Ski Touring in Italy's Ortler Alps • April 2004

This was our first trip to the Ortler area, and we had a great time.

For some years, a number of our "regulars" had been pushing us to offer a trip here. Boy were they right. We began our trip in the ski town of Sulden, doing a roughly clockwise circuit through the area.

On this trip we were joined by fun hogs, Mo Moceri, Paul Farrelle, David Ries, brothers Sam and Jim Shaw, Rich Davis, Marc Gallie and Chris Robinson.

Many thanks to guide and colleague Martin Volken for all his good advice and help in setting this trip up.

Other Recent Trips

The church in Sulden. The Ortles, at 3905 meters, is the highest peak in the area. You can seen the extensive avalanche fencing to protect the town, far below.


Looking up valley from more of less the same spot as the previous picture. most of the ski complex is hidden behind the peaks shown here.


Mo in front of the hotel in Sulden.


The mid-station of the Sulden lift. The big peak behind is the Gran Zebru, which some of us climbed on our last day. This photo was taken the day before the trip officially started.


The official first day of the 7 day outing. From the top of the lift system we hopped over the Passo Madriccio, and skied down to the Corsi hut for lunch.

After a fine rest there we continued another few hundred meters up to our destination, the Marteller hut.


Coffee at the Corsi hut. From left to right are: Chris, Kathy, David, Mo (looking away from us) Sam (with the hands), Rich, Marc (looking seriously at Chris) and Jim. Paul's elbow is on the right edge of the photo.


Skinning up after our lunch at the Corsi hut.


Mo skis by the little chapel at the Corsi hut.


Finally, arriving a the Marteller hut, we enjoy the local brew.


The weather the following day was not so good. But we were still able to carry on to our goal of reaching the Casati hut, which we did navigating by GPS across the wide glacier.

On the way, a few of us made a quick ascent of the Cima Marmotta. Here, Marc and Chris examine the odd summit cross.


At last the Casati hut looms out of the fog.


The following day, we continue down in poor weather. We are heading to the Branca hut, only a couple hours distant. Here we carry skis down the steep and rocky upper part of the ridge just below the Casati hut.


A popular summer hiking area, the trails are well marked.


The last few meters to the Branca hut. And it keeps snowing, though the weather forecast is for improving conditions.


Dinner at the Branca hut. These huts are very, very nice, with great food, espresso machines and HOT SHOWERS!!!

Clockwise, round the table are Rich, Sam, Kathy, Mo, Chris, David, Jim, Marc, and Paul. Coming back to these huts after a day on the hill was always a great pleasure.


The well-stocked bar in the Branca hut.


The weather did clear the following day, after snowing all night long. We did a day trip up Punta San Mateo, a great ski peak nearby.


Skinning up in the morning towards Sam Mateo.


These four skiers are heading to another fine ski summit, Tresero, which is hidden out of view to the right. San Mateo is the big peak behind above them.


There is one steep section on Sam Mateo, where carrying skis is the best option. But it is short, maybe only 60 meters high and is fairly painless.


Quite a mob on the summit of Sam Mateo.


Finally, we get our chance to approach the cross for the summit photo. Paul, Marc and Sam smile for the camera.


All the new snow from the previous 2 days had bumped up the avalanche hazard. On one steep roll someone found the sweet spot and a big one cut loose. There were skiers under the slope, but very fortunately nobody was buried or injured. One skier lost skis, but that was the worst of it.

We we get to watch from the relatively safe location of the ridge. The big fracture line was not there on the way up!. All the tiny black dots to the right of David are skiers trying to reorganize themselves.


Lower down on the Forni glacier we found more good skiing. We did set one of our own avalanches off. You can see the fracture below our ski tracks at the top of the photo.


Back at the Branca hut, we watched the sun set.


The next day, we switched huts and skied up to the Pizzini hut, under the Gran Zebru. Paul follows the sign.


Arriving at the Pizzini hut.


Not bad, eh? A fine outdoor lunch on a sunny day. We tried not to drink too much wine as we were planning on doing a bit more skiing that afternoon.


So we went for an afternoon tour up to the Col Pale Rosse, a great view point tucked up under the steep south face of the Gran Zebru. And one offering a great descent on fine corn, back to the Pizzini hut.


Chris enjoys the ski back to the hut. Monte Cevedale is seen behind. This became our next day's objective.


Back at the Pizzini hut we do partake of the local wine, along with dinner, of course.


And we watch the after-dinner entertainment in the form of a spectacular sunset on Tresero.


The following day we were off to Monte Cevedale, skinning up the Cedec Glacier. The Gran Zebru is seen behind. The Col Pale Rosse which we skied up to the previous day, is the saddle just left of the Zebru.


The last short section of ridge to the summit of Monte Cevedale. The view is to the NE with the peaks of Austria's Ötztal Alps. The snow on the descent was difficult. The heat of the previous day's sun and then the night's freezing created a challenging crust. But the views were as good as they get.


Another night at the Pizzini hut. A hot shower and fine meal.


The next day, most of the group made an ascent of the Gran Zebru. This is mostly a climbing outing as skis are left at the base of the steep upper slope. But it is a great peak, very impressive and a worthy objective. Monte Cevedale can be seen behind.

As it was the last day of the tour, we made a big day of it, continuing down all the way to Sulden in the afternoon.


The summit photo on the Gran Zebru. In back are Jim, Paul, David and Sam, with Rich, Kathy and marc in front.


Descending the Gran Zebru. Tresero and San Mateo are the peaks behind.


Later on the same day, we had to climb back up to the Casati hut to make our descent into Sulden. Here Rich skins up past the barbed wire used to defend the border during the First World War.


A brief rest at the Casati hut before continuing down to Sulden.


Back in town we wait for the "Ski bus" to deliver us back to the hotel and a celebratory party.

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