Alps - Western Part

Page Type Page Type: Area/Range
Location Lat/Lon: 45.42930°N / 7.53662°E
Additional Information Elevation: 15770 ft / 4807 m
Sign the Climber's Log


This page has been posted just to have a starting point to define the main western structure of the Alps and to have a "shopping list" pointing out the "missing" pages that should/could be posted

The structure partially follows the new partition of Alps defined by Soiusa trying not to lose all the usual, old and well-known concepts about alpine regions :
this is very important, especially for the French side of the Alps, where a parallel structure is placed beside the main watershed and, above all, to avoid that a pure geographical structure can enter in conflict with the grouping structure well known by climbers and mountaineers.

The setup is temporary, the page will be in development until all the related group pages, much more detailed, will be posted.
I hope someone will use some of the contents to create new pages about each region/range so that we can leave here only the links and the main logistic info for each section

How to read this page :
- each section is a wide area, well geographically divided by well-defined borders
- inside each section, the description of the sequence of summits and groups
- if a summit has a SP page the link is put directly on it
no links means that on SP info are still missing
- the ranges and groups are sequenced clockwise starting from SE

the skyline ..



A general overview of the Western Alps is not easy to be done ...
there are too many kinds of environments quite different from each other but we can generalize them just using the below sections :
So we have :

a main ridge-watershed hosting, clockwise from SE to NE, the following sections

  • Alpi Liguri and Maritime: once they were considered as undistinguished,
    here we can find 2 really important groups with steep walls and channels :
    the Marguareis, with its important vertical granite walls: one example is the N wall of Cima Scarason (one of the most difficult walls in the Alps, very little known ...)
    the Argentera with its typical alpine look, this group has the same typical structure of a Central Alps mountain (on its northern side it hosts a steep fine channel: the Canalone di Lourusa, and a sequence of fine rocky summits full of old fashion climbing routes)

  • Cozie Alps (Occitania) :
    These are smaller mountains -except Monviso-, eaten by the time due to sedimentary metamorphosed rocks, with normally not extremely difficult slopes and ridges wherefrom, sometimes, fine shaped summits poke out.
    The whole main ridge, and of course the secondary ones that are the borders of long and deep valleys, is a real paradise for hikers that can find here the (I think) best trekking tour of the Alps: the GTA

  • Graie Alps :
    Apart from the main watershed, made of "middle-sized" high mountains, a big subrange can be associated to this range: Gran Paradiso. As for Mont Blanc and Ecrins Range, skills and experience are required for alpine climbing activities (climbing is to be understood here as a real alpinistic activity).

  • Mont Blanc range has a special situation in the Alps : Situated on the main watershed, it is a central subrange too.

  • Pennine Alps and South Valais groups :
    the widest high area of the Alps, here you can find most of the well detached high mountains laying in long and high ridges.
    Few of the main summits here are really easy, almost all require experience, training and fitness.
    Even the secondary mountains, on both sides of the watershed, are not so easy ones, especially when they are close to the main ridge.

  • Lepontine Alps:
    a "normal" long, indented and complex ridge hosting a great variety of mountains, for all kind of skills and engagement .. mountains for all seasons and for all tastes

    A set of central sub-ranges.
    situated west of the main watershed in France from High Dauphiné to Faucigny, including
  • Belledonne,
  • Grandes Rousses,
  • Vanoise and Mont Blanc ranges,
    continuing north of the main watershed with Switzerland central ranges :
  • Diablerets,
  • Jungfrau sub range (everyone has heard about)
  • Tödi and the main part of Glarus sub range (maybe less have heard about)

    Mont Blanc, Bernese and Ecrins Range are a paradise for alpine climbing activities wherefore a high level of skills and experience is required.
    Rock is, in the highest central ranges, mainly Granite and Gneiss.
    Some limestone north faces in Bernese Alps are an exception.

    A set of pre-alps sub-ranges,
    situated west of central subranges in France from Haute Provence Prealps to Chablais, including
  • Diois,
  • Vercors,
  • Chartreuse,
  • Bauges,
  • Bornes prealps
    continuing with Switzerland Prealps :
  • Sarine-gruyère Prealps,
  • Emmental Prealps,
  • Vierwaldstäten Prealps,
  • Appenzell prealps,

    and the Prealps leaning toward East/North to join with the Austrian/German Prealps.
    Limestone is the most common rock in Prealps mountains.

