top of page

The Alps are the greatest mountains in Europe. These are big mountains, completely dwarfing the heights reached by the mountains on our shores here in the UK. Due to this, the complexities of climbing them are much greater. There is added danger, added logistics but also added reward. For many mountain lovers in the UK the prospect of climbing alpine 4000 metre summits seems fanciful. This was certainly how I felt until recently. However, by learning the skills of glacier travel and by choosing an appropriate route, becoming an alpinist is not as fraught as one might think.

Set to the south of the Mont Blanc Massif in a National Park that bares its name, Gran Paradiso is a beautiful mountain reaching a noble 4061m. The highest mountain completely within Italy’s borders it remains unspoilt by ski developments, funicular railways and cable cars. The National Park status protects it from such infrastructure and in turn protects the many ibex, marmots and eagles that call this peaceful area of the Alps home. There are two classic routes to the summit, both starting in the Valsavarenche Valley. One ascends via the Rifugio Victor Emmanuele, named after the Italian king who was instrumental in the creation of the National Park, and the other climbs via the Rifugio Chabod, named after local mountaineering hero Federico Chabod.

In August 2019, Mirek - a friend from the London Mountaineering Club - and I chose the Chabod route to ascend this majestic mountain. We enjoyed a pleasant hike through alpine pastures, a spectacular ascent of the glacier and finally a nervy scramble on the summit rocks. From the lofty heights we took in sensational views of the Mont Blanc massif as dawn slowly filled the horizon with alpenglow. We impressed the local hut wardens with our speed and left Italy with a sense of great achievement. It was not long before I was eyeing up the next 4000 metre adventure...

Gran Paradiso - Introduction to Alpinism

bottom of page