Gran Paradiso

The Italian 4000er that's popular with mountaineers and skiers alike

Gran Paradiso is the highest summit of the Graian Alps which lie between Mont Blanc to the north and Dauphiné range to the south. It is not prominent from the closer valleys, being hidden behind its surrounding mountains. Only from distant summits is its impact obvious. The name arouses concepts of a tremendous unscathed world — easily imagined in this area with its dreamy cirque lakes and lonely screes and snows, with occasional views of the prehistoric-like herds of ibex. However, although this quality can be discovered around the peak it is singularly absent in the valleys and on the mountain’s Normal Route — a popularity ensured by the ‘National Park’ publicity tag. What one finds on the peak is a busy, well-trodden track up one of the ‘easy’ 4000ers. This reputation guarantees its ascent by climbers with a wider age range than is usual on mountains of this height.

Despite the popularity its ascent is far from effortless. It demands over 2000m of height-gain from the car-park at Pont to the summit, and all of this must be made on foot. The first ascent was made by John Jermayn Cowell and W. Dundas with the guides Michel Payot and Jean Tairraz in 1860. They did not have the advantage of the hut, named in honour of Vittorio Emanuele II to commemorate his founding of the national park.

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