Starting in Gressoney, the Italian 4000m Peaks Traverse is one of the most famous high altitude hut to hut tours in the Alps. Traversing along the Italian side of the Monte Rosa chain, climbing seven 4000ers along the way – the tour culminates in a night at the highest building in the Alps, the Margherita Hut, at the end of the week.
A week long high altitude hut to hut tour, traversing the Italian flank of the Monte Rosa Massif by starting and finishing at Gressoney. Seven 4000m peaks are climbed along the way and a night spent at the Margherita Hut, the highest building in Europe.
This is a very accessible week, suitable for fit hillwalkers with crampon experience, as well as climbers wanting to build up their tally of 4000ers.
This is an intermediate level trip. To take part you should be at Fitness Level 3 and Tech Level 2 (see our Fitness/Experience guidelines below). You need some basic alpine experience (eg alpine intro course, Mont Blanc, easier 4000ers) in order to get the most out of this week. Good levels of fitness are required, as each day involves 5-7 hours climbing at high altitude, so we advise you to prepare well in advance with regular exercise and training.
One IFMGA guide climbing with 2 clients.
Included in price
- 6 days of guiding
- All guides expenses
- 2 nights accommodation in the Chamonix valley, including breakfast and evening meals**
- 5 nights accommodation in mountain huts, including breakfast and 3-course evening meal
- Local travel in the guide’s vehicle to complete the course itinerary
Excluded from price (see course factsheet for cost estimates)
- Cable cars
- Lunches and drinks
- Travel to resort
- Equipment hire
Our meeting point and Chamonix valley base is Chalet Tissieres in Les Bossons, just 5 mins by car/bus from Chamonix centre. The chalet stands in its own 2000m2 alpine garden with stunning panoramic views of Mont Blanc and the entire Chamonix valley. It offers simple but comfortable shared rooms, a large lounge/dining area, honesty bar, and a huge balcony for al fresco dining on warm summer evenings: a great place to relax after a big day in the mountains. The chalet serves a buffet breakfast and varied 3 course evening meal**, with special diets catered for upon request. Rooms are provided on a twin (or occasionally 4-6 person) sharing basis, but if you prefer a single room please let us know and we will confirm availability. **The chef has one night off each week – this day will include bed and breakfast only, but the chalet will recommend an alternative local restaurant. Hotel details can be found on our Accommodation page.
For overnights in the high mountains, we will use mountain huts. For more info please read the Using Alpine Huts article which provides an overview of typical facilities, average costs to help you budget for lunches/drinks, and general info on hut etiquette.
You should arrange outward travel on Saturday, arriving by 5-6pm latest in time for the briefing at your accommodation. Your guide will run through safety routines and kit checks, as well as hand out any rental equipment, before we go on to discuss plans for the week, together with the current weather and mountain conditions and how these affect our route.
We’ll have maps and guidebooks of the area to show you, so if you’ve any further questions or last minute requests, then this is the ideal time to bring them up before we head on to dinner. PM Overnight in the Chamonix valley.
Hut Approach Day – in the morning we drive through the Mont Blanc Tunnel and travel across to Gressoney, which is about a 2 hour drive from Chamonix. There will be time to make any last minute food purchases etc along the way, before we take the cable car and chairlift up to the Colle de Bettaforca where the ascent to the hut begins.
It’s a steady walk up to the Quintina Sella Hut at 3585m, with great views of our journey ahead for the next few days. The final section to the hut is a little trickier and makes for a good warm up; following a narrow rock ridge with chains and cables in place. The hut is high at over 3500m, so in order to have a more comfortable first night, we recommend some pre acclimatisation by coming out a day or two early before starting the trip.
Ascent of Castor (4221m), F+/PD — 650m — 5-6hrs
Castor makes for a good start to the week, beginning with a steady glacier climb up to the Felikjoch col at just over 4000m.
The route now turns left and climbs steepening snow to the final narrow snow crest, straddling the Swiss-Italian border.
This last section is only a couple of hundred metres long, but is always exposed and demands good crampon work – however it’s a popular peak, so the track is usually good and it’s not very far, so you can take your time.
From the summit, the views across to the Matterhorn are excellent. The descent can be completed quickly, as the way back down is the same route as the way you came up!
PM Return to the Quintino Sella Hut.
South flank of Liskamm – our journey continues with a high level traverse across the south flank of Liskamm, crossing the Passo del Naso en route:
Passo del Naso, F+/PD — 6-800m — 4-6hrs
In order to traverse between the Quintino Sella and Gnifetti Huts, the key passage of the Passo del Naso must be crossed.
