Situated in the heart of the Graian Alps, between the Aosta Valley and Piedmont in northwestern Italy, Gran Paradiso is an immensely popular mountaineering destination.
The twenty-fourth tallest mountain in the Alps is widely considered to be the easiest 4,000-metre peak in the range to climb and is often used as a warm-up by mountaineers heading on to the Matterhorn or Mont Blanc.
Gran Paradiso sits at the centre of a national park of the same name. As that name suggests, the mountain is surrounded by gorgeous scenery and is home to plenty of wildlife as well.
While the ascent of the mountain takes two days, many climbers opt to spend a few more hiking through the park and climbing some of its minor summits.
Quick Facts about Gran Paradiso
- Gran Paradiso is the tallest mountain that is completely located in Italy. While there are six taller peaks than Gran Paradiso in Italy, all of them sit on the country's borders with France or Switzerland.
- In spite of the relative ease of the ascent, Gran Paradiso boasts one of the largest elevation gains on summit day of any peak in the Alps – roughly 1,260 metres (4,130 feet).
- Gran Paradiso sits within a national park of the same name that is home to a wide array of endemic plants and animals, including golden eagles, ibex, badgers and lynx.
History of Gran Paradiso
Gran Paradiso – meaning “great paradise” in Italian – got its name in 1856 when Italian King Victor Emmanuel II visited the mountain and its surroundings, naming them a royal reserve shortly afterward.
Just four years later, in 1860, a team of English and French mountaineers became the first people to reach the peak’s summit. In the following years, the mountain became an increasingly popular sport for mountaineers training to climb some of the tougher summits in the Alps.
In 1922, King Victor Emmanuel III (grandson of Victor Emmanuel II) donated the land to the Italian government and it was turned into a national park soon afterward.
Experience Required for Climbing Gran Paradiso
Gran Paradiso is widely considered to be among the best peaks to climb for first-time mountaineers. Requiring only very basic glacier travel with an ice ax and crampons as well as some scrambling and low-level rock climbing, the technical difficulty is very low.
Many guides offer three-day mountaineering courses on the mountain, on which the second day is spent practicing necessary climbing techniques, before the summit attempt on the third day.
In spite of its low level of technical difficulty, climbing Gran Paradiso does require a good level of physical fitness.
Main Routes up Gran Paradiso
There are two main routes up to the summit of Gran Paradiso: the northwestern route, which begins from the Refuge Frédéric Chabod, and the southwestern route, which begins from the Refuge Victor-Emmanuel II.
In terms of technical difficulty and aesthetic beauty, there is not much of a difference between the two routes and both begin from the trailhead at Pont Valsavarenche. Getting to each of the two huts requires a moderately challenging hike through a boulder-strewn field.
From the hut, climbers continue to ascend over rough terrain until reaching the glaciated upper portion of the mountain. From here, climbers will need to use crampons and ice axes to make the final approach to the summit.
The last bit of the climb involves some steep scrambling and a bit of rock climbing, which is not too technical and achievable with only some basic instruction.