Piz Umbrail is the main summit of the Umbrail Group, the north-westernmost subgroup of the Ortler / Cevedale Group. By no way is it the highest summit of that group but thanks to its close location to Europe's highest road pass Stilfser Joch / Passo di Stelvio it is the most prominent and popular one. It is also one of the "easiest" 3000ers in the Alps, thanks to a trailhead, which can be reached easily by car and which is less than 500m lower han the summit. However, the climb of the mountain shows some difficulties and you need to be a good and fearless scrambler to get to the top.
Piz Umbrail is made up of brittle limestone, the quality of which can only be described as horrible. There are few mountains which have decayed as much, most of them much younger volcanic summits. The south face of our mountain is made up of a labyrinthic maze of walls and towers all seemingly starting to fall apart as you dare to look at them. the mountain is embedded in a huge heap of scree, witness to the destructive forces of wind and rain which constantly tear at the mountain.
Piz Umbrail is a long stretched mountain with a east-west running ridge of several km length. The ridge traverse from Umbrail's summit to neighbouring Punta di Rims is one of the most scenic high trails in the whole area. Why? Because to the south, on the opposite side of Valle del Braulio the huge glaciated peaks of the central Ortler / Cevedale Group glisten in the sun. Piz umbrail has one of the most beautiful 360° panoramas of the whole region.
The whole area around Stilfser Joch / Passo di Stelvio was front line during WW I. While the Austrians had their positions around Dreisprachenspitze / Cima di Garibaldi the Italians moved set up their artillery on the south slopes of Piz Umbrail, hidden from view by the giant jumble of the towers in Piz Umbrail's south face. The tops of both Piz Umbrail and Punta di Rims where used as lookouts to direct the artillery though the international boundary with a neutral country (Italy - Switzerland) didn't allow it. The Swiss had their own positions up there to secure their southern border and to keep fighting away from their country. Even today you can find a lot of WW I fortifications on all sides of the mountain though it is by now way clear anymore which nationality built and used them during the war.
360° Summit Panorama
The trailhead for Piz Umbrail is at Umbrailpass / Giogo di Santa Maria / Wormser Joch. The pass is located only a few kilometres away from Stilfser Joch / Passo di Stelvio, Europe's highest road pass. It can be easily reached though Stilfser Joch should be avoided due to the usual heavy traffic.
From South Tyrol / Alto Adige
- Take SS38 from Bozen / Bolzano through Meran / Merano and Vinschgau / Val Venosta.
- At Spondinig / Spondigna the road turns off in direction of Stilfser Joch Passo di Stelvio.
- Drive across the pass (48 switchbacks!) and on to Umbrailpass. Park at the Italian - Swiss border.
- Alternatively, at Spondinig / Spondigna turn onto SS40 to Schluderns / Sluderno.
- Here turn onto SS41 which leads into Switzerland.
- Called B28 there the road leads to Santa Maria, where the road to Umbrailpass turns off south.
- The road is open from 6 a.m. through 8 p.m.
- Take SS38 direction Stilfser Joch / Passo di Stelvio.
- Shortly before you reach the pass the Umbrailpass road turns off left (north).
- Take B28 across Ofenpass / Pass dal Fuorn until you reach Santa Maria.
- Here turn south onto the road to Umbrailpass (open 6 a.m. through 8 p.m.).
- From Landeck take B180 across Reschenpass / Passo di Resia into South Tyrol / Alto Adige.
- The road, SS40 in Italy, takes you to Mals / Malles Venosta.
- Here, turn onto a side road through Laatsch / Laudes, which heads for Switzerland, joining SS41 several kilometres in front of the border.
- In Switzerland follow B28 to Santa Maria, where you turn onto the road to Umbrailpass (open 6 a.m. - 8 p.m.).
Unlike the mountains on the other side of Valle del Braulio, the mountains of the Umbrail-Group are not part of any natural or national park. However, Piz Umbrail is located on the border between Italy and Switzerland and while border controls are scarce they might occur. Switzerland is not part of the EU which requires you to definitely carry ID or passport with you.
And once again: the border on Umbrailpass is open only between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m. so that during the night you might be forced to take a rather long detour depending on your destination.
- Vinschgau / Val Venosta
- Val Müstair / Münstertal
- Lombardia (select region "Lombardia" and/or town "Bormio")
Maps & Books
- Nationalpark Stilfserjoch / Parco Nazionale dello Stelvio
Kompass Map WK072
R. and S. Weiss