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Luzzone Dam and the World’s Highest Climbing Wall

Last Updated on September 29, 2023 by Darla Uhl

At 225 meters, Luzzone Dam (Diga di Luzzone in Italian) isn’t the highest dam in Switzerland, but it’s still pretty impressive. This dam is the third tallest in Switzerland after Grande Dixence and Mauvoisin. It’s the tallest dam in Canton Ticino, 5 meters taller than Contra, also known as Verzasca Dam. You can find it in Olivone, Blenio.

Luzzone Dam in a Nutshell

Image of Luzzone Dam and Lago di Luzonne by TouringSwitzerland.com

Originally built to hold water, Luzonne Dam was not really designed to cater to thrill-seekers. Nonetheless, Luzzone Dam is now home to the highest artificial rock climb in the world. On one side of the dam, this wall stands 165 meters tall. It’s the world’s longest man-made climb route with 650 holds. 

Luzzone Dam is a unique arched-shaped dam that can be reached through a long, winding road. It’s also possible to hike up the dam for half an hour from the bottom.

On one side of the road, you’ve got thick walls. Views of the reservoir lake, Lake Luzzone, are amazing from the top of the dam behind these thick walls. You can see the dam’s bottom through the high, thin steel handrails on the other side. Near the parking lot is a restaurant that serves food and drinks.

History of Luzzone Dam

Informational Board in Luzzone Dam as taken by TouringSwitzerland.com

Though they started preparing the streets and construction area for Luzzone Dam in early 1958, they didn’t start building the dam wall until the summer of 1960. Luzzone Dam was finished in October 1962 when the last cubic centimeter of cement was put in. 

The Luzzone Dam was opened by Blenio Kraftwerke with the following original dimensions: 

Height208 meters
Crest530 m
Crest Width10 meters
Reservoir Capacity 87,000,000 m³
Dam Volume 1,300,000 m³

Increasing Luzzone Dam’s Capacity

Increasing the dam’s height was necessary because the reservoir’s capacity was not as big as its water capacity. Thus, excess water won’t need to be released to the turbines and lost for winter production. So they can save it until winter when it should be released.

Due to this, they decided to heighten the dam wall. Between 1995 and 1998 it was raised by 17 meters.

Current Luzzone Dam Dimensions

In Switzerland, the Luzzone Dam is the third tallest. The dam is the ninth tallest in Europe. 

Following the augmentation of the dam wall by 17 meters, these are the dimensions:

Height225 meters
Crest600 m
Reservoir Capacity 107,000,000 m³
Direct Catchment Area 36.5 km2
Indirect Catchment Area70.5 km2

Luzzone Dam Function

Image of the Luzzone Dam by TouringSwitzerland.com

The Luzzone Dam helps produce millions of kilowatts each year along with Carassina (230,000 m3) and Malvalgia (2,700,000 m3). It is run by Blenio Kraftwerke AG, which uses hydroelectric power from Brenno and its tributaries.

Between April and September, Luzzone Dam slowly fills up with water. During this phase, the water level varies depending on how much snow has melted and how much rain has fallen. By the end of this phase, sometime around September or October, the reservoir dam should be almost full.

It’s then ready to use in winter, from October to March. As the water is released from Luzzone Dam, it goes through the turbines. The end of this period, sometime between March and April, is when the lake is lowest. Eventually, it’ll fill back up.

Around 165,000,000 m3 of water is expected to be caught each year, of which 107,000,000 m3 can be stored.

Lago di Luzzone – The Reservoir Lake

Image of Lago di Luzzone by TouringSwitzerland.com

Once the rain comes, it falls into the catchment area of the lake called Lago di Luzzone. The water in Lake Luzzone is held in the reservoir. Once it is necessary, the same water is given back to its natural path in Biasca into the Ticino River.

Lago di Luzzone is located 1,606 meters above sea level and has a maximum depth of 181 meters. The lake has a surface area of 1.27 km2.

Lago di Luzzone is the sixth-largest lake in Ticino after Lago Maggiore, Lago di Lugano, Lai da Sontga Maria, Lago di Vogorno, and Lago Ritom.

Climbing Luzzone Dam

Image of the Dam and the Restaurant where the keys for the climbing route are kept by TouringSwitzerland.com

A climbing route opened up on the dam wall in 1999. About 165 meters high, the sport climbing route has 650 artificial holds. Five pitches make up the course. From the foot of the wall to the exit, the difficulty increases. It’s the world’s longest artificial climbing route.

