Trip Reports: Around The Bernina Range, Switzerland/Italy - September 2018

In early September we flew to Zurich, Switzerland, took a train to St. Moritz, then embarked on a 9-day trek around the Bernina Range in the Rhaetian Alps. Named after the tallest peak in the range, Piz Bernina, the Bernina Range is a rugged and heavily glaciated mountain range along the border of southeast Switzerland and Italy. Our clockwise route took us across into Italy then back to Switzerland again, staying in alpine huts every night along the way.

Bernina Range, Chamanna Coaz, Lej de Vadret, Rhaetian Alps, Switzerland, Val Roseg, hut, photo

The Chamanna Coaz hut is perhed on a cliff above Lej de Vadret and Val Roseg.

Despite recent snowfall, a terrible case of jetlag, and an unsettled weather forecast, we set off from St. Moritz for our first destination - the Coaz hut.

Bernina Range, Chamanna Coaz, Piz Aguagliouls, Rhaetian Alps, Switzerland, hut, photo

The Coaz hut with a backdrop of glaciers and rugged peaks.

Like many huts in the Alps, the Coaz hut is situated in the most unlikely of spots, perched on a solid rock cliff right alongside a glacier.

Bernina Range, Rhaetian Alps, Switzerland, hiking, photo

Hiking away from the Coaz hut, which is situated at the head of the valley below the glaciers in the distance.

Bernina Range, Piz Zupo, Rhaetian Alps, Switzerland, Vadret da Morteratsch, photo

Looking up towards the Morteratsch Glacier and the glacier-clad Piz Zupo above it.

After hiking out Val Roseg from the Coaz hut, we caught the train in Pontresina for a 5-minute ride to the next valley where we hiked up alongside the Morteratsch Glacier to the spectacularly-situated Boval Hut.

Bernina Range, Boval Hut, Piz Bernina, Piz Palü, Piz Zupo, Rhaetian Alps, Switzerland, Vadret da Morteratsch, hut, photo

Piz Bernina (4049m /13,284 ft.) towers above the Boval hut and Morteratsch Glacier.

Bernina Range, Piz Palü, Piz Zupo, Rhaetian Alps, Switzerland, reflection, photo

Piz Palü (3900m, left) and Piz Zupo (3996m, right) reflect in pond at dawn.

Though it's possible to cross two glaciers to reach our next destination of Diavolezza, we didn't have crampons or ice axes, so we had to go around the long way. We hiked back out the valley, caught another quick train ride to the bottom of the Diavolezza tram, then hiked up to Diavolezza.

Bernina Range, Rhaetian Alps, Switzerland, Vadret da Morteratsch, hiking, photo

Hiking above the Morteratsch Glacier.

Bernina Range, Piz Alv, Rhaetian Alps, Switzerland, hiking, photo

Hiking up to Diavolezza, with Piz Alv in the background.

Bernina Range, Diavolezza, Rhaetian Alps, Switzerland, beer, photo

Nice place for a beer!

Diavolezza is a restaurant building situated on top of a high ridge with a spectacular panoramic view overlooking Piz Palü, Piz Bernina, and the Morteratsch glaciers. So far on this trek every hut was more and more spectacular, and Diavolezza raised the bar even higher! The restaurant is popular with tourists during the day, who mostly ride the tram up and down; but they also have dorm rooms to spend the night, complete with an excellent dinner and breakfast buffet.

Bernina Range, Diavolezza, Piz Bernina, Piz Morteratsch, Piz Palü, Rhaetian Alps, Switzerland, stars, photo

The Milky Way above the high peaks of the Bernina Range.

Bernina Range, Diavolezza, Piz Bernina, Piz Morteratsch, Piz Palü, Rhaetian Alps, Switzerland, photo

Sunrise over Piz Palü, Piz Bernina, and Piz Morteratsch as seen from Diavolezza.

From Diavolezza we had a fairly easy day hiking down and around to a lodge at Sassal Mason, above Alp Grüm.

Bernina Range, Diavolezza, Piz Bernina, Piz Morteratsch, Rhaetian Alps, Switzerland, photo

Sunrise light on Piz Bernina and Piz Morteratsch, as seen from Diavolezza.

Bernina Range, Rhaetian Alps, Sassal Mason, Switzerland, hut, photo

Sassal Mason, overlooking Val Poschiavo.

One advantage of hut trekking in September is that the huts aren't crowded at all; at Sassal Mason we were the only guests there, and enjoyed our own private wood fire that evening in their rustic sleeping quarters.

Alpe Palü, Bernina Range, Rhaetian Alps, Switzerland, reflection, photo

Reflection at Alpe Palü.

