Cima Tosa

  • Cima Tosa
  • 3139 m. (prelim. estimate)
  • Primary factor: 591 m (prelim. estimate)
  • Near Madonna di Campiglio, Northen Italy.
  • Location: North 46:09.322, East 010:52.279 (GPS at the summit)
  • Difficulty: (YDS) class 5.1 - French: PD.
  • Climbed July 19, 2009.


How to get there:
This mountain is located near the resort village Madonna di Campiglio. This village is north-west of Trento and can easily be reached from the big freeway connecting Innsbruck (north) via the Brenner pass with Trento (south). From Trento,one can either head west on SS45, connecting with SS237, then north on SS239, or go north on A22 (towards Innsbruck), then go west on SS43 connecting with SS42 to Dimaro, finally south on SS239.
One can also drive north-east from Milan via Bergamo (Hwy. SS42 via Passo di Tonale), then right (south) in Dimaro on SS239. Madonna di Campiglio is about 20 kilometer south from Dimaro.
There is a big tunnel bypassing Madonna di Campiglio on its west side. You should exit into Madonna di Campiglio from the south end (downhill side) of this tunnel. Drive across, ie. do not go north towards the center. Cross the river and look for signs to Rifugio Vallesinella. You will eventually make a right turn in order to get onto this narrow (but paved) road. There are people collecting toll, in 2009 this was Euro 7 for an overnight stay. Follow this small road until you arrive at a pretty big parking area at Rifugio Vallesinella. This is the trailhead, location N46:12.380, E010:51.145, elevation about 1520 meter.
Route description:
To the (CAI) Rifugio Pedrotti From the parking, descend slightly in order to cross the river. Check that you start out on a trail with signs for Rifugio Brentei. The trail (no 317) now ascends the hillside and emerges on a ridge by Rifugio Casinei, elevation 1850 meter.
Continue along trail 318, with signs for Rifugio Brentei. After a little while, trail no 328 forks left, while you continue straight on trail 318 until you arrive at Rifugio Brentei, 2175 meter.
The trail continues straight ahead into a somewhat more narrow valley that ends in a steeper slope leading up to the col Bocchetta de Brenta, (Rifugio Brentei in the foreground.) at approximaely 2550 meter. The marked trail climbs some rock and is partly protected by cables, then traverses (often on snow?) to the col. There is an alternative route climbing a very moderate snow slope further left (when viewed from below). This may be preferable if the conditions are good. The rationale for making the route go further right may be in order to reduce the danger of rock fall, check carefully before taking the alternate.
On the opposite (south) side of Bocchetta de Brenta, the trail descends in a couple of zig-zags, then follows a large ledge that leads out right and gives direct access to the ridge where Rifugio Pedrotti is located. This location is N46:09.245, E010:53.941, with an elevation of about 2485 meter.
Reservations is a very good idea, the rifugio has phone number +39-0461948115. If this place is fully booked, one may consider staying at Rifugio Brentei, phone: +39-0465441244.
To the Summit: From the refugio, turn left when facing uphill and follow trail no 358, the sign should say Rifugio XII Apostoli. Shortly, this trail curves right around the first ridge and you will have Cima Tosa in direct view. Follow the trail as it traverses the slope and runs towards a small patch of (permanent) snow marked as Vedretta Inferior della Tosa. From here, the trail turns south and climbs (possibly on snow), before it again turns more west while ascending the gentle slope below the south-east face of Cima Tosa.
As you get up to approximately 2800 meter, location N46:09.208, E010:52.610, it is time to leave the trail and start the climb towards the summit. There may be some paint and arrows indicating "Cima Tosa". In any case, from this location it is pretty easy to see the rock above you and two parallel cracks that come down this steep section where the vertical distance is relatively short. The climbing route is going up along the leftmost crack.
Everyone we saw protected this climb by using a rope. We found the move next to the 6th red marker (counted from below) on the previous picture to be the crux when going up. The rock is smooth and there are relatively few holds. The remainder of the route is easier, but with exposure. There are quite a few bolts and rings that can be used for protection.
Above this first pitch, the climbing is much easier, follow cairns and traverse right then gain elevation by taking advantage of the many ledges and shelfs in the rock structure. The rest of the route is (YDS) class 3 or easier, a cairned trail completes the climb. When we climbed, this route was under snow and we climbed most of the remaining slope with crampons (and an ice axe) on moderately steep snow.
Higher up, (when the route meets the horizon as seen from further down) the slope is very moderate as you gain what remains of a permanent summit snow cap. There are two almost equally high points, they are close together and both can be visited without any problems.
Most people do a vertical rappel (abseil) in order to descend the first pitch on this route. This is normally done between the two cracks, but there are several options. The rappel is best done with a full 60 meter rope (ie. having about 30 meter for the abseil). Also, see our trip report below.
Comments / Trip report:
We had established our family BC in the village of Ponte di Legno on July 17th. Pål Jørgen and I left around 1030 the following day in order to hike to Rifugio Pedrotti, a good starting point for climbing Cima Tosa.
We made a brief stop on the road near the col (above Madonna di Campiglio) in order to take a GPS reading of the key col. This col is located quite a bit lower than the road on a golf course. There were signs saying "no trespassing", the grass was wet and it was still raining. I made a quick check and lost my wallet while crossing the small fence. This was not discovered until arrival (for lunch) in Madonna and triggered a quick drive back to the fence where a successful retrival could be done.
After a somewhat delayed lunch we drove to the trailhead and got ready for our approach hike. Starting out at 1430, we made good pace along this "autostrada" trail that takes you into a fairytale mountain world. The landscape, peaks and formations are indeed very unique and very beautiful.
It took us less than 30 minutes to Rifugio Casinei and before long we had arrived at Rifugio Brentnei, experiencing a trail tunnel along the way. From here, the trail was smaller, but still very good as it continued up the valley, more steeply towards the end when climbing up to Bocchetta de Brenta, the col that separates Cima Tosa and Cima Brenta.
We continued our good pace and arrived at Rifugio Pedrotti at 1700, a 2.5 hour hike from the trailhead. The signs advise of 4.5 hours, most people should plan on something in between. This rifugio mainly serves people that are doing multi-day hikes along the trails and via ferratas that connect the various huts in this area. The standard is very high. A choice of several menus for dinner, small rooms (we had one with 4 beds) etc. We had a very good dinner at a table together with a large (12) person guided group from Greece. It turned out that the guide, Nikos Hadjis, had spent much time in Norway and we had a nice conversation.

