OverviewDufourspitze is Switzerland's highest mountain and is part of the Monte Rosa massif. Its name was given by the Swiss Federal Council in the year 1863 in honor of Henri Dufour, army general, inventor of the Dufour map and co-founder of the Red Cross. This mountain was first climbed in 1855 by English alpinists and Swiss guides and porters, later than most of the other Monte Rosa summits. One of the successful climbers was Charles Hudson who died 10 years later on the first ascents of the Matterhorn.
The normal route starts at the Monte Rosa hut, but it is also common to start at the Capanna Margherita if the trek is on a weekly tour coming from the Theodulpass. Dufourspitze is not considered as a difficult mountain on its popular and populated ascents, but you must be fully equipped with ax, rope, crampons and warm and wind resistant clothes. Only Mont Blanc is higher in the Alps, and it is highly recommended not to start the climb under dubious weather conditions. You must feel strong and have several days spent in high altitude.
The sight from the summit gives a peculiar feeling looking down on the near Matterhorn, however the sight down to the Italian Macugnaga is not as overwhelming as from Nordend, since Dufourspitze is not located on the Monte Rosa ridge, which forms the frontier between Italy in Switzerland, but one hour away to the west. Thus the Dufourspitze is NOT located on the Swiss Italian border.
Its peak is easy to find from all sides, but very difficult to climb from the Italian side. The Macugnaga wall is Europe's highest
and goes down a full 2600 meters! Its bright white wall reflecting the morning sun can be seen from hundreds of miles away. It is a pity that this wonderful wall is extremely dangerous or enormously long to climb. One of the few safe, interesting and pleasant ascent from the Italian side is the Cresta Signal from the Resegotti hut to the Punta Gnifetti. (See photo)
Link for books and maps:
Literature and Maps
Walliser Alpen, Vol. III by the Swiss Alpine Club
Map Nr. 5006 Matterhorn - Mischabel 1:50'000
Map Nr. 284 Ski Mischabel 1:50'000
Map Nr. 1348 Zermatt 1:25'000
By Istituto Geografico Centrale, Torino:
Monte Rosa, Alagna e Macugnaga 1:50'000
See the Swisstopo Map with many interesting features. Upload is in a seperate window.
GettingTo The Top1. Normal route from Monte Rosa Hut 2795m (also ski route).
Follow the zigzag track that leads to the moraine of the Grenzglescher. It is wise to check it the day before at daylight, so you do not lose time in dark of the morning. At ca. 3100 m, the path divides, the right one leads to the Signalkuppe along the Grenzgletscher. Do not step on the glacier, but rather go in direction of Nordend and Silbersattel. Steps in the snow makes it easy to find.
At 4000m leave the Silbersattel trail, turn right towards the ridge that comes down from Dufourspitze. At 4500 m you reach the saddle, where the skiers leave their equipment. After a climb of an icy slope, you reach the rocky west ridge that leads to the top. A steep rock is climbed in a couloir of the north side. The flatter part reminds of a cemetery because many people feel they must have a memorial tablet on the highest Swiss mountain, although they did not die there. A cleaning squad would be appreciated. Difficulty III on dry rock. 7 hours from the hut.
2. From Capanna Margherita (4559 m)
Go down to the Colle Gnifetti (4454 m) and climb the Zumsteinspitze (4563 m) all on easy snow. Now go down to the Grenzsattel 4452 m on rock and snow to the foot of the Dufourspitze. This part has a very narrow and horizontal, icy ridge, to the left the Grenzgletscher and to the right the green pastures of Macugnaga more that 2000 m down. There is practically no safety possible, if you fall on one side, your buddy has to jump on the other side. Very awkward early in the icy morning after a lousy breakfast at the Margherita! Afterwards it's nice, first easy snow then solid rock to the top. On the way many small gendarmes have their own names (Grenzgipfel, Ostspitze), a real paradise for collectors of pseudo 4000m summits! 4 hours from the hut.
3. From Marinelli bivouac (3036m)
Rather difficult and very dangerous trip in ice and rocks, since the Marinelli couloir must be crossed, which is the waste basket of both Dufourspitze and Nordend. Rocks and ice that is not needed by these two fellows are just thrown down this funnel. So be sure to climb only on a very cold day and start at midnight, since the morning sun starts heating up early on the east face.
