Italy 2019

Italy 2019, Ascents to Gran Paradiso 4061m, Signalkuppe 4554m, Pyramid Vincent 4215m, Matterhorn 4478m and Breithorn 4165m

A road trip to Italy with ascents to peaks Gran Paradiso 4061m, Signalkuppe 4554m, Pyramid Vincent 4215m, Matterhorn 4478m and Breithorn 4165m 13/7/2019 - 26/7/2019

Gran Paradiso 4061m
Signalkuppe 4554m
Matterhorn 4478m
Breithorn 4165m


The diary

This trip was planned and prepared a few days earlier, there was always the thought of climbing the characteristic peak of Matterhorn, or else it was something that had to be done after 30 years of climbing the mountains. While the equipment was ready due to business obligations, we did not know when our road trip to the Alps would begin.

Finally at 14:00 at noon on July 13, 2019 and after settling all professional and family obligations, I decided to start the journey with Petros. At 15:00 I bought tickets for the boat, destination Igoumenitsa – Ancona. I quickly loaded the car with the mountaineering equipment and food, at 17:30 I was in Mouzaki to meet Petros.

Early in the evening we arrived in Igoumenitsa, the boat has delayed. The cars and trucks had lined up at the dock to get on the boat that was arriving from Patras. A heavy rain broke out with a lot of heat and humidity. At the time we went to start the car to enter the boat this was not turn on. The roadside assistance was impossible to help us as the ship was leaving in few minutes. Without thinking much, at the urging of a port official, we pushed the car together and it took off. So we put it on the ship. The only thought was how to continue the journey? How do we get the car out of the boat? How to repair it after we arrived in Italy on Sunday morning, because, on Sundays everything is closed. We got information from the truck drivers but in the end we did not find a reliable solution. In the evening on the ship we had an unexpected meeting with George from Elati and his friend Panais who were going to Switzerland for work.

At noon (14/7/19) we arrived in Ancona. An employee of our ship brought us a starter to start the car, surprisingly the car took off normally on its own, since then and until late at night we did not turn it off at all. We traveled non-stop even though it had a lot of traffic jams on the highway. To get to Aosta we avoided Milan, passing south to Alessandria but it was impossible to reach our destination on the same day.

At 1:00 after midnight (15/7/2019 early in the morning) we stopped at a deserted car station, in the middle of a storm and we tried to erect our tent to rest, unfortunately we did not manage to stretch it properly and finally we got up at 5:00 wet and cold, we finally continued our journey to the village of Pont in Gran Paradiso National Park at Aosta valley.

Shortly before the settlement of Pont we met the camping Gran Paradiso Dr. Franco Caviglia, where we decided to camp (altitude 1800m). We stayed in the campsite to dry and rest after two days with a little sleep. The weather was not good, it was very humid and the snowline had dropped to 2400 meters. However, a good day was predicted the next day.

Tuesday 16/7/2019, at 1:00 after midnight we woke up and at 1:30 we started the ascent from the parking at Pont 1905m. It was dark but the path was visible and stone-built in many parts. Due to the cold we went up at a fast pace and at 4:00 we reached the Emmanuelle 2738m shelter. There the first teams were preparing to climb Gran Paradiso, we followed them after a short stop.

Snow has been covered the slopes. After sunrise it started to warm up. As time went on, fatigue accumulated along with insomnia, and our pace was relatively slow with frequent short stops. Roped together and using crampons and ice-axe, we reach the rocky peak with the statue of Madonna (4059m) where a large number of climbers had gathered. After the necessary photos we continued to the next peak which is higher of Gran Paradiso 4061m, this particular peak less climbers use to climb (9:30).

After enjoying the magnificent view of the surrounding Alps, we began our quick descent, often taking short stops to relax. At 13:00 we arrived at the shelter but without wasting time we continued the descent and finally at 14:30 we arrived back at Pont. The effort lasted almost 14 hours with 2100 meters of ascent and descent and development of more than 20 km. Arriving at Pont we met our friend Nikos from Greece who works as a mountain guide in the Alps, we enjoyed a beer with him discussing the plans for the next few days.

Wednesday 17/7/2019 day of rest from yesterday's long climb. We left Pont and went to Cervinia to get information about the climb to Matterhorn. The weather would not be very good in the coming days but they would improve every day that passed. So we decided to climb Mount Monte Rosa. We drove to the village of Staffal (Gressoney-La-Trinité valley) where we spent the night setting up our tent next to the park just after the village of Tache.

