Piz Bernina 4049 m is a famous summit located in the namesake alpine range, playing a particularly important role, being the Easternmost alpine Fourthousander. It's also the only one situated in the Eastern Alps - in fact all the alpine 4000s belong to the Western Alps - and together with the Gran Paradiso and the Barre des Ecrins Piz Bernina is one of the few "isolated Alpine four-thousanders" and the most topographically isolated mountain of Switzerland. Check here the complete list of the 82 alpine Fourthousanders and the 46 minor summits: Club4000.
Piz Bernina is located on the main Swiss-Italian watershed, between the municipalities of Samedan and Pontresina, anyhow the highest point is situated in Switzerland. Piz Bernina separates two glacial valleys, the Tschierva Glacier to the West and the Morteratsch Glacier to the East and gives its name to the whole Bernina Massif, which is about 20 km long (East-West) and 10 Km large (North-South).
The summit consists of two distinct but closely spaced tops: Piz Bernina and Piz Alv or Pizzo Bianco 3995 m - alv in the local dialect means "white" - which is considered the Bernina fore-summit. The Bernina summit gives rise to three ridges: the main ridge is the Northern one, that descends from the top to Breccia del Bernina, here it rears up again, originating the summit of Pizzo Bianco, and finally it descends to the q. 3578 and to the Fuorcla Prievlusa with a magnificent winding snowy ridge, the Biancograt, also named Crast'Alva and Himmelsgrat (Sky-Ridge) along which it runs one of the finest route in the whole massif. The second ridge runs Eastwards, it's a brief rocky ridge forming in the lower part the Sass dal Pos buttress. The third ridge is the Southern one, forking in two parts on Spalla del Bernina 4021 m, also named Punta Generale Perrucchetti and La Spedla.
With a height of 4020 metres, the Spalla del Berninat is the highest summit on the Italian side of the Bernina massif and the highest summit in Lombardy. In reason of its low prominence it wasn't included in the list of the 82 Four-thousanders compiled by the UIAA, but only in the enlarged list of the minor 4000s. Check here the complete list of the 82 alpine Fourthousanders and the 46 minor summits: Club4000. All these three ridges starting from the main summit go to determine four main sides: the icy and high NE wall, the mixed West wall, the complex South wall and a broad icy valloon East oriented.
Most of the highest peaks of Bernina Massif (named "piz" in the local speech) are lined up on the east-west ridge of the massif: Piz Cambrena 3604 m (the only one on this ridge not on the Italian border), Piz Palü 3905 m, Bellavista 3888 m, Piz Zupò 3996 m, Piz Argient 3945 m, Piz Bernina itself, Piz Scerscen 3941 m, Piz Roseg 3937 m, Dschimels (3508m), Piz Glüschaint 3594 m. To the North-South ridge of the massif belong Piz Tschierva 3546 m, Piz Morteratsch 3751 m and Piz Bernina 4049 m.This ridge separates 2 long glacier: Vadret Morteratsch and Vadret Roseg.
The boundaries of the whole Bernina Massif are the Inn Valley to the NW (including the town of St. Moritz), the Flaz valley to the NE (including the village of Pontresina), the Val Poschiavo to the East (including the town of Poschiavo) and the Val Malenco starting from the town of Sondrio to the South.
Piz Bernina was summited for the first time in 1850, September 13th by the Swiss topographer Johann Coaz with Joan and Lorenz Ragut Tscharner, after a long campaign of studies in the massif. The route followed the rocky East Ridge. The team climbed the Vadret da Morteratsch, overcome the complex seracs of the "labyrinth" and headed to the Fuorcla Crast'Agüzza, a col between the Crast'Agüzza and Bernina. From here they followed the East ridge and summited at 6 pm. This route was considered the Normal one until 1914, both for those who came from the Swiss side and the Italian one.
In the year 1896, June 23rd, the British F. F. Tuckett and F.A.Y. Brown with the Swiss guides Christian Almer and Franz Andermatten climbed a new route on the italian side along the Spalla del Bernina or Punta Perrucchetti and the S ridge. Probably the same route was previously climbed by Hardy and Kennedy in the year 1861. Starting from 1913, with the construction of the Rifugio Marco e Rosa on the italian side, the mountaineers began to climb Piz Bernina following the new, less difficult and shorter route, which soon became the Normal route to summit.
