Monday, 25 August 2014

Gran Paradiso - Summary

In 2014 we decided to visit the Gran Paradiso National Park in North West of Italy. It sits on the French-Italian border and is continuous with the Vanoise National Park in France, making the largest area of National Park in France and Italy. The Gran Paradiso National Park contains the only 4000m peak, Gran Paradiso at 4061m, that is entirely within the Italian border, (whereas Mont blanc is straddles the French Italian border).

Cicerone have published a useful guide to the National Park called, Gran Paradiso, by Gillian Price

Map showing our route. I have added a separate post with a full size version of this map so that you can see it more easily.

The park is a stronghold for the ibex that are a protected species having dropped to very low numbers in the early 19th century. Number have now increased to approximately 4000 and you are very likely to see them on your walks in the park. There are many refuges and campsites so route planning is relatively easy.

Mode of Travel
Hotel In Paris
Ceresole Reale
Turin, Riverolo, Pont Canavese
Trains and Busses
Ceresole Reale
Rifugio Savoia
Rif. Muzio, Col de Nivolet
Bus and foot
Rif. Savoia
Rifugio Savoia
Punta Violetta o Nivole
Rif. Vittoria Emmanuel
Rif. Tetras Lyre
Rif. Vittoria Emmanuel
Rif. Vittoria Emmanuel
Rif. Chabod
Slopes of La Tresenta, Rif. Vittoria Emmanuel, Rif Chabod
Rif. Chabod
Rif. Chabod

Rif. C. Chivasso
Gran Collette
Rif. C. Chivasso
Rif. C. Chivasso
Rif. Benevolo
Col Rossett
Rif. Benevolo
Rif. Benevolo
Rif. Mario Buzzi
Col Bassac Dere
Rif. Mario Buzzi
Rif. Mario Buzzi
Rhemes Notre Dame
Col Fenetre
Rhemes Notre Dame
Col di Entrelor
Rif. Vittoria Sella
Col Lauson
Rif. Vittoria Sella
Rif. Vittoria Sella
Herbetet traverse, Biv Leonessa
Gimillan, Col Tsa-Setze
Bus, Foot, Chairlift
Bus and bicycle
Bus and trains
Hotel in Turin
Paris, London

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Gran Paradiso - Aosta and Turin

Roman Arch of Augustus 
Aosta is well worth visiting. We were on our way to Turin and spent the morning and early afternoon here before catching the train to Turin.

We caught the free bus from Valnontey to Cogne and then the service bus to Aosta.

Aosta is the principal city of the Aosta Valley.

The City has some fantastic Roman remains right in the heart of the town, so you can walk from the main streets into the historic parts in minutes.

Roman bridge, Pont d'Ael
Just beyond the end of the main street there is an Arch built to celebrate the return of Augustus after a victorious conquest.

Over the road there is an old bridge that once spanned the river, but it is now dry as the river has changed it's course.

The main streets are largely pedestrianised and are lined with beautiful balconied buildings with flowers everywhere.

Archways lead to courtyards that you just have to explore.

On the Sunday 24th we caught the TGV back to Paris, then the Eurostar to London and the train to my sister-in-laws house to pick up the dogs.

They looked very happy.

The East gate to the walled city.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Gran Paradiso - Cogne and Valnontey

The walking had come to an end for this holiday at least. 13 consecutive days walking with an average of over 1000m per day. We always find walking in the Alps easier than in the UK for some reason. Many of the paths take a zig zag route up the steep parts rather than going direct and this must make it easier.

Today we headed into Cogne and used the free electric bicycles that are available to borrow from the tourist information centres in the area. They are also available in Pont and Valsaverenche, they are probably available elsewhere but these are the ones I have seen.

From Cogne we cycled SE to Lillaz, a pretty little village at the end of the valley.

In the afternoon we returned to Valnontey and visited the botanic gardens. It is best to visit earlier in the flowering season, we were too late to see it at its best.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Gran Paradiso - Gimillan (near Cogne) Aosta

Grivola from Pta di Mompers
We caught the first free bus of the day from Valnontey to Cogne, then another up to Gimillan which is north of Cogne. Gimillan is a lovely south facing village catching the best of the sun. We followed path 3 from the top of the village through fields and then into woodland. The path climbed easily to Arpisson (2294m). This lead us towards Plan di Bessey, but we turned NE on route 2a towards an un-named col at 2780m then on a fine grassy path to col Tsa-Setze.

