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Balmenhorn (4,167 m a.s.l.)

Is Zermatt surrounded by 38 4,000-metre summits or only 29? On the Balmenhorn, you will learn that it’s not so easy to make your mind up. This 4,167-metre high summit of the Balmenhorn lies on the Italian side of the Monte Rosa Massif, which has nine clearly defined peaks. The Balmenhorn is on the list of the so-called extended 4,000-metre summits. And that’s no wonder: this block of rock only has a topographic height of 12 metres, can be climbed using a secured path and is difficult to optically differentiate from the many fissures of the Lys Glacier. According to the determinations of the UIAA (the International Mountaineering and Climbing Federation), there are (1) topographical reasons, (2) morphological reasons and (3) climbing reasons for considering a mountain to be a “real” 4,000-metre summit. But the Balmenhorn is a little 4,000-like – the height alone is enough!

Origin of the name
“Balmen” are overhangs at the foot of a rock face, and Balme is also the name of a town at the very end of the Val d'Ala, in the Province of Piedmont, to where the Turin society travelled to find summer freshness in the 19th Century. It is highly probable that it originates from a word from the Valais dialect.


4,167 m a.s.l.

First climbed

17th August 1873 (disputed)
06th August 1875 (certain)

First climbed by

Marco Maglioni and Albert de Rotschild, with Niklaus Knubel, Peter Knubel and Edouard Coupelin (disputed)
Giovanni Mariotti, Andrea Pedretti, Simone Viguey with Welf and David Zaccaria (certain)

Stories / legends

It is thanks to a four-metre high bronze statue weighing a ton that the rather inconspicuous Balmenhorn has achieved an extended importance that is neither topographical, morphological nor alpinistic in origin. It was the firm base of this summit that caused the Turin artist and partisan leader Alfredo Bai to place his statue, created from war scrap, on the Balmenhorn. During the Second World War, Bai made a vow to place a statue on one of the 4,000-metre summits as a symbol of peace, in memory of all the victims, irrespective of their nationality. The transport of the Christ statue, called “Christo delle Vette” (“Christ of the Summit”) and which was dismantled into eleven parts, was carried out by 35 mountain soldiers originating from all the provinces of Italy. The Peace Christ, the material for which was donated by none other than the Italian Ministry of Defence, was unveiled in a solemn ritual on the 4th September 1955.

In the partner city of the municipality at the foot of the Monte Rosa, however, the statue of Christ of the Abyss was set up on the sea bed in the Bay of San Fruttuoso in 1954.

This project was inspired by Duilio Marcante, who had the statue erected in memory of Dario Gonzatti, who died in a diving accident in 1950. With the help of the Italian navy, the statue was lowered to the seabed at a depth of 17 metres close to the Abbey of San Fruttuoso, between Camogli and Portofino, on the 22nd August 1954.

The around 2.5-metre high Christ statue was made by the sculptor Guido Galletti, and the bronze for the statue was cast from various medals, the propellers of submarines of the US Navy and church bells. As a sign of peace, the hands of Jesus are raised towards the surface of the sea.

In memory of Marcante, a commemorative plaque was placed on the base of the statue after his death.

Information for mountaineers / alpinists

Valley location

Magna Valsesia (1,190 m a.s.l.)

Starting point

Rifugio Città di Mantova (3,611 m a.s.l.)
Capanna Gnifetti (3,498 m a.s.l.)

Various routes

A summit that is easy to climb, and has a bivouac for approx. 5 persons. It has recently been fitted with a via ferrata. Can be optimally climbed in combination with the ascents of the Vincent Pyramid and the Schwarzhorn.

Refreshment points / mountain cabins

Rifugio Città di Mantova (3,611 m a.s.l.)
Capanna Gnifetti (3,498 m a.s.l.)

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