This traverse can sometimes be icy and it’s always steep on the East (Gnifetti) side, so plenty of care and a good assessment of conditions are required.
If it’s too icy to make the traverse, then it is also possible to link the two huts by descending down into the valley at Staffal and taking the cable car up to Punta Indren, before heading up to the Gnifetti Hut from the other side.
The Gnifetti Hut lies at 3602m on the south flank of the Monta Rosa chain – it’s a popular base for climbing numerous classic 4000m peaks in the region.
Ascent of Zumsteinspitze (4564m) and Signalkuppe (4554m), before spending a night at the Margherita Hut.
Zumsteinspitze, F+ — 970m — 4-5hrs
Climbing the Zumsteinspitze from the Gnifetti Hut involves a long, high altitude glacier trek in impressive surroundings.
A pre dawn start is required in order to make the long trek up the Lys Glacier to the Lys Joch at 4250m, in order to traverse onto the upper reaches of the Grenz Glacier.
The Grenz Glacier is then followed in magnificent surroundings, before the slope steepens again, making for a stiff pull up to the Colle Gnifetti.
From here, a short snow ridge and a few metres of scrambling lead to the summit of the Zumsteinspitze, which is an excellent viewpoint of the nearby Dufourspitze, Liskamm and the Matterhorn.
Signalkuppe, F — 960m — 4-5hrs
The summit of the Signalkuppe is home to the highest building in Europe, the Margherita Hut, at 4554m.
From the Gnifetti Hut, the ascent follows the same route as for the Zumsteinspitze, crossing the Lys Joch and Grenz Glacier up to the Colle Gnifetti.
From the col, it’s then just a short snow slope up to the Margherita Hut on the summit.
Behind the hut, the famous Macugnaga Face of Monta Rosa drops 2000m below – this is the biggest snow and ice face in the Alps and is truly Himalayan in scale.
For such an extreme location, the Margherita Hut is surprisingly comfortable, with excellent food. It also has free high speed wifi, which is a rarity in any hut!
Traverse of the Tops – Parrotspitze (4436m), Ludwigshohe (4342m) and the Schwarzhorn (4322m) can be combined into a great day out, before heading back to the Gniffetti Hut for a second night.
Parrotspitze, PD — 900m –4-5hrs
Parrotspitze can either be climbed via it’s West Ridge, or traversed from one end to the other, in either direction.
Each way involves a classic snow crest to reach the summit, which is narrow enough to be interesting, but not so narrow as to become too scary!
With a good track in, the ridge is straightforward – but putting the track back in after fresh snow requires a bit more time and care to make sure the footsteps are good enough to allow an easy descent.
The views from here are particularly good of the nearby Cresta Rey on the Signalkuppe and the huge south east face of the Monte Rosa massif, which plunges down to Alagna, nearly two vertical miles below.
Ludwigshohe, F — 750m — 3-4hrs
Ludwigshohe is a great viewpoint for looking down the huge SE face of Monte Rosa.
The peak lies at the top of the Lys Glacier and is accessed via a short snow crest a couple of hundred metres long, that leads to an abrupt end at the top of the face!
From here you can peer down the huge SE face of Monte Rosa, to Alagna over 3000m below and the northern Italian plains in the distance.
This is a great spot for photography and spotting distant 4000ers across the Alps and can easily be combined with an ascent of the nearby Schwarzhorn and a couple of other 4000m tops out on the glacier.
Schwarzhorn involves a short, steep climb up a snow/ice slope from the glacier in order to reach it’s rocky summit. The path usually follows 2 or 3 zigzags up the slope to the south end of the summit ridge.
Unfortunately the summit lies at the north end of this ridge (!) – so the narrow snow crest needs to be traversed in order to reach the summit rocks.
A few moves of scrambling across the rocks leads to the highest point and the summit cross.
This final section across the rock is a bit exposed, but it’s well protected by in situ gear – so it’s possible to get good belays all the way across and back.
Finally, the descent needs a similar amount of care, but the track is usually good and it’s possible to protect the steepest parts of the snow slope from above using ice screws or an ice axe belay.
Piramide Vincent (4215m) – this is our final 4000er of the week. We save this one till last as it’s one of the finest viewpoints in the Alps, offering a breath taking vista of all the summits we have climbed during the week.
Piramide Vincent can be climbed from the Gnifetti Hut via a variety of routes, all of which give quick access to the summit.
