Between the picturesque Val Pesarina and the lovely Valle del Sole, there’s an interesting small group of mountains that looks stolen from some famous dolomitic range, like the Catinaccio or the Pale di S.Martino. It’s the Clap group ( clap=stone ), probably the most “alpinistic” of the Southern Carnic Alps. Among its summits the most charming is Creton di Culzei , a complex dolomitic mountain which rises like a severe cathedral from the valleys on its slopes. It is situated in the heart of the group, between the main summit Creton di Clap Grande ( from which is separated by the notch called Forca dell’Alpino ) and Cima di Riobianco. The view of the south face of this peak from Rifugio de Gasperi, with its wonderfully carved towers, it’s really one of the best of the area.
Creton di Culzei ( wich means “big rocky peak of the village of Culzei” ) is basically composed by three huge scree terraces divided one from the other by deep cracks. The highest of this terraces from south appears as an imposing tower that is called “il gendarme”. It is just like a “mini” Marmolada, with vertical faces on one side ( south ) and sweet scree slopes on the other.
The quality of the rock of this central part of the Clap group ( Dolomia Principale on a base of marl and sandstone, formed in the late Triassic age) it’s not uniform: it can be good and even very good in some areas and very bad in some other. Anyhow you can find here beautiful normal routes, one of the best vie ferrate of the Eastern Alps and countless climbing routes for every taste and ability. Some of this routes have been opened by famous Italian alpinists, and among them we cannot avoid to mention Celso Gilberti, who worked in the Rifugio de Gasperi as climbing teacher and alpine guide. This is what Emilio Comici said about him: “…he was the real knight of the mountain, the purest and most modest I’ve ever met. A fabulous climber, one of the strongest, maybe the best of all…”. Not only Comici, but many of the alpinists of those years would consider Gilberti the best rock climber. He opened many routes, and was one of the first that broke the barrier of the sixth degree. He died when he was only 23, while climbing in the Paganella.
The 360° panorama from the summit of Creton di Culzei is excellent: you can enjoy a very interesting view of the other summits of the southern Carnic Alps, of the Carnic main chain, of the Eastern Dolomites and of the green valleys around.
First ascent: Heinrich-Pratter on july 28,1892 ( normal route from SW ).
If you want to climb Creton di Culzei you have three main options, but none of them can be considered easy.
>Normal route from south-west
From Pian di Casa ( 1236 m, Bar Ristorante Centro Fondo ) take the steep path n°201 that goes up through the woods to Rifugio de Gasperi ( 1767 m, 1 hour and 30 minutes ). From there take the path n°232 behind the hut that will take you at the base of the imposing southern faces of Creton di Clap Grande and Creton di Culzei ( 1 hour ). Then you have to go up on the very hard and dangerous ravine between the two summits, where you have to climb some secured sections ( one passage of UIAA II with handles ). After half an hour or so you will reach the notch called Forca dell’Alpino ( 2302 m ), where the view opens to Sappada and the Peralba group. You can reach this notch from Sappada too ( path n°317 ), but the route is too long to be advised.
Take the path on the right that is basically a short via ferrata with some fun passages of UIAA I/II. At the end of it you’ll reach the western edge of the detritic terrace, where, after another easy secured section you’ll find the path that will take you on the summit in a few minutes ( 2472 m, 40 minutes ) .
Gear required: An helmet and a ferrata set.
>Via ferrata “dei cinquanta”
This is by far the best option, but is very long and strenuous. After a not very interesting part on the ravine that takes you to Forca Alta di Culzei it becomes a fantastic ride on the sharp crests of Cima di Riobianco and Creton di Culzei. Extremely aerial passages and breathtaking views: one of the best routes of the Carnic Alps.
>Via Gilberti-Granzotto( south face )
A “classic” climbing route of the Carnic Alps, opened by Celso Gilberti in 1927. The difficulty is around the III UIAA degree, with one key passage of the fourth . It’s an exciting easy climb of about 300 meters that can be climbed in 2/3 hours ( approach: 1 hour from Rifugio de Gasperi and 2 hours and thirty minutes from Pian di Casa- Val Pesarina ).
As said in the overview section there are many climbing routes on Creton di Culzei and on all the mountains of the Clap Group. The Rifugio de Gasperi is owned by the alpine club of Tolmezzo, that organizes climbing courses and can help you to find the right routes for your skill.
From the Brennero motorway exit Bressanone/Brixen and then S.Candido- Passo di Monte Croce Comelico- S.Stefano di Cadore-Sappada-Ovaro-Val Pesarina
From the Udine-Tarvisio motorway exit Carnia and then Tolmezzo-Villa Santina-Ovaro-Val Pesarina
From Venezia to Belluno-Pieve di cadore-Lozzo di Cadore-Sella Ciampigotto-Val Pesarina
Red TapeNo limitations
If you want to climb Creton di Culzei or other mountains of the Clap group the best place to stay is Rifugio de Gasperi, on the southern slopes of the group.
You can find also lodging in Val Pesarina and of course in Sappada.
When to Climb?May-June to September-October. The southern faces can be climbed in early and late season.
Meteo Friuli venezia Giulia
Maps and BooksTabacco 1:25000
01 S.Stefano – Sappada – Forni Avoltri
Alpi Carniche vol II – A.De Rovere – M. Di Gallo
Alpi Carniche – E.Castiglioni – CAI/TCI
Guida escursionistica alle Alpi Carniche – Rino Gabersick – Liberodiscrivere Editore
Sappada – Dai Sentieri alle Vette – G.Borella – Editrice Co.El.
Alpi Carniche – Catena carnica principale e Dolomiti Pesarine – Ettore Tomasi – Comunità montana della carnia
Sappada – Vie normali e classiche – P.Salvini-G.Piller