Grignetta "direttissima" + traversata alta delle Grigne

Published by Stijn , 23 December 2015, 18h53.

Region: World » Italy » Lombardy
Date of the hike:19 December 2015
Hiking grading: T5 - Challenging High-level Alpine hike
Climbing grading: II (UIAA Grading System)
Geo-Tags: I 
Time: 2 days
Height gain: 1950 m 6396 ft.
Height loss: 1950 m 6396 ft.

Instead of complaining about the bad snow conditions in the north, I decided to head south again, where it is possible to pretend that it's still September. There has been no precipitation since mid-October and the temperatures are still quite comfortable in t-shirt. In search for a hut that is still open, I stumbled upon the Rifugio Brioschi, located on the summit of the Grigna Settentrionale. Having looked over towards the Grigne from the Monte Generoso just a week before, it seemed like the mountain should offer some interesting hiking. That proved to be quite an understatement! The Grigne are well-known amongst the Italians, but surprisingly, among the 100 Hikr reports for the Grigna Meridionale ("Grignetta") and the 118 reports for the Grigna Settentrionale ("Grignone"), there is just a single one in a language other than Italian (a useful report by marmotta). About time to change that!

Day 1
Piani Resinelli - direttissima - sentiero Cecilia - Grigna Meridionale - traversata alta - Grigna Settentrionale / Rifugio Brioschi
T5, 1650m ascent, 600m descent, 6h15

Entering Pian dei Resinelli, I turn right towards the Rifugio Soldanella (formerly Rifugio S.E.M.). There is parking along the side of a dirt road slightly past the rifugio. At the start of the driveway above the Rifugio Soldanella, a path heads up into the woods, leading quickly to the Rifugio Porta.

The Grignetta is the lower of the two Grigne, but offers the largest diversity of different routes. Among the many possibilities, the "direttissima" (T4) seems most interesting. Confusingly, this is not a direct route to the summit at all, rather it forms a direct connection between the Porta and Rosalba huts. The direttissima is signposted as route number 8 and starts together with the normal route (number 7, "cresta Cermenati") at the Porta hut. Soon after, the direttissima turns left, starting an ascending traverse into the spectacular south-west face of the Grignetta.

A short scramble along fixed cables brings me to the Caminetto Pagani. This consists of a short traverse on iron rungs followed by two vertical ladders. On photos, this looked like the crux of the route, but it turns out to be easier than it looks. After a squeeze through a narrow gap in the rocks, the route descends a little (the path up being blocked by an obvious "no traffic" sign). Afterwards, the path continues traversing towards the north-west, constantly in between amazing rock towers. Many sections are secured by fixed cables and the usage of a via ferrata set would be possible. However, there are unsecured passages of grade T4 as well! In any case, it's much more pleasant to scramble on the rock, rather than using the cable.

The Caminetto Angelina would offer a short-cut, but I decide to stay on the direttissima until the Colle Valsecchi, on the west ridge of the Grignetta. The Colle Valsecchi is connected with the summit by the Sentiero Cecilia. I start to make some navigational mistakes here, though... The path seems to descend back into the Caminetto Angelina, and a little while back there was a sign "cresta Segantini" pointing up onto the ridge... maybe that was the correct way? I go back to the sign and try to find a way up. The only possibility seems to be a 30m tall chimney, which offers some pleasant but demanding scrambling (T6, II). This can hardly be the correct way? Indeed, there is no safe way to continue from the top of the chimney, so I scramble back down. As it turns out, I was indeed on the Cresta Segantini route, but this is in fact a climbing route of grade III+, of which I just did the first pitch.

Continuing back on my original path, I soon find a signpost that confirms that I'm still on the "Alta Via delle Grigne", i.e. that I shouldn't have turned back in the first place. Glad about this, I only narrowly avoid making a second error, descending back into the Caminetto Angelina for real this time. Just in time, I look back and spot some chains above the signpost, accompanied by a typical blue-dot-in-a-red-square paint mark. They finally bring me correctly onto the Sentiero Cecilia. The path goes up and down in rocky terrain for a while, the crux being a steep descent through a chimney, protected by fixed chains (T4). Afterwards, a steep ascent over Schrofen brings the path onto the south ridge (Cresta Cermenati). The final 200m of ascent to the Grignetta summit is accomplished on the busy normal route (T3).

