The start of the climb is the Stockhorn station of the Gornergrat Bahn.
There are three main possibilities to reach that: you may start at Zermatt and hike up to the Stockhorn. Lazy persons (like me) take the cable car to that mountain (Gornergart + Stockhorn cable car).
It's also possible to start at the Monte Rosa hut (crevases), then you will reach the Jägerjoch without touching the Stockhorn then.
It will take about 5/6 hours from Zermatt to the Stockhorn.
Start at the Stockhorn station. From there you have to reach the Città-di-Gallarate-Biwak (CAI, 3970m) near the top of the Jägerhorn NE of the Nordend.
From the Stockhorn station hike up to the Stockhorn saddle between Grenzgrat and Stockhorn and follow the flat, mosty harmless glacier direction Nordend.
There is a wide snow saddle between Jägerhorn and Nordend (Jägerjoch, good visible from the Stockhorn station). This saddle have to be reached. The ice flank below the saddle is somewhat steep with few sometimes tricky but most times big but harmless crevasses. On regular conditions there will no path at the glacier, so it's better to start early while the snow isn't to soft.
It will take about 4 -5 hours from Stockhorn station to the bivy.
You should remember the altitude: the Città-di-Gallarate-Biwak is situated at 3970m ! Spending the night at this altitude may cause problems if one is not acclimatised.
From the bivy the route is clearly visible. Start at the bivy, go down to the Jägerjoch and reach the start of the NE-ridge called "Cresta Santa Catherina" (about 4000 m) on easy, broken rocks and snow.
The Cresta Santa Catherina follows the ridge between Nordend E-face and Nordend N-flank. Most time the route uses the flank right of the ridge, it's more a face climb then a ridge. There are three main steep steps, all of them will be climbed at the right side of the ridge.
The first step is the highest and most difficult part: First climb up a kind of a chimney (some pitons) rightwards. This brings you to some slabs. Climb the slabs at the right hand using a small dihedral (pitons). Some pitches on rock and ice/snow brings you at the top of the first step (UIAA grade 4 and 5, ongoing, very strenuous).
The next pitches are not as difficult as the first part, they are on mixed terrain. After about three pitches you will reach the base of a big area of slabs covered with snow and ice. This is the crux of the route : there are only bad possibilities to place gear, on bad conditions this part will be dangerous and very difficult. At the guidebook, those slabs are described as to be climbed directly in two pitches of UIAA 4.
There is an other option: try to climb as near as possible to the real ridge (we used the ridge itself). We have found it much better to climb at the ridge instead of the slabs of the face. But this may depend on the actual conditions.
Near the top of this slabs on have to climb directly the ridge. This are two superb, very exposed pitches, real good climbing there (UIAA grade 4 but demanding). Take a deeeep lock down the Nordend E-face there.
Now you'll reach the snow crest below the final third step of the ridge (easy). Go up using the snow crest brings you to the base of the third step. Some more easy pitches on broken rock will lead you to the top of the ridge at about 4450 m.
The summit is visible at the left. No more difficulties up now. You reach the summit using the big snow and ice fields.
Over all it's a steep, serious ice and rock climb. The route is more like a face then like a ridge climb. Some dangerous parts. No icefall, less rockfall. You'll need about 7 - 9 hours from the bivy to the summit.
Descent the regular route via Silbersattel to the Monte Rosa Hütte (about 3 hours).
If you're fast and strong you may continue this epic from the Nordend to the Dufourspitze and the other 4000 meter peaks at the Monte Rosa area.
Stoppers, 2-3 Friends, crampons, ice axe (one), double rope
We have taken some pitons with us. In case of trouble this may be helpfull.
A trip report (german only) can be found at:
Cresta Santa Catherina