Cresta del Leone – Liongrat or South-West Ridge
Who doesn’t know Cervino, also named Matterhorn? I limit myself to give a brief description of this world famous 4000s peak lying in the Pennine Alps. Cervino (Italian name) – Matterhorn (Swiss name) is a perfect pyramid with a quadrangular base, showing four ridges (Hornli, Furggen, Zmutt and Leone), the most natural climbing ways to get the summit, and obviously four faces.
Cresta del Leone, also named "Liongrat“ or "Italian Normal route”, is running on the South-West ridge, overlooking the village of Breuil-Cervinia, lying in the Southern side. It was the route climbed by the second summiters of the peak and the boundary between Italy and Switzerland runs along it. At the height of 4241 m. it shows a sharp shoulder named Pic Tyndall, in honour of the British mountaineer John Tyndall, who first climbed this minor peak in 1862, during his attempt to the main summit.
Getting ThereRoad Approach
The starting point is the village of Breuil-Cervinia (Valtournenche Valley, Italian side), lying at the end of Valtournenche Valley.
Getting to Breuil – Cervinia
- From Turin and Milan: follow the A5 Motorway and exit at Chatillon (Aosta East). Follow the road 406 rising along the Valtournenche Valley, reaching Antey Saint André, Valtournenche and finally Breuil-Cervinia m. 2006 (27 km. from Chatillon).
- From France: you can reach Aosta through Mont Blanc Tunnel or Little St. Bernard Pass, then follow the road 406 running in Valtournenche to Breuil-Cervinia (27 km. from Chatillon)
- From Switzerland: you can reach Aosta through the Great St.Bernard Tunnel or the Great St.Bernard Col, then follow the road 406 running in Valtournenche to Breuil-Cervinia (27 km. from Chatillon)
From Breuil - Cervinia m. 2006 follow the unsurfaced road to the private hut Rifugio Duca degli Abruzzi on Oriondè m. 2802; it’s possible to take a taxi service to get the hut, otherwise the approach walk requires about 2,30 hours.
HistoryFirst ascent: Jean Antoine Carrel and Jean Baptiste Bich, 1865, july 16th and 17th
First winter ascent: Vittorio Sella with Jean Antoine, Jean Baptiste and Louis Carrel in 1882
Nowaday the route usually climbed follows the important upper variant, climbed by J.J Maquignaz and J.P. Maquignaz in 1867 during the first repetition of the original route.
Cresta del Leone - Liongrat route report
Cresta del Leone - Liongrat report - UIAA Scale
Summit altitude: m. 4478
Difficulty: Alpine AD+, III UIAA, IV UIAA without using the fixed ropes, 45° ice-slopes
Difference in level: 650 m. from Capanna Carrel, 1475 m. from Rifugio Duca degli Abruzzi
Equipment: fixed ropes and chains, stairways, pegs along the pitches
First ascent: Jean Antoine Carrel and Jean Baptiste Bich, 1865, july 16th and 17th _ Upper section J.J Maquignaz and J.P. Maquignaz 1867, september, 13th
Hut: Rifugio Duca degli Abruzzi m. 2802
Starting point: Breuil-Cervinia m. 2006
This route, running on the SW boundary ridge, is more difficult than the NE ridge, or Hornli ridge, on the Swiss side. Even if aided by several fixed gears (ropes, chains and stairways) and the difficulty doesn’t exceed the III grade UIAA (using the fixed gears), this ascent isn’t to be taken lightly, in order of the length of the ascent, the altitude, the frequent presence of ice and snow, and the meteorological adversities, particularly sudden and strong even in summer, about which Cervino is quite famous. Good conditions of the mountain and very good meteo-forecasts are strongly required for a safe climb.
***Part I - Walking from Breuil - Cervinia m. 2006 to Rifugio Duca degli Abruzzi m. 2802
An unsurfaced road, about 6 km. long, rises to Rifugio Duca degli Abruzzi at Oriondè m. 2802, open in summertime season . By foot the time required is about 2 hours and a half.
***Part II - Scramble approach from Rifugio Duca degli Abruzzi m. 2802 to Colle del Leone m. 3581
From the hut follow an obvious path heading NW, rising on a first rocky step below the Grand Escalier del Leone (cairns); climb it on wide ledges and reach the Carrel Cross m. 2920. Climb the rocks on which the cross is lying, heading towards the bottom of an obvious gully; climb it to a scree terrace, then to a steep snow-field lying below the characteristic prominence on the SW boundary ridge named Testa del Leone (Lion’s Head). Gain the bottom of Testa del Leone, skirt it towards right (East), traverse on scree slopes alternating with snowy slopes, then follow a ledges’ system getting to the saddle named Colle del Leone (Lion’s Col) m. 3581, below the SW ridge. 2,30 hours from Rifugio Duca degli Abruzzi.
