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Ascent of Monte Leone on 2017-07-17

Climber: Richard Mclellan

Others in Party:Denise Mclellan
----Only Party on Mountain
Date:Monday, July 17, 2017
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Monte Leone
    Location:Italy/Switzerland
    Elevation:11654 ft / 3552 m

Ascent Trip Report

We knew very little about this peak but as we were crossing the Simplon pass and the weather forecast for the next day was fine we felt it was worth a visit and the promisingly named Cabane Monte Leone a good place to start. Denise insisted on parting with CHF30 for a map which I felt certain we wouldn't need.

It was thus at 14:25 we left the car in the car park outside the huge Simplon Hospiz and laden with climbing and glacier gear followed the well used path to the Cabane. At first it's a poorly signed dirt track through meadows but soon becomes a signed path beside a leat, crosses tumbling streams and finally along a grassy lateral moraine ridge. We arrived at the Cabane 17:15 the temperature quite cool in the moderate SW wind. As with most Swiss huts the situation is superb with fine views of the partially glaciated N face and summit of Monte Leone. The hut is staffed by volunteer guardians from the local section of the SAC. There are 4 other people staying and we enjoy a good dinner accompanied by bottle of wine in celebration of our wedding anniversary. There's a very fine sunset with views which include the distant Weissmeis and Lagginhorn. Our only problem is that there is no easy direct route from the cabane to the summit, the standard route starting from half way back along the path we'd just climbed. I assume when the hut was built the glacier on the north face extended all the way to the summit making for a pleasant early morning stroll.

Breakfast at 04:45 and we depart 05:30 in the breaking dawn. The guardian wishes us well saying its an 8 to 9 hour trip to the summit and back to Simplon Pass but I felt sure we would have little difficulty eeking it out into a good 12hr day. Back down the lateral moraine ridge, across the melt water stream to where the path splits at N46.24911deg. E008.06317deg. alt2462m. We stash the few items of gear we don't need and set off up the well cairned path along the moraine ridge. The path leaves the ridge and traverses SSW over rock debris to a level area under rock wall with prominent water fall at alt2600m. This would make an excellent bivi site. The cairns are now supplemented by splodges of bright green paint guiding the way through boulders and over to the S side of the W ridge of Monte Leone. Loose rocks and boulders give way to pleasant glacier smoothed slabs and at alt2973m 08:10 we reach the toe of the Homattu glacier. We fit crampons, rope up and set off crunching up the hard frozen snow to the wide Breithornpass which is further than it looks. Best to keep close to the LHS (north) as you approach the pass to avoid a 2m ice cliff and crevasses on the far side. We arrive at the pass 09:40 and I'm pleased to have Denise's map as the Breithorn to the S looks far higher than Monte Leone to the E. Confirming our peak we set off E initially over snow then rubble to gain the upper edge of the Alpjer glacier having lost about 80m of height from Breithornpass. We stay roped up as we traverse the glacier making for the higher of the 2 notches in the S ridge of Monte Leone. Superb weather, frozen snow /ice and easy going to the bergschrund. Sound snow bridges cross the bergschrund and a scrabble up dust and rocks reaches the S ridge just N of the notch.

An impressive sweep of narrowing rock slabs rises towards the summit. We leave crampons and axes, un-rope and set off up the ridge initially keeping to its W side, then up the centre and finally moving to the E side to gain the summit at 11:50. There’s a wobbly steel trig point and the natural high point is a rock 3m to its SE. Superb views including down to the Cabane. The low valleys still filled with cloud. Lunch in sunshine before setting off back down at 13:00. Take a similar route back slithering down the now soft snow bridge over the bergschrund and reaching the car at 17:41 having indeed made a 12h day of it.

Whether it's worth starting from Cabane Monte Leone is debateable as it's no further in distance to ascend from Simplon pass where you can stay in the Hospiz. There is also a direct path from the Simplon pass to where you cross the SW ridge of Monte leone which will further reduce the distance. On the positive side, it's a very nice hut, at 2850m provides acclimatisation and reduces the amount of uphill work on the ascent day by 500m.

Click on photo for original larger-size version.
Descending S ridge of Monte Leone (2017-07-17). Photo by Richard Mclellan.
Click here for larger-size photo.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:7153 ft / 2180 m
    Total Elevation Loss:7153 ft / 2179 m
    Round-Trip Distance:15 mi / 24.1 km
    Grade/Class:YDS2
    Quality:8 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Scramble, Glacier Climb
    Gear Used:
Ice Axe, Crampons, Rope, Ski Poles, Hut Camp
    Nights Spent:1 nights away from roads
    Weather:Pleasant, Breezy, Clear
Fine day, cloud in vallies
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:6726 ft / 2050 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 5086 ft / 1551 m; Extra: 1640 ft / 499m
    Loss on way in:1640 ft / 499 m
    Distance:9 mi / 14.5 km
    Route:Holunatten and Alpien glaciers, S ridge
    Start Trailhead:Simplon Pass  6568 ft / 2001 m
    Time:21 Hours 25 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:5513 ft / 1680 m
        Loss Breakdown:Net: 5086 ft / 1551 m; Extra: 427 ft / 130m
    Gain on way out:427 ft / 130 m
    Distance:6 mi / 9.7 km
    Route:As ascent
    End Trailhead:Simplon Pass  6568 ft / 2001 m
    Time:5 Hours 45 Minutes
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip


 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Richard Mclellan
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Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. Peakbagger.com accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

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