, together with Pomagagnon
is the northern border of Cortina
I can be considered both a mountain and a group : It is a long, indented ridge with well distinguished summits, a big rocky wall, cut by regular systems of ledges, on the southern side and a very impressive northern wall on whose base 2 glaciers and some snow channels give to it a real "alpine" appearence.
The name of the mountain comes from the different colors in the moments of sunlight on the mountain.
It is a big massif, its boundaries are
to the south-west side the Val Padeon (dividing Cristallo from Pomagagnon)
to the south-east side the valley ascending from Cortina to Passo Tre Croci (dividing Cristallo from Sorapiss group)
to the east and north-east sides the Val Ansiei (ending to the Misurina lake) and the Val Popena Bassa (road Carbonin-Misurina)
to the northern side the Val di Landro (road Carbonin-Cortina)
As for its structure: the main ridge, oriented WNW to ESE, starts with some minor ridges gathering to the Vecio del Forame (which is the westernmost important summit), goes on, without noticeable summits, along the cresta bianca till the Cristallino d'Ampezzo (3008m - between Forcella Grande and Forcella Staunies) then grows high with the 3 main summits : Cima NO (2950m), Cima di Mezzo (3154m) and Cristallo (main summit - SE) (3221m).
After the main summit the ridge falls to the Passo del Cristallo (2808m) and rises again with the Piz Popena (3152m)
From this main ridge 2 ridges starting from Cristallino d'Ampezzo and from Piz Popena toward north host the Val Fonda, a glacier valley that hosts now only 2 small glaciers : Ghiacciaio del Cristallo (western one) and Ghiacciaio del Popena (eastern one)
The ridge starting from Piz Popena and ending with the Cristallino di Misurina (2775m) and its minor spurs hosts a lot of rests of military positions of the First World War, you can see them along the Valle delle Baracche and on the various minor ridges. (some good military paths and short "ferrate" can lead you there)
A minor ridge, starting from Piz Popena toward east, after Passo Popena (2504m) turns toward NE closing with interesting rock walls the western side of the Misurina lake basin.
Between this ridge and the ridge coming down from Piz Popena toward N. the wonderful Val Popena Alta (paradise for hiking).
Getting thereThese are the (only) 2 refuges you can use in the whole group.
All other climbs must be approached directly from the roads surrounding the Group.
approaching the group from southern part the best starting point is the Passo Tre Croci.
You get there from Cortina d' Ampezzo (about 6 km) by car or using a cheap and comfortable summer and winter bus service
here from you can get the seasonally updated pdf (acrobat) files
From near Passo Tre Croci a chairlift leads to Rifugio Somforca (2215m) and a cable-car can lead you till the Forcella Staunies (Rifugio Lorenzi - 2918m)
approaching the Popena subgroup the best starting points are : Misurina (to get the Passo Popena and the higher part of Val Popena Alta) and the curve after Ponte del Paludetto (coming from Misurina) for the lower part of Val Popena Alta and the range of Cristallino di Misurina
approaching from north ( to get the northern main walls along the Val Fonda) must be done starting directly from Carbonin or its nearness.
the same starting point is used also to get the Val Pra del Vecio, leading to the range of Vecio del Forame.
Maps and Booksabsolutely necessary a good map of the area :
Kompass - 55 - Cortina d'Ampezzo - 1:50000
Kompass - 617 - Cortina d' Ampezzo, Dolomiti Ampezzane - 1:25000
Tabacco - 03 - Cortina d'Ampezzo e Dolomiti Ampezzana - 1:25000 (the best one)
Many books about Cortina (and Cristallo) mountains are easy to be found in Cortina shops (especially in Cooperativa di Cortina)
the most complete climbing book is, of course, the CAI-TCI book :
Dolomiti Orientali - vol. I - 1 (only in Italian) not easy to read but full of maps, sketches and routes descriptions.
Hike routes overviewsome fine paths, very interesting for historical memories and for views are the ones that crosses the various saddles between the summits :
Forcella del Forame - from Ospitale along the Val Padeon, or along the Val Felizon, or from Cimabanche along the Val Pra del Vecio.
Forcella Padeon - from Malga di Padeon, or from Gravon del Forame
Forcella Grande - from Somforca, or from Gravon del Forame, or from Forcella Staunies
- from this saddle the Ivano Dibona path (easy ferrata) allows ro reach Ospitale along the ridge (many sequences of Cliffhanger were made here)
Forcelle di Costabella - (careful - can require ice-axe) from Valfonda or Gravon del Forame
Passo del Cristallo - easy from Passo Tre Croci, not so easy (glacier and a big final crevasse) from Carbonin - avoid if not skilled or not well equipped (at least iceaxe) !
Forcella Michele - easy from Val Popena Alta along the Val delle Baracche, some problems (and danger) from Popena glacier
Passo Popena - from Passo Tre Croci or from Carbonin
Sella di Popena - same as the previous one or from Misurina
Rock routes overviewon Cristallo wall and ridges many rock climbing routes have been opened but very few of them are really interesting for rock quality or amusing :
2 interesting, difficult routes on the S wall and on the E edge
Cristallo cima di Mezzo
ferrata Marino Bianchi - from Forcella Staunies - EE
S edge - Dimai - 750m - 3° and 4°
Cristallo main summit (SE)
normal route - SE wall - 450m - 2°
west wall - Pompanin-Sinigaglia - 700m - 3°
west wall - Dallamano-Ghirardini - 600m - 4°
SW edge - Casara - 900m - 3° and 4° they say the best
some routes on N and E walls are very seldom climbed - difficulties are not high but they require to be found ...
N channel - Innerkofler - one of the few snow climb routes in Eastern Dolomites - 500m
normal route - E wall - 700m - 2°
S ridge - Castiglioni - 1000m - 4° - along the fantastic dihedrals that can be easy seeen from the road
some not difficult routes on E wall and some difficult routes from SE
A lot of routes have been opened on the walls, edges and ridges of the minor summits of Popena north ridge (Monte Popena), two very interesting pinnacle here : the Guglia de Amicis and Guglia Giuliana