Among the wildly picturesque mountains standing above the valley of Riobianco/Beli potok (White Creek), Cima Alta is arguably the most compelling and prestigious peak. As a stocky rock tower with steep, almost vertical walls and sharp ridges, it reigns above the upper part of the valley. In close vicinity, Cima Alta is accompanied only by a small array of minor and distinctively lower spires, which towards the south surround a lonely basin Circo Sud di Riobianco, perhaps one of the remotest places in the Julian Alps. Towards the west from Cima Alta, there is a clearly distinctive notch Forcella Alta di Riobianco, 2150 m, which separates Cima Alta from a small range of rugged peaks called Cime Piccole di Riobianco. Along the ridge, an interesting ferrata Sentiero del Centenario (Trail of the Centenary) has been constructed, making good use of tunnels and trenches from the First World War. However, in that setting Cima Alta remains definitely dominant and clearly visible summit from far away. Built of bright, solid limestone it offers a very pleasant, not too difficult climbing experience.
Still in the midst of the 19th century, the summit was considered unclimbable by local shepherds and chamois hunters. In fact, even C. Wurmb, the conqueror of the famous Jalovec in the Eastern Julian Alps, failed to climb the lofty peak of Cima Alta. It was a well-known poet-explorer of the Julians - dr. Julius Kugy, accompanied by his brave guide Andrej Komac-Mota from the Trenta valley, who successfully performed the first ascent in 1886, almost in passing. Although Komac had never been in this area before, he instinctively found the right way through the steep gully heading directly up to the summit, from Forcella Alta di Riobianco. So far, this route has remained the normal ascent to Cima Alta.
Riobianco / Beli potok valley and its mountains
For general orientation see the Julian Alps group an the Vis and Montaz subgroup page. The principal starting point is situated in the valley Rio del Lago/Jezerska dolina, in the vicinity of an ample gravel, where the Riobianco valley begins. It can be reached by only a twenty minutes ride from Tarvisio/Trbiž, heading southwards through the old mining village Cave del Predil/Rabelj (now almost deserted) and along the scenic lake Lago del Predil/Rabeljsko jezero. Through the beautiful Riobianco valley the well-trodden trail No. 625 leads firstly to the Rif. Brunner hut, 1432 m, (1.15h) and then to the bivouac Gorizia, 1950 m, (2.45h).
Marked routes or even ferratas are fortunately absent in Cima Alta, so the summit is accessible only by climbing. Although a lot of routes have been climbed over time, only two or three have retained considerable popularity to date.
1. Normal ascent. Difficulty: UIAA III-/II. First ascent: 2. 8. 1886 Andrej Komac-Mota and Julius Kugy. Short, very recommendable and pleasant climbing. Normally used as a descent route; rappel anchor for abseiling is in place.
2. North Ridge, original route. Difficulty: UIAA III+/III-,II+. First ascent: 6. 7. 1916 H. Klug and H. Stagl. One of the finest routes of this difficulty in the Julian Alps. Stupendously exposed climbing in the best rock.
3. North Ridge, integral route. Difficulty: UIAA IV+/III+,II. First ascent: F. Krobath with unknown partner in 1933 (only the lower section), 18. 7. 1935 C. Prato and A. Zanutti (complete integral route). The original route reaches the ridge in its middle part, while the integral one sticks to it from the bottom. This variant is more difficult but somewhat less popular, because the rock is quite friable in the lower section of the ridge.
When To Climb
Steep faces and ridges of Cima Alta are relatively early devoid of snow, so climbing is feasible even in the late springtime. That surely doesn't refer to approach paths, being still under winter conditions. The best time to tackle Cima Alta is from July to late October.
Huts and Bivouacs
The two bivouacs
1. Rif. Guido Brunner hut, 1432 m. Despite its lovely appearance on the sunny forest clearing, barely ten meters from cold, green waters of the Riobianco creek, this ancient hunting lodge of the King Frederick of Saxony, is now regrettably in bad shape. It serves as a sanctuary of numerous dormice.
2. Bivouac Gorizia, 1950 m. Actually, there are two bivouac huts, excellently equipped and maintained. In the vicinity, one can find the running water.
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