The next day we got up early, had breakfast in the hut and were on our way by 5.30am. After half an hour of hiking I noticed that I had forgotten two items in the hut: ice axe and helmet. Without these things I didn't want to venture onto the glacier and so I sprinted back to the hut to pick them up. All this caused a delay of at least half an hour. Well, I guess this comes with the comfort of a hut, where one's things are spread out over different rooms. If one camps on a glacier it takes a quick glance around to make sure that one has packed everything.
Soon thereafter we entered the glacier that flows down from Pizzo Tresero (3594 m). All the glaciers in the area had pretty much melted out and we mostly walked on ice. Since there where no hidden crevasses we didn't rope up until an hour later when jumping over the crevasses unroped became too dangerous. Route finding became pretty difficult, as we had to navigate around lots of crevasses. The most difficult part was gaining the ridge, where the last 30m or so are pretty steep and were very icy. Well, at least we got up, there are years, where it's impossible to get over the bergschrund. Upon gaining the ridge we entered a rocky section where I promptly lost balance and fell; a mishap that I blamed on my new prescription glacier glasses. And indeed, I would get them reworked a few days later and today they work flawlessly. Anyway, it was nothing dramatic and at 11am we where on the top of Pizzo Tresero to enjoy the views.
From there we continued toward southeast on the ridge . This ridge traverse is supposed to be one of the classic snow ridges in the alps, however, a lot of the snow had melted and there where a lot of icy and rocky sections. If global warming continues, ridges like this one will lose a lot of their appeal. After crossing Punta Petranzini (3599 m) we dropped right (south) onto the glacier to bypass a rocky section. After regaining the ridge we continued up Punta San Matteo (3678 m), the highest point of the route, where we arrived at 2.45pm. To get there, we had to pass a short rocky section of UIAA grade III around a gendarme and after that the steep upper part of an ice fall on the north side of San Matteo.
To continue from here we had two options. One was to continue on the ridge toward Monte Vioz (3645 m) to the Rifuge Montova al Vioz, which was at least 6 km of ridge travel. The other option was to descend the glacier back to the Refuge Branca. Well, taking into account how late in the day it already was, we started the descend down the glacier. Here again, navigation was a problem. At one point the glacier got very steep and because it was so icy, we repeatedly lost the foot steps of another party that had descended an hour or so before. After trying some dead ends, we found the spot where there was a snow bridge over the bergschrund. Because of the steepness, we placed a few ice screws and belayed this section. Getting over this steep part took us over an hour and so it wasn't until 6.30pm that we arrived back at the hut.
All in all, this was an interesting climb: a cool ridge, 3 summits, and the encounter of interesting objects on the glacier that don't belong there. However, Rainer, who has been climbing in the alps for over 30 years, noticed that the glaciers in the area have melted a lot. Not only do climbs become more and more difficult because of all the open crevasses, they also loose appeal since all the exposed rock and debris on the glacier give the landscape a dirty look. Still, this area south of the famous mountains Ortler (3905 m) and Königsspitze (3851 m) is a gem that's worth checking out.