Page Type Page Type: Mountain/Rock
Location Lat/Lon: 46.49680°N / 9.03960°E
Additional Information Elevation: 11161 ft / 3402 m
Sign the Climber's Log


The big European river of the Rhine (german: Rhein) has many smaller rivers (each of them called "Rhein" "Rein" or "Reno") , which build it (one of them starting in Italy!) but the real beginning of the Rhine once was considered to be at the glaciers of the highest mountain of the area - this is the Rheinwaldhorn; more exactly at a glacier named "Paradise" and a high valley called Ursprung (= "origin/source"). If you want to visit this site you have to climb the Rheinwaldhorn on the east route.

The Rheinwaldhorn is the highest peak of the swiss province ("Kanton") of Ticino at the border to the Kanton Graubuenden and the highest mountain of the Adula Alps. It's high roof of snow (and the similar one of it's smaller "twin", the Gueferhorn) can be seen from many summits in Switzerland and helps orientation.
As the next higher mountains are far away the Rheinwaldhorn provides a tremendous panorama from the Oetztal Alps to the Gran Paradiso. It is said that you could see the Dome of Milano, but due to air pollution this cannot be proved nowerdays.

Three "normal" routes lead to the summit. All are technical easy with some danger of crevasses and perhaps rockfall.
The Rheinwaldhorn can also be climbed with Ski in spring. For this I recommend the north route which is difficult in later summer due to many crevasses.
If you are there with public transport it is of course nicer to take a different route for the descent.

The Rheinwaldhorn is a mountain that has been climbed very early for the first time: by the monk Placidus a Spescha in the year 1789.
Exact height with swiss precision is 3402,2 m

The italian (and french) name for the mountain is "l'Adula". Adula is also the name for the mountain group that is towered by the Rheinwaldhorn.

Getting there, huts, normal routes:

a) west route:

Starting point is
- either the dam of Luzzone (1592 m) in north eastern Ticino, to be reached in the Val Blenio via Olivone or from the north via the road over the Lukmanier Pass. After the pass therre is a tunnel into the Val di Carussino. The road is closed for tourist traffic after the dam. Although the upper part of the road is very rough, you could reach Cappella del Termine (a few minutes from the lower hut) by mountain bike. Once you have reached Alpe Bresciana (1882 m). it is only a short walk (30 min) to the
Capanna Adula CAS (2012 m) of the swiss alpine club

- longer but wild and interesting is the steep ascent from the Val Soja (only in summer). Starting point therefore is Dangio whre you can leave your car about 1000 m height. 3 h

1 h further to the higher
Capanna Adula UTOE (2393 m), owner is not the swiss alpine club but a local alpine club of the Ticino; CLOSED IN 2002 !

This hut can also be reached on a different track from south. Starting pint is the village of Malvaglia (north of Biasca). You can drive with your car until Cusie (1654 m) the route follows the valley and crosses the Passo di Laghetto (2646 m) and descends to the hut; 4-5 h, I guess. Wonderful hike

The route to the summit leads over the glacier Vadrecc di Brescano, south of Cima della Negra and Grauhorn and the north ridge (3 h from the higher hut)

b) east route:

Starting point is the village of Hinterrhein at the north side of the tunnel under the San Barnardino Pass. Just follow the path through the valley to the Zapport hut (3,5 h), quite boring at the beginning where you have to walk 1 h through a military field. In case there is an actual shooting (not on weekends, not often in the summer season), it would be not boring but then you are not allowed to pass!
Infos about this available not on the web, only on local tables or under Tel. 081 / 660 11 20 or 081 / 725 11 95

Zapporthuette (2276 m) 30 places, meals and drinks only on fine weekends or after reservation

The next day you follow the valley to the "Urspung", climb the Laenta-Luecke (pass, 2979 m), cross a rocky but easy ridge and cross the glacier to the north ridge on which you reach the summit. 4 h

c) north route:

Starting point is the barrage of Zevreila (1860 m) behind the small village of Vals (to be reached in a long road from the town of Illanz). Vals is well-known for it's mineral water and visiting the local indoor swimming pool is worth it because of the water and the interesting granite architecture.

Road to Zevreila Barrage is open also in winter but you have to have snow chains then. Public transport is more difficult: Here is the link to the timetable and the phone numbers for the bus service Vals-Zervreila. Bookings are required, the bus doesn't run for less than four passengers. The tickets are rather expensive. If you have the possibility, it's a good idea to take a mountain bike until Lampertsch Alp or even all the way to the hut.

Just follow the valley to the Laenta hut, 3,5 h, where you will stay the night. The steep slopes of the Zevreila valley require safe avalanche conditions for a Ski Tour.
It is funny that you would have to buy four different maps of swiss topography 1:50.000 to cover this walk in total!

