before turning left (south-west), turning a shoulder. In the end the path leads to a wide amphitheatre-like doline at the eastern end of which the final ascent starts.
Here my facility to describe the route fail me as the summit plateau, far from being featureless, conststs of numerous hillocks, funnels, ravines, all with the infernal dwarf beeches netween. Look for a way through these - we walked a half circle, first turning south, then moving east along the crest between two of the funnel-like dolines.
Essential GearHiking gear, definitely thick soled boots are advisable.