The Breithorn

Breithorn Occidentale from the Gobba di Rollin piste The Breithorn West Summit (4165m) is generally regarded as the easiest 4000m Alpine peak because there is a quick and easy snow-plod to the summit from the ski-stations at Klein Matterhorn (3883m) and Plateau Rosa (3480m).

It's a fine little climb for the sake of acclimatisation and training, and the views are magnificent.

In late July 2008 I left Rif.Teodulo (3300m) at 05:45; I took the photo at 08:30 on the plateau (3800m) below the Breithorn; I reached the west summit (4165m) at 11:35. My Naismith Rule, therefore, was about 200m/hr vertical and 4.2kph horizontal. The weather was calm, with some wind and mist in the last hour of ascent. The footing was snow, mainly firm and well-consolidated; it was a bit soft on the plateau and a bit loose on the high slopes.

I purposely walked slowly all day. I wasn't tired or out of breath but I had very little energy or commitment. Many people passed me, very few passed me quickly. Once the path started climbing, we all settled down to a sullen trudge; altitude affects the mood then the performance.

Breithorn approach The Breithorn cannot be seen from the Plateau Rosa because Klein Matterhorn gets in the way, dominating the eastern skyline. You must follow the piste southeast from Testa Grigia to the big piste area, on the far side of which you will see a tunnel. Cross the pistes and the tracks of the ski-tows carefully, especially in poor visibility, and go through the tunnel.

The path for the Breithorn from Testa Grigia across Plateau Rosa

The view northeast from the piste junction - a few minutes' walk beyond the tunnel
Approaching the piste tunnel from the Plateau Rosa ski area. Emerging from the tunnel, walk up the piste towards Klein Matterhorn. After a few minutes the west summit of the Breithorn inches up over the right-hand skyline. After a couple of minutes more a footpath leaves the piste (at a piste T-junction) and heads for the peak. Stepping in the footprints of earlier Breithorn-plodders, head up to the Gobba di Rollin ski-tow on the skyline. As you ascend, the Breithorn crest and edge of the Monte Rosa group appear, and the plateau with its lines of climbers and endless views of brown southern hills stretch out before you.

Now step onto the travelator, you're just another cog in the Eeezy-Klimb 4000m Ascent Machine. Welcome to the Ant Farm - I hope you enjoy it as much as I always do.

Ant Farm I - Klein Matterhorn and Cervinia, seen from the west summit of the Breithorn Ant Farm II - the west ridge of Pollux and the west face of Castor, seen from Ghiacciaio di Verra below Colle del Breithorn

To get to the Breithorn area from Cervinia, whether on foot or by ski-lift, you must go via Plateau Rosa, which is both the ski-station on the hill called Testa Grigia and the skiing area surrounding it. The Breithorn Occidentale is about 2 hrs snow-plodding from the ski-station, if you're fit and unaffected by the altitude. In summer the first ski-lift leaves Cervinia for Plateau Rosa at 07.00; the last ski-lift leaves Plateau Rosa for Cervinia at 16.30. Check these times.

To get to the Breithorn area from Zermatt by ski-lift, take the lift to Trockener Steg and thence to Klein Matterhorn. The Breithorn Occidentale is about 1.5 hrs snow-plodding away, if you can plod briskly at this altitude after a ski-lift ascent of 2,200m.

To get to the Breithorn area from Zermatt on foot, take the Tour of Monte Rosa path to Trockener Steg, Colle Teodulo and Plateau Rosa. Allow 6-8 hours - altitude may affect your performance.

Matterhorn Area


Click to enlarge map Breuil-Cervinia centre Stand in front of the Cervinia ski-lift station (Piazzale Funivie) and take the road along its left side; this leads to a big bend to the left, where a smaller road on the right gives onto Path 15, which follows the ski-lift to Plan Maison. For an easy start, take the ski-lift from Cervinia to Plan Maison.

Click to enlarge map From Plan Maison follow the obvious path uphill towards Colle Teodulo. At the Colle you can turn left for the Rifugio or right on the Swiss side onto the piste up to Testa Grigia / Plateau Rosa.

The view eastwards from Plan Maison. Click to view enlarged enhanced image

This is the obvious route, probably the most popular. It gives wonderful views of Monte Cervino and the SW Ridge, is easy to find and not steep. The ground is stony and unattractive but the views are marvellous. You can lunch, dine and/or overnight at Rifugio Teodulo, which is open all year.