This route is only for experienced climbers who know how to secure themselves. Before you climb, please take note of these rules:

  • A rope (minimum 50 meters long), 14 express slings, a climbing harness, climbing shoes, a helmet, and cords are also needed.
  • Only adults are allowed. If minors want to climb it, they need an official mountain guide.
  • There can only be three people in a rope group.

Luzzone Dam’s Climbing Route is open daily from the 15th of May to the 30th of October. Each person will pay CHF 20.  You can get the key at Restaurant Luzzone.

Hikes around Luzzone Dam

Image of the hikes from Luzzone Dam by TouringSwitzerland.com

These are some of the hikes from Luzzone Dam:

  • Alpe Garzott – 45 minutes
  • Cap Motterascio CAS – 2 hours 40 minutes
  • Crap la Crusch – 3 hours 20 minutes
  • Capanna Terri CAS – 4 hours 10 minutes
  • Alpe Scaradra – 2 hours 10 minutes
  • Passo Soreda – 3 hours 50 minutes
  • Lampertsch Alp – 5 hours 15 minutes
  • Läntahütte SAC – 5 hours 40 minutes
  • Campo Blenio – 1 hour 10 minutes
  • Olivone – 1 hour 50 minutes to 2 hours 50 minutes (depending on your route)
  • Compietto – 50 minutes
  • Capanna Scaletta SAT – 4 hours
  • Capanna Adula CAS – 2 hours, 25 minutes
  • Capanna Adula UTOE – 3 hours 20 minutes

Our Experience: Luzzone Dam

Another view of the Lago di Luzzone from the dam by TouringSwitzerland.com

As with the Grande Dixence Dam in Switzerland, Luzzone Dam’s size and engineering feat made it very impressive. There’s also some pretty scenery along the way – windy roads and peaks in Ticino.

Since we arrived early in the morning, parking wasn’t a problem. The parking lot was pretty empty, and I was unsure if Luzzone Dam was that unknown. More people started coming as we left. It was quick for us to come up here since we stayed overnight in Blenio Valley. The majority of people who arrived were Ticino locals. Lots of people came here to hike.

Our car was parked right on top of the dam, so we got to see the whole dam from above. This dam is huge, both in height and width. It’s also crazy how much concrete is needed. The crest of the dam offers incredible views of the surrounding Swiss Alps, mostly the Adula range, as well as the gorgeous lake.

There were some people who hiked up from the bottom of the dam and some who parked their cars and hiked up from the crest. As for what we did, we walked around, read the various information boards, and took pictures.

Overall, I think Luzzone Dam in Switzerland is a must-see, especially if you like beautiful lakes, engineering feats, and mountains. Lago di Luzzano and its backdrop are absolutely stunning. If you are traveling from Ticino to Graubünden over the Lukmanier Pass, Luzzone Dam is a great place to stop.

How to Get to Luzzone Dam

Luzzone Dam is located in the upper Blenio valley in Canton Ticino, Switzerland. The best way to reach Luzzone Dam is by private car.

Buses do not always go to the dam. And if they do go, there are only a limited number of connections per day. So please make sure you check if the buses are running. In 2022, buses are scheduled to run from July 2 until August 28, as well as Saturdays and Sundays from September 3 to 25.

For more information, you can check sbb.ch or busalpin.ch.

By Bus:Diga di Luzzone/Ristorante
By Car:Parcheggio Diga del Luzzone
HX87+45 Blenio

Resources

  • Luzzone Dam. Structurae International Database and Gallery of Structures. https://structurae.net/en/structures/luzzone-dam. Accessed on 18 August 2022.
  • Galli, Roberto. Erhöhung der Staumauer Luzzone – ein Hindernislauf. Schweizerischer Elektrotechnischer Verein ; Verband Schweizerischer Elektrizitätsunternehmen (Herausgeber). Band 84 (1993), Heft 20. Accessed on 18 August 2022.
  • Morel, Ch. Vollendung der Staumauer Luzzone. Bulletin des Schweizerischen Elektrotechnischen Vereins : gemeinsames Publikationsorgan des Schweizerischen Elektrotechnischen Vereins (SEV) und des Verbandes Schweizerischer Elektrizitätswerke (VSE). Band 54 (1963), Heft 1. Accessed on 18 August 2022.

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Darla Uhl is the owner of TouringSwitzerland.com. Her home is in the German-speaking part of Switzerland. Having lived almost 20 years in Switzerland, she's traveled extensively all over the country.

Darla's favorite regions to visit in Switzerland include Engadin, Lake Geneva, Bernese Oberland, Ticino, and Valais. She loves spending time with her family, hiking, visiting museums, and reading books.

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