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Gran Paradiso 4061m mountain focus

Links to our courses that ascend Gran Paradiso: Mont Blanc Summits / 3 Countries, 3 Summits / Gran Paradiso Trek & Summit / Gran Paradiso Ski Tour / or Mountain focus home page
On the summit of Gran Paradiso
History and background
The Gran Paradiso sits in the Valle d'Aosta, in northwestern Italy, a region of magical mountains and rugged desolate valleys and wilderness. Standing at 4061 metres high, the Mont Blanc massif straddles the border between France and Italy, the Gran Paradiso is the only mountain whose summit reaches over 4,000 metres that is entirely within Italian territory, so that it could be considered the highest peak in Italy.

Historically the Gran Paradiso area has been home to ibex and chamois populations, which have been extensively hunted since medieval times for use of their blood, horns, and even their droppings in medicinal treatments. Levels of ibex and chamois dropped to worrying low levels in this area which resulted in rulings in 1821 that prohibited hunting (except by royal entourages) in order to protect the only populations of ibex and chamois populations in the Alps.
Following this, in 1856 King Vittorio Emanuele II had unified several hunting grounds and declared a Royal Game Reserve. After the First World War, in 1922, Victor Emanuele III renounced his hunting rights and handed it over the area to the Italian state in 1922, making the first National Park in Italy, and one of the oldest nature reserves in Europe. The boundaries of the National Park were enlarged in 1979, and now it covers an area of 70000 ha.

The first full ascent to reach the summit of the Gran Paradiso was on September 4, 1860 by Chamonix Guides Michel Payot, and Jean Tairraz who were guiding Englishmen John J. Cowell, and Wuilliam Dundas. The ascent was via the South West Slope Route which they departed from the Alp of Moncorvé (2426m).

The first winter ascent of the mountain was on 2 March 1885 by Biella Town Vittorio Sella and Englishman S.Aitken, who were accompanied by guides Jean Joseph and Daniel Maquignaz. They also followed the ascent via the South West Slope Route.

The first winter traverse of the mountain from North East to South West was completed 9 February 1925 by Miss E. Della Valle of Casanova, Umberto Balestrieri, Erasmo Barisone, I. Brosio and Ugo of Vallepiana. They departed from the Farms of the Herbetet (2441m), reached the Glacier of the Tribulation, and they climbed through the Finestra of the Roc (3998m), and continued to the Great Paradiso Peak. Their descent was via the usual route toward the Shelter Vittorio Emanuele I° and Pont (1960m), which resulted in them also completing the first winter crossing between the Valley of Cogne and Valsavarenche.
A word of caution
By high Alpine mountaineering standards, Gran Paradiso is considered one of the less difficult 4,000 meter peaks, although it has one of the longest Ordinary Ascents of 1,300 meters on the summit day. The final 60 meters cover rocky terrain and require mountaineering skills. Those who manage to summit Gran Paradiso usually get the traditional photo alongside the statue of Madonna which is located on the summit. The view from the Gran Paradiso itself is one of the best panoramas in the Alps.

As we have mentioned before, there are three key points to remember and to apply on any mountain;

1) The mountain will always be there. Do not push safety boundaries on ascents as another can be made
2) The key to success is preparation in terms of information, equipment, training, techniques and planning
3) Never set off considering rescue as an option (unless there is an accident). Do not play poker with lives.
The key climbing seasons
Summer - Our courses for the ascent of Gran Paradiso during the summer season, make ascents via the Victor Emanuelle or Chabod routes. Course dates start from mid June to late September which is typically known as the high season in the Alps yet as with any mountain the weather can be unpredictable, even more so with recent weather pattern changes.

Winter - During the winter, all ascents have to be made on skis or split-boards, and the classic spring ski touring season is the busiest period for this, though early season ski ascents can often be made too.
Routes on the Gran Paradiso
In the mid-1800's around 350km of wide tracks were constructed at the Kings expense, along with five hunting lodges and mountain huts, manned by game keepers, beaters and porters. There is now around 470km of signed paths in the Gran Paradiso area.

