Piz Bernina (Romansh
, it|Pizzo Bernina, ) 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 of Pontresina
and near the major Alpine resort of St. Moritz
, in the Engadin
valley. It is also the most easterly mountain higher than in the Alps
, the highest point of the Swiss canton
, and the fifth-most prominent peak in the Alps. Although the summit lies within Switzerland, the massif is on the border with Italy. The "shoulder" () known as La Spedla
is the highest point in the Italian Lombardy
Piz Bernina is entirely surrounded by glaciers, of which the largest is the Morteratsch Glacier
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.
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
(such as Piz Scerscen
, Piz Zupò
, and Piz Palü
). The only other summit higher than 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 basin
s of the Danube
) and the Po River
). The summit of Piz Bernina is the culminating point of the Danube drainage basin. Politically, it is split between the municipalities of Samedan
The rocks composing Piz Bernina are mostly diorite
s and gabbro
s. The massif in general is also composed of granite
s, 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.
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 ) 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 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 normal route starts from the Rifugio Marco e Rosa, located at 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 () in Val Roseg, accessible from Pontresina. The Biancograt itself starts at the Fuorcla Prievlusa () and leads to Piz Bianco (). 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 () – capacity 32 beds, 3 places in winter room
* Rifugio Marinelli Bombardieri () – capacity 220 beds, 15 places in winter room
* Chamanna Boval () – capacity 120 beds
* Chamanna da Diavolezza () – capacity 234 beds
Deaths on Piz Bernina
* 1970: Rollo Davidson and Michael Latham
* Exploration of the High Alps
* List of 4000 metre peaks of the Alps
* List of most isolated mountains of Switzerland
PizBernina.jpg|The north ridge (''Biancograt'')
Bernina Express.JPG|Piz Bernina and the Bernina Express
Piz Bernina west.jpg|Piz Bernina from the west
Morteratsch.jpg|View from the pine and larch woodland above the Morteratsch Glacier
Bernina-Diavolezza.jpg|View from Diavolezza
* Italian route account.
Piz Bernina on SummitPost
Piz Bernina on Hikr
Category:Mountains of the Alps
Category:Mountains of Graubünden
Category:Mountains partially in Italy
Category:Highest points of Swiss cantons
Category:Mountains of Switzerland
Category:Four-thousanders of Switzerland