ORTLER MOUNTAINS | ALPS

ortles mountains alps

Ortler Mountain Group is at above sea level, the highest mountain in the Eastern Alps outside the Bernina Range. It is the main peak of the Ortler Range. It is the highest point of the Southern Limestone Alps, of the Italian province of Bolzano (South Tyrol), and, until 1919, of the Austrian-Hungarian empire. In German the mountain is commonly referred to as "König Ortler" (King Ortler), like in the unofficial hymn of South Tyrol, the Bozner Bergsteigerlied.

The massive mountain is capped by a glacier on the northwest flank and has a long north ridge that ends at the village of Gomagoi and separates the valleys of Trafoi and Sulden. The South ridge leads to the Hochjoch (3527 m) on the main ridge of the Ortler Alps that forms the border of the Province of Sondrio and South Tyrol. Going west on this main ridge are the Thurwieserspitze (3652) and Trafoier Wall (3565 m), while to the Southeast are the Monte Zebrù (3740 m) and the majestic Königspitze (3859 m). From nearby mountains in the northeast the impressive lineup of Königspitze, Zebru and Ortler is known as “das Dreigestirn” (the three heavenly bodies).

HISTORY OF THE ORTLER MOUNTAIN GROUP

The Ortler was first climbed by ("Pseirer-Josele"), a chamois hunter from St. Leonhard in Passeier, and his companions Johann Leitner and Johann Klausner from Zell am Ziller on 27 September 1804. The ascent had been a request of Archduke Johann of Austria, who felt strongly that after the first ascent of the Großglockner (3,798 m) in 1800, the highest mountain in his brother's empire ought to be climbed. The archduke ordered Johannes Nepomuk Gebhard, a "mountain official" and topographer from Salzburg, to climb the mountain with locals. The first five attempts failed and Gebhard was ready to give up, when Pichler responded to the prize money offered for reaching the peak. Pichler and his friends took a difficult, and because of avalanche danger until recently disused, route over the northwest face from Trafoi. (The route was re-opened in 2004.) Upon their return, the men were not believed on their words alone. Gebhard sent Pichler onto the mountain twice more, first in August 1805 with a flag that could be observed with a telescope from the valley, and again in September 1805 with a huge torch. Only after the torch had been seen burning at night was the accomplishment acknowledged. The route Pichler and his men (two brothers named Hell and an unnamed hunter from Langtaufers) took in 1805 was the currently still popular East ridge ("Hintergrat", literally "back-ridge") route. In 1834, at the age of 70, Pichler would make his fifth and final ascent, guiding professor to the top.

The first time the Ortler was climbed along the easiest and currently normal route, the North ("Tabaretta") ridge, was more recently, in July 1865, as the approach is rather lengthy. In 1875 a hut was erected 3,029m high on the North ridge, to break up the climb in two steps. It was named the Payer house, after Julius von Payer, who had mapped the Ortler Alps between 1865–1868 and had climbed 50 of its peaks with as his guide. The first ascent of the South ridge from the Hochjoch followed in 1875, two couloirs on the East face (the Minnigerode and Schück couloir) were opened in 1878/79 and the two steep Northeast ridges (Marlet and Rothböck ridge) were conquered in 1889 and 1909, respectively. Members of the Pinggera family were involved in most of these ascents. The 1,200 m high ice route on the Ortler north face, longest in the Eastern Alps, was first climbed in June 1931 by Hans Ertl and and the remote Southwest face in 1934. The North face was soloed first in 1963 by Dieter Drescher who had also added some first winter ascents to his name, including a traverse of Königspitze, Monte Zebrù, and Ortler in February 1975. On August 31, 1981, achieved the amazing feat of climbing the north faces of Königspitze, Zebrù and Ortler all in one day. Extreme skiing started early in the Ortler mountains, with descending the Schück couloir in 1971 and the Minnigerode couloir in 1975. On June 24, 1983, skied down the North face.

The Ortler Alps were one of the main battlegrounds between Austrian and Italian troops in the First World War, being on the border of Italy and the Austrian Empire. The advantage of owning the highest point was very important. The Austrian troops had quickly occupied the highest peaks, and the Italian troops’ main goal for four years was to dislodge them from these positions. In the mid 1990s, a mountain guide discovered two guns that had been stationed very near the top of the Ortler that had been hidden by snow ever since. The discovery was kept secret until the 200 year anniversary of the first ascent in 2004. The cannons are now on display in a museum in Trafoi.