The first ascent to Pizzo Bianco was realized by H. Cordier, T. Middlemore with J. Jaun and K. Maurer in the year 1876 during their attempt to Piz Bernina, but they stopped on Pizzo Bianco. This route - the Biancograt - was completed in 1878 by Paul Gussfeld, Hans Grass and Johann Gross.
There are various starting point to climb depending from the route chosen. The main reference villages to summit Piz Bernina are Campo Moro in Valmalenco on the Italian side and Pontresina on the Swiss side.
- The starting point to climb the Normal route is the Rifugio Marco e Rosa 3597 m on the italian side. This shelter may be attained from the Rifugio Marinelli-Bombardieri 2813 m on the Scerscen (Italian side) or from the Chamanna Diavolezza 2978 m (Swiss side).
Approach from Rifugio Marinelli-Bombardieri (Italian side) - This hut is a big building with a lot af beds. The advantage is that it is much more cheap than the Diavolezza Hut, moreover the approach to Rifugio Marco e Rosa is easier and shorter.
From Campo Moro (CAI path n. 2)
Approach from Chamanna Diavolezza
This approach takes advantage from the Diavolezza cable-car on the Swiss side, but the route from the Diavolezza to the Rifugio Marco e Rosa requires 6 hours and involves technical difficulty.
From Chamanna Diavolezza take the ski slope eastwards for a few meters and, at a small pole, go down to the right. Identify a rather steep track that soon allows you to descend on the glacier (Vadret Pers). From here, cross the glacier (usually very crevassed) heading to the Fortezzagrat, a long rocky ridge descending from Forcola di Bellavista and separating the Pers glacier from the Morteratsch glacier. Once you reach the base of the wall, go up it again, alternating snowy stretches with easy rock moves, exiting on the ridge. Continue along an easy snowy slope until the crest becomes rocky and vertical. At first take the left side and then the right one with climbing steps (II-III UIAA, several equipped belays and yellow marks) on the right side of the ridge and reach the top of the Fortress 3369 m.
Continue by walking in a southern direction, heading in the direction of summits of Bellavista at the foot of which is situated a snowy plateau. Follow it to the right (West), until you reach an area of sharp crevasses which to the right descends in the direction of Fuorcla Crast'Aguzza. From here reach briefly the refuge Marco and Rosa 3597 m.
- The starting point to climb the Biancograt is the Tschiervahütte. You can reach the hut from Pontresina: on foot (1h), by mountain bike (to rent at Roseg-inn) or with coach (reservation by phone necessary!) to the Roseg-Inn (1999) in Roseg valley. You only have to follow the wide road.
From Roseg-Inn, you cross the river via a bridge and go along the river till the route goes up over the hangs. You follow the route the time and reach in 2 h the Tschiervahütte.
You reach Pontresina by train or car on the road no. 29 from Samedan. You reach Samedan on the road no. 27 either from the NE (Zernez, via road no. 28 from Davos in the N or from Bozen in the E) or from the SW from St. Moritz. To St. Moritz a few kilometers on the road no. 27 from Silvaplana (and the Lago di Como). To Silvaplana, you can come also from the N from Chur on the road no. 3. To Chur: On the A13 from the N from the Bodensee.
Piz Bernina is a very frequently attended peak, often climbed by both sides. There are at least 15 climbing routes, in addition to some variants, however most of the parties focus on three main itineraries:
- Normal Route from Rif. Marco e Rosa
Summit altitude: 4050 m
Difficulty: Alpine PD+, III (some moves)
Climbing length: difference in level from the hut 450 m
First ascent: F.F. Tuckett and F.A.Y. Brown with the guides Christian Almer and Franz Andermatten 23-06-1896
Starting point: Rifugio Marco e Rosa 3597 m
From Rif. Marco e Rosa 3597 m climb the broad snow-slope towards Spalla del Bernina basal rock. Overcome the bergschrund and climb the short slope to keep the rock. Climb it, getting the Spalla del Bernina or Punta Generale Perrucchetti 4021 m. (fixed anchors). Here the snowy ridge heads to North and becomes sharp. An airy climb with several up-downs along this ridge leads to last rocky stetch (II and III UIAA) and to the sumit.
