South face, Western spur - via degli Alpini

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Italy, Europe
Route Type:
Trad Climbing
Time Required:
Most of a day

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South face, Western spur - via degli Alpini
Created On: Mar 29, 2012
Last Edited On: Apr 20, 2016


First ascent: Lt. Arnaldo Adami with the Corporals Ferdinando Gaspard and Abele Pession, 5th September, 1940
Second ascent: the Alagna’s mountain guides Francesco and Giuseppe Enzio with Cesare Cametti and Gilberto Negri, 27th September, 1980
Third ascent and first in winter: Walter Baggio, Alfio Rinaldo, Federico Ubertalli and another climber, 11-12th February, 1989

The last (but not the least!) of the three new routes opened in Summer 1940 by the Alpine soldiers on the Valsesian side of Monte Rosa, is nowadays the most repeated, may be beside the quite good rock quality, because it reaches one of the highest and the most panoramic summits of the massif.

The group leader officer, Lt. Adami, is a passionate connoisseur of the mountains in Piemonte and Valle d’Aosta. Member of Turin’s section of Italian Alpine Club, during his military service has opened many new routes and has repeated others in solo climbing (like Aiguille des Glaciers, South East face - Mont Blanc and Punta Vittoria, North East face - Monte Rosa); the Corporal Gaspard, still at the beginning of his climbing career, will become in a few years one of the most appreciated mountain guides in Cervinia.
The technical level for the climb was guaranteed, because the ascent looked like quite difficult: the wall in the first part is composed by nearly vertical and smooth slabs for about 200-300 meters et only on the upper section the rock appears more provided of cracks in order to help the progression. However a good training was necessary and as Lt. Adami describes in his report published on “Rivista Mensile del Club Alpino Italiano 1942” by his brother Enrico, an officer of Alpine Troops too:

“…for this purpose I performed a lot of ascents and in the short period of few weeks, with my best alpine soldiers that followed me in the Alagna’s valley the 28th July 1940, after the campaign on the Western Alps, I reached quite all the summits of Monte Rosa and I climbed some difficult routes on the massif….”

“….A questo scopo, effettuai numerose gite e nel breve spazio di alcune settimane con i miei migliori alpini, coi quali ero sceso nella conca di Alagna il 28 Luglio 1940, dopo le operazioni sul fronte occidentale, riuscii a toccare quasi tutte le vette del Rosa e a compiere alcune difficili ascensioni della zona….”

Unlike his colleague, Lt. Willien, the ascent is first of all an elevated artistic act and then a moment of emotional sharing with the soldiers; an unusual vision in military environment where are extremely important the drilling needs.

Taking advantage of a few days of good weather, on 3rd September, after the manoeuvres of their regiment (the 4th), Lt Adami decided to reach Capanna (Hut) Valsesia with his party and 3 other alpine soldiers to help carrying the rucksacks. After a day spent at the hut, finally at 4 a.m. of 5th September the team started the ascent that will end 11 hour later after climbing sequences up to IV+ without any protection peg.

“The difficulties are immediately very high and they continue nonstop: when we believe to have got over them, suddendly there is another sequence that seems to block up the climb. But we continue our ascent: every climbed difficulty it’s a new joy, a little victory”

“Le difficoltà si presentano, sin dall’inizio molto forti, per susseguirsi ininterrottamente: quando crediamo di averle superate tutte, ecco improvvisamente una nuova difficoltà sorgere per sbarrarci il cammino. Ma continuiamo a salire: ogni difficoltà superata è una nuova gioia, è una piccola vittoria ottenuta.”

In the report there’s not enough time to describe in detail the route, may be to leave the curiosity of discovery to the next climbers: only a short technical note added by Enrico Adami at the end let us to understand that sometimes the passion and the dedication to the mountain could permit to reach unthinkable summits also without technological mountaineering gear!

Getting There

You can reach the village of Alagna Valsesia from the highway A26 “dei Trafori”; get out at Romagnano Sesia-Ghemme toll gate, then follow the National route SP299 through Romagnano Sesia, Borgosesia, Varallo Sesia for about 65 Km. In the center of Alagna (Piazza degli Alberghi) turn right and follow a little route for about 1 Km to the Wold parking. Here the traffic is stopped: during the summer it’s possible to find a bus shuttle that brings you to Acqua Bianca waterfalls (m 1500; double way ticket 2 Euro); otherwise you can continue on foot for about 3 Km to the same waterfalls.
If you want to reach directly Acqua Bianca with your private car (may be useful in spring or late summer) you have to contact previously (about a week before) the town council of Alagna Valsesia for a special permission. Be careful: near the waterfall the parking is very little and some places are reserved for the mountain rescue service.