The NW flank from the Colle Vincent is the normal route, but the peak can also be climbed via the SW ridge, or combined with Punta Giordana to make a nice traverse.
It’s also the nearest 4000er to the Punta Indren lift, so it’s possible as a day hit from the valley, or a good choice for the final summit of a trip before descending to Gressoney.
The descent back past the hut to the cable car is also quick and straight forward, allowing us to reach Gressoney by lunch time. From Gressoney it’s then a 2 hour drive back to Chamonix to round off the week.
We aim to be back at a reasonable time, in order to beat the Friday night tunnel traffic, which can sometimes lead to long queues in the summer holiday season – ie best avoided!
PM Return to Chamonix, overnight in Chamonix
Return travel should be arranged on Saturday morning, after your final nights accommodation.
We base ourselves for the week in the famous French resort of Chamonix, in the shadow of Mont Blanc. Chamonix is one of the most famous Alpine centres in the world, with an unparalleled range of quality climbing across all grades and styles, and much of it with convenient cablecar access. The most common way to reach Chamonix is fly to Geneva, then take a shared taxi transfer to the Chamonix valley – transfers will drop off at the destination of your choice, but must be booked in advance.
Flight and transfers
- Fly to Geneva with numerous budget airlines: for an overview of the best options check out the excellent Sky Scanner flight comparison website.
- Airport transfer from Geneva to Chamonix: Mountain Drop-offs offer the best all round service, with regular reliable transfers through the season. They offer a shared minibus taxi service which meets you in the airport and drops you off at the door of your hotel. Book your transfer here and use promo code ALPGUID to receive a discount on your journey.
- Alternatively hire a car at Geneva airport (1.2 hrs drive to Cham): www.arguscarhire.com / www.holidayautos.co.uk
For flights and other travel options, including train, coach and driving, visit our Travel Planning page.
Alpine Mountaineering is an endurance sport – ie to get to the summit involves climbing uphill for several hours. Therefore, your fitness and power to weight ratio are very important factors for success. Another important factor is altitude, which people react to in different ways and finally, you need the appropriate technical climbing ability for the trip – please check that you have the correct fitness and tech levels for your trip using the Tech Level and Fitness Level descriptions below.
This is a key factor – you must be at the minimum Fitness Level quoted for your course (see descriptions below). However, the fitter you are the more you will enjoy it and the greater your chances of success. Being fit also helps you to recover more quickly between climbs during the week.
Your power to weight ratio
What shape you are has a big impact on your likelihood of success! Eg are you slim and athletic, a normal build, a bit overweight, or 1-2 stone or more overweight? If you are a stone overweight (7-8kg/15lb) , then you will find the trip a lot harder and if you don’t have a solid background in endurance sports, you are likely to struggle. In our experience, if you are more than 12kg/25lb overweight, you may manage some shorter climbs or easier routes with less time pressure, but you stand almost no chance of completing a major alpine summit where speed of ascent is critical for safety. So if you know you need to lose a bit of weight, then start right away and you’ll reap the rewards!
Your personal acclimatization rate
All of our alpine trips involve an acclimatization climb at the start of the week, but everyone responds to altitude in different ways and personal speeds of acclimatization vary widely between individuals. Past experience is a fair indicator – so if you have coped Ok at altitude before eg. on a previous alpine trip, Kilimanjaro, or on a high altitude trek, then this should be good news. Conversely, if you have had problems or been slow to acclimatize before, then you definitely need to come out early, in order to pre acclimatize before the week starts – please contact us for further advice about this.
If you need to top up your fitness for this trip, please see our training advice page.
Please make a self assessment against these levels, and refer to the trip suitability requirements.
Tech Level 1
Hillwalker/scrambler. You have UK hillwalking and perhaps summer UK scrambling, or European via ferrata experience – but no rock or ice climbing, or previous alpine mountaineering experience.
Tech level 2
Novice climber. Indoor or outdoor sport climbing experience / seconding traditionally protected climbs at V Diff – Severe standard / winter hillwalking or mountaineering using an ice axe and crampons / alpine glacier treks or alpine peaks to F standard.
Tech Level 3
Intermediate climber. Leading single or multi pitch trad rock climbs at Severe – VS / ice climbing experience seconding routes to Scottish grade 2 – 3 / familiar with multipitch abseil descents / alpine peaks at PD – easy AD standard.
