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Swiss 4000nders 16 Piz Bernina

Swiss 4000nders 16 Piz Bernina


Postby past my sell by date » Mon Jan 30, 2017 5:18 pm

Date walked: 06/07/2007

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The 4049m Piz Bernina is the only 4000m peak in the Bernina Alps on the Swiss - Italian border. These peaks are in the Engadine in the far South East of the country, and around 160km from Zermatt (Mont Blanc is about 55km) so they are not easily seen from any of Switzerlands other big peaks.
The classic route on the Bernina is the Biancagrat and at one time I had ideas of finishing the Swiss 4000nders this way - but although not particularly difficult, it is very long and in the Alps I soon learnt that it's very much a case of "homme propose - dieu dispose" - you do what you can when you can .
Biancograt.jpg
The Biancagrat - an alpine classic
The weather had been poor in early July, but rumours of a clear spell in the East persuaded us to drive to the area to climb this peak. If you ask someone how to get to the Engadine from Zermatt, you set yourself up for that classic Irish reply " If I were you, I wouldn't start from here" :lol: :lol:
Although it's only 160km as the crow flies it turned out to be full day's drive - zig-zagging over five or maybe six passes. The weather didn't look too good next day, so we went down the incredibly twisty Majolo pass into the Val Bregaglia stayed at a nice little restaurant and did some rock climbing next day
From Switzerland, to do the ordinary route on the Bernina - the Spallagrat - you start at the 3000m Diavolezza Berg hotel - conveniently reached by a lift :D and enjoying fabulous views of the Morteratsch glacier and the classic North face of Piz Palu
BN00.jpg
View from the Diavolezza - the Piz Bernina is on the R
Young fit climbers can do the peak from here in a day, but we planned to traverse to the Marco e Rosa hut in italy, climb the Bernina the next day, stay a second night and return over Piz Palu - a classic snow traverse.
BN01a.jpg
Map of our route
Unfortunately the weather next day remained poor, so we descended to the valley, did some rock-climbing and returned to the Diavolezza in the evening
Next day looked more promising - though not perfect - and we descended the scree path to the glacier, crossed it to the foot of the Fortezza ridge and climbed this - easy mixed climbing - to the start of the Bellavista traverse which leads horizontally across snowfields to the 3591m col just below the hut.
BN01b.jpg
Looking down the Fortezza ridge
As we started the traverse we were engulfed in mist . At one point it is only about 50m wide with large ice cliffs below it, and as there had been fresh snow and there was no track to follow, we had to make a temporary halt until we could see where to go. The mist swirled around but occasionally cleared enough for us to see the next 200m after which we had to wait again. Eventually we made it to the col and climbed the short distance to the hut on the L
BN02.jpg
A brief clearing of the mist
BN02a.jpg

BN02b.jpg
Crossing the upper Morteratsch glacier beyond the traverse: the peak is Piz Argient - I think
BN03.jpg
Looking back at the narrow section
BN04.jpg
Marco e Rosa hut
The hut can be reached quite easily by a lift from Italy so is crowded when there is good weather. We did meet another party that had made the traverrse.
" How did you manage?" we asked
" We followed your tracks!" they replied - so at least if we'd walked over the ice cliff we would have had some company :lol: :lol:
The next day dawned fine and sunny and we set out on the short climb to the summit (2 - 2.5hrs) in a leisurely fashion.
BN05.jpg
The Bellavista peaks and Piz Palu from just above the hut
BN05a.jpg
Further R - the Rocky peak is the Crast' Agüzza (3854m) while the highest peak in shadow is 3960 Piz Zupo
BN05b.jpg
From higher up, the whole of the traverse - dotted red line
BN07.jpg
From the same point, looking SW past the steep rocks of the PIz Scerscen (3971m), to Piz Roseg (3930m) - with Monte Disgrazia (3678m) in the distance
BN08.jpg
The summit comes into sight
BN09.jpg
Looking down to the hut from the same point
At this point where the ridge steepens and narrows we came across a lone Czech climber who was clearly feeling the exposure. Hearing us speaking English and realising that Klaus was a guide, the conversation went:-
"How much to join the rope?"
"How much have you got?"
"A hundred francs"
Klaus then turned to me - "Do you mind? "No"
This is how business is conducted in the mountains :lol: and we proceeded as a rope of three to the summit and back to the hut. He was a much stronger climber than I and it all went very smoothly :)
BN11.jpg
Final ridge to the summit

Views from the summit

BN12.jpg
Looking over Piz Scerscen and Piz Roseg: the mountains of the Valais and the Oberland can be seen on the horizon
BN13.jpg
Looking down the top section of the Biancagrat. This is the time-consuming part and where the few difficulties occur
The small summit was quite crowded and we didn't stay that long
BN14.jpg
On the descent - looking down the ridge
BN14a.jpg
Afternoon light on Piz Zupo and Crast' Agüzza