Huts & Approach

A) Capanna (hut) Gugliermina-Valsesia alla Parrot (m 3212), unguarded, 12 beds.
6-6,30 hours from Acqua Bianca waterfalls by track way marked (n°7 up to Rifugio Pastore, then n°6); after the ford of river Sesia (very difficult in the afternoon cause the high waterflow) tiring steep trail on the moraine of Eastern Piode’s Glacier and finally easy mixed rocks (fixed rope).

From Capanna Valsesia follow a path trail just behind the hut up to a rock step (you’d better to inspect the way the evening before): climb it before on the left, then straight (III+, 1 peg on the top); continue on the following large spur without obligatory sequence slightly on your left and reach at about 3650 m the Eastern branch of Piode’s Glacier.
Cross the glacier (West direction) up to the last spur under the South face of Parrotspitze (starting altitude: 3706 m as reported on Italian IGM map; 1,40-2 hours).
Be careful: there is another spur that comes down about 50-60 meters on the glacier; this is followed for the classical route to Colle Zurbriggen!

After the opening of the new cableway from Passo dei Salati called “Funifor” may be useful to reach the attack point of the route on Piode’s Glacier directly from Rifugio Giovanni Gnifetti, or better from Bivacco-Hut Felice Giordano al Balmenhorn, by abseiling off the East face of Colle Vincent (m 4088) along the Gugliermina route (First descent: the Alagna’s mountain guides Giuseppe Chiara and Antonio Pernettaz with M. Antonietta Resegotti, summer 1925).
This line now it’s quite well equipped with traditional pegs and tape slings, but may become very difficult for bad conditions of the mountain. Take care to ice fall on the first part! 2 ropes x 60 m are necessaries; may be useful also a couple of snow stakes to equip the first rappels.

B) Rifugio Giovanni Gnifetti al Garstelet (m 3647), 177 beds, opening from end June to mid September (booking service Monte Rosa Huts +39 348 1415490).
1-1,30 hours from upper station of “Funifor” by track on easy glacier and a short section of klettersteig in correspondence of “Passaggio delle Roccette” to reach the Garstelet’s Glacier.

C) Bivacco-Hut Felice Giordano al Balmenhorn (m 4167), unguarded, 6 beds, sleeping bag necessary.
1,30 hours from Rifugio Gnifetti by the normal route to Lysjoch-Punta Gnifetti; attention! Large crevasses on the first part.

From Bivacco Giordano reach in 15 minutes the large saddle of Colle Vincent; quite in its center perforate the cornice: first two rappels on ice bollard up to the rocks. You can find the next belay with peg few meters under the top of the spur that borders the Vincent’s Couloir. From there with 4 abseil x 50 m it’s possible to reach the bottom of a rocky runnel at the end of a snowy ledge. An easy pitch on the right let you to join the lower section of Vincent’s Couloir; descent the last 200 meters (40°) up to the bergschrund. Turn to the left on slightly inclined slopes for about 1 Km and join the approach described from Capanna Valsesia at mid way between the bottom branch of glacier and the spur (3,30-4,30 hours depending on conditions).

Route Description

After the bergschrund climb easy rocks on the right up a snow field; cross it to reach the spur itself. Get over a big compact slab with very little holds (30 meters, IV) and join a terrace. Continue to the right along another slab to climb a dihedral; then after 30 meters on slabs find a narrow ledge (width 6-7 meters) followed by a slanting dihedral. After some pitches on compact rock, get over a thin sequence that lets you to reach a snowy shoulder with rubbles. Continue on an easy rock ridge up to the bottom of the last tower 20 meters high: climb it on the left by a chimney with final hard overhang (8-10 meters, IV+, crux). Cross to the right a large icy couloir and follow easy rocks to reach the terminal snow ridge. Go on the razor edge (about 250 meters, 40-45°) that ends to the summit (6-7 hours).

Difference in level from Piode's glacier: 750 meters.

Parrotspitze South face

Descent: by the Normal route (West ridge) up to Piodejoch (m 4283) a snowy saddle between Ludwigshöhe and Parrotspitze; be careful: razor edge with some cornices! Then join the snow trail (Normal route to Signalkuppe-Punta Gnifetti) on Lys Glacier to reach Rifugio Gnifetti.

Essential Gear

1 rope x 60 m, helmet, 3-4 pegs, a couple of ice screws, complete set of nuts, 5 express clippers, some long tape slings, ice-axe and crampons.

External Links

Comune di Alagna Valsesia
Corpo Guide di Alagna Valsesia
Rifugi alpini del CAI di Varallo Sesia
Bollettino nivo-meteorologico Regione Piemonte

South face, Western spur - via degli Alpini

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