Adamello ski mountaineering in Italy
Ski mountaineering on the largest glacier in the Italian Alps. Five ski tours described by the Mountain Guide Cain Olsen: Calotta, Ficazza, Pisgana, Pisganino and the legendary Adamello Tour.
"It is a huge block, large enough to supply materials for half-a-dozen fine mountains. But is is in fact only one. For a length and breadth of many miles the ground never falls below 9500 feet. The vast central snow-field feeds glaciers pouring to every point of the compass. The highest peals, such as the Carè Alto and Adamello, are merely slight elevations of the rim of this uplifted plain. Seen from within they are mere hummocks; from without they are very noble mountains falling in great precipices towards the wild glacier-close glens which run up to their feet. Imagine an enormous white cloth unevenly laid upon a table, and its shining skirts hanging over here and there between the dark massive supports." This is how D.W. Freshfield described the central Adamello massif when he first set sight on it on 25 August 1864. The famous British mountaineer was standing on the summit of Presanella and had just carried out the first ascent of this mountain.
In almost a century and a half this white cloth has shrunk. 30 square kilometers at the end of 1800, 25 during the 1920's, 17 in 1997 and a mere 13 square kilometers during the last measurement in summer 2009. The message is clear: if you want to see this giant before it melts away, make sure you come quickly. Also because, if the glacier continues disappear at this rate, in circa 30 years it will disappear altogether.
Published below are 4 day trips, the classic outings in this area, one more beautiful than the other. The famous Pisgana is described, as well as its smaller brother, Pisaganino. Calotta feels like a step back in time. All of these have little elevation gain thanks to the Adamello ski lifts and massive descents. A "ski touring pass" has been created specifically for the needs of ski mountaineers who wish to ski Pisgana or Pisganino and this ticket enables you to use a total of 5 lifts: the Ponte di Legno-Tonale and Paradiso cable cars, the Presena and Val Sozzine chairlifts and the Presena lift. This means you can set off from either Ponte di Legno or Passo del Tonale, use the lifts and then ski all the way back to your car. The fourth day trip Ficazza, is pretty new and offers fantastic snow, far from the crowds in a wild mountain environment... all the right ingredients for a grandiose outing.
And then there is the Adamello Tour, a three-day ski trip to discover the scene of the Great War, with nights spent in the mountain huts. This is a true Haute Route with numerous variations, meaning that your stay in these marvellous mountains can be extended further still, and careful transport planning will enable you to discover magnificent traverses far from the crowds. Val Adamè, Val Salarno, Val Miller and Val d’Avio are all ideal valleys for single day itineraries thanks to Paradiso – Presena ski lifts.
Last but not least, it is worth underlining that these high altitude mountain traverses require maximum care and attention. Often there is no mobile phone network. Check the snow and avalanche bulletins long before you plan the trip. Prepare the itinerary carefully at home, study the map and draw a sketch using a compass or GPS. Orientation in poor weather can prove difficult, being able to use these instruments is important, but to navigate safely in the fog you must have considerable mountain experience and in-depth knowledge of this terrain. Please remember that a large part of these itineraries is located on a glacier, make sure you have all the correct equipment for glacier travel. The Adamello Mountain Guides can accompany on single or multi-day trips. Apart from accompanying you, they can also organise mini ski touring courses for single participants or groups, spending the night at Passo del Tonale or in the mountain huts when these are open.
Best time of year
In general, the best time of year for these itineraries runs from January to May, but snow conditions obviously vary considerably from one year to the next. The best time of year for the Adamello Tour coincides with the spring opening of the huts (mid March - beginning of May). Made to measure trips of all shapes and sizes can be organised through the Adamello mountain guides. Always check the avalanche danger, weather forecast and snow cover. All this information can be found on the AINEVA website which groups together all local Italian bulletins. Alternatively, telephone +39 0461 230030.
Rifugio Città di Trento (Mandrone) 0465501193
Rifugio ai Caduti dell’Adamello (Lobbia Alta) 0465502615
Car: From Verona - motorway A22 (Brennero/Modena) towards Brennero, exit at S. Michele all'Adige; continue along the SS43 towards Passo Tonale to the bridge at Mostizzolo (4 km after Cles) then take the SS42 to Passo Tonale (Verona - Passo Tonale km 190).
From Milan - motorway A4 (Milano/Venezia) head east towards Venice, exit at Ospitaletto; continue along the SP19 towards Valle Camonica, at Rodengo Saiano take the SP510 and continue to Piancamuno. From here take the SS42 to Passo Tonale (Milano - Pontedilegno km 180).
Train: From Trento - take the train to Malè, then continue by bus to Passo Tonale. From Milano - take the train to Brescia, then change for Edolo. At Edolo continue by bus to Passo del Tonale.
For the itineraries: ski mountaineering skis, ski mountaineering boots, climbing skins, ski crampons, poles, rescue beacon, shovel, probe
For glacier travel: rope, glacier crampons, classic ice axe, harness, small screw gate carabiners, daisy chain, ice screws, slings, belay plate
Personal equipment: 30/40 liter rucksack, thermos with hot tea, provisions (energy bars, bread, dried fruit), first aid kit, sunglasses (protection factor 3 or 4), goggles, Gore-tex jacket and overpants, fleece jacket, pants and breathable base layers, lightweight gloves, thick gloves, hat, bandana, sun tan lotion.
For the night: sleeping bag inner, change of socks, headtorch and spare batteries, mountaineering club membership, toothbrush & toothpaste, small towel, wipes
Other equipment: compass or GPS, map, photocopies of the routes, pencil and paper for route sketch, camera and batteries, handkerchief, jacket, rucksack cover, Swiss Army knife, energy drinks