I want to dedicate this page to my friend Coen van Panhuis ( * 02-04-1986†01-01-2007)
In the summer of 2003 we climbed our first "real" mountain together: Pizzo di Claro. A year later, in 2004, we climbed "the Pizzo" once again. This was supposed to be the start of many journeys to come, but sadly it did not turn out to be that way... I miss you Coen, Hakuna Matata!
Pizzo di Claro as seen from Bellinzona
Pizzo di Claro is a fine pyramid shaped mountain towering high above the village of Claro as well as the city of Bellinzona. With an altitude of 2727 meters above sea level Pizzo di Claro is not particularly high, but because of the low elevation of the Leventina valley floor, Pizzo di Claro rises 2500 vertical meters above it, making it a true giant in the area. Pizzo di Claro, also referred to as Visagno, is often called the home mountain of the city of Bellinzona. The pyramid shaped form of Pizzo di Claro can be seen from everywhere within the city and poses as a backdrop for many postcards from the city as well, often with one of the historic castles in front of it. Besides the home mountain of Bellinzona, Pizzo di Claro is also the home mountain of Claro (250m) itself. A local once told me that most inhabitants have climbed it once or more in their lifetime.
Pizzo di Claro is located in the heart of the Italian speaking Provence (Kanton) of Switzerland: Ticino (German: Tessin). The mountain is bordered by the Leventina valley in the west and by the lonesome Calanca valley in the east. Pizzo di Claro is separated from Piz de Molinera by the passo di Mem (2191m) and Piz de Molinera also marks the end of the Leventina west ridge making Pizzo di Claro the 2nd last (from N to S) summit of this ridge. To the north Pizzo di Claro is separated from Torrone Rosso (2670m) by the Bochetta di Simidi (2557m) saddle. The mountains summit block is a triangular shaped pyramid with a North, SE and West Face. The border between the Provences/Kantons Ticino and Graubunden follows the North-South oriented mountain ridge and goes exactly over Pizzo di Claro's summit. This makes Pizzo di Claro a mountain situated in both Ticino and Graubunden. The valley to the east of Pizzo di Claro, Val Calanca, is part of the region named Misox, the only Italian speaking part of Switzerland outside Ticino / Tessin.
Lago di Canee 2190m
Pizzo di Claro (2727m) from Claro (267m)
Climbing Pizzo di Claro is not for those without patience. The low elevation of the valley floors in the region create a big altitude difference with the mountain's summits, so when climbing Pizzo di Claro from Claro itself, one most overcome an altitude difference of 2500 (!) verticalmeters. There is even an organized race which does exactly that: Starting from the central church in Claro one must climb/run up to the summit of Pizzo di Claro as fast as possible. This race, named "Pizzo di Claro: 2500+", is popular for those seeking an extreme challenge.
Apart from the long ascent routes from the west, there are shorter alternatives. From Lumino, just south of the mountain, a small cabelway brings climbers/hikers up to Monti di Savorú at 1325 meters. This shortens the ascent by at least a thousand vertical meters. From Arvigo in Val Calanca there is a paved road up to Alp di Stabveder at 1948 meters. At almost 2000 meters, starting your ascent from Stabveder is by far the fastest way to climb Pizzo di Claro. All routes up the mountain are provided with good hiking trails with a maximum gradation of T3. Only the upper part of the trail on the summit block is somewhat harder: T3+/T4- (marked by blue-white stripes). For more information about the routes on Pizzo di Claro see the section "Routes" below.
Pizzo di Claro is a famous mountain in Ticino, but lesser known outside of it. Still, the mountain is a popular objective for hikers/climbers and as mentioned above: hiking trails are present on all sides of the mountain. Besides an abundance of trails surrounding Pizzo di Claro, there is an abundance of mountain huts/refuges as well. The best known mountain hut is Capanna Brogoldone (1910m), which is also the only guarded hut, situated on a plateau looking over Bellinzona.
All other huts are unguarded (Alpe di Pèu, Alpe Domàs, Alpe di Motto, Alpe Martum and Alpe Carnac Bass to name a few) and most of them are somewhat spartanic. However, most of them provide all basis needs like blankets, matrasses, a stove with gas etc. Spending the night in these lonesome huts is a fantastic experience and a great way to climb Pizzo di Claro in 2 days from for example, Claro.
Summit view down to Leventina and Lago di Canee
Summit Cross with Bellinzona
Pizzo di Claro offers fine views from its summit. To the north one can see Pizzo's neigbours like Torrone Rosso, Mottone, Piz de Campedell, Cima di Biasca, Torrent Basso and Torrone Alto. Towards the west the Leventina West ridge with peaks like Poncione Rosso, Gaggio, and Cima dell'Uomo can be observed with the snowcapped Monte Rosa 4000ers looming behind them.
Towards the east are the lonesome mountains of the Calanca east ridge as well as giants like Monte Disgrazia. Last but not least: towards the south the views over Bellinzona and the northern tip of the Lago Maggiore are amazing. To conclude one can say Pizzo di Claro is a fine mountain looming high above Bellinzona with many trails on its flanks and grand views from its summit.
