The Albula Alps are located in the east of Switzerland in its easternmost canton (province) Graubünden / Grisons / Grischun. The range belongs to the Rhaetian Alps which again are part of the Eastern Alps. It is located almost at the western end of both the larger areas in what are called the "Central Eastern Alps" and thus part of the alpine main ridge.
Historically the range has some importance due to several mountain passes which have been in use since the Bronze Age. All are located in the southern and central parts of the range: Malojapass, Septimerpass and Julierpass all show signs of having been used for ages. In all three cases the Romans built roads to cross them, roads which fell into disrepair, after the Romans had to abandon the area. Especially around Julierpass and Malojapass you can still see the cart tracks which date 2000 years back.
Today the Albula Alps are part of the heartland of the Rhaetoromanic culture and heritage. here and in the neighbouring mountain groups and valleys the Rhaetic tounge is still spoken. There are a half dozen dialects, each of which is spoken in distinct areas. In an effort to preserve the language the written language Romantsch Grischun has been developed as a means to support the language as a whole. Since 2003 it is the official language of the region. However, German has become the dominant language in the valleys east and north of the Albula Alps, a fact that is reflected in the mountain names in these areas.
Generally most mountains are known by their Raetian names, though the most important ones carry a German equivalent as well. For instance Piz Kesch is Aguglia d'Es-cha in Raetian or Piz Julier is Piz Guglia. Only in the north around Flüelapass will you find mountains with only German names like Flüela Schwarzhorn or its neighbour, Radüner Rothorn.
Finally speaking of mountains, most of the Albula Alps summits range in the area between 2800m and 3200m. Unlike the neighbouring Silvretta, a range of similar height, the Albula Alps are a loosely knit range with the principal summits standing rather solitary. Thus they all carry only small glaciers with the exception of the Grialetsch Subbgroup where several high mountains are grouped together to shelter a large glacier basin.
At 3417m the highest mountain of the Albula Alps is Piz Kesch followed by Piz Calderas (3397m), Piz Julier (3380m) and Piz d'Err (3378m). All of these mountains are located in the central part of the range, between Julierpass and Albulapass.
The Albula River is the naming patron of the range. It divides it into two parts (see next section), north and south of Albulapass. Albula Valley and Pass are most famous for the Albula Railway, a part of Rätische Bahn, the train compaany which operates the lines in Graubünden and which has been declared UNESCO world cultural heritage. In several long loops the railway track heads up to the long tunnel which passes the range underneath Albulapass and which emerges near St. Moritz on the Engadin Side (east).
The Albula Alps are bounded by the Inn River in their east, Malojapass and Septimerpass in the south, Oberhalbstein / Sursess and Albula Valley in the west and Flüelapass in the north. Neighbouring mountain ranges, all of them parts of the Rhaetian Alps, are Sesvenna Group, Livigno Alps and Bernina in the east, Val Massino Alps in the south, Platta and Plessur Groups in the west and Silvretta in the north.
The Albula Alps are probably best known for their ski runs. St. Moritz in the east and Davos in the nort-west are particularly important. Moreover, quite a number of the major mountains are good and popular ski tour destinations. In summer activities range from hiking and mountain biking across the many passes of the range to more or less difficult ascents of the higher mountains. The Albula Alps are a all-year destination.
The Albula Alps on SP
The grouping and subgrouping structure on this page follows the classification of the Italian Alpine Club CAI. It separates the Albula Alps into two parts (see the red line in the above map), north and south of Albula Pass. Each of these two groups again is separated into subgroups, which themselves are made up by even smaller sub-subgroups. The areas designed in the map above refer to the smallest subgroups.
Within the boundaries of the Albula Alps Switzerlands largest natural park, Parc Ela has been established. It protects the cultural, economic and natural heritage o an area where people have lived since the bronze age. Named after Piz Ela in its midst the park covers an area of 550 square kilometres, 200 of which are untouched nature. The 19 communities on its groundsupport the goals of the park and use them to attract visitors.
A note from the SP staff
Cyrill Rüegger, the member we all used to know as Cyrill and Digitalis, died on June 13th 2009 in an avalanche on the summit ridge of Piz Palü together with his wife Tanja and a common friend. They were swept down by the avalanche into a couloir underneath the east summit and died instantly. Their bodies were retrieved from the Palü Glacier by helicopter a day after the accident.
Cyrill joined SP in March 2006 and soon was one of the most prolific contributors on the site with almost 70 mountain and 5 range pages to his profile. He was an accomplished climber, bagging almost 1000 summits in not quite seven years. Among them are 35 4000ers and 272 3000ers, almost all of them in his home country Switzerland.
While contributing a lot on SP, Cyrill's real internet home was www.hikr.org where he contributed 585 mountain profiles and reports in his native language German. Cyrill also posted on www.bergsteigen.at and other climbing sites, often under his real name but also under the pseudonym Digitalis. He was a botanist by profession and also contributed his knowledge about medical plants to different websites. Cyrill will be greatly missed by all.
This page will be kept in honour of Cyrill, one of SP's most prolific members and most active mountaineers.
Rest in peace, brother!
The picture above was taken on the summit of Matterhorn on July 28th 2007.