A large group of mountain bikers came speeding down the narrow path.
Looking NW toward Mont Blanc

From the col we went on to Pte. de Mompers 2793m, where we stopped for lunch out of the cold wind.
Path 22 lead down to a farm at la Nouvaz and then onto a dusty track past a lake with a cafe and lots of people sunbathing. We must have tooked dusty and rough!

We then had a unpleasant ascent on a ski run\track to the top of the chair lift. We walked on to Lago di Chamole to avoid the shock of busy chairlift station.

On returning to the chairlift it was being used by mountain bikers riding a down hill route to Pila. The cafe was blasting heavy rock music that came as a shock to the system afer a couple of weeks of quiet mountain passes. The view of Mont Blanc was fantastic.
Dropping into Aosta from the cable car

We took the chairlift down to Pila, a large ski resort and then the cable car down to Aosta where we walked to the bus station to catch the bus back to Cogne and then the free bus to Valnontey.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Gran Paradiso - Rif. Vittoria Sella to Valnontey via Bivouac. Leonessa

 Rifugio Vittoria Sella (2588m)

Muesli, bread and jam with plenty of tea for breakfast at Rifugio Vittoria Sella (2588m). Well done to the family, good evening meal and breakfast makes you wanting to visit again. I wish all the refuges offered museli for breakfast, it keeps you going much longer than just bread and jam.

On the Herbetet traverse looking south 

We followed route 18b south from the refuge. The path remains at approximately 2600m following a balcony route called the Herbetet traverse above the Valnontey valley. In places the ground dropped steeply from a narrow path but a rope was provided for reassurance at the most exposed parts. If you manage Col de Entrelor you will be fine on this. We passed a couple of small lakes (L. del Lauson) and saw both chamois and ibex.

Looking up Vallone Herbetet to Herbetet

Looking SE from Biv. Leonessa
At the National Park hut (PNGP l'Herbetet) we chose to climb up the Vallone Herbetet instead of heading down into the valley. We headed up the route 22g to the magnificent Bivouac Leonessa (2910m). It sits high on a spur of Herbetet and is used as a overnight stop on its ascent. The hut was very nice with two dining tables new looking mattresses and blankets. The outside had large copper sheets on the walls so  it shone in the sun. We were were tempted to stay for the night but we had not brought enough food and the weather forecast was deteriorating.

We chose to head down the valley to Valnontey following the route 22d. It started to rain lightly but enough to require our jackets.

We pitched the tent at the large Stembecco campsite in Valnontey. The pitches are on terraces with excellent facilities. There are hot showers, washing up sinks and a cafe on site.

That evening we ate at the local Pizzeria Lou Talapen The food was really very good.
Later in the evening we took advantage of the cozy cafe on the campsite to sit and drink wine and look back on a lovely holiday.

Ascent 780m
Descent 1697m

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Gran Paradiso - Bien in Valsavarenche to Rif. Vittoria Sella via. Col Lauson

The final few meters to Col Lauson looking west
The exposed part of the descent on the east
 side of of Col Lauson
We set the alarm for 6 but it was raining so we turned over and had another hour in bed. We left at 9 and it was still drizzling. The track opposite the campsite gave a link to route 10b that climbed through the forest to join the AV2 near a National Park chalet at 2303m (Casotto PNGP Levionaz). Once in the hanging valley of Costa de la Tsau the path climbed a grassy tongue with zig zags making the climbing gentle. Only the final 300m were steep on stony scree. A narrow gap formed Col de Entrelor (3299m) and from this height the other cols that we had grossed looked small and low in comparison.

Looking back to Col de Entrelor on the east side
The first part of the descent required a good head for heights as it took a narrow sloping path on loose gravel with a rope in some places for reassurance. After this the descent was much easier and took a short time for us to reach Rifugio Vittoria Sella (2588m).

The refuge was one of the hunting lodges used by Italian nobels in the past. It consists of two large blocks rather like military barracks and a small cafe with a sunny and sheltered outside seating area where we sat drinking tea and beer and eating cake. It was very quiet this late in the season so again we had a large and comfortable room to ourselves. The restaurant was in the other building and it was being run by a family with their children helping out.

We were served vegetable soup and a veggie burger with an excellent salad and potatoes.