Laentahuette (2090 m), 30 places, infos in english on the homepage as linked

In summer you will have to climb the Laenta-Luecke pass directly, which is steep and not easy. There you meet the east route.
Due to the melting of the glaciers during the extremely hot summer 2003, the route from Laenta hut to Laentaluecke pass was changed. The new route is well marked, the warden provides info. Other access variations from Laenta to the ridge (mentioned in guide books) may have become very awkward.

Normal time from hut to summit is about 6 h.

With Ski you will probably have to carry them over the first steep passage (where the glacier has already melted and then just follow the Laenta glacier avoiding the serac zones (first on the west then crossing to the east, then back west to the beginning of the summit ridge. The slope east of the north ridge can be done with Ski if conditions are good. 5 h

Other routes to the summit

The excellent guide book of Giuseppe Brenna describes several other routes, which are more demanding and therefore not frequently done. However, at least the SE-ridge is said to be a great route for seasoned climbers.


E-face: 2.30 hrs from Passo dei Cadabi / PD+ / very crumbly rock

SE-face: 2.30 hrs from Passo dei Cadabi / PD+

SE-ridge: "Via dell'amicizia", 4 hrs from Passo dei Cadabi / AD, climbing until grade V. Recommended.

SW-face, right couloir: 3.30 hrs from P. 2403 / D / Ice route, has been descended with skis

SW-face, left couloir: 3.30 hrs from P. 2403 / AD+ / dangerous (rockfall) / first climbed in 1892 by Darmstädter and guides Stabeler

WSW-ridge, locally known as "Via Malvaglia" 2.30 hrs from Passo del Laghetto / PD- (the harder sections can be avoided on the left. This route starts from Quarnei hut in Valle Malvaglia. A path leads north to Passo del Laghetto (2646 m), from where a partially waymarked route follows more or less the W-ridge. Rated PD- by Giuseppe Brenna. Here is some info (only in Italian) about this route, as well as some nice historic photos (on this site you'll also find information about Quarnei hut).

Red Tape

no limitations. There are plans to introduce a National Park in this area but climbing will always be allowed.
Limitations possible at the approach to Zapport hut because of military shooting

When To Climb

July to September by foot
March to May with ski


Schweizer Landeskarten, can be ordered at swiss topo

1:50.000 (also available with ski routes)
266 Valle Leventina (for the west Route, with the summit)
267 San Bernardino (for most of the east Route)
256 Disentis and 257 Safiental: only for the approach to the north Route

Nr. 1253 Olivone (best for the summit)

interactive swiss online map for Rheinwaldhorn


In german:

Alpine Skitouren Graubuenden guide book for Ski

SAC Clubfuehrer Tessiner Alpen 3 by Giuseppe Brenna, also available in italian

SAC Clubfuehrer Buendner Alpen 2 by Manfred Hunziker

Pause, Klassische Alpengipfel, BLV Muenchen 1986, ISBN 3-405-13153-7

The source of the Rhine:

In early times before scientists worked in the alps the area of the Rheinwaldhorn was believed to be the source of the Rhein, exactly the "Hinter-Rhein" . Obviously the name of the mountain comes from the river. On the south side of the end of the Zapport valley (called "Ursprung"=source) there is in addition the mountain Rheinquellhorn (3200 m) (="Rhine's source horn").

But then geographs explored that the other of the two main rivers that build the Rhine at their confluence at the village Reichenau - the "Vorder-Rhein" - is a bit longer and so the Toma lake near the Oberalp pass was found out as the "real" source of the river.

This is also an interesting place, as the Rhine floads in eastern direction (1300 km to the North Sea) and the Lake is quite near to
- the source of the Ticino, that floads to the south to the Adriatic Sea,
- the source of the Reuss, that floads to the north (and meets the Rhine again between Schaffhausen and Basel)
- the source of the Rhone, that floads to the west to the Ligurian Sea.
So you can consider this area around the Gotthard pass - though there are not the highest mountains - to be the real center of the alps or perhaps entire Europe.
These circumstances can be compared a bit to the region in the northern Himalayas at the Manasarovar Lake where the main rivers of Tsangpo and Indus have their sources.

Rhine water from Italy

A.: "I wonder what Italian mountain sheds its water into the Rhine."
M.: "The Pizzo Stella (3163 m) with it's northern glacier Ponciagno let it's water flow into the Lago di Lej. The Reno di Lej flows into the Averser Rhein and this one flows into the Hinterrhein near Andeer. Should I can tell you something new about swiss geography?"
A.: "Thank you for this information. New to me. Never too old to learn something new! I hope the Italian politicians don't find out."

many thanks ...

... for contributions to alpenkalb and Keyser Soze !

External Links

  • Laenta climbing spot
    The climbing area near by the Läntahütte. Topos, Climbing informations and more.