The next day (18/7/2019) early in the morning we went to Staffal 1830m and got the first cable car (8:30) for Indren station 3275m (9:10). Without delay we followed the path to the Gnifitti shelter 3647m. The trail also passes a section with easy via ferrata. We passed to the right of the shelter and headed to the glacier. The glacier had big crevasse and we were always moving roped together. We were well acclimatized and we trekking fast, crossing the smooth Lisjoch Pass to the Swiss side of Monte Rosa, traversing the northern slopes of Parrotspitze and climbing the sloping slope of Signalkuppe 4554m (12: 00-12: 30). At the top is the Capanna Margharita Shelter, the tallest building in Europe.

We return back the same route at a very fast tempo, passing near the Vincent Pyramid, I had the idea to climb this peak as well. Without thinking, after 30 minutes of easy climbing, we reached the top of Pyramid Vincent 4215m (13:50). I had the impression that going down the southern ridge we would reach Indren station. After going down a bit we realized that the ridge is rocky with many technical passages. We were anxious about whether we would finally be able to get it down with the few equipment that we had and in the minimum time we had until the last cable car route at 17:00. Moving fast in the mixed field (snow and rock) we found a snow ramp to descent to the glacier and follow the classic route. There a race started, we ran on the glacier to Indren station where we arrived at 16:15, before the last transfer down of the cable car.

We went down to Staffal, rested a bit, and since there was no camping to stay, we decided to sleep in a bed for the first time of our tip. Lower in Aosta Valley and in a small village called Censola, we found a villa to stay in (B&B Relais del brigante).

After a complete breakfast, we depart for the Valtournance Valley for our final destination, Matterhorn. For the next two nights we stayed at the Glair camping in the village of Mont Perron (19 and 20/7/2019). Here we had enough time to rest and replenish our forces, at the same time the planning of the big ascent began, studying the latest data of the route and the meteorological forecast.

In the morning on 21/7/2019 we left for the village of Breuil Cervinia 2060m and at 10:00 we started our ascent slowly to the refuge Duka degli Abruzzi, where we arrived at 13:00. The refuge is built at 2802m, is very neat and clean and has double rooms with bathroom and all amenities. From here we had a very good view of the mountain and the route. At the same time, we met many who were returning from the summit and gathered information about the route conditions. In the afternoon we went up to the Carrel monument (2900m) where the mountain begins to become steep.

Monday 22/7/2019 and at 8:10 after breakfast we left for the ascent to Carrel bivi refuge. First we went through the Carrel monument and then we climbed the Whymper couloir, we crossed the two big snowy slopes up to the ridge before the traverse to the Col du Leone 3578m. Just before the traverse, we found a place where water flowed on the rock, from this water we were hydrated and then we filled our bottles for the last time. In total we would have 2 liters for the rest of the day and the next day, water is one of the difficulties of the climbing.

The route in traverse where in good condition, the only danger was the stones that come from higher. At the Co du Leone 3578m we made a short stop and continued our way to Carrel. Here the steepness of the slope increased and the route was very exposed. From parallel movement roped together, in parts we climb with belays. In many places it had the permanent static ropes that helped us to place local anchors. It was difficult to climb up the vertical wall with the static rope. Although, it seems easy to use the permanent rope, but because it is unstable, and with heavy backpacks, the fatigue in the hands is big. Finally at 12:00 we arrived at the Carrel refuge at 3835 meters. To sleep there, you must have booked a bed from Cervinia mountain guide office, at a cost of 30 euros / person. Caution, the refuge offers neither water nor food, only a sleeping bed.

In the afternoon, several climbers gathered, from the balcony we watched those returning from the summit. The weather was perfect, and the sunset was unique. The night was quite cold. We prepared exactly the materials for the climb so that we could start the next day before the crowd. Tuesday 23/7/2019 at 4:00 in the middle of the night as soon as the first ones left the refuge, we followed them. Immediately after the refuge had a negative passage with rope and chain and we had to pass it carefully. Then the route traversed to the right of the ridge. We followed the few lights of the torches that preceded and showed us the direction. Fortunately in an hour (about 5:00) it was not more deep dark and we could found the route easier.

As soon as we climbed the "La grade corda" and we climb on the ridge, we are moving faster and at 6:00 we reached the pre-peak Tyndall 4239m, just 2 hours from Carrel. When crossing the peak on the descents, instead of rappelling, we free descent the steep parts, saving time. The final slope to the summit is demanding due to accumulated press. However, only in a few sections we climb with belays, since we managed to do it with parallel movement and placing intermediate anchors.