This rifugio did not serve breakfast any earlier than 0630. The morning came with bright sun and blue skies. The scenery is really nice, but Cima Tosa could not be seen from the rifugio.
We hit the trail by 0700 and arrived below the cliffs of Cima Tosa by 0800. We protected the first pitch with our rope and so did everyone coming up when we descended. We both agreed that a rope was reasonable on this route and that a few moves were harder than what is typically described as UIAA II. My backpack with two ice axes, crampons etc. also tended to get stuck by hitting the rock above me. Overall, we feel that the difficulty rating of this route should be adjusted up (a bit higher) relative to what one often sees in guidebooks and descriptions.
Higher up, most of the normal route was buried under a large snowfield. (More snow than in a normal year for the season.) Our ice axe and crampons that had been carried up, now came to good use. We arrived at the snow summit at 1010, nice weather and a great scenery. There were two high points pretty close together. We got busy visiting both of them, taking photos and doing GPS measurements. From the west summit we had a clear line of sight back down to Madonna di Campiglio. The view to nearby peaks on the west side revealed more interesting rock formations. We discovered climbers that came from the Rifugio Brentnei side. They came via the north ridge, a small mountain hut is located out there above 3100 meter. Unless some rock will appear under the current snowcap, this ridge may hold the highest rock point on Cima Tosa.
We left the summit at 1030 and started our descent on the snow slopes leading down to the steeper section below. Since we only carried a 30 meter randoneé rope, we decided to downclimb the steep pitch in much the same way as we ascended. This went quite well, the hardest move going up, was far easier to get down. Back down near the trail, we had a good view of the easy snow that would take us down to the final, short stretch of trail leading around the ridge and back to the rifugio Pedrotti. We were at the rifugio by 1330 and had a nice rest with cold drinks before heading back to the trailhead. I asked the hut warden about the elevation of Tosa and he replied with confidence that it was 3173 meter "and the highest in the Brenta group."
We left at 1400 and took a technical rest in order to change into jogging shoes as soon as most of the snow had been traversed. Still, more nice trail to be enjoyed, I needed repeated stops for photography. Pål Jørgen kept a steady pace and we were back by the car at 1600.