Ascent 1700m
Descent 760m
Dist. 15km

Col Lauson

Monday, 18 August 2014

Gran Paradiso - Rhemes Notre Dame to Bien (in Valsavarenche) via Col di Entrelor

Looking back to Col Fenetre from Vallone di Entrelor
After the usual breakfast of bread and jam we set off across the river Dora di Rhemes, and up through  through the forest on route 10 climbing quickly as it was cold and the path took an easy but steady gradient. We emerged onto open meadow at about 2000m into the Vallone di Entrelor. The ascent continued past Alpage d'Entrelor and the fine arches of Alpage Plan des Freya.
Looking SW from the Col di Entrelor

The final approach to the col used some metal rungs bolted into into a rock that blocked the path. From here we had an eagle eyes view back down the route we had ascended. It makes the effort worthwhile and a certain feeling of self satisfaction.
The descent from Col di Entrelor (3007m) was an easy and pleasant gradient past Lac Noir (2666m) and Lac Djouan (2516m). The path headed NE on a high balcony path with fine views of Gran Paradiso and the route up from Rif Chabod that we had descended last Wednesday 13th Aug.

Col di Entrelor
We passed a large farm called Alpage Sopranaz at 2283m then a National park property before dropping into the forest for the final 600m of descent on route 7 to Creton and our campsite near Bien.
The campsite was camping Grivola at 1635m. It was next to a large hotel with a nice bar and restaurant and a small general store. The campsite facilities were excellent. After such a tough day we chose to eat in the hotel which was a good choice.
Lindsey had potato soup, followed by a quiche and walnut salad and a chocolate desert. I had a pancake for starter that had cheese and ham in it, followed by beef with roast potato then apple tart for desert. The meals cost 19euros each. One of the best meals we had this holiday.

Ascent 1352m
Descent 1435m
Dist. 15km

Looking east to Col Lauson

Looking SE from the col

Gran Paradiso

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Gran Paradiso - Rif. Mario Bezzi to Rhemes Notre Dame via Col Fenetre

Looking west towards the French border above Rif. Mario Bezzi
We left Rifugio Mario Bezzi at 8.00am and climbed immediately on route 11 part of the Haute Route Glaciaire towards Rif Chalet d l'Epee. The path crossed a series of spurs and hanging valleys that remained high above Valgrisenche. We stopped at the refuge for some cake and fruit juice and sat on the patio as there was no room inside.

Ascent 770m
Descent 680m
Dist. 7km

Becca Refreita on the route 11

Having rested and refuelled with the cake, we left the Rif Chalet d l'Epee at 12.40 heading towards Col Fenetre (2849m) stopping for lunch at the last grassy point before the rock and scree to the col. The ascent was fairly gentle with numerous zig zags before reaching the narrow col that befits its name.
 Looking east to Gr de Rousse
On the east side the ground dropped alarmingly with very steep switch backs that tested the grip of our boots. The path dropped 1100m in 4km. Our knees were a little tender by the time we reached the valley. The route over Col Fenetre is on the AV2 and is described as suitable for most and on good paths! We passed a large herd of Ibex high up on the scree, a nun and someone running down!
Rhemes Notre Dame did not have the campsite that is described in the cicerone guide. It was washed away by the river and has not been replaced. All the hotels seemed to be full but we managed to get a B&B in a ski type apartment. After a good meal in one of the local hotels we slept well in our comfortable apartment with a bathroom; luxury. Rhemes Notre Dame is a pretty village geared towards winter sports rather than walkers. We could not seem to find a shop to stock up on provisions. The little alleyways beween the houses are worth exploring and there is a village square.

Ascent 500m
Descent 1100m
Dist. 7.5km

Valley to west of  Usellieres

Col de Fenetre

Steep descent on the east side of col de Fenetre

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Gran Paradiso - Rif Benevolo to Rif. Mario Bezzi via Col Bassec Dere

We left Rif. Benevolo at 8.30am. following route 13d in a SW direction up the side of the alpine ridge with marmots alarm calling all the way. The path went past the abandoned Aplage de Soches then passed and over into Comba di Goletta (part of the HR6, Haute route Glacier.) As we topped over the spur we entered a stoney harsh rocky valley leading down to Lago di Goletta with a stone bridge and good photo opportunities of Ghiacciaio di Goletta and Granta Parei.
lago di Goletta with Granta Parei and the glacier Ghiaccoaaio di Goletta.