Soon we reached the famous Jordan Scala, a well-built rope ladder in a negative passage. From here the route was much easier and at 8:00 we reached the Italian peak 4476m with the still cross. After the necessary photos at the top that did not fit even 3 people, using crampons continue to Swiss side by passing the very narrow edge to highest peak of Matterhorn 4478m (8:15). Without wasting time we follow the same route back.

There was a traffic jam in the upper parts of the mountain with those who were going up and of course with some who were coming down slowly. We followed the downhill technique that the mountain guides did to avoid doing many rappels as possible, which would often entangle us in the ropes or lead us out of the route. In total, until Tyndal peak we did only 3 rappels, and then 3-4 rappels.

At the "Grade corda" we followed our front climbers, this move led us in the wrong direction. We got out of the route, but we managed to get back to the route with a little delay, finally at 12:00 we arrived at the Carrel refuge.

The hardest part of the mountain was over. We didn't want to stay in the refuge for one more night. We had the whole day ahead of us. So after a short stop at the shelter we started the descent. Although lowering the descent was easier, the fatigue we had from the whole ascent made us move slowly. We had to be careful because accidents usually happen on the way down. When we passed Col du Leone and the traverse we felt more relaxed. The snowy slopes were difficult because the snow had melted and was sinking. As soon as we got off the Whymper couloir the last steep section we fill very relieved.

Now, remains only to just walk down. At the Abruzzi refuge we did not make any stop. We descended non-stop on the smooth slopes towards the village. Our feet were very sore and as long as they held us. Finally at 17:40 we arrived happily back in the village of Cervinia 2060m after a continuous effort of 13 hours and 40 minutes with an ascent of over 700 meters and a descent of 2500 meters. We went straight to the campsite for rest, swimming and eating.

On Wednesday 24/7/2019 we stayed in the campsite for rest and walk to the village of Cervinia for coffee and beer enjoying the view to the beautiful Matterhorn. After the successful ascent to Matterhorn, our thought was to return to Greece. However, considering it a privilege to be so close to the easy peaks of Monte Rosa, I suggested to Petros that we try another easy peak the next day, until our tent dries in the morning so that we can start later for Greece.

Thursday 25/7/2019, we pack almost all the equipment from camping to car, except the tent. At 7:00 we arrived at Cervinia by car and we took the cable car to Testa Grigia station at 3479m. Dozens of children skiing members from all over the world were on the cable car. At 7:50 we started to cross the ski piste tracks which had hidden crevasse and reached the huge Plateau Rosa 3540m. Passing by Breithornpass and going up the smooth icy slopes we reached 10:00-10:30 the summit of Breithorn 4165m (in 2 hours with 700 meters ascent). From the summit we had an amazing view of the peaks of Monte Rosa and especially of Matterhorn.

After the necessary photos we took the route back almost by running on the slopes and at 11:50 we arrived at Testa Grigia station. We returned to Cervinia by cable car and by car to Glair Camping for a shower. At 14:10 we started our road trip, of returning to Greece.

The ferry from Ancona to Igoumenitsa was the next day at noon, so we would reach our homes in 48 hours. That's why we decided to return by road crossing Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia and Northern Macedonia. Due to the summer, the roads were very busy, and there were often traffic jams. In the city of Bergamo we took the highway making a stop on decathlon, and then continue driving to Venice.

It was night but we continued driving non-stop. Passing through Venice and Trieste at midnight we entered to Slovenia. We had to rest, but all the parking on the highway was full of cars, and we couldn't even stop. Finally we left the highway at the exit to Unec, there we found a small parking, where we stopped at about 2:00 after midnight. We didn't erect the tent but we just spread the sleeping bags and rested for 3 hours.

The humidity in the morning woke up us. It was still night and we continue our journey. As much as reaching Greece the traffic increased and we had long delays at the border. At a gas station in Serbia, where we stopped, a car entered at a very high speed without its driver being able to control it and almost a big accident. Fortunately, no one was there at the time. Finally at 22:00 in the evening on 26/7/2019 we returned to our homes after a continuous journey of 32 hours.

Dr. Nikolas Kroupis
Electrical & Computer Eng.
Elati, Trikala, Greece
Petros Tolias
Oxia, Karditsa, Greece


Cost of the trip
Super market food
Ferry Igoumenitsa-Ancona
Tolls in all countries
Camping Gran Paradiso/ 2 persons
Teleferik Stafal - Indren - Stafal /per person
Camping Glair /per 2 persons /per night
Refuge Abruzzi /person
Refuge Carrel/person
Teleferik Cervinia - Testa Grigia -Cervinia /per person
Vignate Slovenia
Total cost per person

Back to main page