Gran Paradiso Summit

Gran Paradiso Summit

guides and climbers descending from Gran Paradiso Summit
Climbers approaching the summit of Gran Paradiso in fat springtime conditions earlier this week. Photo: Zeb Blais

With an unsettled weather forecast, we wasted no time getting to Italy to have a crack at climbing Italy's highest peak, Gran Paradiso.  We knew the walk in was going to be a grind.  Heavy rain was predicted, so we figured using the day to hike into the Refugio Chabod was about as good of a use as we could find for the soggy day.

amazing trail on the way to Gran Paradiso's Chabod refugio
Amazingly crafted trails leading to the Chabod Hut of Gran Paradiso.  Yes, it was wet.  Photo: Zeb Blais

Even in the rain, the hike into Gran Paradiso is spectacular.  The trails are the result of thousands of hours of human labor, meticulously laying stones vertically in the trail to withstand the elements and heavy use of thousands of hikers.  Lush green, the larches and grasses lining the trails looked happy with the weather pattern they'd been experiencing throughout the wet spring.  Using umbrellas, we managed to arrive at the hut only just moderately damp.

The clouds stuck around for most of the evening, with glimpses of the high alpine appearing occasionally.  It was a little unsettling, but our faith was in the weather forecast and we went to bed hoping for clear skies.

guided summit climb of gran Paradiso in Italy
Climbers headlamps working toward the Gran Paradiso Glacier before dawn.  Photo: Zeb Blais

A pre-dawn start revealed what we had hoped: starry skies and perfect visibility!  We ate a quick breakfast at the hut and started out.  The clear skies had allowed the snow to freeze deep enough to support our weight in many places and the track from the previous day's climb was frozen solid and provided efficient travel.

Due to the long period of stormy weather, the relief of nice weather drew a crowd and there was no shortage of climbers on the mountain.  With good travel conditions and nearly perfect weather, we made good time up the mountain. 


Gran Paradiso Summit Climbers approaching the summit of Gran Paradiso in fat springtime conditions earlier this week. Photo: Zeb Blais
Climbers on the Gran Paradiso Glacier in fat springtime conditions earlier this week. Photo: Zeb Blais

With a little jockeying a bit between teams, we made the Madonna Summit well before noon with incredible views of the Mont Blanc Massif, the Matterhorn and the entire Alps range.  The staggering views from the summit were elevated by the exposure and exciting climbing on the summit.  Nothing hard, but some serious exposure to keep things interesting!

The summit of gran Paradiso is very exposed
Climbing down from the Madonna summit block of Gran Paradiso earlier this week. Photo: Zeb Blais
After the summit block, we headed back to the Refugio Chabod.  The conditions remained good and despite sinking in deeper on the return, the snow stayed solid enough to move quickly down.  Generally there were only a few random short sections that were very soft and punchy.


Descending back to the Rifugio Chabod with mountain guides the Summit of Gran Paradiso
Descending back to the Rifugio Chabod with mountain guides on Gran Paradiso. Photo: Zeb Blais


We couldn't have asked for better luck, both in terms of weather and climbing conditions. The snow was firm and supportable on the way up, and soft enough to cushion our knees, but not soft enough to post hole too deep and the skies stayed mostly clear until we returned to camp. 

Descending with a guide just below the summit of Gran Paradiso
Descending below the summit block of Gran Paradiso. Photo: Zeb Blais

Just as we put our packs down at the refugio to grab a few items we had left there, we felt a few drops of rain!  We couldn't complain since we'd just gotten about as perfect of a summit day as you could ask for, but the darkening clouds and spitting rain definitely put a little pep in our step.  We scurried back to the trailhead as quickly as we could and managed to make it within about 15 minutes of the parking lot before having to pull out our umbrellas one last time!

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