JULIAN ALPS | ITALY

julian alps italy

The Julian Alps are a mountain range of the Southern Limestone Alps that stretch from northeastern Italy to Slovenia, where they rise to 2,864 m at Mount Triglav, the highest peak in Slovenia and of the former Yugoslavia. They are named after Julius Caesar, who founded the municipal of Cividale del Friuli at the foot of the mountains. A large part of the Julian Alps is included in Triglav National Park. The second highest peak of the range, the 2,775m high Jôf di Montasio, lies in Friuli Venezia Region of Italy. The Julian Alps cover an estimated 4,400 km² (of which 1,542 km² lies in Slovenia). They are located between Sava valley and Kanalska Dolina. They are divided into the Eastern and Western Julian Alps.

Eastern Julian Alps

The Eastern Julian Alps are located in Slovenia. There are many peaks in the Eastern Julian Alps over 2,000m high, and they are mainly parts of ridges. The most important peaks are visible by height and massiveness. There are high plains on the eastern border like Pokljuka, Mežakla and Jelovic.

Western Julian Alps

The Western Julian Alps cover a much smaller area, and are located mainly in Italy. Only the Kanin group lies in Slovenia. The main peaks by height are:

  • Jôf di Montasio
  • Jof Fuart
  • Kanin

Important passes of the Julian Alps are:

  • The Vršič Pass, 1,611 m (5,826 feet), links the Sava and Soča valleys. It is the highest mountain road pass in Slovenia.
  • The Predil Pass (links Villach via Tarvisio and Bovec to Gorizia), paved road 1,156 m (3,792 feet)
  • The Hrušica Plateau at the Postojna Gate: (links Ljubljana to Gorizia), paved road 883 m (2,897 feet)
  • The Pontebba Pass (links Villach via Tarvisio and Pontebba to Udine), railway, paved road, 797 m (2,615 feet)

MONTE CERVINO (MATTERHORN) | ALPS

Photo of Monte Cervino

Know in Italy as Monte Cervino, the Matterhorn is instantly recognisable by its pyramid shape.  Monte Cervino is perhaps the most recognised mountain peak in the world. The mountain is in the form of a four-sided pyramid, with the sides conveniently facing the points of the compass.

Monte Cervino is located in the Pennine Alps above the Valtournenche Valley in the Aosta Valley region.  The mountain forms the Italian border with the Zermatt region of Switzerland. At its peak the Matterhorn stands 4,478 metres tall. Although it is not the highest mountain in the Alps, its relative isolation from the surrounding mountain peaks make it one of the most impressive.

You can only reach the peak of the Matterhorn by climbing one of the technical routes. The first ascent of the Matterhorn was in 1865, an adventure where four out of the seven in the original group died during the return journey.  There are still routes being explored today, but most of the direct routes were all climbing by 1931.

Most visitors are content to admire the view from the surrounding valleys and trails. The best way for the casual visitor to get a feel for the mountain is from Breuil, the large resort upper plateau . Cable cars will take you to almost 3,500 metres to enjoy some stunning views across the Matterhorn and surrounding landscape. Further options and views are found if approaching the Matterhorn from the Swiss side.

The area around Monte Cervino is primarily an outdoor region. You will find that mountain climbing, skiing and hiking are the most popular activities, and many of these will provide further opportunities to appreciate the size and drama of the mountain. If the time permits there is a trek that completes a circuit around the Matterhorn and takes about 10 days to complete.  This route is a substantial challenge and experience and thorough preparation is required.

There are also various small villages to explore in pretty settings around and near the base of the Matterhorn, particularly Nus and the nearby Castello di Fnis.

SKI RESORTS ON MONTE CERVINO

MONTE ROSA | ALPS

monte rosa alps

Monte Rosa is Italy's second highest mountain and is located about 10 kilometres south-east of the Matterhorn in the Alps of north-west Italy. Although the summit of Monte Rosa itself, at 4634 metres above sea-level, is in Switzerland most of the Monte Rosa Massif is within Italy's Aosta Valley Region.

