Gran Paradiso is the highest mountain, and the only 4000m peak wholly in Italian territory. It is located in the Graian Alps, in the Aosta Valley region of north-west Italy, and the centre piece of the Gran Paradiso National Park.
The summit was first reached on Septeber 4th 1860 by J.J. Cowell, W. Dundas, J. Payot and J. Tairraz.
Wild camping is not permitted in the Gran Paradiso National Park, and it therefore restricted to commercial campsites in the Valsavarenche, of which there are many.
There are two Rifugio, mountain huts, suitably placed for an ascent of Gran Paradiso. The main buildings are staffed during certain periods, both have limited areas open all year. When staffed, both huts provide hot meals (typically soup or pasta, meat dish, and desert), beds (blankets provided, but bring your own sheet sleeping bag), and hot showers. Both have a telephone that can be used by the public. It is best to book ahead, especially in July and August.
Rifugio Vittorio Emanuele II is located at 2735m, on the more popular route. It has a capacity for 72 during the summer, and 44 during the winter.
Rifugio F. Chabod is located at 2750m. It has capacity for 85 during the summer and 16 during the winter.
There are two normal routes to the summit of Gran Paradiso, both requiring ice axe, crampons. Parties should be roped, particularly on the upper sections and glaciers. The season for tackling these normal routes extend from June to September. Typically August is very busy as it is then that much of Italy’s industry shuts down for a month long holiday. Expect over crowding at the huts.
Both routes begin in the Valsavarenche, from which a zig-zag path, first through forest will take you to one of the two above mentioned mountain huts. Start at Aple Pravieux (1871m) for Rif. F. Chabod, or Pont (1960m) for Rif. V. Emanuele II. Pre-dawn alpine starts are required to make the best use of the firm snow before it softens in the morning sun.
This is the more popular, and easiest route. Begun from the Rif. V. Emanuele, this route first sees you crossing the boulder field northward to the moraines of the Gran Paradiso Glacier. It is easy to loose ones way here in the dark, so worth checking out the afternoon before. The moraines lead into a narrow valley, its floor running with melt water from the glacier. Follow the glacier up on the right hand side, often in well worn tracks, being aware that there are hidden crevasses. Follow the snowy ridge in a curve beneath rocky towers to a rock ramp with an exposed section before summiting.
A more technical route starting from Rif. F. Chabod that first crosses to the Laveciau Glacier and then heads up the steep snow slope of Gran Paradiso's North Face.
For an on-line, scaleable map visit MultiMap.
Italian cartographers at the Istitutio Geografico Centrale or IGC have produced an adequate, but not entirely clear or reliable 1:25,000 map of Gran Paradiso, number 101. The legend includes English, contours are at 25m intervals.
Buy from Stanfords, London, UK.
Sample of the IGC map.
Richard Goedeke's The Alpine 4000m Peaks, by the classic routes covers the normal route to the summit.
Publisher: Bâton Wicks
For a vitual tour visit www.granparadisovmt.co.uk.
The Italian Mountaining Club or Club Alpino Italiano (CAI) has a website at www.cai.it. Italian language only.
The website of the Italian Government Tourist Board can be found at www.italiantourism.com.