Climbing Cima Solda was my plan B for the day. The initial idea was to get to Monte Cevedale. But the visibility was close to nothing and the long walk across the glacier full of crevasses and without knowing the route was not an option, so the plan B was all that was left.
[Vivaldi: Cum dederit (Nisi Dominus)]
Cima di Solda – basic data
- Location: the Stelvio National Park in the Italian Alto Adige (South Tyrol, Südtirol) area, the part of the Ortler – Cevedale Group.
- Elevation: 11076 ft (3376 m).
– Longitude: 46.46896.
– Latitude: 10.60073.
- Nearest huts from Bormio side: Rifugio Forni (2144 m), Rifugio Pizzini-Frattola (2706 m), Rifugio Casati (3254). All three are in one line, along the route.
- Fees and permits: There is an entrance fee 3 Euro/day, 5 Euro for 2 days, 10 Euro for 7 days, for the parking at the Rifugio Forni. It is paid far below at the beginning of the narrow Forni Road.
How to get there
I have only approached the mountain from the west, i.e., from the Bormio side, see the map above (just zoom it out), and I did it a few times in the past, so I know the area well.
The other approach from the north is from the Solda (Sulden) village. The road to this place starts at Gomagoi village on the north side of the Stelvio pass, which I also know well, you cannot miss it if you go to Stelvio. But I did not pass the Solda road and cannot say anything about the mountain access from that side.
So from the west side, the final 7 – 8 kilometers from Santa Caterina di Valfurva are a narrow and sometimes quite steep mountain road, and as far as I know, motor homes are not allowed there and with all good reasons.
The parking below the Rifugio Forni (which is a sort of a mountain hotel rather than a hut) is huge but it can be full during weekends and for holidays. I have seen a person staying there and asking people to park cars close to each other in order to make space for others.
As mentioned above, there is a fee to be paid far below in the valley. There is a good toilet with running water at the parking.
This is hardly a climbing, just a walk up at high altitude, but it is indeed a high altitude and you will feel it all the time. Note the height difference between the starting point and the summit, it is 1230 meters, quite respectable for such altitudes and for a day tour in snow conditions.
From the Forni parking, you just follow the gravel road towards the Pizzini hut. There is an alternative walking path that goes parallel to the road but far above it, but people use it mainly descending the mountains. This part is not particularly steep, but it is not easy, the Pizzini hut is at 2706 meters above the sea level and you will fill it.
Some people pay for transport up to Pizzini hut, the road is good enough for some terrain vehicles. It is really disappointing to see that many of them are actually climbers who go to the high peaks around.
After the Pizzini hut you will see the mountain wall in front of you in the north-east direction, and on the top of it the Casati hut should be visible unless the clouds are low. So this is your next destination; the first 20 minutes of this part are still rather flat but the rest is a very steep route that zig-zags toward the ridge above you.
- From the Forni parking to the Pizzini hut plan around 80 – 100 minutes or so, dependent on your physical conditions and your backpack.
- From the Pizzini hut to the Casati hut plan nearly the same, up to two hours maximum.
- From the Casati hut to the Cima Solda summit some 35 – 40 minutes.
In the case without snow (which is probably very rare here even in summer) any kind of hiking boots or shoes will be fine. But I have been there a few times in mid summer and it was always with cold rain or snow, so do not go without a waterproof footwear. More about clothing in the Alps in general you can read in my separate text.
In icy conditions, you will need crampons below the Casati hut. Here is my short equipment summary:
Water & food
There are two huts on the way up, so you can have water and food there if you wish so. There are several water streams along the route, so if you use a filter you can always refill, no need to carry more than one bottle at a time.
I came there after some quick climbs in the Swiss Alps, where I climbed Fluela Schwarzhorn, and around Livigno. I started at 8:20 am from the parking. So why so late? Well, the weather situation looked terrible in the early morning, and this was so for several days as I reported in my another text. I spent the night in the car on the parking and did not have any information about the weather forecast. It was raining all the night and in the morning, it was cold and unpromising.
