Canyoning in the Alps

Graded routes in Northern Italy and Ticino, Austria, Slovenia and the Valais Alps

By Simon Flower

A guidebook to the best canyoning descents in the alps of northern Italy and Ticino (Switzerland), with additional routes in Austria, Slovenia and the Valais Alps. Routes are split into seven separate grades, for beginners through to experts. Includes comprehensive information on equipment, hazards and techniques.



In general, the summer months (mid-July to mid-September) are the best time for canyoning in the Alps and Ticino.


Domodossola (Val d'Ossola); Bellinzona, Biasca, Maggia (Ticino); Colico and the northern lake shore (Lake Como); Belluno (Belluno and Friuli Dolomites); Tolmezzo (Carnia and the Julian Alps)


All routes are graded for difficulty. Although there are canyons of all grades, many routes are aquatic and technical, requiring good abseiling skills, physical fitness and a head for high water. A good wetsuit is essential, and a hand-bolting kit gives peace-of-mind in case anchors are damaged.
Must See

Must See

The superb granite-gneiss aqua-parks of north-west Italy and Ticino, including Rasiga, Lodrino and Val Bodegno, along with the classic limestone canyons of the Dolomites and north-east Italy, including Grigno, Val Zemola and Rio Simon.
9 Nov 2012
21.0 x 14.8 x 2.6cm
  • Overview

    The Alps rank high among the world's foremost destinations for canyoning. This book brings together 90 of the most celebrated descents in the Alpine regions of northern Italy and Ticino in Switzerland. Divided into five areas, the descents described in the guide present a huge variety of terrain, rock and styles of canyoning. Route difficulty is split into seven grades, from easier canyons suited to beginners, through to the strongest aquatic and technical challenges, which demand experienced rope skills, physical fitness and a calm head for high water.

    The Alps are home to some of the most extraordinary geological creations in the world, and the range's canyons are no exception, from limestone to granite-gneiss aquaparks. Sights to tempt any canyoner await; from the art-deco sweep of water-carved rock, to knife-thin chasms reaching overhead, to serene blue pools cradled in a natural ampitheatre.

    The guide introduces routes in Val d'Ossola, Ticino, Lake Como and the Belluno Dolomites through to canyons in Austria and Slovenia. There is information on Alpine geology and the history of Canyoning, as well as details on access and accommodation in each area, advice on technique, risks, preparation and necessary equipment. It is an indispensable companion to any canyoner looking for an exhilarating adventure in the Alps.

    • detailed maps, photography and topos of all 90 descents
    • advice on equipment, hazards and techniques specific to canyoning
    • practical advice on planning a canyoning trip to each region
    • background information on the areas covered in Italy, Switzerland, Austria and Slovenia

  • Contents

    Map of areas covered   


    Canyoning – a brief history   
    Geology of the Alps (for canyoners)   
    Weather and when to go   
    Getting there   
    Getting around   
    Waymarking, access routes and maps   
    The risks of canyoning   
    Canyoning rope techniques   
    Equipment and clothing   
    Cameras and photography   
    Canyon safety – precautions and pre-trip preparations   
    Mountain rescue, local healthcare and insurance   
    Canyon etiquette   
    Using this guide   
    Key facts   

    Val d’Ossola    

    Route 1     Massaschluct   
    Route 2     Gondo   
    Route 3     Rasiga Superiore   
    Route 3a   Rasiga Inferiore    
    Route 4     Variola Superiore   
    Route 5     Mondelli 2   
    Route 5a   Mondelli 1    
    Route 6     Mondelli 3   
    Route 7     Bianca   
    Route 7a    Segnara   
    Route 8      Toce   
    Route 9      Rio d’Alba   
    Route 10    Antolina   
    Route 11    Isorno Finale   
    Route 12    Antoliva   
    Route 13    Ogliana di Quarata   
    Route 13a  Menta Inferiore    
    Route 14    Ogliana di Beura – Parte Finale   
    Route 15    Marona   


    Route 16    Serenello   
    Route 17    Bignasco
    Route 18    Sponde   
    Route 19    Giumaglio   
    Route 20    Salto   
    Route 21    Val di Gei Inferiore   
    Route 22    Val Grande Inferiore   
    Route 23    Loco Inferiore   
    Route 24    Ticinetto Inferiore    
    Route 25    Barougia   
    Route 26    Malvaglia Inferiore   
    Route 27    Combra   
    Route 28    Pontirone Superiore   
    Route 29    Pontirone Inferiore   
    Route 30    Iragna Superiore   
    Route 31    Iragna Inferiore   
    Route 32    Lodrino Intermedio   
    Route 33    Lodrino Inferiore   
    Route 34    Osogna Intermedio   
    Route 34a  Osogna Superiore   
    Route 35    Osogna Inferiore   
    Route 36    Cresciano Superiore   
    Route 37    Cresciano Inferiore   

    Lake Como   

    Route 38    Bodengo 2    
    Route 38a  Bodengo 1    
    Route 39    Bodengo 3    
    Route 40    Pilotera   
    Route 41    Mengasca   
    Route 42    Casenda   
    Route 43    Bares   
    Route 44    Borgo
    Route 45    Perlana Inferiore   
    Route 46    Bondasca   
    Route 46a  Drögh Grand    
    Route 47    Lesina   
    Route 48    Ferro   
    Route 49    Cormor   
    Route 50    Valle di Scerscen   
    Route 51    Val Brutta   
    Route 52    Esino Inferiore   
    Route 53    Boazzo   