- South Gully to Breccia dello Scerscen and WSW ridge
Summit altitude: 4049 m
Difficulty: Alpine D-, 50° on ice and III and IV UIAA on rock
Climbing length: difference in level from the hut 1250 m
Exposure: South and WSW
First ascent: A. Corti, B. Sala 3-9-1914
Starting point: Rifugio Marinelli-Bombardieri 2813 m
From the hut follow the route to Rifugio Marco e Rosa and leave it when it starts to turn right towards the rock. Enter the snow-valley and reach the bottom of the big gully. Overcome the bergschrund and climb the slope above, getting the Breccia dello Scerscen snow-ridge. Follow it a bit getting the WSW ridge basal rock. Follow the edge of the ridge (III and IV UIAA),joining the Normal route nearby Spalla del Bernina. Along the Normal route to the summit.
- The legendary Biancograt - See the complete climbing report in the next chapter.
Biancograt/Pizzo Bianco N ridge report (UIAA scale)
Summit altitude: 4049 m
Difficulty: Alpine AD+, III and IV on rock, 40°-50° on ice
Climbing length: 600 m., difference in level from the hut 1500 m
First ascent: Paul Gussfeldt, Hans Grass, Johann Gross 12-08-1878
Starting point: Chamanna da Tschierva 2583 m
It's the most famouse route to the summit, one of the greatest classic routes of Bernina Massif. The beauty of the environment and the famous sinuous ridge that leads from Fuorcla Prievlusa to the Pizzo Bianco, the Bernina Northern fore-summit, make this route a great spectacular high mountain course.
Piz Bernina Northern ridge descends from the summit to the Breccia del Bernina, here it rears up again, originating the summit of Pizzo Bianco, and finally it descends to the q. 3578 and to the Fuorcla Prievlusa with a magnificent winding snowy ridge, the Biancograt (White Ridge), also named Crast'Alva and Himmelsgrat (Sky-Ridge) along which it runs one of the finest route in the whole massif.
Starting point is Pontresina 1800 m, a small hamlet near St. Moritz. Railroad. A nice walk through a beautiful forest leads to Tchierva Hut 2480 m. Expect to stay overnight in the hut. From the hut follow a moraine ground SE direction towards the glacier Vadret da Tschierva. Before getting the rocky slopes of Piz Morteratsch start to walk on the glacier. Make a large trip on the glacier to avoid the debris fallen from Piz Morteratsch in 1988. Getting the rocky slopes again follow a ledge system along the wall leading on the glacier again at about 3000 m of altitude. Reach an icy basin and climb it on the right; overcome the bergschrund and on steep ground (35°-40°) reach the Fuorcla Prievlusa 3430 m. (3-4 hours from the hut). Climb the rocky ridge (III) and reach the saddle from which it starts the beautiful Biancograt winding snowy ridge. Climb the ridge, leading to the top of Pizzo Bianco, the fore-summit. From the top downclimb along the rocky SSE ridge to the Breccia del Bernina (III, IV, a brief abseil is possible). Downclimb again for about 15 m on the West side, then traverse on mixed ground and bypass a rocky tower. Up a gully to return on the ridge and follow it to the summit (6-8 hours from the hut).
No particular restrictions in climbing and hiking.
- Rifugio Marinelli-Bombardieri 2818 m
Situation: High Scerscen Valley
Owner: CAI Sez.Valtellinese
Guardian: Giuseppe Della Rodolfa Guida Alpina UIAGM
Size: 100 persons
Getting There: Campo Moro (Val Malenco) Path CAI n. 2
Hut's phone: +39.0342.511577 Hut's reservation phone: +39.347.5200146
- Rifugio Marco e Rosa 3609 m
Situation: South of Piz Bernina (normal route)
Owner: CAI Sez. Valtellinese Guardian: Giancarlo Lenatti Open: end of June till 20th of September Size: 48 beds (+winter 50) Getting there: From Coax Hut (4 hours: Sella Glacier - Sella Pass - Superior Scerscen Glacier), Boval Hut (4'30 hours: Morteratsch Glacier), Rifugio Marinelli-Bombardieri (3 hours: Marinelli Pass - Superior Scerscen Glacier) or, from Francia via Campo Moro: 1 hour, from Francia via Alpe Foppa: 2'30-3 hours.
