A New Line on One of the Most Popular Peaks in the Alps

Francois Cazzanelli and Jerome Perruquet spent all summer in Pakistan, opening a new variation on Nanga Parbat‘s Kinshoffer route and then summiting K2 without supplementary oxygen. Now in autumn, they wanted to find adventure in their own backyard. And they succeeded.

Together with Stefano Stradelli, the Italians climbed a beautiful new rock-and-ice route on the North Face of the Central Breithorn (4,160m), right on the Italian-Swiss border. Cazzanelli is based in Italy’s Vall d’Aosta, and Perruquet is a guide in Zermatt.

The new route (in red) up the North Face of Breithorn’s Central Peak. The lower right corner lists their gear: two twin 60m ropes, 10 ice screws, Friends, quickdraws, and slings. Photo: Jerome Perruquet.


“The climb was demanding along the whole route, but the greatest difficulties [were] in the final dihedral where the wall becomes vertical,” Cazzanelli wrote.

They left at night and stomped down the path to the start in 20cm of fresh snow. They summited still in darkness.

a climbers heads up an icy gully, two ice axes in the ice by the photographer.

The final dihedral. Photo: Jerome Perruquet


Finding novelty in the Alps

They called the 550m-long route “Essere o non Essere” (To be or not to be). They ranked it as M7 – 85* – AI V in those conditions. The most surprising news may not be the difficulty of the new line, but that adventurous new terrain remains available in the over-popular Alps. In fact, Cazzanelli noted that the team waited some time before announcing their success, in order to double-check that it really was new.

Climber on vertical ice.

The final, nearly vertical ice sections. Photo: Francois Cazzanelli


Interestingly, the Breithorn’s normal route on the southwest side is one of the easiest and most crowded 4,000’er in the Alps. The Plateau Rosa cable car shortcuts most of the trudge up. From its terminus, the hike is a straightforward snow slope to the main western summit (4,167m). There, trekkers can reach the Central peak (the one climbed by the Italians) along the ridge in about 30 minutes. Yet the North Face is a different story.

Breithorn’s normal route to the western, main summit and the traverse to the central peak. Photo: Vienormali.it

Angela Benavides

Angela Benavides graduated university in journalism and specializes in high-altitude mountaineering and expedition news. She has been writing about climbing and mountaineering, adventure and outdoor sports for 20+ years.

Prior to that, Angela Benavides spent time at/worked at a number of local and international media. She is also experienced in outdoor-sport consultancy for sponsoring corporations, press manager and communication executive, and a published author.