What is the prominence of Cima Tosa? The prominence saddle of the Brenta group towards Cima Presanella is located just north of Madonna di Campiglio near the highest point of the road. This place is called Campo Carlo Magno. The saddle is east of the road and quite a bit lower, located approximately at N46:14.478, E010:50.585, on a golf course. There is an IGMI 1:25.000 map of this area with 5 meter contours that place the saddle in the interval between 1650m and 1655m. I took two GPS measurements, at nearby locations, it became obvious to me that the saddle is located in the second location, being perhaps a few meter higher than the first. It rained, the grass was very wet, I had been trespassing and, unfortunately, I did not spend sufficiently time to get a very accurate reading. My first reading gave 1649 meter, while the second was 1659 meter. My best guess is that the GPS elevation of this saddle perhaps should be around 1655 meter.

The next issue, to determine the correct elevation of the highest point in the Brenta group, turned out to be a more complicated task. We climbed Cima Tosa with the strong belief that we were climbing an ultra prominent mountain, it being the highest among the Brenta summits. Our map (Kompass 2007) said 3173 meter, while the map posted on the wall in Rifugio Pedrotti said 3159 meter. Our GPS seemed to settle on 3148 meter. The map elevation for the neighbor peak, Cima Brenta, is 3151 meter. Our concern grew bigger when looking back across the main summit from the west summit. In this view, Cima Brenta shows up behind and it looked higher, on this Pål Jørgen and I were in full agreement. Pål Jørgen laid flat down on the west summit and looked across, only confirming that Cima Brenta still was clearly visible.
Back in Norway, I decided to investigate this question in more detail. Jonathan de Ferranti provided excellent information about the visible background mountain landscape. Edward Earl had recently written an advanced piece of software called Geopix, that can determine the relative elevation of competing summits given information about known background peaks. Combining this, enabled us to carry out a careful analysis based on a few of the digital pictures that I took.
Assuming that the summit of Cima Tosa is (only) 3150 meter, Jonathan's computer generated panoramas show this view on the north (left) side of Cima Brenta, while the view on the south (right) side should look like this. With this picture, taken from the main summit, and using 7 background points that all can be clearly identified from the panorama model, Geopix computed the height of Cima Brenta to be 11.9 meter higher than Cima Tosa, with an error tolerance as low as 0.3 meter.
Jonathan informs me that the 3173 meter elevation most likely dates back to a survey from around 1930, while the 3159 meter seems to date back to around 1960. The entire top of Cima Tosa is a snow dome. If one assumes that it has been melting down approximately 0.4 meter per year (on average), then the two map elevations are consistent and todays elevation would be approximately 3140 meter! Of course, there may be many possible explanations.
Until more accurate measurements can be made, I will use the map elevation of Cima Brenta, 3151 meter, and therefore assign an elevation of 3139 meter to Cima Tosa. One should note that this is almost certainly too low relative to accurate measurements by GPS, my GPS read 9 meter higher. However, this may also affect the accurate summit elevation of Cima Brenta as well as the precise elevation of the key prominence saddle. Thus, in order to determine if the Brenta group still has an ultra prominent mountain, more work must be done. As the data stands, this is too close to call.