Breithorn traverse (E-W)

Page Type Page Type: Route
Location Lat/Lon: 45.94108°N / 7.74649°E
Additional Information Route Type: Mountaineering
Seasons Season: Summer
Additional Information Time Required: Most of a day
Additional Information Difficulty: AD+, IV
Sign the Climber's Log


Breithorn Traverse (E-W) 

The crossing of the Breithorn is a profitable ride at high altitude that allows climbing 5 peaks over 4000 meters:  Roccia Nera / Schwarzfluh, Gemelli del Breithorn (Breithornzwillingen), Breithorn Orientale,  Breithorn Centrale and Breithorn Occidentale. See here the complete full list of the 82 Fourthousanders of the Alps:   Club4000

It is one of the most fine and classic ascents in the Monte Rosa Group, with a varied course of over 2 km between fun rock sections and aesthetic snow ridges.  There are two possibilities to realize the traverse : direction W-E and the opposite, direction E-W.  This page describes and advises the route in the East-West direction with the overnight stay at the Bivacco Rossi-Volante near the Porta Nera (Schwarztor), located between Breithorn and Pollux, which is a perfect place to start the traverse. 

Breithorn ridge
The summit ridge between Roccia Nera and Gemelli del Breithorn (Breithornzwillingen), Castore in the background - Photo As

Getting there

The starting point to climb is the Bivacco Rossi-Volante near the Porta Nera (Schwarztor). It can be conveniently reached:

- Starting from Cervinia (Italy) taking advantage of the Plateau Rosà cable car and passing through the Testa Grigia, then the Verra Glacier.
- Starting from Zermatt (Switzerland) taking advantage of the Klein Matterhorn cable car, then crossing the Brethorn-Plateau (about 1.5 hours).
- Other possibilities are the approach from the Rif. Guide d'Ayas (1.5 hours, Italian side) or from the Monte Rosa hut (a long, epic fight against crevasses, Swiss side).


Route Description

Breithorn traverse from East to West

Difficulty: Alpine AD+
Starting altitude: 3480 m
Summit altitude: 4165 m
Difference in level: about 1000 m

A superb high altitude ridge with a considerable difference in height due to the various ups and downs and one of the most fine crossings of the Alps always above 4000 meters. The Breithorn traverse is crossing the summit of the 4000 m peaks of Roccia Nera (East end of the Breithorn massif) - Breithornzwillingen (East and West summit) - East Breithorn - Central Breithorn - West Breithorn at 4165 m, the point of arrival of the ride. 

Breithorn-Roccia Nera map
Breithorn-Roccia Nera map


Approach to the Bivacco Rossi-Volante

From the Testa Grigia 3480 m, arrival of the Cervinia-Plateau Rosà cableway, follow up the ski slopes and up to the ski-lift of Gobba di Rollin, then head towards the Breithorn pass 3820 m. Here ignore the trail leading leftward to the Western Breithorn and continue skirting the Breithorn chain to almost the Porta Nera pass 3720 m, between the Roccia Nera and the Polluce. Up a slope of snow and rock with some fixed ropes to reach the bivouac Rossi e Volante 3780 m, about 3 from Plateau Rosà.

Route report

From the bivouac climb up the S wall of the Roccia Nera (about 40°, 350 m) to get a saddle between Gemelli and Roccia Nera, then follow the ridge (corniches) to the right to get the summit of Roccia Nera 4075 m. From here back at the saddle to take again the ridge to be taken in the West direction. Follow this wide and rather easy snow ridge paying attention to the corniches. Passed the ridge the climbing gets somewhat steeper: mixed terrain and rocks lead to the summit of the Gemelli of the Eastern Breithorn or Breithornzwillinge 4106 m. 

Summit of Breithornzwillinge East
Summit of Breithornzwillinge East


From this top descend on a snowy-icy ground rather exposed to reach an equipped belay from which a 20 meters abseil along a vertical wall allows to reach a saddle at 4055 m. Continue more easily, at first following a snowy ridge then on mixed ground up to the rocky summit of the Eastern Breithorn 4141m.

Breithorn E-W traverse
Breithorn E-W traverse
Eastern Breithorn summital ridge
Eastern Breithorn summit ridge


Descend on the rocks Westward to get an equipped belay. Two more abseils lead to a snowy ridge descending to a saddle quoted 4014 m, at the base of the ridge that leads to the summit of the Central Breithorn, the most technical part of the traverse. In case of bad weather here it's possible to stop the traverse and escape direction S to the Breithornplateau. 