***Part III - Climbing section from Colle del Leone m. 3581 to Rifugio Carrel m. 3830
The col is the starting point of the climb on the SW ridge of Cervino. The route runs mainly direct on the ridge, heading sometimes on the South side of the ridge and rising at first on snow slopes, then climbing an upper rocky section, with characteristic passes aided by fixed ropes and chains : the Seiler Slabs, often iced or snow covered , then some steps and a small corner leading to the bottom of a steep wall, what now remains of the famous corner, named Cheminée, entirely fallen down in the summer 2003. Climb the strenuous wall (fixed ropes), then an easier corner, an ice-gully and a snow slope reaching Rifugio Carrel m. 3830, quite an eagle’s nest on the way to the summit. The hut is lying on a terrace along the ridge at the height of 3830 m., below a steep tower named Grande Tour (50 beds, cooking gears). 1 and a half hour from Colle del Leone. It’s quite convenient an overnight stay in the hut, also to keep a better acclimatization.
***Part IV - Climbing section from Rifugio Carrel m. 3830 to the italian summit m. 4476 and to the Swiss summit m. 4478
Get the scree terrace behind the hut and the bottom of Grande Tour; start to climb the wall on the S side of Grande Tour and a small overhang , aiding with fixed ropes (“Corda della Sveglia” , III+), then follow a rocky step and small ledges, skirting Grande Tour on the South side (right). Head to right to enter a rocky basin named Vallon des Glacons, often ice-covered ; climb it slants to right with the aid of fixed ropes, then up a small corner and some slabs (II+), getting a gully. Climb the gully – this section is named Crête du Coq - gaining the Grand Tour summit ridge, showing numberless small pinnacles. Don’t climb the pinnacles, but skirt those on the South side (right) following easy ledges, then climb Placche Cretier and head to right to get a narrow and exposed ledge, named Mauvais Pas. Cross the ledge with a delicate move (III) and gain the bottom of a smooth rock: the Rocher des Ecritures, on which is visible the signature of Carrel. Downclimb towards the Linceul, a steep snow slope. Climb it on its left edge (fixed ropes), getting to a rocky step. Skirt it on the right, reaching the 30 meters high steep corner equipped with chains named Grande Corde or Corde Tyndall ; climb it strenuously (III+), getting again the boundary ridge at 4080 m. Follow the smooth sloping slabs, one of the most dangerous section of the all route when iced. Cross the Cravate, a wide horizontal ledge on the Italian side (South), often snow-covered. Follow the ridge again, gaining the summit of the great shoulder named Pic Tyndall m. 4241. 3 hours from Rifugio Carrel. Here is quite visible the upper part of the route, climbing the imposing Testa del Cervino, and the impressive Scala Jordan (Jordan Stairway). Follow the narrow horizontal ridge named Cresta Tyndall about 200 m. long , then rappel 10 meters to reach the Enjambée, a narrow notch between Pic Tyndall and Testa del Leone. From the notch traverse to the opposite wall, climb a gully and a ridge to a wide ledge below a steep wall. Traverse right skirting the wall and climbing a small corner leading to a narrow terrace named Col Félicité. Climb some slabs slants to right (fixed ropes), gaining the bottom of the impressive Scala Jordan. Up the stairway (12 steps), then another one - Corda Pirovano - on a smooth slab, follow a ledge, the Gite Wentworth, to the left gaining a ridge, then again come back on the right side - Pass Thioly - and climb the ending snow-covered rocks, gaining the Italian summit m. 4476. 4-5 hours from Rifugio Carrel. The highest summit m. 4478 is lying on the exposed ridge beyond the Italian summit . Downclimb to a notch (iron cross) , then follow the 60 meters long ridge, usually snow-covered, gaining the Swiss summit (10 minutes from the first summit). 5 hours from Rifugio Carrel.
DescentDescent – Two possibilities:
- downclimbing the same route (possible some abseils on anchors in place)
- another descent is possible by downclimbing on the NE Ridge (Hornli Ridge) on the Swiss side, aided by a hut at the height of 4003 m. (Solvay Hut) and another hut at 3260 m. (Hornli Hut).
This option - lower difficulties - allows to do the complete traverse SW-NE of the mountain.
Essential gearRopes (better 2x60 m. for rapping), helmet, ice-axe, crampons, a couple of friends, ten quickdraws.
Cervino - Matterhorn views
Red tapeNo particulary restrictions.
When to climbBest season goes from the end of July to the middle September
MeteoMETEO REGIONE VALLE D'AOSTA
Guidebooks and maps
“Alpi Pennine Volume 2“ by Gino Buscaini - Guide dei Monti d'Italia C.A.I.-T.C.I.
“I 4000 delle Alpi – 53 itinerari di salita lungo le vie normali” by Mario Vannuccini, Nordpress
Map: Kompass n° 87, Breuil-Cervinia - Zermatt, scala 1:50.000