As part of the ambitious “Outdoor Education program” at Repton School, we are always looking for new and unique challenges to stretch our pupils. With this in mind, I went to recce and risk assess “Gran Paradiso” last month. The mountain, located in the Italian Alps, has an altitude of 4061m and provides a perfect introduction to alpine mountaineering.

On the morning of the climb, I arrived 0330 at the small campground of Pont to meet IFMGA guide “Allessandro”. After a couple of swigs of hot coffee, we set off at a brisk pace along the valley. It wasn’t long before we started to ascend through the forest and hike out of the valley leaving behind the cold damp air of the early morning.

After an hour and forty-five minutes we arrived at the “Refugio Vittorio Emanuele”, a mountain hut located at 2730m. The first climbers of the day had just departed from the hut and we could see the faint glimmer of head torches disappearing over the ridgeline. After a couple more hours of hiking, we arrived at the glacier and donned our crampons harnesses and roped up.

Moving at a pace over a solid layer of snow and ice we arrived at the summit in time to enjoy spectacular views of surrounding peaks including the Matterhorn and Mont Blanc. After a short break, we began our descent and arrived back at the campsite in the late afternoon. It was a good thirteen-hour slog but well worth the effort and provided a good opportunity to effectively gauge the risk/benefit analysis for hiking/climbing with pupils.

In June 2018, we will be returning with 14 pupils from Repton. The group will spend a week learning mountaineering skills on the peaks surrounding Mont Blanc before heading across the border and attempting Gran Paradiso. The hike will take place over two days, led by a team of IFMGA mountain guides and will include a night in the mountain hut to acclimatize. ■

Words + Photos by: Graham Malkin