The main two climbing routes to the Gran Paradiso peak are via the Refuge Vittorio Emanuele II, which the Icicle course follows; and the alternative route is via the Refuge Frédéric Chabod, a route which crosses the Laveciau Glacier.

Normal route from Rifugio Victor Emanuelle

The Vittorio Emanuele Route starts in Pont, at the end of the Val Savaranche, where a good path makes its way up to the hut. The ridge to the summit is exposed but an easy scramble with some metal bolts for protection. There is a high col on the summit ridge that is perfect for a less exposed break where the views can be enjoyed and appreciated.

Skiing the Gran Paradiso

The Italian ski tours are generally quieter than in France and Switzerland. There are plenty of mountain huts in the area which provide a warm and friendly welcome, and provide excellent food and drink. Coupled with the amazing scenery this area is perfect for ski touring, and also for ski mountaineering. Ski Mountaineering, combines skiing and mountaineering, with a climb up the mountain followed by skiing down the huge descents, over glaciers and down valleys.

Icicle Mountaineering's "Gran Paradiso Ski Tour" course combines both ski touring, and ski mountaineering, and includes not only getting to the summit of the Gran Paradiso, but then having a ski descent with a vertical drop of over 2000m. The course is over 7 days (5 days guiding), and runs in March and April. There are two options of itineraries for this course, Hut-to-Hut; or the Circuit; both are set within the stunning Gran Paradiso National Park.

Both itineraries include an ascent to reach the Gran Paradiso summit, with around 95% of the climb to the top of Gran Paradiso being on skis, with a short, easy rocky scramble of around 200 metres to the Madonna at very top. Some Alpine skills are still required for ascents on crampons, and the occasional easy abseil. The Gran Paradiso Ski Tour course requires good skiing ability as although there is only a little steep skiing, the slopes can be icy or rutted in places, with breakable crusts. There is often plenty of powder on the descents and breathtaking scenery can be enjoyed each day, and warm refuges each evening to relax, and enjoy the food and wine. Normally two classic route choices are selected from, either the approach via the Benevolo to Val Savaranches and then the ascent of Gran Paradiso, or the circuit of the mountain starting in Val de Cogne. The exact choice of route is usually left until the last minute to take account of conditions and avalanche risks.
Mountain huts on Gran Paradiso
Victor Emanuelle
Vittorio Emanuele Mountain Hut (2732m) is ideally placed for both spring and summer climbs to nearby Gran Paradiso. The old hut was built in 1884, but a new building was built nearby in 1961, offering lodging and food for about 190 people. The new hut includes a common room, kitchen and dining rooms on the ground floor, and two storeys of sleeping accommodation, the first floor provides private rooms for up to 6 people, and second floor has shared accommodation on mattresses. The hut also has a bar and small shop for drinks and snacks. Both huts are open Mid-March to Mid-September, and there is also an unguarded winter room. The refuge is the starting point for the standard Gran Paradiso route, and the refuge is linked to the Rifugio Chabod via a scenic traverse where it is possible to admire and view the whole of the Valsavarenche.

Rifugio Chabod
The Federico Chabod refuge (2750m) is situated at the foot of the north-west face of the Gran Paradiso, at the heart of the Gran Paradiso national park. The Refuge Frederic Chabod provides a resting place for one of the main routes to the Gran Paradiso summit. The idea of establishing a refuge named after Federico Chabod was suggested in the autumn of 1966 by a group of mountaineers who were members of the Valsavarenche guide federation. Federico Chabod was born in the town of Aosta on 23 February 1901, and together with his uncle Michele Baratono, Federico Chabod was the first climber to take on the south-western face of the Gran Paradiso without a guide. Federico was a historian, university lecturer, regionalist, and politician, and died in July 1960. The location of the proposed refuge was chosen using the mountaineers' own experience and the need to reach routes that were not easily accessible, e.g. the Becca di Montandayné, the north-west face of the Gran Paradiso and the south face of the Herbetet. After many years spent securing the agreement for the building of the hut with the local planning department and other government departments, the original "hut" building was completed in autumn 1977. Construction of the existing refuge began a year later in summer 1978, but due to the altitude of the hut (2750m) construction could only take place during the summer months. Since completion, the Chabod Refuge has undergone successive improvements. It takes two and half hours to arrive at the refuge from the valley floor, with an easy footpath dating back to the king's hunting days which winds through a larch wood opening out to flowered pastures where animals can often be seen. The main Chabod refuge is open in the springtime to cater for skiing (until mid-May) and reopens in mid-June until mid-September during the period of traditional climbing and hiking activities. In the summer, the refuge offers hostel services with 85 beds with toilets and shower en suite. There is a rock-climbing facility that has been set up in the vicinity of the refuge.
Guiding ratio & grades
The ascent of the Gran Paradiso, via the Vittorio Emanuele Route starting in Pont, can be undertaken as part of Icicle Mountaineering's Alpine Intro 'Summit and Skills' course, which is a 7 day course (6 days guiding), and runs from the end of June until mid-September. The guiding ratio for this course is 1:6 for the first three days, and then at a guiding ratio of 1:3 for the trek to the hut and the summit of the Gran Paradiso the following day.

