© Copyright: Stefan Burkhardt

Rifugio Gnifetti - Signalkuppe - Stafal

Previous Day July 26th 2007
Start time: 6:05
Arrival time: 14:40
Duration: 8:35
Climb: 1210 m
Descent: 1830 m
Next Day
In order to have frozen snow for better traction and since we were not sure how long things would take, we set our alarm to 4:20 and had breakfast as soon as possible. The evening before we had further reduced our gear so we could leave one backpack at the Rifugio Gnifetti. It still took us until 6:05 to set foot on the Lys glacier, where we were rewarded with an awesome view of Mont Blanc in the distance.

We were by far not in the sun yet, since the ascent up to the Colle de Lys is west-facing. A lot of people had been a bit more efficient about getting ready, we probably saw about 50-80 making their way up to either Lyskamm, Colle de Lys or just the Pyramide Vincent.
We wore our crampons right from the start and the three of us were roped up with Alberto leading the way, followed by Irene and me. Alberto started off at a brisk pace and we passed a lot of people on our way to Colle de Lys which we reached around 7:35. The picture to the left was kindly taken by Alberto and it shows the Lyskamm in the background. Colle de Lys lies on the border between Italy and Switzerland but we did not encounter any border guards...
From Colle de Lys, we got our first view of the Signalkuppe with the Cabana Margherita sitting on its top. To the left of it, you can see the Zumsteinspitze and the peak just below the sun is the Parrotspitze.
Moving towards the Parrotspitze we passed a crevace and Alberto pointed out to us that it had opened just a few days ago. The path started to descend a bit crossing over to the base of the Signalkuppe.
It led past huge snowdrifts on the northern flank of the Parrotspitze.
The climb up to the Signalkuppe starts out quite moderate but the last bit is pretty steep. We were lucky though, there was a well-trodden path leading up with one switchback which made it quite easy for us.
We took a short break before the last, steep part. The weather was awesome, only slightly below zero and almost entirely without wind. I was comfortable wearing only thin glove liners.
While Alberto took another picture of Irene and me, he told us that on Monday (the day we crossed Colle del Turlo and got rained on) two climbers froze to death where we were standing. The got into bad weather with very low visibility and despite being only 200 meters from the Cabana Margherita were unable to find it. Only one climber out of a party of three survived the night.
We made it to the top around 8:50 and started to take LOTS of pictures while Alberto went inside to chat with the crew of the cabin and eat something.
A rock pillar on the northeast side of the Cabana.
This ridge leading southwest is used by helicopters to drop off supplies. You can see some marks on the far right. When we arrived, a load of food had been delivered and was being carried inside.
This picture shows a ridge leading southeast from the Signalkuppe. The Colle del Turlo crosses it in the section that is already covered by clouds. We were almost 2 kilometers higher now than on Monday and a lot warmer too.

After taking dozens of pictures, we headed inside and had a plate of ham and cheese. Alberto was sitting in the kitchen and chatting with the staff. The food was awesome and we followed up with a piece of cake. Our acclimatization had apparently worked well since we did not have any altitude related problems.
After an almost 2 hour break we left the Cabin at 10:40. Descending was quite fun and we quickly covered ground that had taken us a lot of effort earlier this morning.
Still fascinated by snow drifts.
This picture shows Lyskamm on the left. In the distance there are Matterhorn, Dent Blanche, Zinalrothorn and the Weisshorn. The glacier we were standing on is the Grenzglacier which merges with the Gornerglacier further below. The Gornerglacier is visible at the bottom of the gap with a black strip of debris in the middle. Behind it the Gornergrat rises to more than 3000 meters. We would later visit it on our day in Zermatt.
Looking back on the Signalkuppe.
More snow formations. It was getting warmer so Alberto hurried past them.
Below Colle de Lys the snow started to become softer which sometimes was a bit tricky.
We made it back to Rifugio Gnifetti at 12:05. We took off our crampons and harnesses and picked up the gear we had left behind. This was followed by a quick 30 minute food break and then we set off again. By now clouds had moved in up to about 3600 meters. We took the easier route around the rock ridge leading us past the Rifugio Citta di Mantova and back to Passo Salati. Here we thanked Alberto for the great trip and said good-bye. From there we descended to the Rifugio Guglielmina and picked up even more luggage. It was a bit nasty to suddenly be faced with so much more weight again.

We wanted to have a bit of luxury after the night in the Rifugio Gnifetti so we took the cable-way down to Stafal and looked for a Hotel. Not very far from the station we found the Hotel Nordend. They offered us a room for 80 Euros including breakfast. It was beautifully designed, with lots of wood and a very nice bathroom. They also had a laundromat and drier so we washed as much laundry as possible.
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