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 ".
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 . This passes through broken woodland, decorated by a variety of abandoned pieces of quarrying machinery. After another 400 metres the path climbs into a pleasantly wooded hillside .
Leaving the wooded are 600m later provides the first but distant view of the Ferrata Contrario rock face. It's jaw-dropping . From here the gradient eases and progress up the lush green valley becomes a pleasure. . However, the rock face also gets bigger & bigger .
Eventually the quarry men's upper bunkhouse, the "Alberghi" becomes visible on the far side of the valley head . This is a good place for a lunch stop. Turn left off path 167 and cross the valley head to gain this lofty refuge . The views back down the valley , and of Ferrata Contrario ahead , are respectvely beautiful and awesome.
Before the climb begins in earnest a little easy scrambling is required to reach the main quarry floor. Note the abandoned vertical slot, cut by the quarry men before they finally withdrew to the lower levels . It's now time to gear-up . From this high level ampitheatre the "Alberghi" below already looks considerably smaller . 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 . The quarrymen's final "slot" is easily reached, explored and overcome . The rock face is south facing and is highly reflective . Finding shade in which to take a break can be difficult .
The face becomes progressively more vertical and the holds less frequent , 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 . Over 650m of rock climbing begins to feel tough , but fortunately the plan to stay in the Rifugio allows plenty of time for rests .
The upper section is close to vertical, and the climbing difficulty now justifies Contrario's reputation . The last section begins with a series of supportive stemples 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 .
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 for 100m before joining path 186. Turn left here to reach Rifugio Orto di Donna after a further 500m of gradual descent .