But I saw people arriving at the parking and going up towards mountains, so I thought they knew something that I didn’t, and that the weather would improve. Well, it did not.
Anyhow, I was at the Casati hut at 11:45 am, so this was in 3 hours and 25 minutes. This timing was reasonable, I did not push hard, no reason to do so, I expected I would have to return at some point, that is how bad it looked. Did not carry many things, the usual stuff for a day tour (my own food as usual); only crampons added weight in the backpack, I use Petzl crampons.
I carried only one bottle of water and was using my Pure2Go water filter to refill on the way up and down, there was water running everywhere around and a lot of snow in the upper part of the route.
From the Pizzini hut and above, everything was under fresh snow that fell the night before, and this was mid summer, August just to know. So on the steep part below the Casati hut, I used crampons and gaiters, though it was doable without them.
I was still hoping that the weather might improve and I would then continue the glacier tour to Monte Cevedale, this was my plan A.
The visibility at the Casati hut was only a few meters. So it was clear that Monte Cevedale would have to wait and it was plan B to follow. I knew Cima Solda was close so having plenty of time, I made a rest at the hut, had a coffee, waiting and hoping to have some views.
Now, if you have ever been on a mountain tour, you might know how bad it is when you have to change plans (after you have climbed 1200 meters of the altitude difference as I did on this occasion). I guess I am not using a right word here, English is not my native, so it is hard to express myself properly. It is not just bad, it is frustrating.
But waiting was pointless, so at one moment I decided to continue. It took me some 30 – 40 minutes to the summit. I was going slow on purpose, could not see anything, and by chance, there were two people in front of me who seemed to know what they were doing (obviously, I didn’t). So I followed them, they were slow and I wanted to keep the distance. The snow was deep at some places no route, no visibility, all white around.
The man on the summit
At the summit, I met them. One of them turned out to be a mountain guide from Austria (that is why they knew the way), and the other, an elderly man (even for somebody of my age), was from Berlin.
The German was very talkative. I learned he is in the Alps every weekend, with his guide, of course. Apparently, he has climbed all the mountains in the Alps (at least once). He started 30 years ago (so we had something in common after all, see my story here), and he never did anything solo. So I concluded that his private guide must have earned quite a fortune in all those decades. The guide was with the face of a person who obviously spends every minute in mountains, completely dark and sunburnt.
I further learned that they spent the night in the Casati hut, but the German was not pleased with the accommodation. So he decided they would climb down to the Pizzini hut to stay the night, and next morning they would climb up again and continue to Monte Cevedale. I could not believe my ears, the altitude difference is around 450 meters, and this almost doubles the altitude they had to climb to Monte Cevedale.
My guess is that the guide was paid by the day, so he did not mind, otherwise, it would be difficult to explain such a crazy plan. I managed to ask again because I was not sure that I was hearing properly, and yes, he confirmed, they would climb back in the morning again.
I did comment that there was no shower available at the Pizzini hut (contrary to the Casati hut, which is incredible in view of its altitude), but the German replied he did not need a shower. So what he really needed remains a puzzle to me.
Later, while spending the cold night in the car far below on the Refugio Forni parking, I was thinking about the man from the summit having a great dinner and a comfortable bed at the Pizzini hut. And I can tell you I would not mind being in his previous apparently uncomfortable accommodation far above, in the Casati hut.
So to conclude this report of climbing Cima Solda, as you realize, the views were next to none, definitely not the best day in the Alps, but I am writing these lines far from mountains and I already miss them. Would not mind being there again, even in such conditions. There is no cure for this, but you know this, don’t you?
If you are in the area, you might want to see my text of climbing the nearby Pizzo Tresero and Monte Sobretta, they are just across the valley. Note also that the Gavia pass is very close there, and the Bivacco Battaglione Ortles which is an attraction for itself.
Let me know if you have any info about this area, or if you have a question and comment, there is a comment box below. Have a nice day.