    The Belluno and Friuli Dolomites   

    Route 54    Grigno    
    Route 55    La Soffia    
    Route 56    Forti   
    Route 57    Pisson   
    Route 58    Clusa Superiore   
    Route 59    Clusa Inferiore   
    Route 60    Mus Inferiore   
    Route 60a  Mus Superiore    
    Route 61    Fogarè Superiore   
    Route 62    Fogarè Inferiore   
    Route 63    Maor    
    Route 64    Maggiore    
    Route 65    Tovanella   
    Route 66    Zemola    
    Route 67    Pezzeda   
    Route 68    Ciorosolin    
    Route 69    Torrente Chiadola    
    Route 70    Ciolesan    
    Route 71    Alba-Molassa   

    Carnia and the Julian Alps   

    Route 72    Lower Rötenbach   
    Route 72a  Upper Rötenbach   
    Route 73    Frauenbach   
    Route 74    Novarza   
    Route 75    Lumiei   
    Route 76    Rio Negro   
    Route 77    Viellia   
    Route 78    Picchionis   
    Route 79    Chiantione   
    Route 80    La Foce Inferiore   
    Route 81    Cosa   
    Route 82    Leale Inferiore   
    Route 83    Lavarie   
    Route 84    Tralba Inferiore   
    Route 84a  Alba   
    Route 85    Simon Inferiore   
    Route 85a  Simon Superiore   
    Route 86    Cuestis
    Route 87    Rio Nero Superiore   
    Route 88    Rio Nero Inferiore   
    Route 89    Brussine   
    Route 90    Mlinarica   

    Appendix A    Canyon summary table   
    Appendix B    Further information and resources    
    Appendix C    Campsites    
    Appendix D    Tourist information offices    
    Appendix E    Glossary of technical terms   
    Appendix F    First descents    

    Route Index           
    Route Planner   

  • Maps

    Detailed topographic maps are usually unnecessary, but those wishing to buy them will find details in the ‘Practicalities’ section near the start of each regional chapter. They will certainly be needed if you wish to do any walking or via ferrata in the area. On the other hand, a good road map is very useful (1:200,000 or better). There are many such maps available, but perhaps the most convenient are the 1:200,000 Touring Club Italiano maps. These cover the whole area of this guidebook in just two sheets: ‘Lombardia’ (which covers Val d’Ossola, Ticino and Lake Como) and ‘Veneto-Friuli Venezia Giulia’ (which covers the Dolomites, and Carnia and the Julian Alps).

  • Updates
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    Corrections to the 2012 printing

    Route 6 (Mondelli 3)
    The 'return' part of the description has been displaced into route 7.
    Routes 28/29 (Pontirone) and 54 (Grigno)
    The access maps have been rotated to fit the page, but not the north arrows
    Route 84A (Alba)
    The final few sentences are missing:
    It is not worth doing unless meeting a more experienced team doing Rio Tralba. It consists of four
    pitches, rigged out of the water. Allow 2h for the descent. Max pitch 18m.
    Route 85 (Rio Simon)
    Path 428 referred to in the access description and marked on the map, should be path 424.
    The Dolomites intro map
    The campsite symbol should be by Cimolais not Claut.
    Routes 5&6: Mondelli
    It seems a dam is sadly imminent, and is rumoured to be in construction midway through lower part (April 2016). It will supposedly capture around 75% of the flow.
    Route 9: Rio d'Alba
    The canyon has been re-equipped as far as the final 250m pitch (July 2013).
    Route 11: Isorno Finale
    The canyon has been re-equipped with AIC rigging (2012).
    Route 41&42: Mengasca and Casenda
    A ticket is needed to use the roads that access the upper parking areas for these canyons. It is available from a machine outside the "Commune di Samolaco", located on the main road (the SP2) through the village of Era. The ticket costs €3.50 and is valid for two days.
    Route 46: Bondasca
    There was a significant landslide upstream of the canyon in 2012. This has damaged anchors and rendered the canyon rather gravelly. Most importantly it has created problems for the dam. You need to ring before descending (058 319 62 11). The canyoning was still forbidden during summer 2014.
    Route 49: Cormor
    Cormor is again possible after a period of closure (May 2016). Over the past few years there have been a couple of similar instances, and it would be worth checking the AIC forum pages before visiting.
    Route 52: Esino Inf
    Canyon not currently recommended due to branches & logs thrown in from above (May 2016).
    Route 65: Tovanella
    The canyon was re-bolted in July 2013.
    Route 78&79: Vinadia
    Access/escape via the tunnel for the dam mid-descent is no longer possible (as of 2016).
    Route 82: Leale Inferiore
    The canyon has been re-bolted to AIC standards (2013).
    The access path is now out of bounds to the public. Another path has been devised, but this apparently lands upstream from the old access point, and therefore leads to some laborious-going in the river bed. See the AIC forum for details.
  • Reviews

    '...the clarity of guidance and the sporting locations shown in the photographs mean that few cavers could resist. Take a look, take the challenge!'

    Descent magazine Feb/ Mar 2013

    'With the inclusion of just under 100 descents in five different regions spread over four countries, this book is well thought out and excellently presented. It provides enough information to keep keen canyoners busy for a very long time.

    ...All the details required for canyon tourism are there: from accommodation right down to the inclusion of basic regional information such as location of shops and banks.

    And when it comes time to get wet and climb into an actual canyon, you are well and truly covered, with access, egress and of course, the descent itself covered in great detail.' Jan 2013

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Simon Flower

Simon grew up in Sheffield, spending much of his free time mountain biking and climbing in the Peak District. In 1998 he took up caving at Bristol University and was pretty content until discovering canyoning a year later. He was refreshed to discover a serious mountain sport that didn't take itself, well, too seriously, and seemed to combine everything he loved about the outdoors. Since then he has been canyoning enthusiastically (bordering on obsessively) all over Europe and beyond, taking in a handful of first descents along the way.

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