Location ✦ Restonica valley, Corte
Region ✦ Haute Corse
Country ✦ France
Length ✦ 15kms
Elevation gain ✦ 2000m
Difficulty ✦ D
Max altitude ✦ 2622m
Duration ✦ 7h to 7h30
Interest ✦ ★★
Access to the place
Map & topo
Hiking to the start 5'
Walk up the road for a few minutes to find the start of the ascent on the left, well signposted on a wide path.
Nearly 2000m of ascent and 15 km of trekking make this a relatively demanding route. There are a few passages to note on the ascent, where you have to put your hands down in places to cross granite slabs, but these are not really difficult. A few steps of IV climbing to reach the summit. The route is well-marked and relatively obvious on the way up: red markings and cairns. To reach Lac de Melo, a map is welcome, although here too, orientation is not too difficult.
Part 1: access to Lac d'Orient (2000m, 2h)
Take the forest path from the road, which is quite steep in places but very pleasant, to eventually emerge from the forest onto more open ground. Higher up, you come out onto a large flat area that forms a kind of pass, with the Bergeries de Timozzu on your left (not seen). Continue to climb steeply uphill, over a sort of dome, to reach the foot of a large waterfall.
Follow the path around the waterfall to the left, leading to the upper level where Lac d'Oriente is located. You're now facing the cirque, with a direct view of the summit of Monte Rotondo, allowing you to appreciate the access route at a glance.
Part 2: ascent of Monte Rotondo (2622m, 1h20)
Walk along the lake to the right and continue along the cairned path to the bottom of the cirque. You then climb over large granite slabs, sometimes with your hands. Higher up, a scree slope of granite boulders to be crossed, always following small cairns placed to lead globally to the only natural gully you can see to access the ridge, via an obvious gap.
It's a steep climb and you end up on the ridge. There's another 5′ of climbing to the left before we climb the last pitches and reach the summit after a few steps of IV/IV+ climbing. After 3h20 from the start, the rotonde peak offers a superb panoramic view over the heart of Corsica.
Part 3: junction with the Pietra Piana refuge (1h30)
Descend to the summit and aim for Lac Bellebone. The trail, not always well marked, descends on a fairly uneven slope. Go diagonally and pass level with the lake on the left. Continue alongside the lake, climb a little to the left and follow it downhill until you reach a narrow gap to the right, giving access to the refuge valley (not visible from the lake, but from the summit of Rotondo).
The descent on the opposite side is steep, with the path winding its way through steep rocky gullies. The refuge is clearly visible below. After the steep passage, the trail turns left to make a large loop and return to the refuge.
Part 4: Lac du Melo (2h30)
A long way to the banks of the Melo! Take the GR20 out of the refuge and climb up to pass a 1st ridge. The path continues diagonally to the right, climbing steadily up to Bocca Muzziella, 2160m. Continue along the GR20 path on the left, which overlooks the small and then the large Lac de Rinoso.
You then reach the Col de Rinoso and cross the threshold of the valley, which offers superb views of Lakes Melo (below) and Capitello (above, in a basin above Melo). Wind down along the GR20 and, as you cross the valley, fork right onto a yellow path that leads to the foot of Lac de Melo. A welcome swim in translucent, not-so-cool water!
From the shores of the lake, follow the yellow trail which splits into 2: on the right, a longer but easier trail; on the left, which is what we did, a steeper, more technical route with a few passages equipped with chains and 2 ladders. We end up at the Bergeries de Grotelle parking lot, with a few kilometers to go on the road, hitchhiking, to get back to the starting parking lot.