4WD vehicles may continue along the pretty bad dirt road that continues uphill
to Berg de Petra Pinzuta, elevation 1600 meter, location N42:21.552, E008:58.288.
There is good parking here.
Route description: From the trailhead, follow the dirt road a short distance, then take the trail that cuts uphill in the direction of Capu di Manganu (1631m). The trail will sometimes have signs saying "refuge". The trail avoids all the zig-zags of the dirt road, merging back with the road only at its final section where it contours around the hill and climbs on the north side to the 4WD trailhead at elevation 1600 meter.
From Berg de Petra Pinzuta, the trail heads uphill to gain the lower part of the ridge coming down from Capu di Villa (2184m). Do not ascend the ridge, but descend on the north side. The route crosses a couple of creeks before reaching the refuge Erco (1667m).
From the refuge, there are two possible routes to the summit of Monte Cinto. We ascended via lake Cinto, then made a direct descent, however, the two routes will be described from the refuge to the summit.
Lake Cinto route: Continue from the refuge up the valley on a well marked trail. The trail has a fairly distinct section where it ascends on rock. Under dry conditions the friction is excellent and one can walk up on smooth sloping rock in most places. There are several variants here all marked by cairns that various people has left behind. The difficulty of the easiest route under dry conditions does not exceed YDS 3, however one can easily end up in more difficult terrain. Higher up, the trail follows a more well determined path crossing loose scree and boulders. The lake is higher up than most people would guess, it is realistic to estimate between 1.5 and 2 hours from the refuge and up here to this small and isolated lake (elevation 2290 m, N42:22.268, E008:56.106).
From the lake, proceed up a large boulderfield that starts out towards the northeast then curves a bit left (north) to the horizon ridge to the left of a pretty pronounced small peak on the horizon, Punte des Eboulis, 2807m. There are small cairns along the way, but very loose rocks, the best line is likely on the left along some small cliffs. Once you reach the main ridge, follow the trail as it runs right in the direction of Monte Cinto. You will see the trail from the north side climb up and merge with the top ridge trail. Soon, the main ridge turns more difficult and the cairns lead the way quite some way down on the south side. The route now continues along the upper south side of the mountain until a point more or less directly below the summit. From here, the route finally starts uphill and heads up to the main summit of Monte Cinto.
One should note that the route merges with the direct route coming up from the refuge Erco in the area where the final uphill section starts. The map indicates that the two routes are separate all the way to the summit, but this is not correct. The entire route is mainly YDS class 2 and 2+ with isolated (short) sections of YDS class 3 terrain. However, the terrain does quickly become more difficult if you leave the main route. There are many cairns around, often more misleading than informative, many being built by random tourists telling "I was in this interesting spot", but not necessarily providing any help in locating the best route. Overall, route finding is still pretty easy.
Direct route: From the refuge Erco, head directly across the small creek and to the ridge that is coming down from Monte Cinto. The trail first follows this ridge upwards, then gradually the terrain turns into a very broad field with some vegetation. As the trail continues with zig-zags upwards, there is less vegatation and more scree and loose rocks. When you approach an area with solid rock starting to appear, two gullies continue above you. The cairns as well as the clear signs of heavy use (broken trail) head up into the leftmost gully and this is indeed the correct way. However, a number of parties end up climbing the right gully and soon face a narrow gully with a huge rock blocking access. What is worse, there are lots of loose rocks just above that easily fall down and may hit any person trying the somewhat difficult climb. If already up in this wrong gully, the best continuation is to climb up into the rock face on your right. Good ledges will then lead you across and back into the gully above the obstacle. This section is objectively quite safe, but with considerable exposure. The wrong gully then lead through a small notch and merges back with the leftmost gully that you should have taken in the first place.
The route continues up through a set of gullies, all with pretty loose rocks until it merges with the routes coming from the north (as well as from lake Cinto), well below the summit. The remaining part is altogether an easy scramble to the summit.
Comments: I did this climb with my son Pål Jørgen, age 16. We started from our hotel in Piana at 0515, drove a short distance up the dirt road to elevation 1212 meter and started hiking from this point at 0715. We reached the refuge Erco in 1:25 including a 15 minute rest along the trail, at 0840. Proceeding up the valley, we rested at lake Cinto at 1000, then climbed the ridge and arrived at the summit 1140, a hiking time of about 4.5 hours. We rested at the summit in beautiful weather for 40 minutes before descending the more direct route down to refuge Erco. This descent took slightly less than 2 hours, the hike back down to the car another hour, thus reaching the car at 1515, precisely 8 hours after our departure. Another two hour drive brought us back to the hotel at 1715, 12 hours after our early start.
The descent from Monte Cinto deserves a special note. First, we met a group coming up that warned us about the route, "plus dangerous", "tres alpinist" etc. they asked about the route via lake Cinto, it was evident that they did not (for any prize!) want to descend the same route. Ok, I had read that if any difference, this route was supposed to be slightly easier, we continued descending as planned. Considerably further down a gully, I noticed a girl shouting to me. It took some looking around to locate her, she was standing between two rock pillars with a 25 meter vertical cliff below her. She asked if we were descending from Monte Cinto. I replied that indeed we were, then asked if she would be able to downclimb (on the opposite side) from where she was. She told me that she believed she could. I told her to carefully find her way back down the same route as her ascent. We continued down and then noticed that the girl was in a party of six that all had climbed up to this difficult point. They shouted to us that the route went through a notch between us. As we met, I immediately realized that the person speaking english was a Dane. We had a friendly chat, they were from Switzerland and Denmark. I told them how to proceed and they warned us that the descent below involved a 5 meter vertical section with real climbing difficulty. We split and Pål Jørgen and I continued down the gully that the other party obviously had ascended. Further down, I immediately saw "the crux" that clearly had spooked the parties coming up. The gully narrowed to about 1.5 meter, it was blocked by a big rock that had gotten stuck. Above it were loose rocks that easily fell down, below it a 4 meter overhanging drop. One could likely climb up, but climbing down would be difficult. Additionally, the loose rocks above called for extreme caution. An accident waiting to happen if people stayed above and below at the same time. I ascended back up, left the camera in the pack (with Pål), then decided to explore an alternative traverse out to the left side, possibly this could circumvent the problem. This route was airy, but technically much easier as well as safer. I called on Pål Jørgen to follow, too bad he now had the camera since a picture in the wall would have looked good. I told Pål Jørgen that this could not possibly be the correct route. Sure enough, shortly below this gully merged with another gully coming down from our right. This gully looked totally trivial, it had cairns as well as clear signs of a trail. How several teams ended up doing the difficult (and dangerous) right gully is not easy to comprehend.
M5 continued the next day with Monte San Petrone.