• Monviso (Monte Viso)
  • 3841 m.
  • Primary factor: 2062 m
  • North-west Italy, near France.
  • Location: North 44:40.044, East 007:05.403 (GPS at the summit)
  • Difficulty: (YDS) class 4 - French: PD.
  • Climbed July 10, 2009


How to get there: It seems like the autostrada A-6 going north from Savona (west of Genova) to Torino, is a natural point of departure regardless of exactly where one starts out. Locate the exit named Marene, this exit is slightly closer to Torino than Savona. Get off and head west via Marene, Savigliano and Saluzzo. Continue west to Paesana and up the Po valley to the small village of Crissolio. This village is approximately 70 kilometer from the autostrada exit.
Drive uphill through Crissolio, note that you shall make a pretty sharp right turn near the upper part of town. (There is a road that continues straight uphill serving a larger parking area slightly higher on the left side of the creek.) Measure from this sharp right turn. After 0.6 kilometer, the road makes a hairpin turn to the left. At kilometer 5.2, there is a general trailhead with a few buildings and parking area. Continue along the narrow road as it continues uphill until kilometer 8.7. There is a rifugio here, Albergo Alpino. There is a pretty large and spread out area where people park. This is the trailhead, park here. The location is N44:42.062, E007:05.642, elevation about 2016 meter. Parking was free in 2007, but cost Euro 7 (for overnight) in 2009.
Route description:
To the Rifugio: Rifugio Quintino Sella, at 2640 meter is perhaps the most convenient base from which to ascend the Monte Viso. This Rifugio provides full service and one can book an overnight stay in advance (phone +39-17594943).
An alternative starting point is the pretty large Bivacco delle Forciolline, located next to the lake Forciolline at elevation 2807 meter. This Bivacco is served by the Monviso Sud trail, which again is served by the U9 trail heading north-east from the small village of Castello (by Lago di Castello at 1575 meter). We met a French alpine guide with a client that approached the peak from this direction. As we did not explore this possibility, it will not be described any further.
From the trailhead described above, the trail starts out in a few uphill zig-zags in order to reach the small lake Lago de Fiorenza (2113m). The trail continues a gentle climb straight south and reaches a small pass overlooking the lake Lago de Chiaretto (2261m). From here, the trail makes a large left curve while climbing a pretty big moraine. Higher up, the route shall cross into the col between Viso Mozzo, 3019 meter (left,east) and Monte Viso to the (right) west. From here, the trail crosses easy terrain further south towards Lago Grande di Viso (2590 m) and the Rifugio Q. Sella located east above the lake at elevation 2640 meter. The location of this Refugio is N44:39.943, E007:06.594.
To the Bivacco Andreotti:
The next part of this route takes you up into a valley on the south side of Monte Viso and to an emergency shelter that is located at 3225 meter.
From the Rifugio Q. Sella, head downhill to the (south) end of the lake. There is a cairn and a clear trail-fork at this location. Take the right trail and start climbing the hillside above you. The trail gains considerable elevation and gets gradually into steeper terrain. Soon, you will see sections of the trail protected by a chain as it traverses somewhat left on fairly narrow sections. Further ahead, the trail climbs more upward. Solid class 3 terrain. Eventually, you emerge close to a rather steep and distinct gully coming up from your left. The upper part of this gully is less steep and perhaps more importantly, more stable. Follow this gully the last few meter uphill until you top out in a nice col of the ridge. This col is located at N44:39.329, E007:05.994, with an elevation just short of 3000 meter.
From this col, immediately descend into the valley on the opposite side. You will find yellow painted marks and cairns that lead you further up this valley as soon as you have descended into it. This marked path leads upwards, eventually onto some small patch of snow as you turn slightly right (leaving the main gully) higher up in order to reach the emergency shelter called Bivacco Andreotti at 3225 meter.
To the Summit: Continue up the (snow) slope above the small shelter and gain a more gentle sloping area, most likely this is pretty permanent snow. Continue across, then ascending slightly steeper snow (more uphill and to climbers left hand side) in order to reach the lower end of a broken gully where one can easily get back onto the rock. The place is well marked with yellow paint.
