OverviewThe East Ridge of the Piz Frachiccio is an enjoyable alpine rock route with a maximum difficulty of III. The granite is of good quality and the (short) techincal sections offer enjoyable climbing. While by no means a classic or even an aesthetically pleasing summit, the climbing is of an alpine nature and a pleasant and quiet alternative to the heavily visited alpine-sport routes the Albigna area is noted for. The East Ridge contains no bolts or pegs.
The climbing varies from relatively sustained pitches to easy scrambles and a few sections that can be climbed unroped or simultaneously. Proficiency in the grade and efficient rope techniques are required to climb this route in good time. Also note that to get off the mountain a single abseil is required from a dubious belay that consists of several lengths of prusik and webbing tied together. Be sure to check these for trustworthiness and don't be afraid to remove old tat and replace it with your own.
Getting ThereAs with many of the mountains and routes near the Albigna lake the easiest access is made by taking the cablecar up to the lake. Alternatively it is also possible to walk up, should your climbing ethics keep you from using cablecars! The footpath starts just along the main road above the cablecar station at Pranzaira. Follow the signs marked 'Cab. Albigna SAC' and the red-white markings.
The footpath takes you through pine forests to emerge into the open underneath the north ridge of the Spazzacaldeira. It is well marked and except for causing a good sweat on warm days poses no problems or dangers. A walk up to the cablecar station at the foot of the dam takes about 3 hours.
The cablecar costs 18CHF for a return ticket (approx. 12 Euros) and takes about 15 minutes.
Having arrived at the foot of the Albigna dam by foot or mechanical means, follow the path up to the top of the dam and take the footpath that starts behind the building at the start of the dam. Follow this path along the righthand (western) side of the Albigna reservoir until you reach the large eastern flank of the Frachiccio.
The route starts on the far side of the eastern flank (coming from the dam) although there is no single point where the ridge has to be joined. Make your way to the far (south) side of the east flank and start climbing.
Route DescriptionRoute finding couldn't be much easier; simply follow the well defined ridge, taking easier or harder variations as you see fit. Depending on your choice of route the hardest pitches may be found right at the start (slabs) and around halfway where it is possible to climb a short and enjoyable vertical section. These difficulties do not much exceed UIAA III though and easier variations are possible if required.
There are no bolts or belay stations but these are easily construed by slinging the numerous rocky outcrops or placing a couple of friends in the solid granite. This is a good route to practice alpine ropework and the placing of your own protection.
The last section of ridge just before the 'summit' can be tricky if iced up which can still occur in early summer after a spell of poor weather. Just before the summit the route wanders onto the northern side of the Frachiccio and ice can make this tricky so be careful.
From the top scramble down towards the notch between the Frachiccio and the Cacciabella and look for the abseil. We found lots of old tat and replaced it with some of our own. Judge the trustworthiness of the webbing and prusik loops carefully.
Once abseiled down onto the rubble field simply make your way down (east) towards the Albigna reservoir and rejoin the footpath which will take you back to the dam.
Essential GearA few friends, a set of nuts and lots of webbing (slings).
Rockboots or mountaineering boots if you feel like challenging yourself.
Double rope for the abseil can be handy.
Maps and guidebooksMap: Swiss 1:25000 #1296: Sciora
Guidebook: SAC Fuhrer 'Sudlicher Bergell'
And: 'Schweiz Plaiser: SUD', Jürg von Känel (Edition Filidor 2003)