Although the approach is certainly long and rather demanding, a winter ascent is absolutely worth the effort. The scenery is staggering and the iced rock flutes are sensational.
'Via Dolcetti' can also be used as a descent route, but the serious inclination (in some parts easily 50 degree, or more) in combination with the loose terrain, scree and unstable tufts of grass make the slope difficult (and tiring!) to negotiate in a downhill direction.
One more recommendable descend route is via the west ridge and a traverse of Timpa di Valle Piana. After following the long ridge of Celsa Bianca to 'Varco del Pollinello' you should come upon a quit well distinguishable path which first descends in a south-eastern direction before zigzagging downhill towards the valley below (Valle Piana).
Another, somewhat more demanding descend is possible via the east ridge. After a traverse of Timpa del Pino di Michele simply follow the inconspicuous trail which runs along the ridges of Cozzo Sorvolato, Colle Campanaro and Timpone Campanaro. In the extensive woods orientation can be complicated not only by the high trees, but also by smaller trails which only all too often turn out to be leading nowhere.
In winter the south face of Serra Dolcedorme offers a number of challenging climbing routes which mainly use steep and narrow snow couloirs. Although the approach might be long the snow and ice covered rock chutes are a very impressive sight.
5. South face ('Via Pietra Colonna') - scrambling/climbing/mixed climbing (D-)
Denti del Dolcedorme, south face Serra Dolcedorme
Possibly the hardest route to date is the so-called Via Pietra Colonna
which uses a steep gully on the south face of the mountain. There are several variations with passages around III+ / IV+ UIAA (85°) D-, depending on the season and the snow conditions inside the gully. The route is named after a prominent rock pillar to be found shortly after the crux section.
The developement of the route, approach included, sums up to 1,500 m (positive elevation gain) and features some more or less exposed passages on steep rock with only a few usable hand and footholds and scarce options for placing protection gear. Being exposed to the southern sun (south face), during the winter months the route should be tackled early in the morning. Rock fall and minor avalanches are not unlikely to occur.
Essential equiment, both with and without snow: climbing helmet, harness, rope, pitons and a number of larger slings. Winter ascents will require crampons, a couple of ice axes, technical or semi-technical. Snow anchors can become handy, too.
Trailhead is either Valle Piana or Cozzo Palumbo.
6. South face ('Via Luzzo') - scrambling/mixed climbing (AD-)
Climbing 'Via Luzzo' - south face Serra Dolcedorme
The Via Luzzo
shares both trailhead(s) and approach with the above 'Via Pietra Colonna'. Also the positive elevation gain is comparable to that route. Though it holds minor climbing difficulties, the upper part of the final gully is quite steep, especially the last 50 m right below the ridge.The slope angle below the ridge and the somewhat exposed passages should not be underestimated. In winter snow conditions should be valuated with care.
Indeed, winter ascents require crampons and at least one ice-axe. Depending on the snow conditions a second ice-axe will considerably contribute to your safety. Because of occasionally occurring rockfall, and larger chunks of ice coming down the gullies, a helmet is essential, too. Rope and protection gear are not necessarily reqiured for this route but might become handy, especially on the rocky steps of the first chute and on the last steeper passage right beneath the ridge. Since there are only a few useful for placing protection a snow anchor seems a natural choice.
*For additional information about some of the trailheads mentioned above, you may also have a look at the respective section of general page dedicated to the Pollino massif.
A few landmarks & impressions
Serra Dolcedorme (south face)
Orsomarso mountains (from the west ridge)
Monte Pollino (from Serra Dolcedorme)
Timpa La Falconara (from the north ridge)
Celsa Bianca (from the south ridge)
Cairn (west ridge)
South ridge (from Cozzo Palumbo)
Serra Delle Ciavole and Serra Di Crispo
from Serra del Pollinello
The nearest airports are Naples
(about 230km), Bari
(also about 220-230km). From Rome
and its big international airports it is a considerably long journey of almost 450km. There is limited public transport in this region.
The actual mountain roads are largely in bad conditions, especially the high passes might become impassable after snowfalls as road patrol service is scarcely to be seen around. If you should consider to visit the Pollino Massif between late October through early May, don't forget to bring snow chains or allow extra time for the approach way.