NOTE: This snowfield and, in particular, the area below the gully where the route turns left and gets back on the rock is frequently hit by falling rocks from above. One can observe this by seeing the number of rocks on the snow below. I would strongly advise that climbers that reach the rock with crampons continue at least 30 meter on the rock before making a stop to remove the crampons. The area where you move from snow to rock is just too dangerous a place to have any stops.

The route now follow easy ledges, a bit left then right, in order to gain elevation. This is followed by a section of easy climbing (generally going a bit to the climbers right). The route is well marked by yellow paint and arrows. A slightly more tricky point follows where you ascend a narrow crack in order to gain a small shelf higher and now to climbers left. From here, you again reach easier terrain. A pretty long section now follows where you ascend on a traverse heading left.
Above this section, the terrain (and climbing) again becomes noticeably steeper. Ascend a small buttress more or less head on (steep, but with good holds) or turn this (possibly on snow) on the right side. The next buttress can be climbed on either the left or the right side (yellow paint may point right here). The climbing is never difficult and the holds are good. What characterizes the climb is that it goes on and on ... and on. There are cliffs and more cliffs, this is a long climb were you need to stay focused. Eventually, the route heads more right and we encountered a last snow pitch that turned a corner up on our right side. Crampons back on for the 4th. (or was it 5th ?) time, the route went back on rock and we climbed a pretty easy gully that lead more or less directly to the final steps before the summit.
It should be noted that we had a lot more snow than what is normal for the time of this climb. Later in the season, or when there is generally less snow, the conditions may be more continuous rock and less mixed as we experienced it. Rock fall is a real danger on this mountain, see also our trip report below.
First attempt, July 9., 2007 I did this climb with my son Pål Jørgen, age 18. We had established a "base camp" in the coastal city of Alassio, where my wife Heidi would enjoy some Mediterranean sea and sun while we were up on Monte Viso. Thus, we left after breakfast on July 8th. and drove to the small city of Crissolio, where we had lunch. The parking at the end of the road (the trailhead) was filled to capacity, but we did find a spot, then sorted through gear and decided what to take along.
We were off hiking at 1345, the weather was cloudy, we never saw all of Monte Viso, but parts came into view between drifting clouds. The weather got gradually worse and light rain turned somewhat more permanent as we approached the Refugio Quintino Sella, Q. Sella for short. We arrived at 1600, the hut guardian remembered my phone call about a week earlier and had our reservation. The hut had been quite full from Saturday to Sunday, but with few guests staying this night (Sunday to Monday), we got a 6 person room all to ourselves. We had an excellent dinner with wine (for me) and coke (for Pål), then went early to bed.
I woke up at 0430 and immediately looked out. I could see stars and a narrow moon, the weather thus looked fairly promising. We got organized, had breakfast and set out at 0515, it was light and there was no need for headlamps. We quickly gained the steeper section above the lake and then took some time completing the fairly long and steep section to the col. Unfortunately, the weather did not improve, rather the opposite. We descended into the valley, where we bumped into a French guide and a client coming from Bivacco delle Forciolline. It started raining and the weather was generally unpleasant. We advanced up the snow and decided to take a break in the small, but nice shelter (6 beds). We arrived there 0745 and hoped that the weather should improve. The French guide and his client soon joined us and we had a nice chat about various mountains that we both had visited. After about 30 minutes, we checked outside on the weather. It had further deterioated, it was now snowing and pretty windy. The French guide remarked that if we just waited a bit more we might be able to ski out. Soon thereafter, he told his client that there would be no climb and that they rather should turn back.
Pål and I decided to wait until 0900. We would like to be back in Alassio before dinner. It was pretty clear that unless the weather showed clear signs of improvement, there would be no summit climb. At 0900 it had stopped snowing, but the weather was still pretty bad. Thus the descision to turn back was pretty easy, we headed down around 0900. We had not brought heavy duty gloves for climbing under this kind of conditions. The new snow would mean pretty slippery rocks and the need to climb with the hands in snow. A realistic estimate is that the final 600 meter climb from the shelter still may take about 3 hours and that is just up to the summit.