Poncione Rosso and Pizzo di Claro from Poncione d'Alnasca
There are multiple hiking routes up to the summit of Pizzo di Claro. From every side of the mountain are approach routes. In the sections below is described how to rech Pizzo di Claro from each side of the mountain.
From the western side of the mountain (Leventina) there are multiple starting points to choose from. The first one is Claro (268m). From the village center a hiking trail goes up the mountain. From nearby Scubiago a trail starts as well. There are two options to choose from.
Option 1:Moncrino - Guer - Bens - Alpe Peurett - Lago di Canee - Pizzo di Claro (T3)
Option 2:Maruso - Alpe Domas - Alpe Forcarid - Alpe Peurett - Lago di Canee - Pizzo di Claro (T3)
It is also an option to use the public (paved) road from Claro to Maruso at 1030 meters. This saves some 750 vertical meters of altitude gain. The locals like to climb the mountain starting from Maruso. At the end of the road is a parking place where the hiking trail starts. There is also a third variant for Climbing the mountain from Claro or Maruso:
Option 3: Maruso - Alpe Domas - Alpe di Motto - Alpe di Gagern - Passo di Mem - Point 2280 - Pizzo di Claro. (T3)
This last option includes the crossing of the ridge at passo di Mem and ascend the summit block from the eastern side of the mountain.
A last option is the unusual and quite wild access is from Cresciano through the Valle Cresciano. The route is as follows:
Option 4:Alpe di Simidi - Pian Belasc - P. 2558. Nice for a swift descent in early summer, if there's snow left. This route is seldom ascended and difficult (rope, ice axe etc are needed)
II Routes from the East
East sideascent of Pizzo di Claro
From the eastern side of the mountain (Calanca valley) are also multiple options to choose from to climb Pizzo di Claro. The first one is also the shortest: Alp di Stabveder. In Arvigo starts a paved road up to Alp di Stabveder (1948m). Note that there is an automatic gate at the start of this road. You need a pass to pass this gate which is avaiblable in Arvigo. From Alp di Stabveder the route is as follows:
Option 1: Alp di Stabveder - Sella P 2270 - East Flank - Pizzo di Claro (T3)
It is also possible to start from Selma. A small cableway goes up to Landarenca (1230m)
Option 2: Landarenca -Alp di Rossiglion - Sella P 2270 - East Flank - Pizzo di Claro (T3)
From San Vittore (next to Roveredo) a paved road goes up to Prepianto (1438m)
Option 3:Prepianto - Cascin Nov - Alpe di Mem - P 2280 - East Flank - Pizzo di Claro (T3)
III Routes from the South
Bellinzona and Capanna Brogoldone
From the south side of the mountain a small cablecar goes up from Lumino (267m) to Monti di Savorú (1328m). From Monti di Savorú the Capanna Brogoldone is easy asccessible. The route options are as follows:
Option 1:Monti di Saurú - Alpe Domas -Alpe Forcarid - Alpe Peurett - Lago di Canee - Pizzo di Claro (T3)
Option 2: Monti di Saurú - Capanna Brogoldone - Passo di Mem - Point 2280 - Pizzo di Claro (T3)
IV Via Lumino
Via Lumino goes up the face directly in front
A somewhat more difficult but fun scrambling route is named the Via Lumino. This route follows the ridge separating the Leventina and Calanca valley. Get to Passo di Mem from either of the above described routes and follow the ridge to the north until you are getting close to the summit block of Pizzo di Claro. Arrived at the summit block at the "Attacco Via Lumino" (2508m) the route starts. It is marked by painted dots and graded T5. It follows the south face up to the summit of Pizzo di Claro. Climbing up to grade I-II (UIAA) is involved in Climbing this route.
How to get there
The starting point for the routes to Pizzo di Claro are all situated nearby the exit "Bellinzona-Nord" on highway 2 connecting Italy with the north via the Gotthardpass. Also highway 13 joins highway 2 at this point. Highway 13 leads to the San Bernardino Pass. After exititing at Bellinzona Nord from highway 2 or 13 it is just a 10 minute drive to Lumino or Claro. To Arvigo one has to drive to Roveredo (10 minutes) and then into the Val Calanca (15 minutes more)
A route (Google Maps) planner to Lumino (valley station of the Funivia/cableway) can be found HERE.
A route (Google Maps) planner to Claro / Cresciano can be found HERE.
A route (Google Maps) planner to Arvigo / Selma can be found HERE.
When To Climb
The best period for climbing Pizzo di Claro are the summer months (May until Oktober) when there is no snow present on the mountain.
Camping / Campeggio Al Censo in Scubiago, Claro. A beautiful campsite (located next to the Censo, a small river) with fine views towards Pizzo di Claro. The "Pizzo" is pretty impressive from here: the summit being some 2500 vertical meters higher in elevation.
more info: camping Al Censo
There are many mountain huts (Rifugio's) surrounding Pizzo di Claro as you can see on the map at left. All Rifugio's are underlined (red color). The only guarded mountain hut is the Capanna Brogoldone. See the section below for more information about this mountain Hut. All other huts are unguarded and some of them are somewhat spartanic. However, most of these huts provide all basis supplies like matrasses, blankets, and gas for cooking. These rifugio's are perfect to stay for a multiple day outing in the mountains. For more information about the Rifugio's see the section "Rifugio's" below.