Gendarmes on the NW-ridge
The normal route to Piz Umbrail starts at Umbrailpass / Giogo di Santa Maria / Wormser Joch is short but somehow challenging in many ways. Route finding is confusing in the lower parts and in the upper parts scree and brittle rock make it quite uncomfortable. Nevertheless the route is part of a popular long distance hiking trail which leads from Umbrailpass to the village of Sta Maria in Müstair Valley.
Consequently the route is popular, also because of Sentiero Life, a hiking trail following the frontlines of WW I. The hiking trail runs along the southern slopes of Piz Umbrail and in many places plates commemorate the fallen soldiers or explain the ruins of the fortifications which at one time almost 100 years ago stood in this place.
See the main page for the information how to get to the trailhead at Umbrailpass / Giogo di Santa Maria / Wormser Joch. It is located right next to Europe's highest road pass, Stilfser Joch / Passo del Stelvio.
Piz Umbrail during the approach
- Start altitude: 2500m
- Summit altitude: 3031m
- Prevailing exposure: S
- Type: Hike and Scramble
- Protection: None
Effort: 600m elevation gain
Power: 1 - Easy
Psyche: 2 - Uncomfortable close to the summit
Orientation: 2 - Lots of possible trails near the start of the route
From the customs houses at Umbrailpass / Giogo di Santa Maria / Wormser Joch follow the road northward for some 50m. There a signpost leads you westward from the road, quickly climbing onto a plateau above the pass. Head for the mountain, which is plainly visible from the plateau. There are many signposts but there are also many possible trails. During WW I both Swiss and Italian soldiers dug trenches on the plateau and the support roads and trails still cover the area. To the south - on the Italian side - Sentiero Life heads along the south face of Piz Umbrail.
The summit route, however, leads you north-westward in the direction of Piz Umbrail. It follows WW I support trails on the Swiss side, which cross the Karst plateau following the relief of the terrain. After about 45 min you leave the plateau and the proper ascent starts. The route traverses the east face of the mountain from south to north, heading for a ridge of gendarmes, the north-east ridge of the mountain. It crosses a giant scree field before crossing the ridge several times. Before finally settling for a small cirque to the north-west of the mountain.
Gendarmes Summit Block
Here the path gets much steeper though the footing remains very brittle. There are some rather uncomfortable sections just bbefore the trail reaches the flattish area around the summit. The path leads onward towards Sta. Maria in Val Müstair but a few metres lead you to the top.
Essential GearHiking gear is sufficient. It is barely possible to place any protection in the brittle rock anyway.