    Alpi Liguri

    from Colle di Cadibona to Colle di Tenda

    This range starts a few km N of Savona, grows slowly toward West with wild but not high summits, follows the border between Liguria (S) and Piemonte (N) till the small group of Mongioie (2630m) and Marguareis (2661m).
    Here the watershed starts dividing France (W) from Italy (E) with a ridge going toward S with some remarkable summits : M.Bertrand (2461m), Monte Saccarello (2200m), Cime de Marte (2136m), M.Pietravecchia (2040m) and, the last one, l'Arpette (1610m)

    Main groups


    from Colle di Tenda to Colle della Maddalena

    A well defined watershed between Piemonte (NE) and French Maritime Alps (SW)
    it starts from the group of Argentera (3297m), the highest of this range, and follows with a ridge near to 3000m of height almost hosting some remarkable summits like Testa Malinvern (2939m), the Mt. Tenibre (3031m) and the Mont Enciastraia (2955m)
    From this last summit, just before the Colle della Maddalena, a ridge goes first toward West then toward SSE : this is the Mercantour

    main groups here
    Mercantour Tenibre

    Haute Provence

    from Col de la Cayolle to Col de Toutes Aures
    Mont Pelat - Le Grand Coyer
    Montagne du Cheval Blanc

    Ubaye Group

    Provence mountains - are usually considered to be out of the alps
    between the rivers Verdon and Durance and Mediterraneo sea
    Sainte Baume
    Prealpi di Grasse


    from Col della Maddalena to Col del Moncenisio
    This range is also known as Alpi Occitane and hosts one of the best trekking-hiking tour of the whole western Alps section : the GTA (Grande Traversata delle Alpi) ... almost 1000km

    The range is made by 6 main groups that can be accessed along
  • 6 different valley from East (Italy)
  • 3 different valleys from West (France)

    Mountain shapes are very various, and normally climbing activity here is, due to the not fantastic quality of rock (with some exceptions), "classic old-style", some ranges are very good for ski-mountaineering activity and for Mountain biking

    Some geographical info :
    Above the Colle della Maddalena (Col de Larche) the ridge grows with the M.Oronaye (3100m) then goes on, without descending under the 3000m, to the Brec de Chambeyron 3389m, the Aiguille de Chambeyron (3411m).

    The ridge now comes down to the Col de Maurin (2637m), rises with the M.Maniglia (3177m), goes down to the Col d.Autaret (2875m), rises again with the Mongiòia (3340m) goes down, after the Roc d.Niera, to the Colle dell'Agnello (2748m) wherefrom rises to the most important summit of the range : the Monviso (3841m).

    North of Monviso, after the minor summit of M.Granero (3171m) the ridge falls down to the Col della Croce (2298m) grows slowly to the P.Ramiere (3303m) and the P.Merciantaira (3293m) then goes down sweet to the Col de Montgenevre (1760m)

    between the Montgenevre and the Col di Moncenisio (2100m) where this range geographically ends, the Val di Susa


    Out of the main watershed of the Alps, on its western side, a big high group with the highest mountains west of Mont Blanc, this is the Dauphinè.

    from Col du Galibier to Col Bayard
    Pelvoux - Ecrins

    between the rivers Durance, Isère and Rodano
    Le Dévoluy


    from Colle del Moncenisio to Col de la Seigne

    This is a very wide region, bordered to the south by the Val di Susa, to the West by the massif de la Vanoise and to the North by the big Mont Blanc group

    Here we have a watershed ridge that is well defined in its lower part (Piemonte), the part between the Moncenisio and the Col de la Galisia :
    these are known as Alpi di Lanzo or, better, as Alpi Graie Meridionali
    More than speaking about mountain groups, here is better think about access valleys : on the French side (W) we have a unique, long valley, the Arc valley that directly borders the whole range, while on Italian side (E) we have 4 valleys divided by not short and not small ridges.