Tech Level 4
Experienced climber. Leading multi pitch trad rock climbs at VS – HVS / multi pitch winter climbs to Scottish grade 4 / alpine peaks at AD – D standard. If you mainly climb with guides or seldom lead climb, you have extensive experience seconding at this standard.
Tech Level 5
Very experienced climber. Regularly lead multipitch E1+ trad rock / ice and mixed routes at Scottish 5+ or WI5 / alpine routes at grade D and above. If you mainly climb with guides or seldom lead climb, you have very extensive experience climbing at this level.
Please make a self assessment against these levels, and refer to the trip requirements. These are cardiovascular (CV) fitness and activity levels eg. running, cycling, hillwalking or competitive sports that get your heart and lungs working for extended periods of time (not strength training in the gym!).
Fitness Level 1
You do 1-2 hours of training/cardiovascular sport per week. Eg: you should be able to climb Snowdon from Pen y Pas in around 2 hrs carrying a day sack, or Bow Fell starting from Langdale in the Lake District in about 2 1/2 hrs.
Fitness Level 2
You do 2-3 hours CV training/sport per week. At this level you should be happy doing either a 3-4 hour hillwalk, cycling 30-40 miles or mountain biking 2-3 hours without being exhausted. Eg: you should be able to walk from Ogwen Cottage in North Wales up Glyder Fach – Glyder Fawr – Y Garn – Ogwen in ~5hrs. Or in the Lake District Langdale – Bowfell – Esk Pike – Angle Tarn – Langdale in ~ 6hrs.
Fitness Level 3
You do 3-4 hours CV training/sport per week. At this level you are happy doing a 5-6 hour hillwalk, 50 mile cycle or 3-4hr mountain bike ride without being totally exhausted. If you are into challenges – then the thought of doing a road sportive, or training to do a 1/2 (or maybe even a full) marathon, wouldn’t seem too ridiculous. Eg: you should be able to do the full Langdale Horseshoe: Langdale – Pike of Stickle – Angle Tarn – Bow Fell – Crinkle Crags – Pike of Blisco – Langdale in a day without finishing up exhausted.
Fitness Level 4
You do 4+ hours CV training/sport per week. A 70+ mile cycle ride, or 20+ mile hillwalk on a weekend would hold no fears. If so inclined, you might be the kind of person who has done longer road sportives/challenge rides, a ~3.30hr marathon or other similar endurance events. Keen hillwalkers who happily knock off 3-4+ munros in a day also have this kind of fitness and endurance.
Fitness Level 5
You do 5-6+ hours training for competitive sport per week, have a background in the same, or you are annoyingly talented! Either way, doing a 100 ml bike ride or about a 3hr marathon wouldn’t be unreasonable.
Summer Alpine Kit List
Above all, alpine climbing kit needs to do the job, but be as light as possible. We work with various manufacturers including Arc’teryx, whose products we can thoroughly recommend.
- Waterproof jacket – lightweight breathable model
- Overtrousers – with long side zips
- Socks – warm ‘Smartwool’ type, plus thin liner socks and spares
- Gaiters – made from breathable material (or trim fitting trousers with ankle volume adjuster)
- Wicking thermal tops – long sleeved and light colour is ideal!
- Fleece mid layer – or equivalent light insulating layer
- Mountain trousers – light/mid-weight windproof softshell model
- Thin gloves – windproof ‘hardfleece’ model is good
- Warm insulated gloves – wind and waterproof
- Warm hat – must fit under a helmet
- Spare warm layer – fleece or lightweight synthetic belay jacket
- Water Container – at least 1 litre
- Headtorch and batteries
- Map, compass and whistle (optional, but a good idea)
- Personal medications and blister kit – zinc oxide tape, compeed, painkillers etc
- Sun Glasses – CE rated 3 or 4 with side protection
- Goggles – for windy/snowy conditions
- Sun and lip cream – factor 30+
- Sun hat
- Wallet and passport
- Alpine Club/BMC card (if you are a member) and insurance docs
Hut Overnight Items
- Small wash kit
- Spare lightweight t-shirt/socks/pants
- Silk sheet sleeping bag liner
- Ear plugs
- (Hut slippers for indoor use, and blankets/duvets and pillows are provided by the huts)
- Rucsac – 35/45l is perfect for general use
- Rucsac – superlight 15/20l model, for taking on long multi-pitch rock routes (for technical courses/private guiding)
- *Rigid mountaineering boots – Axe, Boot and Crampon advice
- Rock boots – must be comfortable enough to wear for several hours (can be hired in resort if nec)
- Approach shoes or trainers
- Trekking poles
- Harness, locking karabiner and belay device
- 2 prussik loops + karabiner – if in doubt, bring 3m of 6mm climbing cord!