Breithorn central forn the Breithorn window
Central Breithorn from the Breithorn window
Near to Breithorn W
Near to Breithorn W


This ridge consists of three rocky outcrops of good rock (steps, ledges and gullies)  with difficulty up to IV UIAA,  that can be climbed directly or bypassed to the South, in this case the difficulties are of II with passages of III. The full ascent along the ridge will be described here.  Once getting the summit of the Central Breithorn descend on a snowy ridge to a new saddle at 4080 m.

Climbing towards the Central...
Climbing towards the Central...




Matterhorn seen from Breithorn
Matterhorn seen from Breithorn


From here climb up to the summit of the Western Breithorn 4165 m, the highest point of the traverse. 5-7 hours from the Rossi - Volante bivouac. During the traverse always pay attention to the big cornices on the whole ridge between Roccia Nera and main summit.

Descent: along the easy Normal route of Western Breithorn to the Colle del Breithorn and then to the Testa Grigia. 

Essential Gear

Crampons, Helmet, Ice Axe, (Double) Rope, Rocks, Nuts, Friends, Ice Screws, the complete things for combined stuff like this.

Red Tape

No fees no permits required.

Huts and Bivouacs

- Rifugio Guide del Cervino m. 3480 – (Testa Grigia) Breuil-Cervinia upper Cable car station
Rifugio Guide della Val d'Ayas m. 3420

REFUGES in the Aosta Valley
Refuge Guide del Cervino



Rifugio Guide Valle d'Ayas...
Rifugio Guide Valle d'Ayas...

- Bivacco Cesare e Giorgio or Rossi-Volante m. 3750, CAI UGET Torino - This eagles' nest is dedicated to Giorgio Rossi and Cesare Volante, members of CAI TORINO 1963 expedition to Langtang Lirung (Nepal) - 2,30 hours from Testa Grigia through Breithorn Col and Verra Glacier - Always open

Bivacco Rossi-Volante
Bivacco Rossi-Volante

When to climb

The best period is from June to September.


Meteo Regione Valle d'Aosta
Meteo Switzerland

Guidebooks and maps

Cervino - Valtournenche and Valle St Barthèlemy guidebook


"Cervino - Valtournenche e Valle Saint Barthelemy", Andrea Greci - Federico Rossetti (Vie Normali Valle d'Aosta series) - IDEA MONTAGNA 2019





- "Il grande libro dei 4000" by Marco Romelli, Valentino Cividini - Idea Montagna Editore, 2015
-“Monte Rosa” by Gino Buscaini (Club Alpino Accademico Italiano) – Collana Guide dei Monti d'Italia CAI-TCI (Club Alpino Italiano- Touring Club Italiano)
-“Tutti i 4000” – L’aria sottile dell’alta quota” – CLUB 4000 CAI TORINO – Vivalda Editori
-“The 4000 of the Alps” by Richard Goedeke (CAAI) – All the normal routes to the 4000m. summits of the Alps – Libris Edition

New guidebook Il grande libro dei 4000
New guidebook Il grande libro dei 4000
Monte Rosa guidebook
Monte Rosa guidebook
Guidebook Tutti i 4000 - L'aria sottile dell'alta quota
Guidebook Tutti i 4000 - L'aria sottile dell'alta quota
4000 des Alpes (Alpine Fourthousanders) Guidebook
4000 des Alpes (Alpine Fourthousanders) Guidebook


-“Le Alpi Pennine, le 100 più belle ascensioni fra il Gran San Bernardo e il Sempione” by Michel Vaucher - Zanichelli Editore“
-“I Quattromila delle Alpi” by Karl Blodig and Helmut Dumler – Zanichelli Editore
-“100 scalate su ghiaccio e misto” by Walter Pause – Gorlich Editore

In memory of Stefan Weber "kletterwebbi"

At the summit ridge of the...
At the summit ridge of the...

Stefan Weber, the member we all used to know from his climbing pseudonym kletterwebbi, died on May 28th 2004 in Southern France at the age of 37.  Stefan joined SP early on in 2002 and contributed a number of excellent pages and routes to this site. He was an accomplished climber excelling in difficult alpine and technical routes. The Dolomites, especially the area around Gröden / Val Gardena were special to him, as it was his old ancestral home. 

Kletterwebbi was always willing to share his knowledge and experience with other climbers, mainly here on SP, but also on other sites. He contributed his IT expertise as webmaster of his local section of the German Alpine Club, where he also engaged in leading trips for fellow members. Besides his climbing and mountaineering activities he was a musician, a composer of contemporary music. Stefan will be greatly missed by us all.  This page will be kept in honor of kletterwebbi, one of SP's most talented, knowledgeable members, and without a doubt, one of our greatest fellow mountaineer.



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