Piz Bernina or Pizzo Bernina (Italian pronunciation: [/ˈpit.tso/
ˈbɛrniːna]) is the highest mountain in the Eastern Alps, the
highest point of the Bernina Range, and the highest peak in the
Rhaetian Alps. It rises 4,048.6 m (13,283 ft) and is located south
Pontresina and near the major Alpine resort of St. Moritz, in the
Engadin valley with the massif partially in Italy. It is also the most
easterly mountain higher than 4,000 m (13,000 ft) in the
Alps, the highest point of the Swiss canton of Graubünden, and the
fifth-most prominent peak in the Alps. The minor summit (4,020 m
(13,190 ft)) known as
La Spedla is the highest point in the
The mountain was named after the
Bernina Pass in 1850 by Johann Coaz,
who also made the first ascent. The prefix Piz comes from the
Romansch language in Graubünden; any mountain with that name can be
readily identified as being located in southeastern Switzerland.
3 Climbing history
5 Climbing routes and huts
7 Deaths on Piz Bernina
8 See also
10 External links
Piz Bernina and the Morteratsch Glacier
Piz Bernina is one of the few isolated Alpine four-thousanders and the
most topographically isolated mountain of Switzerland. It is the
culminating point of a group of summits slightly lower than 4,000
meters (13,120 feet) mostly lying on the main watershed between
Italy (such as Piz Scerscen, Piz Zupò, and Piz
Palü). The only other summit higher than 4,000 m
(13,000 ft) is
La Spedla (the Shoulder), a minor prominence south
of the mountain, which is also the highest point on the Italian side
of the massif.
The summit itself is located on a perpendicular chain (orientated
north–south) starting at
La Spedla on the border and finishing at
Piz Chalchagn, composed also of
Piz Morteratsch and Piz Boval.
Piz Bernina separates two glacial valleys, the
Tschierva Glacier on
the west and the
Morteratsch Glacier on the east. The waters flowing
on both side of the mountain end up in the
Inn River running northeast
through Engadin. South of
Piz Bernina the watershed separates the
drainage basins of the
Danube (Black Sea) and the
Po River (Adriatic
Sea). The summit of
Piz Bernina is the culminating point of the Danube
drainage basin. Politically, it is split between the municipalities of
Samedan and Pontresina.
The rocks composing
Piz Bernina are mostly diorites and gabbros. The
massif in general is also composed of granites, notable on Piz
Corvatsch and Piz Palü. Most of the range belongs to the
Austroalpine nappes, a tectonic unit whose rocks come from the Apulian
plate, a small continent which broke away from Africa (Gondwana)
before the Alpine orogeny. The
Austroalpine nappes are common
throughout all of the Eastern Alps.
Piz Bernina from the west
View from the pine and larch woodland above the Morteratsch Glacier
View from Diavolezza
The first ascent was made via the east ridge in 1850 by the
28-year-old topographer Johann Wilhelm Coaz (1822-1918, from S-Chanf)
and his assistants, the brothers Jon and Lorenz Ragut Tscharner. On 13
September 1850, shortly after 6 a.m., they left the Bernina Inn (at
2,050 m (6,730 ft)) with their measuring instruments. They
traversed the Labyrinth (on the Morteratsch Glacier) and headed to the
Fuorcla Crast'Agüzza, a col between the
Crast' Agüzza and Piz
Bernina. They reached the summit at around 6 p.m.
Johan Coaz wrote in his diary:
"At 6 p.m. we stood on the ardently desired lofty peak. On soil that
no human had trodden upon before. On the highest point of the canton
at 4052 meters above sea level."
"Serious thoughts took hold of us. Greedy eyes surveyed the land up to
the distant horizon, and thousands and thousands of mountain peaks
surrounded us, rising as rocks from the glittering sea of ice. We
stared amazed and awe-struck across this magnificent mountain world."
In 1866, the south ridge running from
La Spedla was climbed by Francis
Fox Tuckett and F. A. Y. Brown with guides
Christian Almer and F.
