Apuan Alps, ski mountaineering above the sea


Mountain guide Giampaolo Betta presents three ski mountaineering routes in the Apuan Alps: Carcaraia to Monte Tambura, Monte Sagro and Canale delle Rose on Monte Pisanino.

The Apuan Alps are a small mountain range in northern Tuscany in Italy. It runs parallel to the neighboring Apennines and is separated by a single, wide valley called Garfagnana. On the other side, to the southwest and at the foot of these peaks, is a narrow strip of densely populated land called Versilia which then gives way to the Tyrrhenian Sea.

The contrast between the Apuan Alps and the neighboring Apennines is striking. The two chains are clearly visible from the Lunigiana (the wide valley with the Magra river): to the east the Apennines resemble an imposing bastion where no peak stands out particularly, while to the west the Apuan Alps are a constellation of sharp and severe peaks, each with a distinctive shape and personality.

Composed mainly of compact rock (the famous white marble which contributed to make them famous and which is also at the origin of the continuous and incessant exploitation of the quarries) in summer the Apuan Alps lend themselves to pleasant climbs, in particular on the excellent limestone of the lower summits. However, it is in winter that these mountains transform into something quite unique: their proximity to the sea means that very wet snow sticks to the rock, even at unthinkable angles, thus creating mixed routes that have no no parallel in terms of commitment, continuity and beauty.

As these mountains are generally very steep and rocky, they are more suitable for mountaineering than ski mountaineering. Aside from a handful of classic ski tours, ski mountaineering in the Apuan Alps is decidedly ‘downhill’ and to reach the peaks, crampons are often used much more than skis and sealskins.

The views are quite unique and you certainly won’t be disappointed. It’s weird, after spending two days on a cold, shady face, or having climbed a northern ravine with skis strapped to your backpack, to suddenly be up there on a knife-edge ridge overlooking the Mediterranean Sea to soak up the warmth of two suns, one in the sky and the other in the sea, before skiing down to the sea to smell the scent of thyme and myrtle. More than once, especially in March, I took a little dip in the sea after skiing from Monte Sagro …



Height difference

Monte Tambura: the Carcaraia



Monte Tambura is certainly the easiest peak in the Apuan Alps. It is a kind of large pyramid with a triangular base formed by three ridges and its three sides. The north face is called Carcaraia and is less steep than the other two: being karstic, it is almost devoid of gullies but on the contrary full of hollows and tangled depressions that must be crossed and crossed at best. In good snow conditions, it is a very respectable summit, the surroundings magnificent and the panorama, as usual, quite magnificent. Sadly, Tambura is also famous for its high altitude quarry at Passo della Focolaccia which cut the watershed ridge and consequently altered the Apuan “skyline”. The proposed route avoids this mess. For those who prefer to face the pain of knowing and understanding, I recommend the ring variant.
Mount sagro

BSA, 3.1 / E1 (West)
OSA, 4.1 / E2 (North West)

100m + 450m + 500m

Sagro is the closest mountain in the Apuan Alps to the sea. Seen from the sea, it looks like a large blade of grass, and its color varies with the seasons: green in spring, yellow in summer and autumn, white in winter. In fact, in winter it is not always pure white. Snow comes and goes depending on snowfall, temperature, precipitation, wind, etc. and it is therefore a mountain that must be climbed at the right time, and which recovers quickly after a snowfall. Considering the modest drop, I recommend combining its two ski runs, the classic normal route on the West face with the more difficult NW face. The west side is generally docile and sunny, while the north-west side, especially in the morning, contrasts with its shadows and harsh nature which, despite the short and easily accessible slope, inspires some awe. Due to the proximity of the sea and the angle of its lower slopes, the descent via the west face is particularly striking.
Monte Pisanino – Canal delle Rose

4.3 / E3

850m (1100 gap)

Monte Pisanino is the highest mountain in the Apuan Alps and, especially in winter, is impressive from all sides. Its southern flank is mostly rocky and crisscrossed by several gullies often interrupted by narrow sections, steep steps or slabs. The descent described here is an “alpine” endeavor, and to ski it, you have to look for the easy with the difficult, following an illogical sequence of bands of snow, not too steep, which follow one another. The slope angle is constant but never extreme and reaches in some short sections 50 °. The route goes through different aspects (first south, then northeast, then west, then northwest and finally west again), resulting in an exposed and difficult descent. Finding optimal conditions along the route is by no means easy, but it is worth it.


From Parma: follow the A15 motorway towards La Spezia
From Genoa: follow the A12 motorway towards Livorno
From Firenze: follow the A11 motorway towards Viareggio
From Rome: follow the Aurelia national road to Rosignano then take the A12 motorway towards Genoa

by Giampaolo Betta, High Mountain Guide
email: info@wbguides.com