Hut's phone: +39 (0)342-515370 Mobile (Hut's reservation phone): +39 (0)342515 370
Tschierva-Hütte 2573 m
Situation: West Bernina right near Tschierva Glacier
Owner: SAC Bernina
Open: end of March - 15 of May and 15 of june - 15 of October
Size: 100 persons
Getting There: Pontresina + Val Roseg: 3 hours on path
Hut's phone : 081 842 63 91 Hut's reservation phone : 0041-078 944 75 55
Make sure to call and make a reservation if you want to go to the Tschierva-Hütte between 15th of March and 15th of May and want to have dinner and breakfast there. Otherwise the owner will not always be there. The hut will be partly open anyway though. You can go in and upstairs there is one room for sleeping (22 beds) and one room for cooking, eating, sitting and sleeping (2 tables + 8 beds). You have to make a fire yourself and get the water from outside, behind the hut. Wood, matches and candles are available. No food.
Coaz-Hütte 2.610m (Chamanna Coax)
Situation: west of Piz Roseg / Piz Bernina on Roseg Glacier
Open: end of March - 15 of May (make reservations!) and 15 of june- 30 of September
Size: 85 beds
Getting there: Pontresina via Val Roseg: 5 hours on path, from Silvaplana (lift to Surlej): 3 hours
Hut's phone: +41 (0)81 842 62 78 Hut's reservation phone: +41 (0)81 842 62 78
Berghaus Diavolezza 2976 n
Guardian: Familie Lühr CH-7504 Pontresina
Size: 200 persons
Phone: +41 81 842 62 05 / Fax +41 81 842 61 58 (200 beds) - Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org .
Situation: North Bernina near Morteratsch Glacier
Open: 15 of March - 15 of May and 15 of june- 15 of October
Size: 100 pers.
Getting There: train Morteratsch station: 2 hours on path left of Morteratsch Glacier
Hut's phone : 081 842 64 03 Hut's reservation phone : 081 842 61 34
Camping and hotels in the surroundings villages
There are two campgrounds at Pontresina, one directly at the crossing Pontresina-St. Moritz about 3 km NW to Pontresina. The other one - Camping Plauns - can be found abount 5 km SE to Pontresina below the morteratsch glacier (direction Bernina Pass). Anyhow camping between 15th of March and 15th of May can be a problem around Pontresina. Most of them are closed in this period of time, even the one in Silvaplana. Free camping is not allowed anywhere! Halfway the Bernina-pass, on the north side, there's a camping that is open till 15th of april. The closest camping that is open all the time is on the other side of the Bernina-pass, just after the small village Poschiavo. Excellent hot & free showers here!!! Friendly people. 9 Swiss Francs a person a night, but you can also pay in Euro's.
Best season goes from July to September
"Il grande libro dei 4000 - Vie normali e classiche" by Marco Romelli, Valentino Cividini - Idea Montagna Editore, 2015
"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
"Bernina" - N. Canetta, G. Miotti - Collana Guide dei Monti d'Italia CAI-TCI
"Bernina & Bregaglia Selected Climbs" - Lindsay Griffin ISBN: 0900523603 Alpine Club (http://www.alpine-club.org.uk/)
"Berninagruppe" Gebietsführer für Wanderer, Bergsteiger und Hochalpinisten - Walther Flaig ISBN: 3763324178 Bergverlag Rudolf Rother, München
Maps "Bernina-Sondrio" - Kompass 1:50.000
"Julierpass" - sheet 268 - CNS 1:50.000
"Bernina" - sheet 1277 - CNS 1:25.000
- Club4000 UIAA list of the 82 Fourthusanders and 64 minor ones
- Piz Bernina at www.4000er.de Images, routes, coordinates and more information about the highest peaks of the Alps
- Swissgeo Piz Bernina maps