Click to enlarge map Stand in front of the Cervinia ski-station (Piazzale Funivie) and take the road to the right; at the fork go right (uphill not down into the ski-station car-park), which gives onto Path 16. This will lead you easily uphill to pass Lago Goillet on your left. Path 16 crosses Path 18, and the track of a defunct narrow-gauge railway. In the background, to the west, are the lower slopes of Les Petites Murailles.

Click to enlarge map Continue easily on the path to Colle Superiore delle Cime Bianche. From the Colle follow any path towards the ski-lift junction at Bar Ventina. In summer this is on the snow-line; ahead of you Ghiacciaio di Valtournenche stretches upwards. The view northeast from Colle Superiore. Ghiacciaio di Valtournenche and Testa Grigia are on the left skyline.

Northeast across the glacier to Plateau Rosa An obvious piste crosses the Ghiacciaio to Plateau Rosa on the skyline. If you are confident on glaciers, this is an easy walk; most people will want to rope up and possibly put on crampons. The piste crosses a crevassed area about halfway up the slope.

The view southwest is dominated by the twin peaks of Grand Tournalin (left) and Monte Roisetta (right).

This is a harder route than the Plan Maison option, easy to find and not steep, a bit shorter but more serious. The ground is stony and unattractive but the scenery is marvellous. In summer there is no accommodation before Plateau Rosa.
Cervinia Ski Map


Buy a ticket at the Cervinia ski-station to Plateau Rosa. The journey takes about 40 mins with two changes:
  • Cervinia to Plan Maison (80-person cabin)
  • Plan Maison to Stazione Cime Bianche (4-person gondola)
  • Stazione Cime Bianche to Plateau Rosa(80-person cabin)
Plateau Rosa is at 3,480m, almost the same altitude as Colle del Testa Leone. This easily high enough to cause breathing problems, especially if you go from low altitude to Cervinia and then by ski-lift up to Plateau Rosa. Don't ignore breathlessness, headaches and poor performance.

The view eastwards from Colle del Breithorn across G.di Verra to Castore-Polluce. The Breithorn Occidentale is a couple of hours' walk away. From the summit you can follow the ridge to the Centrale and Orientale summits, then to Roccia Nera and down to the Bivacco and the path from Colle del Breithorn.
For an easier expedition, walk up to Colle del Breithorn and follow the path down onto Ghiacciaio di Verra, leading to Polluce, Castore-Lyskamm and the rifugii of Valle d'Ayas.
If you take the earliest ski-lift from Cervinia (0730 arr 0815), you could do the Breithorn or Polluce on the way to the rifugii in Valle d'Ayas. If you're very fit you could do Castore-Polluce from Testa Grigia and return to Testa Grigia on the same day but you'd probably miss the last ski-lift (1630 dep Plateau Rosa). In August 2005 Costin Frunza, my fit and well-acclimatised friend, left Rifugio Guide del Cervino at Plateau Rosa at 0300 solo, did Castore-Polluce and returned to Plateau Rosa at 2100, feeling strangely tired.


The approach to Castor and Pollux via the Mezzalama Hut is popular but difficult to reach from Cervinia. The roadhead is St Jacques:
  • By car go Cervinia-Chatillon-Brusson-St Jacques
  • By bus go Cervinia-Chatillon (1hr); Chatillon-Verres (1hr); Verres-Brusson-St Jacques (15mins)
The walk from St Jacques (1750m) to Rifugio Mezzalama (3036m) is about 6km (3.5hr).
The Rifugio Guide Di Ayas / Lambronecca (3425m) is about 1km (1.25hr) up the hill from Rifugio Mezzalama.

Breithorn-Castor-Lyskamm Area

cartina-d.jpeg Traversing the Breithorn ridge to the East Summit, Roccia Neria, Castor and Pollux is a more serious and worthwhile expedition. The variety of available shelter - Bivacco Rossi-Volante, Bivacco Felice Giordano, Rifugio Mezzalama, Rifugio Guide d'Ayas and Rifugio Quintino Sella - greatly reduces the risk and workload.
The large number of huts and bivouacs in the area indicates the popularity of this beautiful and accessible mountain region.


Climbing in the Southern Monte Rosa - Daniel Arndt's wonderful trip report and outstanding photos
Summit Post - Info & photos - Info & photos

Ghiacciaio di Verra the approach to Pollux and Castor seen from SW ridge of Pollux
Castor the Ordinary Route seen from summit of Pollux
Castor and Pollux from Ghiacciaio di Verra
Pollux, Breithorn, Cervino seen from summit of Castor

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