- from Napoli: Take the A3/E45 in direction Reggio Calabria, Salerno (about 195 km). Take the Exit (Uscita) Lauria Sud and follow thestate the State Road SS19. At Castellucio Inferiore turn left and follow the indications for Viggianello or San Severino Lucano. - Alternatively, you may leave the A3/E45 at the location Pecorone and
follow indications for the State Road SS653 (called "Sinnica"). Take the Exit Valle Frida and follow indications for San Severino Lucano. - For an approach from the south keep on the A3/E45 and take the Exit Morano Calabro or Castrovillari.
Pollino massif from the south
- from Bari: Take the State Road SS100 (or the highway A14/E843) for Taranto. Turn left (indications for Jonica/Palagiano/Matera/Reggio Calabria) and take the coastal road E90. After passing Policoro pay attention, as the Exit can easily be missed, and turn left, taking the State Road SS653 (indications for "Sinnica". Take the Exit Valle Frida and follow indications for San Severino Lucano. - For an approach from the south keep on the E90, take the Exit Villapiana Scalo and follow the State Road SS92 in direction Castrovillari.
- from Brindisi: Simply take the E90 for Taranto and keep on this road. After Taranto follow the same indications as above (Bari).
The Pollino massif, and hence Serra Dolcedorme
, is an integral part of the 'Pollino National Park'. With an area of 1,960 square kilometres it is the most extensive national park in Italy. The park was officially founded in 1988. The same rules apply as for any other national park in Italy.
Bosnian Pines (Pinus leucodermis)
Free camping is generally not encouraged. But it might be tollerated from dusk until dawn and as emergency bivouac. No open fire etc. will be tolerated, though. There are no fees or permits required.
When to ClimbSerra Dolcedorme
can be climbed all the year round. Snow is not to be expected before early November but usually lasts until late April or even May. For winter ascends essential mountaineering gear is recommended, a good pair of crampons and a single ice axe should do for most routes. Some of the narrow gullies of the south face are considerably harder to negotiate, though. Avalanches are rare but still possible on the steeper parts of the south side. - During the hot summer month, especially from the end of July through late August and early September, the high day temperatures should be taking into account before choosing an ascent route.
The peak of Serra Dolcedorme (January) - from the west ridge
Accomodation, mountain huts etc.
There are several mountain huts officially listed for the Pollino Massif. But, truth be told, almost all of them are by now either closed or in a piteous state (and closed, of course). To name only the few exceptions from the rule:
- Rifugio Fasanelli (Pedarreto, 4429ft / 1,350m) - to reach from Rotonda (8,5 km from the town center), situated only a few kilometers from the main trailheads Colle d'Impiso and Piano di Ruggio: open all year, 12 rooms with showers, full board. Phone: (+39) 973 667304
- Rifugio de Gaspari (Piano di Ruggio, 5,036ft / 1,535m) - to reach both from Viggianello and San Severino Lucano and close to the trailheads Colle d'Impiso and Piano di Ruggio: open all year, with 3 rooms (with 4, 5 and 7 beds), bathroom with showers. Phone: (+39) 973 661 813. - currently in renovation!
- Rifugio Madonna di Pollino (Madonna di Pollono, 5,085ft /1,550m) - accessible from San Severino Lucano (or Terranova Pollino) and close to the homonymous trailhead and the trailhead Bosco Iannace: Phone (+39) 973 576 418
- Bivouac Colle Gaudolino (Colle Gaudolino 5,524ft / 1,684m) - situated right on the pass between the major peaks of Serra del Prete and Monte Pollino, it can be reached by feet from either Piano di Ruggio or Colle d'Impiso: always open, unguarded, no service, water can be found at a fountain nearby or the natural well "Spezzavummola".
Accomodation can be found at Castrovillari, Frascineto and Morano Calabro (south) or San Severino Lucano and Viggianello (north). Camping grounds are open during the summer month at Mezzana Salice - San Severino Lucano (Phone: 349 636 2056 – 340 374 9086)
Maps & Guides
- Maps in a scale of 1:25.000 are available for purchase directly from the IGM - Istituto Geografico Militare (search terms/key words: Frascineto, Castrovillari) or have a look at the respective section for the Pollino massif.
- Sud Verticale, author: Guido Gravame, Idea Montagna 2015. - Guide book with a great number of rock and winter climbing routes on the Southern Apeninnes.
- Appennino Meridionale, author: Luigi Ferranti, Guida dei Monti d'Italia 2010. - Most comprehensive guide to the Southern Apennines (hiking paths and climbing routes to all major peaks) available.