Andermatten. They started at midnight from the Alpe Foppa on the
Italian side, and reached the summit at 11 a.m., descending to
Pontresina only a few hours later.
The first attempt to climb the northern ridge, the Biancograt, was
made on 12 August 1876 by Henri Cordier and
Thomas Middlemore with
guides Johann Jaun and Kaspar Maurer. They successfully reached the
top of the ridge, Piz Alv, but when they saw the chasm lying between
them and the summit of Piz Bernina, they considered it to be beyond
their powers and returned down the Biancograt. Cordier later
declared the gap to be "absolutely impossible".
Exactly two years later, Paul Güssfeldt, accompanied by the guides H.
Grass and J. Gross, reached the summit via the Biancograt and
accomplished the first complete ascent on this route. The first winter
ascent was made on 15 March 1929 by C. Colmus with guides C. and U.
Grass. To win a bet worth 200 CHF,
Hermann Buhl reached the summit of
Piz Bernina from the Boval hut in 6 hours; he then descended the north
ridge in only 15 minutes, establishing a record.
Piz Bernina and the Bernina Express
Piz Bernina is the highest summit of the
Engadin region and lies close
to the resorts of
St. Moritz and Pontresina. The mountain can be seen
from different viewpoints with the use of ski-lifts from Diavolezza,
Piz Corvatsch or Piz Nair. The
Bernina railway connects St. Moritz
with the southern
Val Poschiavo through the Bernina Pass.
Climbing routes and huts
The north ridge (Biancograt)
The normal route starts from the Rifugio Marco e Rosa, located at
3,600 m (11,800 ft) above the Fuorcla Crast'Agüzza, and
follows the route taken by the first ascentionists.
The north ridge, called the Biancograt or Crast Alva (both meaning
White Ridge), is the most well-known and attractive route to the
summit, and is much more difficult than the normal route. The route
starts from the
Tschierva Hut (2,584 m (8,478 ft)) in Val
Roseg, accessible from Pontresina. The Biancograt itself starts at the
Fuorcla Prievlusa (3,430 m (11,250 ft)) and leads to Piz
Bianco (3,995 m (13,107 ft)). To reach the summit, the
Bernina gap – which repulsed Cordier, Middlemore, Jaun and Maurer in
1876 – has to be traversed.
Other huts in the area
Rifugio Carate Brianza
Rifugio Carate Brianza (2,662 m (8,734 ft)) – capacity 32
beds, 3 places in winter room
Rifugio Marinelli Bombardieri
Rifugio Marinelli Bombardieri (2,813 m (9,229 ft)) –
capacity 220 beds, 15 places in winter room
Chamanna Boval (2,495 m (8,186 ft)) – capacity 120 beds
Diavolezza (2,973 m (9,754 ft)) – capacity 234
Panorama from Diavolezza. From left to right: Piz Palü, Bellavista,
Crast' Agüzza (small rocky peak in the middle),
Piz Bernina and Piz
Deaths on Piz Bernina
Rollo Davidson and Michael Latham 
Exploration of the High Alps
^ Retrieved from the
Swisstopo topographic maps. The key col is the
Maloja Pass (1,815 m).
^ Retrieved from Google Earth. The nearest point of higher elevation
is east of the Finsteraarhorn.
^ "Piz Bernina". summitpost.org. Retrieved 2 April 2012.
^ Collomb, Robin (1988). Bernina Alps. Goring: West Col Productions.
^ Geologic map of
Switzerland 1:500 000, Bundesamt für Wasser und
Geologie, CH-3003 Bern-Ittigen, ISBN 3-906723-39-9
^ a b c Dumler, Helmut; Burkhardt, Willi P. Les 4000 des Alpes.
^ Piz Bernina, Daniel Anker Archived 7 July 2011 at the Wayback
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Piz Bernina.
"Piz Bernina" (in Czech and English). supervht.com. Retrieved 3 April
2010. Italian route account.
Piz Bernina in Romansh, German, French and Italian in
the online Historical Dictionary of Switzerland.
Piz Bernina on SummitPost
Piz Bernina on Hikr
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