The mountain takes its name from the Bernina Pass and was given in 1850 by Johann Coaz, who also made the first ascent. The prefix Piz comes from the Romansch language predominant in Graubunden and any mountain with that name immediately points to its location in South-Eastern Switzerland.
One of the easiest mountains in the range to climb, the normal route follows that taken by the first ascentionists C. Brügger and P. Gensler with guides Karl Emmermann and Angelo Klaingutti on 11 September 1858. Three of its ridges present greater difficulties and are highly regarded:
The mountain is served by the Boval hut (2,495 m, open 15 March–15 May and 15 June–15 October) and the Tschierva Hut (2,573 m, open end of March–15 May and 15 June–15 October).