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Ascent of Piz Bernina on 2011-08-28

Climber: Rob Woodall

Others in Party:Dave Kenyon
Petter Bjørstad
Andrew Tibbetts
Date:Sunday, August 28, 2011
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Ski Lift
Peak:Piz Bernina
    Location:Switzerland
    Elevation:4048 m / 13284 ft

Ascent Trip Report

to be completed...

Sat 27. Andrew, Dave (mountain guide from uk, xxx), Petter and I met at the Diavolezza lift xxx and took the last cable car of the day, 1700. Diavolezza is a large luxurious hut with a nice restaurant: we enjoyed a good meal while watching the clouds clear to reveal the superb Piz Palu and further back our goal.
Sun 28. After an excellent breakfast we left just after 0500. The route initially descends 350m to the glacier. Soon a sign is reached xxx: fork r. Below, we could see the lights of several other parties. Further down, a moraine ridge is reached: at xxx a path descends to the glacier. Here we roped up then headed across the dry glacier, aiming for the l end of an obvious rocky peak on the far side (it is possible to head further r for a more direct line, as we discovered on our descent - see below - but it wasn't clear that the alternative is significantly quicker). We got a bit too far l and spent a while negotiating a crevasse zone. Reaching the far side we ascended a mixed rock and snow slope to reach a snow ridge (xxx). The first rock step is passed on its l. The second is tackled head on: this is the Fortezzagrat. This ridge involves steep scrambling (yds3 and 4) on good clean rock. The route is marked by orange paint and provided with belay points which we clipped into. Once above the rock ridge xxx, the route continues up a steep wide snow slope with cliffs falling away to the r. At xxx, the route swings r (the Bellavista Terrace) and climbs more gently to its highest point xxx. Piz Bernina is straight ahead across a col, with the hut now visible at the foot of a rock rib. Further l is the striking form of the Cresta d'Aguzzi, remarkably spire-like seen end on. The trail in the snow forked with the l fork possibly heading for the col, but there is a large steep crevasse zone and it was unclear whether there was a safe way through. We took the r fork, zigzagging steeply down with big crevasses to our l. Once below these we climbed a snow slope to the col then bore r, crossing a steep snow slope to reach the Refugio Marco e Rosa, 3610m. xxx - a superb location. A party who had arrived earlier left for the summit, and as the weather was superb, after a rest we decided to do the same.
We set off at 1340, up a snow slope which steepened then gave way to steep rock, with belay points which we clipped into (yds 3 and 4). We then headed l along the ridge. This is narrow, vertical to the l and with steep snow to the r. There is frequent scrambling, often exposed, with some yds 4 including one fairly significant ascent, and several sections of snow arete. A final fairly straightforward rock ridge led to the summit. There are two high points within 20m of each other. The first one reached has what appear to be trig points: a bolt with yellow surround and two red crosses. The farther one appears slightly higher and is unmarked. we continued a few m further to the summit of the Biancograt: a pointed rock which appears to be up to 1m lower. Satisfied we had visited the summit we spent a while admiring the superb view then headed down, keen not to miss dinner! The longest steepest descent on the ridge we abseiled; we then continued along the ridge to another abseil point, where we abseiled r off the ridge, then a short section of steep snow and rock brought us back to the main snow slope with the zigzag trail we had ascended earlier. We headed rapidly down, arriving back at the hut with 10 minutes to spare before dinner! A good meal and a couple of beers were very welcome after a tough but extremely impressive and very satisfying 14 hour day.
Mon 29. We were up a bit after 6 and away at 0725. The eastern sky initially looked red and angry but after some initial cloud cover the day was another fine one; visibility was even better than yesterday. We reversed our outward route, again dropping below the col to keep clear of the crevasse zone (there appeared to be a path taking a rising line through them but we didn't investigate). Descending the Fortezzagrat was slow - not helped by ice on one of the steeper sections. We refitted crampons for the easy snow ridge below, keeping them on for the short rubbly section beyond. Once on the snow slope we noticed that the footprints all headed directly down, towards the Diavolezza, so we decided to follow them. When the snow slope ran out, the way ahead wasn't at all clear. We headed r, down steep icy snow which lower down was covered by loose rock and boulders - quite awkward terrain. We reached the lower glacier at xxx. Maybe it would be better to keep further l on the snow and reach the main glacier lower down. Anyway, after the awkward section, the walk back across the dry glacier was simple, with just a few obvious crevasses to avoid, heading for the point where the trail could be seen descending from the Diavolezza. Once we had made the 350m reascent we joined the throngs of day trippers and enjoyed a cold beer in the hot sun before catching the 2pm gondola back down to the car park. We then adjourned to Pontresina for lunch before going our separate ways. Petter headed west for xxx; Andrew Dave and I east for Grossglockner.

Piz Bernina photos
Summary Total Data
    Elevation Gain:1983 m / 6512 ft
    Elevation Loss:1983 m / 6512 ft
    Distance:30 km / 18.6 mi
    Grade/Class:PD+ YDS4
    Quality:10 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Unmaintained Trail, Exposed Scramble, Rock Climb, Glacier Climb
    Gear Used:
Ice Axe, Crampons, Rope, Guide, Hut Camp
    Nights Spent:1 nights away from roads
    Weather:Pleasant, Calm, Clear
Ascent Statistics
    Elevation Gain:1534 m / 5036 ft
    Extra Loss:449 m / 1476 ft
    Distance:15 km / 9.3 mi
    Route:Diavolezza, Marco e Rosa
    Trailhead:Diavolezza  2963 m / 9724 ft
    Time Up:11 Hours 30 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Elevation Loss:1534 m / 5036 ft
    Extra Gain:449 m / 1476 ft
    Distance:15 km / 9.3 mi
    Route:Marco e Rosa, Diavolezza
    Trailhead:Diavolezza  2963 m / 9724 ft
    Time Down:20 Hours 30 Minutes



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