Ascent of the Gran Paradiso can also be achieved on Icicle's "Gran Paradiso Ski Tour course", a 7 day course (5 days guiding), with a guiding ratio of 1:6 (max) throughout the course, and includes the summit of the Gran Paradiso.
Mountain focus pages
Mountain focus page
Mont Blanc 4810m
Eiger 3970m
Matterhorn 4478m
Gran Paradiso 4061m
Mt Toubkal 4167m
Kilimanjaro 5895m
Mountain focus authors
We are in the process of developing these mountain focus pages for many of the key peaks that we offer trips too, in order to help people prepare better for their trips.
This page has largely been written by Emma from our Windermere HQ, and it's here that most people have their first contact with us, in person or on the phone.
We are always editing these pages, so if you have any feedback about information we should add to the page, please let us know. We feel it's important that all our staff are experts on the mountains we offer trips to, so we are all involved in developing these focus pages.
Latest news from Icicle
Preparation for the ascent
An ascent of Gran Paradiso should not be underestimated, and you should arrive for this course in good physical condition as the climb will probably be the greatest physical exertion of your life. Please don't ignore this issue...

We highly recommend that you read our training page (click here) for details on how to prepare. If you are worried about acclimatisation, which is a real concern for anyone attempting the Gran Paradiso, we highly recommend that you book on an Acclimatisation Weekend before your course.

As mentioned previously we require our clients to have specific experience, skills and fitness before attempting the Gran Paradiso. While not the most technical course we offer it is important to be able to move quickly and adeptly up and over rock. Indoor climbing while great for building up strength and balance is not a substitute for rock so head to the Lakes or North Wales: a couple of days getting used to uneven terrain and gritty rock is a perfect way to improve your skills never mind escaping those sweaty gyms and having a douse of fresh air to invigorate your training.

Those that have not had much experience with crampons could still attempt the Gran Paradiso if they have appropriate rock climbing experience as it is only the final summit block that usually demands crampons. We also expect you to have the required levels of fitness for such a demanding route not only for bettering your chances of summit success but also for your own safety and well-being. Please follow our training plans and, once you think you've reached the physical peak required train even harder!
Postscript to this focus
This page is constantly updated as a result of changing techniques, conditions, and latest news. Please don't use this page alone as the research you undertake for an ascent, and it does definitely not attempt to offer any of the instruction of techniques which you will require. Details of many other sources of information have been provided, which you should consult before an ascent. Remember that to climb any mountain is a privilege, not a guarantee. If you found this page of use, and have any other information that others may find helpful, then please e-mail us. We will post any useful extra information on the page, and you will be cited. It is this sharing of knowledge that makes the climbing community so close, and this extra knowledge will increase your chances of reaching the summit.
Any further questions?
A key part of choosing a company is being able to come and talk about your plans with an experienced course advisor face to face. In an increasingly virtual world, we know our clients value speaking to real people, getting open and honest advice. The vast majority of our clients are British, and our office and outdoor store is based in Windermere in the English Lake District.

Get in contact to arrange a meeting, and come in for a coffee to discuss your course in person with a trip advisor.

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