Piz Palu
Another fine sunny day and we retraced our route to the highest point on the traverse, climbed easy snow slopes and traversed the three summits of the mountain
BN15.jpg
A good view of Piz Bernina and the Spallagrat from the high point of the traverse: The shapely peak of Crast' Agüzza is on the L: The hut (arrowed) near the foot of the ridge: Piz Roseg is in the sunshine and Piz Scerscen in the shade.
BN16.jpg
Looking back from the first summit
BN19.jpg
Looking on
BN21.jpg
Looking back from the second summit to the first
BN22.jpg
Start of the descent - other climbers coming up
BN23.jpg
Looking down to the Diavolezza - but you head off R from the flat section of glacier below, and follow a track round the back of a rocky lump - Piz Trovat
BN25.jpg
Down on flat ground - looking back at the descent
BN25a.jpg
Further R - Piz Bernina - with the Fortezza ridge in the foreground
BN26.jpg
Level with the Diavolezza - this is where we headed off R
A thoroughly nice trip and probably the "snowiest" that I ever did
Last edited by past my sell by date on Thu Nov 28, 2019 7:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.
past my sell by date
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Re: Swiss 4000nders 16 Piz Bernina

Postby HalfManHalfTitanium » Mon Jan 30, 2017 7:58 pm

Great report and photos of a (to me) less well known area of the Alps. A true classic route!
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Re: Swiss 4000nders 16 Piz Bernina

Postby Alteknacker » Tue Jan 31, 2017 12:33 am

Great report and pics. You have had some damned good weather up there! I will find a way to get there before I get too old....
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Re: Swiss 4000nders 16 Piz Bernina

Postby past my sell by date » Wed Feb 01, 2017 5:58 pm

Thanks guys - yes it is a less well known area and a lot more snowy than the Valais which sits slightly in the rain shadow of Mont Blanc.
Alteknacker
When you go for the whole Summer you just wait for the fine weather before you do anything - and I was 58 when I started
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Re: Swiss 4000nders 16 Piz Bernina

Postby ChrisW » Fri Feb 03, 2017 12:28 am

Another absolutely wonderful Alps tale PMSD. "How much to join the rope"..... some people would see that as an opportunity for a fleecing :lol: glad to see it wasn't seen that way and the party of three made the summit safely :thumbup: Magnificent scenery and breathtaking views across the summits and glaciers :clap: :clap:
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Re: Swiss 4000nders 16 Piz Bernina

Postby jacob » Wed Feb 08, 2017 7:22 pm

I replied before to some of your excellent Alps pics, to express my worries about the glaciers. In this report they're still going strong though, or so it seems at least.
Great pics of a majestic scenery.
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Re: Swiss 4000nders 16 Piz Bernina

Postby past my sell by date » Thu Feb 09, 2017 5:01 pm

ChrisW wrote:Another absolutely wonderful Alps tale PMSD. "How much to join the rope"..... some people would see that as an opportunity for a fleecing :lol: glad to see it wasn't seen that way and the party of three made the summit safely :thumbup: Magnificent scenery and breathtaking views across the summits and glaciers :clap: :clap:

Thanks Chris - I must say I thought 100 CHF was quite a lot - he might have got away with less if he'd tried :lol: :lol:
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Re: Swiss 4000nders 16 Piz Bernina

Postby past my sell by date » Thu Feb 09, 2017 5:04 pm

jacob wrote:I replied before to some of your excellent Alps pics, to express my worries about the glaciers. In this report they're still going strong though, or so it seems at least.
Great pics of a majestic scenery.

Thanks Jacob - It is a very snowy area but the ends of the glaciers are still retreating quite sharply I'm afraid :(
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Re: Swiss 4000nders 16 Piz Bernina

Postby Alteknacker » Fri Feb 10, 2017 12:20 am

past my sell by date wrote:....
Alteknacker
When you go for the whole Summer you just wait for the fine weather before you do anything - and I was 58 when I started


Funnily enough, I too. I got irrationally obsessed with the idea that it wasn't going to be possible to do the Cuillin Ridge once I'd passed 60. And I was desperate to do it, since my Dad had done it as a teenager, and told me it was one of the best climbing experiences of his life (and he'd climbed in the Alps).

I managed it with a few months to spare, but in fact I've done the most taxing (distance, height gain) expeditions of my life since passing the 3 score mark. So I've concluded that there's nothing special about 60 - it's just a number :D .
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Re: Swiss 4000nders 16 Piz Bernina

Postby past my sell by date » Sun Feb 12, 2017 3:57 pm

Alteknacker wrote:Funnily enough, I too. I got irrationally obsessed with the idea that it wasn't going to be possible to do the Cuillin Ridge once I'd passed 60. And I was desperate to do it, since my Dad had done it as a teenager, and told me it was one of the best climbing experiences of his life (and he'd climbed in the Alps).

I managed it with a few months to spare, but in fact I've done the most taxing (distance, height gain) expeditions of my life since passing the 3 score mark. So I've concluded that there's nothing special about 60 - it's just a number :D .

Ignoring the altitude effect, I'd say the Cuillin ridge was far tougher than anything I've done in the alps.
I failed on it in June '65. The weather wasn't great and the rock was wet all the way. We left Glen Brittle about 3.00am, and gave up on Druim Nan Ramh at about 10.00pm when all my finger ends had just "worn away" and were oozing blood. We climbed the In Pin in a hailstorm and in those days you were expected to include the off-ridge Munros of Sgur Dubh Mor and Alasdair - I don't think most people do now. We got back to Carbost nearly 24 hours after leaving - It was the longest day In the hills I've ever had.
I think you'd really enjoy doing the G to G route that i've just posted
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