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Piz Palü (3905 m)

Alpine club tour of DAV section Überlingen

September 05-06, 1998


Originally we had the Bishorn in our program, but due to job constrictions we had to replace this three-day trip by something shorter. So the announcement is changed to Piz Palü.
The route from Boval hut is less suited than from Diavolezza, because the latter one has about equal height differences for the two days, about 1000 meters each. Finally we have to drive back home on Sunday, and therefore 1500 meters or co could be a bit much in September.
On Saturday afternoon, we are welcomed by extraordinarily bad weather at the Diavolezza valley cable car station. Permanent rain and only some degrees above zero, that makes it easy to replace the four-hour ascent to Diavolezza (that of course would have been much better for acclimatization) by the "degenerate version" for SFr 18 per person.
In the afternoon there's quite a lot of time left, good to intensely practice crevasse rescue again.


Next morning doesn't bring the announced weather improvement. The traverse on the path to Fuorcla Trovat is a little slippery due to the snow that fell during the night, but afterwards on the flat glacier portion there's no problem. At 3300 m, at the upper edge of the first glacier step, traffic jams occur. Some groups prefer the right, others the left side. The left variant turns out to be the best, but also there we find some meters of steep ice to be climbed, and some deep holes to avoid. After that, thing become easier again. Altitude makes itself felt, but the weather noticeably improves now. We even can see our destination.
3300 m
3300 m - our destination appears in the clouds.

At quarter to ten (four hours after departure at Diavolezza) we reach the saddle at the summit crest. From here on we follow the steep, slightly exposed snowy crest to the east summit (3882 m ) without further difficulty. That takes half an hour.
before the summit
Some minutes before reaching the summit
summit crest
View downwards from the summit crest.
Like all the other groups, too, we are satisfied with this summit for today. To reach the main summit, quite a bit of trailbreaking through knee-deep snow would be necessary, and nobody really is keen on that. Those twenty meters of height difference aren't that important.
Having appreciated the excellent outlook, soon we begin the descent; the snow becomes wet and sticks to the crampons. The steep portion with the difficulties costs time in the descent, too, so we need two hours from the saddle to the end of the glacier; from there another hour to Diavolezza.
way back through the crevasses
On our way back through the crevasses.
Piz Palü
Piz Palü seen from Diavolezza
Rest at Diavolezza.
There we have an extensive rest with a splendid view to the summit which we visited just a couple of hours ago. 1 1/4 hours from Diavolezza to the valley station (through mostly quite boring ski piste area), and we are back to our cars.

Practical hints

Difficulty, best season
Piz Palü entirely is a glacier tour - the key issue is the state of the first glacier step at about 3300 m. Towards end of season, one finds wide crevasses and short (but steep) ice passages. Further upwards at about 3600 m there is one more crevasse crossways that might cause problems.
In summary, Piz Palü is more AD- than PD, but in early summer with good snow coverage probably easier.
Making it as a ski tour, one can reach the saddle at 3730 m by ski, if the crevasses are well snow-covered. In winter the path from Diavolezza along Piz Trovat to Fuorcla trovat cannot be used, and one has to descent from Diavolezza to the glacier plateau 200 m below first (and of course one has to gain these 200 meters again afterwards).
Map: LKS 1277 Piz Bernina and LKS 268S Julierpass (ski routes).
Our times
        05:35 Diavolezza              (2974)
06:15 - 06:30 Fuorcla Trovat          (2980)
08:35 - 08:40 Vadret Pers             (3350)
09:45 - 10:00 Sattel bei P.3731       (3730)
10:30 - 10:50 Piz Palü Ostgipfel      (3882)
11:20 - 11:30 Sattel bei P.3731       (3730)
13:30 - 13:35 Fuorcla Trovat          (3350)
14:30 - 15:35 Diavolezza              (2974)
16:50         Talstation Diavolezza   (2085)
Diavolezza is a restaurant/hotel at the cable car station and not a mountain hut line Alpine club huts. Anyway, one is well used to mountaineers there - overnight stay costs SFr 34.-, and breakfast for the early birds is provided (with thermos; breakfast is included in the fee). Hot water like in "real" huts is not available, but tea for the way ("Marschtee") in the morning (give your bottles in the evening).
Since many guided parties as well as other tourist groups stay here overnight, a reservation is advisable.
Tel. ++41 81 842 6205
The cable car costs Fr. 18.- (up only) resp. Fr. 25.- (round trip), the half tax abonnement is accepted.
Map and guide
  • SAC, "Bündner Alpen 5, Bernina-Gruppe" (in German, 1993), Routes 6 (Diavolezza), 302
  • 1:50000 LKS 268S "Julierpass"
  • 1:25000 LKS 1277 "Piz Bernina"

Further remarks
As we heard later, on the same day two participant of a guided DAV tour to Zugspitze (not from our section) died from exhaustion. Seen from afterwards, surely it was the best choice not to go up in that wet and cold weather.
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© 1999 Hartmut Bielefeldt

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