We returned to Q. Sella at 1100, by now the weather was worse than ever with heavy rain. We waited out the worst part of it, then started down at 1145, reaching the car at 1330. The weather did not improve all day, so this was just unlucky timing. It rained even at the coast, we were happy to return to our hotel and a better dinner. Monte Viso simply did not want a visit right now, we shall return under more favorable conditions at a later time.
Our summer trip now carried on into France, where the next objective would be Grande Tete de L'Obiou..
Second (successful) attempt, July 10. 2009 We had travelled directly from Bergen, Norway to Milan and then by rental car to the small village of Saluzzo, where Heidi had established the family headquarters. Pål Jørgen and I had continued to the the trailhead and started out hiking by 1700 and making the rifugio already by 1845, obviously we were in pretty good shape. A nice dinner and early bed, we wanted to start by daylight for what we knew would be a long summit day. We were here one day later than our visit 2 years ago. A lot more snow than last time we were here. The lake by the rifugio had ice and the entire stretch from the moraine to the small pass before descending to the rifugio was covered by snow.
We left by 0515 and made the col on top of the steep gully by 0615. The snow made us miss the trail that avoids the gully. Most of it was filled by hard snow and we crampon'ed directly up to the col. The continuation was well known and we arrived at the Bivuaci at 0730 for a brief rest. This was our previous high point and we were eager to continue. First on snow, then crampons off as we entered the ledges that carried us higher. The climbing went well and we got used to the mixed conditions that required us to put on and later take off crampons every time we encountered a snow field along the route. It is indeed a long climb and we were quite happy when the summit was ours by 1045, about 3 hours from the Bivuaci.
Two teams made the summit ahead of us, they had both started descending by the time of our arrival. We did not meet any teams on our descent, so about 3 teams climbed Monviso on this very nice day. Photos were taken and we had plenty of time to look and enjoy. The trailhead with the road and the parking as well as Rifugio Q. Sella are visible directly from the top. This peak really stands out in isolation, rising more than 500 meter higher than anything nearby. You get a special feeling on top, there is a lot down in all directions and few nearby peaks. There is only one nearby ridge that destroys a perfect panorama. The snow ridge heading across that way did not look very welcoming.
We left at 1115 and descending took about the same time as climbing. Care and focus all the way, but each move is fairly easy. The same as when going up, this climb continues for quite some time. By 1400, we had reached the large snow area that signals the end of the rocks. From here, the route runs on snow back to the Bivuaci.

We sat down and started to fix our crampons, hopefully for the last time this day. BANG !!, A sharp sound, like a rifle shot alerted us. I knew immediately what this was and looking straight uphill, I saw a rock the size of a basketball that came directly down towards us. Time is very short, "HIDE!", I shouted and pushed my head into a V-shaped crack in the rock. Pål Jørgen never even saw the rock, but fortunately, had a similar crack that he could throw himself (at least his head) into. Within a fraction of a second the rock bounced by us with a thunderous blow as it hit the ground about a meter from our feet. My mind had gone into "slow motion", a lot of thoughts went by in this very brief time. I worried about Pål, I worried about our unprotected legs. It seemed very unlikely that the rock could hit my head, but a leg could be horribly injured by something as big as this one. Helmets yes, we had worn them since the beginning of the climb. This rock could kill a big bull, our protection were the cracks that we dived into, not the helmets. It was over in a matter of (at most!) two seconds. The rock had ended its journey somewhere on the snow field below. We were both completely unharmed, but this was too close for comfort. I looked up and realized that this location, where snow ends and rock begins is a nasty place. The terrain forms a somewhat irregular gully above. Rocks are likley to be channeled right down where we were sitting. Lesson learned: Never stop right here, walk on crampons about 30 more meter on ascent. Put on crampons about 30 meter before you get here when descending.

We were back at the rifugio at 1545. A long break was needed and coke and beer tasted equally well. We called Heidi and agreed that the evening dinner would be in Saluzzo, ie. that the hotel should be booked for a second night. The hike from the rifugio back down to the car went quite well after the good rest. Clouds were drifting around and the trail was nice to walk. The lower laying areas of this mountain certainly has many attractive features, nice lakes and an abundance of flowers. The univiting Monviso (Monte Viso) always looming above. We left the rifugio at 1630 and made it back to the car by 1820, slightly slower than our ascent, but this was the end of a 13 hour day.