From Sassal Mason we had our longest day of the trek, a fairly grueling hike above Val Poschiavo then up and over Pass da Canfinal into Italy to Rifugio Bignami.

Alpe Gembré, Bernina Range, Italy, Rhaetian Alps, hut, photo

Traditional stone houses of sheep and goat herders at Alpe Gembré in Italy.

Bernina Range, Italy, Rhaetian Alps, rainbow, Fellaria Glacier, photo

Rainbow near Rifugio Bignami. The Fellaria Glacier is visible above on the left. To the right is Passo Canfinal which we hiked over to get to Rifugio Bignami.

After five solid days of trekking we were totally exhausted at Rifugio Bignami, and with another big day of hiking ahead of us, we decided to take an extra rest day there. During the rest day we did a side hike to check out the Fellaria Glacier, then our second night we had the whole hut to ourselves again!

Bernina Range, Fellaria Glacier, Italy, Rhaetian Alps, photo

An ice cave at the nose of the Fellaria Glacier.

Like most glaciers in the Alps, this one is receding very quickly; each year it's remarkably smaller as noted in dated photos at the hut.

Italy, Piz Scerscen, Rhaetian Alps, hiking, photo

Hiking below Piz Scerscen on the Italian side of the Bernina Range.

Rested up after two nights at Rifugio Bignami, we crossed over the Forcella di Fellaria pass and continued to the Rifugio Marinelli Bombardieri, another hut perched on the edge of a massive cliff. 

Bernina Range, Italy, Piz Scerscen, Rhaetian Alps, panorama, photo

Sunset along the Italian (south) side of the Bernina Range, with Piz Scerscen at the right side.

Built in 1886, the Rifugio Marinelli Bombardieri is a historic hut and the traditional resting point for the standard route up Piz Bernina.

Bernina Range, Cime di Musella, Italy, Rhaetian Alps, Rifugio Marinelli Bombardieri, hut, photo

Panoramic sunset view of Rifugio Marinelli Bombardieri and Cime di Musella.

Bernina Range, Italy, Monte Disgrazia, Rhaetian Alps, photo

Autumn sunlight behind Monte Disgrazia (3678m / 12,067 ft.) as seen from near Rifugio Longoni.

From Rifugio Marinelli Bombardieri we had another long hiking day over Forcella d'Entova to the Rifugio Longoni.

Bernina Range, Italy, Rhaetian Alps, Rifugio Longoni, hut, photo

A beautiful sunrise over Rifugio Longoni.

In the morning at Rifugio Longoni I witnessed the best sunrise of the trek so far, though I was unable to find any intriguing foreground compositions to photograph so I just took another hut photo! 

Bernina Range, Italy, Monte Disgrazia, Rhaetian Alps, A7R3, photo

Monte Disgrazia (3678m / 12,067 ft.) at sunrise.

Bernina Range, Italy, Rhaetian Alps, photo

Sunrise over the Rhaetian Alps.

Bernina Range, Italy, Monte Disgrazia, Rhaetian Alps, reflection, photo

Monte Disgrazia autumn reflection.

Bernina Range, Chiareggio, Italy, Rhaetian Alps, Val Malenco, photo

The village of Chiareggio, at the head of Val Malenco and foot of Monte Disgrazia.

Bernina Range, Rhaetian Alps, Switzerland, photo

Two larch trees try to populate the glacier-scoured Forno valley.

Bernina Range, Forno Glacier, Rhaetian Alps, Switzerland, Vadret de Forno, photo

Hiking towards the Forno Glacier.

Our final hut in the Bernina Range was the amazing Forno Hut, a beautiful hut situated on a cliff (as usual) above the Forno glacier. 

Bernina Range, Capanna del Forno, Forno Glacier, Rhaetian Alps, Switzerland, Vadret de Forno, hut, photo

The Forno Hut, perched on a cliff high above the Forno Glacier.

Bernina Range, Cima dal Largh, Piz Bacun, Piz Casnil, Rhaetian Alps, Switzerland, reflection, photo

Dawn reflection of Piz Casnil, Piz Bacun, and Cima dal Largh.

I was happy to find this tiny pond to photograph reflections in the morning.

Bernina Range, Cima dal Largh, Piz Bacun, Piz Casnil, Rhaetian Alps, Switzerland, reflection, photo

Morning reflection of Piz Casnil, Piz Bacun, and Cima dal Largh.

After breakfast we hiked back out the Forno valley to Maloja, where we caught a bus back to St. Moritz where we started from, completing another fantastic hut trek in the Alps!