It is a great mass of a mountain at the head of the Valsesia, Gressoney and Ayas valleys. You can see Monte Rosa from many places in north-western Italy and from near the western Lombardy lakes such as Lake Maggiore. The name of the mountain means glacier mountain not pink mountains, as you might have guessed. The word 'Rosa' comes from the word 'rouése' which is a local word for glacier.

Guide to Exploring Monte Rosa

As with the other important mountains in the region, a popular way for 'non-mountaineers' to explore is to follow one of the marked routes.  One of the most popular routes is one that contours the base of Monte Rosa, a trek that usually takes around ten days. Although you avoid climbing to the summit on this route it is still reasonably challenging with several mountain passes to be crossed.

For those who don't want to spend 10 days trekking there are plenty of opportunities to get good views of the mountain from the valleys below.

MAJOR PEAKS OF THE MONTE ROSA

Dufourspitze 4,634 metres (15,203 ft), Ostspitze 4,632 metres (15,197 ft), Grenzgipfel 4,618 metres (15,151 ft), Nordend  4,618 metres (15,151 ft), Zumsteinspitze  4,563 metres (14,970 ft), Signalkuppe 4,554 metres (14,941 ft), Lyskamm  4,527 metres (14,852 ft), Silbersattel 4,515 metres (14,813 ft), Grenzsattel 4,453 metres (14,610 ft), Parrotspitze  4,432 metres (14,541 ft), Ludwigshöhe 4,341 metres (14,242 ft), Corno Nero 4,322 metres (14,180 ft), Vincent-Pyramide 4,215 metres (13,829 ft), Balmenhorn 4,167 metres (13,671 ft), Punta Giordani 4,046 metres (13,274 ft), Jägerhorn 3,970 metres (13,025 ft), Cima di Jazzi 3,803 metres (12,477 ft)

WHAT TO DO AND WHERE TO STAY NEAR MONTE ROSA

Alagna is the most popular place to stay among hikers and outdoor enthusiasts who visit the region. Of course many of the walks are challenging and need proper equipment and experience. Alagna is a major Freeride resort during the winter months.

The village standing at the bottom of the sheer cliff to the east of Monte Rosa is Macugnana.

The villages in the valleys below Monte Rosa are more Germanic than Italian in character, and occupied by the Walsers.  The people have a fascinating history within the valley, that you can learn about at the museum in Pedemonte, a short walk from Alagna. Wherever you travel in the region around the mountain you will see the unusual wooden houses that the Walsers occupy, much unchanged since their arrival in the 13th century.

A couple of cable cars in the vicinity allow access to the high mountains, for example the cable car that operates from Champoluc to Testa Grigia (more than 3300 metres above sea level) or another from Alagna to Punta Indren (3260 metres above sea level).

Other popular villages and resorts in the Monte Rosa region include those at Champoluc, Brusson, Gressoney-St-Jean (which also has a small museum about the wildlife you might encounter), Issime and Riva Valdobbia, with its church having a very colourful frescoed facade from the 16th century.

SKI RESORTS ON MONTE ROSA

ALPS OF ITALY

passo-gavia

The Italian Alps are divided into three main groups. The first group, the Western Alps run north to south from Aosta to the Cadibona Pass, with the highest peaks of Mount Viso 3,841 metres and Gran Paradiso 4,061 metres. This group is regarded as the highest mountain completely within Italy. The second group, the Central Alps run west to east from the Western Alps to the Brenner Pass, leading into Austria and the Trentino Alto Adige valley. This group also has high peaks, such as Monte Bianco (Mont Blanc) with a summit of 4,807 metres just over the border in France, Monte Cervino (Matterhorn) 4,478 metres, Monte Rosa with a summit of 4,634 metres just over the border in Switzerland, and Mount Ortles 3,905 metres. The last group, the Eastern Alps run west to east from the Brenner Pass to Trieste and include the Dolomites and Monte Marmolada 3,343 metres. The Italian foothills of the Alps, which reach no higher than 2,500 metres, lie between these great ranges and the Po valley.

alps-map

MOUNTAINS GROUPS IN THE ITALIAN ALPS

SKI RESORTS IN THE ITALIAN ALPS

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