I continue with the traversata alta delle Grigne, connecting the Grignetta with the Grignone in a direct line. The most serious part is the descent from the Grignetta (T5). Immediately behind the "lunar excursion module" summit shelter, the route starts with the descent of a 10m near-vertical wall, thankfully secured by a chain. A little further, a signpost (detached and confusingly twisted in the wrong direction) marks the top of the Caminetto Federazione. This gully drops steeply down into the north face of the Grignetta. The rock in the Caminetto Federazione is of considerably lower quality than earlier on, so the fixed chains are quite welcome here as well!

The terrain eases out towards the Bocchetta di Giardino, after which an easy path goes east of the ridge and down towards the Bochetta di Campione (a.k.a. Buco di Grigna), the lowest point between the two Grigne summits. Here, the traversata alta gets more challenging again. After a short, spectacular traverse into the west face, some scrambling brings me back onto the ridge, reaching the grassy summit of Scudo Tremare. The fixed cables here are not in the best state, but they serve mostly just to indicate the correct route anyway, since the scrambling is not too difficult. The terrain ahead still looks daunting, and indeed there are a few more fixed cables, but all in all the scrambling is very pleasant and easier than expected thanks to the excellent rock. (T4)

Around the 2100m contour, the terrain becomes considerably easier. The path does a short traverse into the east face, allowing me to gain the Bivacco Merlini (where the traversata alta joins the normal route onto the Grignone) without significant loss of altitude. I have kept quite a high pace to make up for the time lost with my navigation mistakes on the Grignetta, and I'm paying the price now. The terrain is non-technical for the last 250m of ascent (T2-T3), but it feels like an eternity until I finally reach the summit of the Grignone. I'm exhausted, but I've made it in time for sunset and I can relax in the Rifugio Brioschi, immediately next to the summit. Though the weather is perfect, the hut is only half-full with 13 guests, making for a pleasant atmosphere. One tip: even though we're in Italy, the beer is better than the wine!

Day 2:
Grigna Settentrionale / Rifugio Brioschi - Pialeral - traversata bassa - Piani Resinelli
T3, 300m ascent, 1350m descent, 3h30

After a tiring day on Saturday, the programme is much more relaxed on Sunday. After watching the sunrise and eating breakfast, I descend on the normal route ("via estiva") down towards Pialeral and Alpe Cova. Between ca. 1900m and 1500m, there are two variations. The most common path is apparently the one slightly to the north, that passes above a marked escarpment. Without really thinking about it, I find myself on the other, lower path, that drops down in the valley below the escarpment (one steep T3 section), and joins the other path again just before the picnic spot at Pialeral. My variation is worthwhile thanks to some interesting rock formations. There are two small cabins (one private and the other one open but rather shabby) at the foot of the escarpment as well.

I return to Piani dei Resinelli using the traversata bassa (T1-T2), which starts at a signpost at Alpe Cova. The easy path descends down to the Valle dei Grassi Lunghi, crossing the river at an altitude of about 1100m. Afterwards, the traversata bassa gradually climbs again towards the large building of the Alpe Muscera, which is already clearly visible from Alpe Cova. Another kilometer along a dirt road brings me back to the car at the Rigugio Soldanella.


It's easy to understand why the massif of the Grigne is one of most popular mountains in Lombardia, and used to be a "playground" for the likes of Emilio Comici, Riccardo Cassin, Walter Bonatti. There are endless possibilities on the mountain in all grades of difficulty, all in amazing scenery. Though it's not fair to pick favourites, I have one anyway: the "direttissima" on the Grignetta really is an exceptionally stunning trail. But the rest of the Grigne massif is equally worthy of an exploration. I will definitely be coming back for more!

Final notes
* The Grigne massif is covered by Swisstopo map 287 "Menaggio". However, this map is woefully incomplete, outdated and inaccurate. Different local maps are available, which are usually much more complete with regards to the existing trails, but have shameful lack of topographical detail. I'm yet to see a satisfying map of the area.
* The grades used by the Italian Hikr community are quite out of sync with the official SAC Wanderskala guidelines. Expect the routes to be considerably harder than the grades given in Italian Hikr reports! On the mountain, signposts have CAI grades on them. The most common ones are "E" ("escursioniti", roughly corresponding to white-red-white in Switzerland) and "EE" ("escursionisti esperti", roughly corresponding to white-blue-white in the Swiss Alps).

Hike partners: Stijn

Click to draw, click on the last point to end drawing


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Comments (1)

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MicheleK says:
Sent 6 October 2017, 00h47
Hello Stijn, how are you? Grigne Massiv is among the top classic in Italy and home turf to many famous climbers in Italy from the group Ragni di Lecco... check them out... cheers Michele

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