Rising out of the Aosta Valley and separating the alpine dale from Piedmont, Gran Paradiso is the tallest mountain solely located in Italy. At 4.061 meters above sea level, it is the seventh tallest peak in the Graian Alps, which also includes the Mont Blanc massif.
Gran Paradiso has earned its name for the exceptional beauty that surrounds it. Italian king, Victor Emmanuel II, noticed this natural beauty and designated the peak and its surroundings as a royal reserve in 1856, which later became the boundaries for the national park.
In 1922, his grandson, King Victor Emmanuel III, donated the land to the Italian government in order to protect the Alpine ibex from being poached to extinction and the national park was born.
In the past 96 years, the park has done just what it was intended to do. Gran Paradiso National Park, as well as the mountain from which it takes its name, is now home not only to a renewed population of Ibexes, but also golden eagles, ermine, weasels, Eurasian badgers and even lynx.
While the park is renowned for its floral and faunal diversity, Gran Paradiso is also famous for the ease with which it may be climbed in spite of having one of the highest ascents on summit day.
The peak was first ascended in 1860 by a team of English and French mountaineers. Since then, millions of tourists have flocked to the mountain’s slopes to make the ascent themselves.
Here is everything you need to know when planning your own trip to this piece of paradise!
Before you even begin your mountaineering experience to the top of Gran Paradiso, you have to get there. The peak is quite accessible both from Italy and France, so there are many spots from which to begin the trip in both countries.
Most guides are flexible about where they meet as a result of this. Many offer options to rendezvous in Turin and Chamonix, both of which have airports.
For the shortest trip options (which last two days) guides will likely want to meet at Port Valsavarenche, in order to get onto the mountain as soon as possible.
Depending on how well acclimatized you are once you have arrived in the Graian Alps, most people only spend two or three days climbing to the top of Gran Paradiso (not including the time it takes to arrive at your designated starting point).
The two day option begins with you meeting your guide at the specific starting point and hiking up to the Rifugio Vittorio Emanuele II or Rifugio Chabod, depending on the route you are taking. This takes only about 2.5 hours.
The next day, you will wake up early in order to be at the summit by around noon. Depending on the route, it takes about four to 4.5 hours to reach the summit. The rest of the day is spent descending back to the base of the mountain.
Three day trips also generally include a climb of one of the other smaller and nearby summits, such as Tresente, but are otherwise the same. Due to the ease with which Gran Paradiso may be climbed, some guides offer three-day trips where the first day is spent learning basic mountaineering techniques.
There are two main routes to the summit of Gran Paradiso: ascending from the Rifugio Vittorio Emanuele II or Rifugio Chabod. To access both routes, you start at 1.850 meters from Pravieux in Valsavarenche.
The hike to both huts takes about the same amount of time and involves hiking through some boulder-strewn slopes.
Overall, there is not much difference between the two routes or mountain huts. The route from the Rifugio Chabod takes about half an hour longer, but also offers some lovely views not available on the route from Rifugio Vittorio Emanuele II.
Both mountain huts are similar, in terms of comfort and accommodation, offering an excellent ambiance and Italian hospitality. A night and half board meal generally costs about €50. Depending on the guide, this may or may not be included in the overall cost of the trip.
On the day of the ascent, both routes require hiking across a glacier with crampons and a pick axe, before reaching the final ascent to the summit. This final ascent is the only part that might be tricky, with a 60 meter scramble over rocky terrain required to get to the top. Most people can do it, but a bit of previous instruction will be required.
Gran Paradiso is widely considered to be one of the easiest 4.000 meter mountaineering peaks in the Alps. It is an excellent option for people aspiring to learn basic mountaineering techniques.
In order to reach the summit, you really only need some previous hiking experience as well as a very high level of physical fitness.
All the mountaineering skills you need will be shown to you by your guide either on a previous day or on the same day as your ascent.
The best time of year to climb Gran Paradiso is from June through September. However, the weather here is often mild enough to allow for ascents in the late spring and early autumn as well.
During the summer months, the weather for climbing Gran Paradiso is ideal. Average temperatures on the mountain hover between 8ºC to 12ºC. Once you reach the glacier and above, it gets much colder. Temperatures at the base of the mountain are generally in the mid-20s. As a result of these differences, be sure to dress in layers.
While temperatures do not drop too much during the spring and autumn, it is definitely cooler and will require warmer clothing than the summer.
Late spring and early summer is when it precipitates the most in this area. While the weather is generally clear, squalls and afternoon thunderstorms are not uncommon. July through October are generally drier than May and June.
As with any climb, having the proper equipment can make a huge difference between an unforgettable adventure or an uncomfortable trip. The following is a list of supplies that guides have previously recommended be brought:
Please note, some of this equipment may be rented at the start of the trip.
The average cost of a mountaineering trip to Gran Paradiso ranges from €300 to €600 per person.
Where your price falls in this range largely depends on how many people with whom you are climbing and what is included.
At the low end of the range, this price will include the guiding fee and possibly some group equipment. This means food, transportation, personal equipment and guide expenses are not included and you will have to have extra cash for those.
On the upper end of this spectrum, the guide fee and expenses, transport during the trip, equipment and accommodations may all be included.
However, prices vary largely from guide to guide.
Along with mountaineering, there are plenty of other activities to do in Gran Paradiso National Park during the summer.
Rock climbing in both the Piantonetto and Orco Valleys are quite popular. Hiking and trekking expeditions are widely considered to be the best way to see all of the beautiful scenery that the national park has to offer. Trail running is becoming an increasingly popular activity here as well.
So what are you waiting for? Book your next mountaineering adventure to Gran Paradiso now and take advantage of the sublime scenery and excellent adventure that Italy’s highest peak has to offer!
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