    Starting from the Galisia we have 2 well opposite ridges :
  • the Eastern one, very big (the lower point is the Colle del Nivolet -2612m), that, dividing Piemonte from Val d'Aosta, becomes the big group of
    Gran Paradiso (4061m) with its sugroups of the Grivola and the Emilius-Tersiva
  • the Northern one, better known as Alpi Graie Settentrionali, is the main watershed that, through a fine series of mountains posted on a ridge whose elevation is between the 3000 and the 3751m (Aiguille de la Gran Sassière), ends, after the Group of Rutor (3486m) to the Colle of Piccolo San Bernardo (2188m)

    North of Piccolo San Bernardo a small range, with some fine easy mountains, leads to the Col de la Seigne (2516m)

    from Col de la Seigne to Col du Grand Ferret mountains enter in another dimension with the Mont Blanc group that geographically belongs to range but is really a world apart


    from Col du Bonhomme to Col de Montets
    Dents du Midi
    Alpes du Chablais

    between the valleys dell'Isère and Rodano till the Lake of Ginevra
    Aravis - Pointe Porceè
    Prealpes d'Annecy
    Pr. de Bauges

    Pennine and Valais

    from Col du Grand Ferret to Simplon pass
    this is the main collection of high summits in the whole Alps
    the range is oriented W-E in its first part (till the M.Rosa) than changes toward N.

    dissecting, using a detailed map (and trying to get out my memories), the structure of Pennine Alps there could be some more well-defined groups ...
    the whole range could be divided, for better understanding, into 3 sections :
    western section from col Ferret to the Tète Blanche :
    central section from Tète Blanche to the Col del Lys
    northern section of the range is quite easy to be defined, ranges are well distinct by deep valleys and go down to the bottom of the Wallis ...

    further info in Alpi Pennine - Pennine Alps page

    Grande Rochere - Grand Golliaz group
    Fallere group
    Grand Combin
    Collon - Tète Blanche
    Dent d'Herens - Matterhorn
    Chateau des Dames group
    Monte Rosa group
    Grand Tournalin
    Testa Grigia
    Corno Bianco
    Mischabel group
    Monte Moro range
    Weissmies group

    accesses :
    from Italy (South) : the Val d'Aosta and its subvalleys toward North
    from Switzerland (North) : th Wallis and its subvalleys toward South


    Bernese Alps

    between the rivers Rodano, Reuss and Aar
    4 well-distinghished groups here :
    Les Diablerets

    Lepontine and Ticinesi

    between Simplon pass and Splugen pass

    this is a wide range oriented W-E that is the main watershed of Europe, on its northern side the Rhein river basin, on its southern side the Po river basin.
    Mountains in this range are not as high as its W neighbours ((Pennine Alps where the ridge is often over the 4000m) nor as its E neighbour (Retiche Alps where the ridge is often over 3600m)
    on the other side, this range is normally deep and the distances between N and S main valleys are normally big.

    Wide variety of rocks .. starting with the fantastic granite near the St. Gotthard and ending with the crumbly rocks in its eastern part, somewhere, especially in the eastern part some dolomite or limestone banks come out in the main ridge ...

    A great variety of climbing difficulties ... extreme climbing on granite, fine alpine climb on most of its summits, a large choice of fine hiking routes, the best range to start mountaineering without big risks.
    These summits are sometimes busy, full of Lombardic and Ticinesi climbers or hikers that, starting from home, can climb almost all these summits without having to spend the night in refuge or elsewhere but home ...
    ... few come from abroad, unknowing what they lose :)

    further info in the page about Alpi Lepontine

    Leone group
    Blinnenhorn (Corno Cieco) group
    Basodino and Ticino
    Rotondo group (San Gottardo)
    Blas group
    Medel group
    Adula (Rheinwaldhorn) group
    Tambò group

    fro the accesses see the Range page


    Uri Alps

    delimited by four passes : Furka-Grimsel-Susten-Gotthard
    Sustenhorn : Sustenhorn - Salbitschjen - Berseeschijen - Schijenstock - Hochschijen
    Dammastock : Dammastock - Gletschorn - Eggstock
    Galenstock : Galenstock - Gross Bielenhorn - Gross Furkahorn - Chli Bielenhorn

    Glarona and Uri

    between Oheralpass and Pragelpass
    Todi : Tödi
    Oberalpstock : Gross Schijen

    Swiss prealps

    between Ginevra and Costanza lakes
    Freiburgh Alpen
    Appenzeller Alpen

    Prealpi Varesine - Marmontana

    between the Po valley, the Ticino river and the Como lake
    Monte Generoso

Additions and CorrectionsPost an Addition or Correction

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visentin - Oct 21, 2010 10:15 am - Voted 10/10

Is this area included or a duplicate ?

Gabriele Roth

Gabriele Roth - Oct 21, 2010 12:34 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Is this area included or a duplicate ?

no, new area, a kind of Swiss Prealps, a little detached from what we normally call Alps

Viewing: 1-2 of 2