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Tuscany Mountain Walks

Ferrata Contrario

(Anybody choosing to follow this walk does so at their own risk and is entirely responsible for their own safety)

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Reference Material

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Main Roads
Minor Roads
One-Way Journey Time

30 miles on Autoroute to Massa  
5 miles up to Biforco above the village of Forno

1:00

Tuscany North Book
Bocchi Book
Map details

n/a
JBH mods to walk 16, page 88, Via Ferrata Alberghi
Carta del Sentieri e Rifugio No. 101/102

 

Recommended Route Description

 

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Overview
This walk provides the easiest possible logistics for climbing Ferrata Contrario, one of the longest and the most difficult of the Via Ferratas in the Apuane Alps. In the recommended Bocchi book Ferrata Contrario is referred to as Via Ferrata Alberghi, its historical name.

The Recommended Route includes the walk-in and the climb, but not the descent and the walk-out. This is only possible if the night is spent on the moutain, most conveniently, by utilising the well placed Rifugio Orto di Donna.

 It is essential to book beds etc at Rifugio Orto di Donna which is only open at weekends outside the main summer season.
Telephone +39 347 366 3542.
URL -  http://www.rifugialpiapuane.it/rifugio-orto-di-donna/

The descent and walk-out can then be left until the following day, using one of  many possible routes. The recommended descent route is included in the "List of Walks" on this website and is entitled "Forbice & Grondilice ".

Detail
After climbing this route, Bocchi's Grade of EE+ has been increased to EE++ to indicate that it is one of the most demanding of the EE+ routes in the Apuane. 650m of ascent on the walk-in is followed by a further 650m of rock climbing.

From the parking area at Biforco, head north on the quarry road which also represents paths 167/168. On entering the quarry area, after 400m, the paths divide, path 168 veering off to the left through the current quarry workings.

Continue straigt on with path 167 which climbs steadily but steeply, on an old descent ramp once used for lowering marble slabs Blue Camera Image for Linking Photos . This passes through broken woodland, Blue Camera Image for Linking Photos decorated by a variety of abandoned pieces of quarrying machinery. After another 400 metres the path climbs into a pleasantly wooded hillside Blue Camera Image for Linking Photos  .

Leaving the wooded are 600m later provides the first but distant view of the Ferrata Contrario rock face. It's jaw-dropping Blue Camera Image for Linking Photos Blue Camera Image for Linking Photos . From here the gradient eases and progress up the lush green valley becomes a pleasure. Blue Camera Image for Linking Photos . However, the rock face also gets bigger & bigger Blue Camera Image for Linking Photos Blue Camera Image for Linking Photos  Blue Camera Image for Linking Photos .

Eventually the quarry men's upper bunkhouse, the "Alberghi" becomes visible on the far side of the valley head Blue Camera Image for Linking Photos . This is a good place for a lunch stop. Turn left off path 167 and cross the valley head to gain this lofty refuge Blue Camera Image for Linking Photos Blue Camera Image for Linking Photos . The views back down the valley Blue Camera Image for Linking Photos  Blue Camera Image for Linking Photos , and of Ferrata Contrario ahead Blue Camera Image for Linking Photos , are respectvely beautiful and awesome.

Before the climb begins in earnest a little easy scrambling is required Blue Camera Image for Linking Photos to reach the main quarry floor. Note the abandoned vertical slot, cut by the quarry men before they finally withdrew to the lower levels Blue Camera Image for Linking Photos . It's now time to gear-up Blue Camera Image for Linking Photos . From this high level ampitheatre the "Alberghi" below already looks considerably smaller Blue Camera Image for Linking Photos . Its diminishing significance can be used to emphasise the height gain during the climb.

The lower level climbing is on an easy gradient, making for smiles all round  Blue Camera Image for Linking Photos Blue Camera Image for Linking Photos Blue Camera Image for Linking Photos . The quarrymen's final "slot" is easily reached, explored and overcome Blue Camera Image for Linking Photos Blue Camera Image for Linking Photos Blue Camera Image for Linking Photos . The rock face is south facing Blue Camera Image for Linking Photos and is highly reflective Blue Camera Image for Linking Photos Blue Camera Image for Linking Photos . Finding shade in which to take a break can be difficult Blue Camera Image for Linking Photos .

The face becomes progressively more vertical and the holds less frequent Blue Camera Image for Linking Photos Blue Camera Image for Linking Photos , making the climb seem frighteningly comitting. At times the cable proves to be invaluable as a climbing aid. Looking down, the "Alberghi" gets smaller & smaller Blue Camera Image for Linking Photos Blue Camera Image for Linking Photos . Over 650m of rock climbing begins to feel tough  Blue Camera Image for Linking Photos Blue Camera Image for Linking Photos Blue Camera Image for Linking Photos , but fortunately the plan to stay in the Rifugio allows plenty of time for rests Blue Camera Image for Linking Photos .

The upper section is close to vertical, and the climbing difficulty now justifies Contrario's reputation Blue Camera Image for Linking Photos Blue Camera Image for Linking Photos . The last section begins with a series of supportive stemples Blue Camera Image for Linking Photos Blue Camera Image for Linking Photos but unfortunately these run out some 15m from the top. A traverse to the right provides an escape from an unpleasant looking overhang, leaving an easy 10m as a finale Blue Camera Image for Linking Photos .

The climb is exhilerating and tiring in equal measure, but provides an enormous kick on reaching the summit ridge. From here, a rocky path descends the north side of the ridge Blue Camera Image for Linking Photos  for 100m before joining path 186. Turn left here to reach Rifugio Orto di Donna after a further 500m of gradual descent Blue Camera Image for Linking Photos  .

 

Map Showing Possible Routes (Click Map below for Larger Version )

Tuscany Mountain Walks-Apuane Alps-Ferrata Contrario-Biforco-Forno-Rifugio Orto di Donna-Walk Map


Statistic Recommended Route Variation 1 Variation 2
Walk Style Point-to Point n/a n/a

Height Profile
(Click Thumbnail to Enlarge)

 

Tuscany Mountain Walks-Apuane Alps-Ferrata Contrario-Biforco-Forno-Rifugio Orto di Donna-Height Profile
n/a n/a
Walk Description

As Above

   
Walk Start Biforco above village of Forno    

Paths Used

167, Ferrata Contrario,186    
Walk Grade EE++    
Scramble/VF Dist (metres) 650VF    
Scramble/VFGrade EE++    
Maximum Height (metres) 1635    
Flat Speed (mph) 1.0    
Walk Distance (miles) 2.5    
Walk Ascent (metres) 1259    
Walk Time 4:36    
Rest Recommendation Lunch after first, easy section of Via Ferrata    
Rest Time 1:24    
Total Hill Time 6:00    
Total Trip Time (Villa to Rifugio) 7:00    
Leave Papavero @ 09:00    
Arrive at Rifugio @ 16:00    

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