Abetone Pass to Alpe Tre Potenze

The Abetone Pass is the beginning of my journey today that will lead me to the Alp Three Powers and describing the trek in a few words I must say that we were drunk with the colours of autumn.

Abetone in autumn

Abetone is not only skiing and winter sports. Immersed in the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines, in the land of Zeno Colò and Celina Seghi, it is possible to experience this mountain also thanks to a maze of paths and routes that intersect, in an original harmony, with the downhill slopes known all over Italy: “Le Regine”, “Le Zeno”, “La Riva”, “La Seghi”, “La Stucchi”, just to name a few.

At the top of the Three Powers
At the top of the Three Powers

With Piero and Francesca we thought of a really evocative (and physically demanding) ring tour, which I personally had not yet done: from the Abetone Pass to the La Selletta refuge, Mount Gomito, the Dente della Vecchia, the Passo della Vecchia, the Alpe Tre Potenze (summit of the day), the magical Black Lake and, from here, back to the Abetone Pass.

The clear days have arrived, the evenings become long, the leaves paint the autumn skies. Autumn thinking about winter.

Mauro Corona


The Foliage on the Tuscan Emilian Apennines

A trek that has allowed us to experience the beautiful mountains and also to admire one of the most fashionable phenomena of recent years: what they call the Foliage.

Foliage Abetone
Foliage Abetone – Photo credit: imagina (www.giuseppemoscato.com) on Visual hunt / CC BY-NC-SA

Abetone: the origin of the name

Abetone derives its name from a huge fir tree that, it seems, was cut down to make way for the eighteenth-century Modenese road: the road section from Pistoia to Modena was designed and built by agreement between the Grand Duchy of Tuscany and the Duchy of Modena in the mid-eighteenth century and has long borne the street name Giardini-Ximenes, from the names of the two designers.

Before then the locality was known as Boscolungo, a name that today identifies one of the hamlets of the district. So it was that, with the opening of the via Modenese, not only factories and inns were built, but entire families of farmers, who had been granted land to build their houses, moved to the mountains to provide for the maintenance of the road, thus giving life to the first settlements that today make up the Municipality of Abetone.

Moreover, even before the construction of this communication route, the Apennine ridges were affected by important connection routes since ancient times. At least since Roman times, trans-Apennine routes have been known to connect the north and south of the peninsula through these mountains: it seems that even Hannibal used these routes to descend into Etruria.

alp three powers step of annibale
Alp three powers Hannibal’s step

Even if we do not know exactly the pass chosen by the Carthaginian leader, a local tradition would identify it with the high Val di Luce where, at an altitude of 1798, the so-called Passo di Annibale is located.

Abetone Pass towards the Alp of the Three Powers: the trek

Destination Alpe Tre Potenze. Having reached the Abetone Pass (1388 metres) early in the morning, just in time to “smell” the crisp autumn air that has already peeped out here in the mountains, we walk towards the large parking area in front of the Town Hall; from here we take the CAI 00 path that, for a few metres, coincides with the end of the ski run and then flows into the beech wood leaving the run on the left.

We are immersed in a wood of secular beech trees and, in the silence of nature, we head towards the refuge “La Selletta” following the very steep hairpin bends of the path. The colours of the trees are fantastic, ranging from yellow to brick red and it was a sight for the eyes that softened the effort of the ascent. In one hour we are in front of the refuge (1711 metres), just a few photos and some memories of the young years spent skiing and then off we go in the direction of Monte Gomito.

La Selletta Refuge
La Selletta Refuge

Now we are out of the woods; above us the clear sky of a beautiful autumn morning, below us the Apennine ridges that have begun to colour with the warm colours of this wonderful season: from yellow to red to brown.

To think that a few days late would have been enough and we would no longer be able to enjoy this chromatic spectacle of nature!

Mount Gomito - Abetone
Monte Gomito – Abetone – Photo credit: castorofotonico on Visual hunt / CC BY-NC-ND

A few metres before the summit of Monte Gomito, where the arrival station of the legendary Zeno Colò gondola lift is located, we take (on the left) the 00 track which leads us along the entire steep east face of the mountain. We cross exterminated vaccines that, at the bottom, have still maintained the green colour of summer and at the top have already worn the red and brown of October.

Vaccine grove under Mount Gomito
Vaccine grove under Mount Gomito

Here we are now at Passo della Fariola; in front of us is the Dente della Vecchia (another hour or so has passed since the Selletta refuge): it is an inviting but very exposed ridge, which can be covered with great care, perhaps with a via ferrata kit so that you can secure yourself to the metal cable that accompanies the most dangerous sections.

Old Pass
Old Pass

It is possible, alternatively, to continue along the path that runs to the left of the rock formation and to gain the Passo della Vecchia. From here, in about half an hour and on a path that is again very steep, we are at the top of Alpe Tre Potenze (1935 metres, about three and a half hours have passed since the start of the trek).

From this side the ascent is very demanding; it is gentler, instead, to arrive from the upper Val Fegana and then from Foce to Giovo, along the ridge that passes through the Female Dead.

The return to Abetone

We decide to take a break for a quick lunch down below, along the shore of Lake Nero (1730 metres), where there is also a welcoming bivouac: the lake and the bivouac are clearly visible from the summit, located in the glacial basin dominated by Alpe Tre Potenze, right at the head of the Sestaione valley.

Abetone Pass - Black Lake
Abetone Pass – Black Lake

In about half an hour, following the same uphill path and then following the Cai signs for the lake, we reach our destination. The environment, for those who love the mountains, is delicious; the welcome at the refuge of yesteryear: after the frugal packed lunch eaten in the silence of the lake shore we treat ourselves to a coffee and, at the moment of paying, the hikers indicate a container where we can simply leave our offer.

CAI abetone-step signage
CAI abetone-step signage

From the bivouac we now throw ourselves back into the wood, we follow the CAI road n. 102, which in about 2 hours leads, along a wide and easy path through a wood of beech and fir trees, to the Abetone, locality Le Regine.

If we follow this route to the end we will actually arrive a little too far from the cars; so, after about 80 minutes from the starting point in a panoramic point – the signs indicate “Belvedere locality” – we cross the nearby ski slope (this is the Regine slope) and take (presence of a wooden sign at the edge of the slope) a wide and pleasant path that leads directly to the Abetone pass, hamlet Boscolungo, right next to the car park.

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