- 120cm sling + locking karabiner
- Climbing helmet
- Crampons with antiball plates
- Ice Axe classic type for intro and general mountaineering courses
- Technical Ice Axe and Hammer – required for parts of the Tech Alpine/Cham Alpinist/Ice and Mixed/North Faces courses
Your guide will have ropes, climbing rack, first aid and survival equipment.
*Boots: These are VERY important to the success of your trip! Its best to have your own boots and break them in well before the start of the trip – see advice below.
Recommendations and Advice
Visit the Knowledge Base section of our website or our blog for equipment advice. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, please get in touch!
Backcountry UK in Ilkley offer an excellent mountain boot fitting service and general equipment advice.
Please see our Equipment Hire page for more details.
For this trip you must have specialist travel insurance providing medical, emergency search/rescue and repatriation cover for the following activities: rock climbing and mountaineering in glaciated areas requiring the use of ropes, up to 5000m altitude. We also strongly recommend that you purchase cancellation cover, in case you’re unable to attend your trip due to personal circumstances or injury.
Please arrange your insurance as soon as your trip is confirmed to run.
Insurance for UK residents
European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). This gives you reciprocal health care in European countries. You can apply for an EHIC card online here or from most Post Offices. You need an EHIC in addition to your travel insurance.
European residents (non-UK)
Austrian Alpine Club. Available to all European residents. AAC insurance is cheap and works ok for minor accidents and rescues, but is not as comprehensive as many other insurance providers. The medical cover included would not be enough for complex treatment or a prolonged stay in hospital. It also doesn’t include cancellation cover. If you choose to use AAC we recommend you take out extra medical cover with another provider, to ‘top up’ the AAC medical limit, as well as a separate cancellation policy.
Travelex. For US citizens – a range of policies with comprehensive cover.
For any nationality
Global Rescue. Cover offered to all nationalities via a combination of GR membership and their separate insurance policy.
If you choose an alternative provider, or if there is any doubt about the scope of your chosen policy we recommend that you send your insurer the link to the relevant Alpine Guides trip webpage, and ask them if cover extends to those activities and has the required components (search/rescue, medical, repatriation and cancellation). It’s worth mentioning that rescue and medical expenses in Switzerland can be significantly more expensive than in other countries, so a decent level of cover is required for Swiss tours.
We recommend that you send us your insurance details before the trip commences, and they must be brought to the course briefing at the start of your trip. However, we cannot check the detail of every individual policy, and it is your own responsibility to ensure you are adequately insured.
What happens to my deposit if I book a trip, but it isn’t confirmed to run due to insufficient bookings?
You may transfer your booking to different dates, a different course, or choose a full refund.
Does Alpine Guides climb with customers from overseas, including the USA and Canada?
How do I book a climbing trip?
For scheduled climbing trips it’s easy to book online, directly from your course page. For hire a guide/bespoke courses please get in touch for a quote.
Can I book a single room on my climbing trip?
Yes – this can be done during the online booking process. Please add the single room option to your order, and we will confirm availability asap.
How do I rent mountaineering equipment?
You can rent certain items of specialist equipment from us, and the rest can usually be hired in resort.
What happens about accommodation, if the weather is very poor and we end up spending extra nights in the valley instead of in huts?
We will make any necessary last minute bookings for the team. On trips taking place outside the Chamonix valley, any extra valley hotel nights will be on a BnB basis rather than half board.
What happens to our plans if the weather is bad, or climbing conditions are poor?
We will make every effort to stick to the itinerary, but sometimes its necessary to change plans and select different objectives more suited to the prevailing conditions, or travel to a neighbouring area or sometimes even further afield.
Who goes on our trips?
We climb and ski with a broad range of ages and experience levels, and a large number of our customers come back year after year. We’ve guided 10 year old Ollie up the Old Man of Hoy in Scotland – now the youngest person to climb it. And 70 year old David has climbed the Matterhorn with us, as well as out-skiing people half his age!
What happens if I need to cancel my course?
If you wish to cancel you must notify us in writing, where upon the following charges will be applied from the date we receive your notice of cancellation:
- More than 8 weeks (56 days) before start date – loss of deposit.
- Between 4 and 8 weeks (28-56 days) before start date – 50% of course fee or loss of deposit, whichever amount is greater.
- Less than 4 weeks (28 days) before start date – full course fee.