After leaving the bivouac stay on the Marinelli spur and cross the sometimes very icy and dangerous couloir in full speed and
continue on the rocky Imseng spur. Then head directly to the foot of the east ridge or left of it, which offers difficult but not
dangerous climbing on solid rock. Climb the Grenzgipfel and follow the route from the Margherita hut. Ca. 12 hours depending on conditions.
If you are late or have problems with the altitude you can switch to the Zumsteinspitze, which is easier and faster. Be sure to
stay below the horizontal schrund. By the way, this is the ski descent for very hazardous skiers. In general it is not wise to
climb down this face. The ascent via Silbersattel is steeper and longer, not recommended.
In order to study the Italian side, do not go to the Moro Pass as is sometimes recommended, but rather climb the Pizzo Bianco (3215 m), it gives better insight.
AccomodationSwiss Side see the contribution in Monte Rosa Hut
1. Macugnaga (1327 m) is a small town in the valley Anzasca with less than 1000 inhabitants at the foot of the East
Face of Monte Rosa. It can be reached by car and bus from Piedimulera on the Simplon line (Berne - Milan). Drivers from
north along the Gotthard autobahn should head for Locarno (circumvented by a road tunnel) and continue along the Lago
Maggiore to Intra and enter the Simplon route near Ornavasso.
A slightly slower variation leads from Locarno through the valleys Centovalli - Vigezzo to Domodossola. Funny thing I observed: the river flowing west on the Italian side (Vigezzo) is called Melezzo (masculine noun), on the Swiss side flowing east (Centovalli) is called Melezza (feminine) by the local people. The geographists, however, are afraid of additional Melezzini and call them Mellezzo occidentale and orientale.
Camping is possible. Best hotel is probably Alpi (1200 m) at the lower end of Macugnaga, at the upper end of the road is Albergo Cristallo (1360 m).
There are two cable cars starting in Magugnaga. One leads up to the Moro pass (2868 m); the other - a chair lift - leads from the Cristallo hotel to Burki - Belvedere (1932 m). Some maps show additional cable cars, that do not exist: to Piani Alti above Rosareccio (destroyed) and to Zamboni hut from Belvedere.
2. Marinelli Bivouac (3036 m), 12 places, not guarded, open all year round, CAI Milano. Acces via chair lift to Belvedere (1932 m), use the trail to Zamboni hut that leads first over the Belvedere glacier, then on its eastern moraine. A yellow sign shows a narrow path leading down the moraine to the ice. Then climb steeply (sometimes crampons) the back of the glacier which is completely covered with rocks and sand and head to the the Crestone (spur) Marinelli. Keep right (north) of the spur until you find a broad band of grass and stones that leads easily to a saddle on the spur. Follow the tracks on the spur; at 3000 m it turns left halfway to the Canalone (couloir) Marinelli where the wooden stone hut is located. 3-4 hours.
Since the traversing of the glacier near the Zamboni hut is not pleasant (and often officially forbidden), crossing the glacier at the Belvedere to the Alpe Fillar may be preferable. I can also recommend a longer path. Follow the ugly road that starts near the chair lift station. Short before Burki stay on the left (northern) side of the Anza river and follow the sign for the Sella hut. Before reaching the granite wall, you see a big waterfall to your right and a path zigzagging south of it. Leave the road and head to the waterfall where you will find this path. No sign! After a flat grassy shoulder follow the yellow sign that shows left to the Sella hut. Enter and cross a gorge. At Roffelstafel 1905 m, leave the Sella path and keep straight to Alple Fillar and the foot of the Marinelli spur and join the normal path. Longer, nicer, cheaper, more beautiful! 4 - 5 hours.
3. Capanna Margherita
General InformationFor books, maps, webcams, trains, buses, weather, avalanches, rescue see my list Swiss Links in a new window.
When To ClimbMarch to July with skis
July to September with crampons
- 17 pictures normal route topo
clic on the mountain picture to get it
- Dufourspitze at www.4000er.de
Images, routes, coordinates and more information about the highest peaks of the Alps
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