In the south of Tessin / Ticino to the east of Lugano you can find a ridge of dolomite rocks called Denti della Vecchia, translated Hag's Teeth, sometimes also known as Canne d'Organo / Organ Pipes. The towers are located on the border between Switzerland and Italy, the ridgeline between Monte Bre in the west and Cima di Fojorina in the west. They dominate Val Sonvico in the south and attract attention thanks to their vertical rock faces which tower high above the valley.
Their appearance of rotten teeth is misleading. The dolomite rock is rock solid with lots of good holds so that early on the Denti della Vecchia have been established as the first climbing area of Switzerland's southernmost canton Tessin / Ticino. Today they constitute Switzerland's southernmost climbing area with a multitude of routes in 31 different sectors.
The highest of the towers is Sasso Grande, which reaches 1492m. Unlike the other towers it can be reached by a moderate but exposed UIAA II+ scramble through the east face, often making use of dwarf pines for protection. A hiking trail winds between the towers, often making use of ledges around them. It is very popular among hikers and there is no Tessin / Ticino Guidebook which leaves out this hike.
The Denti della Vecchia are formed by an old geological coat: that of the triassic period which is composed of dolomite. Between the Denti and the Pairolo Hut you find conglomerates Verrucani dating back to a time even more remote. In the bottom of the valley line of Val Colla, there are rocks covered by gravel, sand and clay that were originally ancient moraines of the ice age.
From Lugano (Ti - CH) follow the cantonal road into Val Colla.
Trailheads are at Sonvico, Cadro, Rosone and Villa Luganese. The hiking path leads south-east across Baita del Luca) and Capanna Pairlo, from where it turns west to the ridgeline.
The Denti della Vecchia Climbing Area was the first climbing area fo Tessin / Ticino. Established in the 1930s it was used as training ground by well known alpinists like Emilio Comici and Ricardo Cassin. The local Gruppo degli Scoiattoli has established and documented most of the routes on the Denti. Today the area is divided into 31 sports climbing sectors with almost 300 different routes.The longest routes have up to five pitches. Difficulties range between 3a and 8a (French rating).
kletterdorf.de gives a good overview of the area (German). And of course Gruppo Scoiattoli is the homepage of the Denti.
Red TapeThe mountain is located on the international border between Italy and Switzerland. Though there are no customs controls anymore, carrying an ID is mandatory.
Also, the ridge between the Denti della Vecchia is famous for its rare flowers. Take care where you step.
There is plenty of accommodation to be found on the web, mainly apartments or holiday homes. However, Tessin / Ticino has become very expensive so you will have to carefully plan your vacation. Most expensive are the cities (Lugano, Locarno, Ascona) but also the villages on the shores of the lakes can burn deep holes in your pockets. In general the higher up and the better the view the more expensive.
A good alternative is agritourismo - farm holidays, either in the valleys or in one of the spring / autumn settlements at an elevation of around 1000m.
You can find accomodation of any type using the following url:
Alpe di Castello
Capanna Pairolo SAT
Maps & Books
- Digital Maps
- Regular Maps
Carta Escursionistica 286 T
Ufficio Federale di Topografia Swizzeria
Kompass Guidebook WF997
- Denti della Vecchia - Guida alle arrampicate
Gruppo Scoiattoli Denti della Vecchia
Language: Italian, German, English
- VARESE E CANTON TICINO - Falesie e vie moderne
Editioni Versante Sud
Language: Italian, German
- Arrampicate Sportive e Moderne fra Varese e canton Ticino
Capucciati, Corti, Fiorucci, Pina
Editioni Versante Sud
- Guida d'arrampicata - Topo d'escalade - Kletterführer: Ticino e Moesano
Edizioni Club Alpino Svizzero CAS
In Memory of Massimo ComottiA note from the SP staff
Massimo grew up in Gressoney in Aosta Valley, the site of his untimely death. In recent years he had moved to Porlezza, near Lake Como, where he made his living as an architect. Aged 44, he leaves behind his wive and a young daughter.
Mamo joined SP in April 2004 and took part in the community until ten days before his death. He contributed several mountains and routes, among them Rothorn / Corno Rosso di Trinitè, the mountain which was to be his last.
This page will be kept in honour of mamo, an excellent ski alpinist.
Rest in peace, Massimo!