Col Bassac Dere 3082m
 After the flat area around the lake the path climbed steeply over glacial boulder moraine and snow to col Bassac Dere (3082m). There was a fresh layer of snow from last night covering the footprints from the previous day so we were the first to arrive today. The final 200m were very steep requiring pavement crampons to get enough grip to get over the cornice formed at the col.

From the col we headed up towards the Granta Parei to Col di Goletta (3117m) where we met up with the Glaswegians that we had sat with in Refugio Benevolo the prevoius night. They had just climbed the Granta Parei.
After lunch we headed back to Col Bassac Dere that had become quite busy witha large guided walking group, so we pressed on down on route 12c with spectacular views of Ghiacciaio di Gliairetta to Rif Mario Bezzi (2284m).
The weather had been good today with mostly blue skies and enough cloud to add to the look of the photos. There was still a cold wind and we had to put every piece of clothing on at the col to keep warm I was still wearing my spare socks as gloves.

Looking west beyond Col Bassac Dere to the French-Italian border

We had a five course evening meal. Ravioli soup, then a bowl of pasta, followed by a beef caserole with pickled artichoke, then cheese and finally a chocolate desert. The vegetarian option consisted of two fried eggs instead of the beef. Very few refuges cater for vegetarians.
The breakfast was good, museli at last with bread jam and tea.
The room was excellent, we had a 3 bedded room to ourselves, there were hot showers.

Looking back down our approach up Comba di Goletta and Lago di Goletta

Ascent 1007m
Descent 1023m
Dist 7km

Friday, 15 August 2014

Gran Paradiso - Rifugio Citta di Chivasso to Rifugio Benevolo via Col Rosset

La Tresenta and Ciarforon over Lago Rosset
We left the Rifugio Citta di Chivasso (2604m) nice and early, but 20 minutes into our walk I could not find my gloves. So I returned to the refuge to look for them, to no avail. By the time I got back it was 8.40am, not the early start we had hoped for.
High level route To Alpage Bassey
The walk through the Piani di Rosset on route 3c passed some beautiful lakes including lago Rosset and Lago Chanavey. We had the path to ourselves.

The final section up to Col Rosset (3023m) was steep and it started to gently snow as we reached the top. I had use my spare socks as gloves. The descent into Vallone della Gran Vaudalaz was very steep, on frozen gravel that some might find quite intimidating.

View down Val di Rhemes

We followed the route 12 down to Alpage la Grande Vaudala (2338m) then turned onto route 13a for a while before turning left onto a higher level route leading to Alpage Bassey. Again it was abondoned but in excellent condition witha turf covered roof making it invisible from above. From here we headed down into the main valley to Rifugio Benevolo (2285m). This was a large refuge with a modern extension. We had a room to ourselves with a double bed on the floor of the attic up a vertical ladder.

Alpage Bassey
It rained on and off later that afternoon so we stayed in drinking tea, eating jam tart and apple sponge cake.

 We sat with four Glaswegians at meal time and enjoyed exchanging holiday stories. We ate endless supplies of soup, chicken and mash. Lindsey had cheese and mash as a vegetarian alternative. The desert was Creme caramel. This was quite a disappointing meal especially the vegetarian option. Tea cost 5euros for a jug!
Breakfast include cereals bread and jam.

Ascent 780m
Descent 1050m
Dist. 9km

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Gran Paradiso - Pont to Rifugio Citta di Chivasso

Alpage de Selva
A few easy steps and a hand rail on the way to Grand Collet 

We woke to a white campsite covered in a very heavy frost. The thin flysheet was frozen stiff. We had a later start than planned as the campsite shop did not open until 8.00am, and we needed to buy provisions for the next few days.
We headed north up the Vallone di Seiva for a short way before turning off onto path 2a heading towards Alpage de Selva and Grand Collet. This really is a superb route, being very quiet (probably because of the height you climb to the col) with fantastic views east across to Gran Paradiso. Most seem to do it in the opposite direction.

We stopped at the derelict alpage to dry the tent and have a rest.
As we approached the col we stopped for lunch on a sheltered grassy ledge. Only then when we stopped walking, did we realise how cold it was, we had to put on our fleece and insulated jacket to keep warm.
The Grand Collet 2832m gives magnificent views in both directions so we decided to linger a while and head up the ridge on the south of the col to  Cima dell'Arolley 2996m.
View towards Gran Paradiso from Grand Collet

The descent down the Auberge du Grand Collet on the Piano del Nivole was surprisingly gentle.
The walk up the Dora del Nivolet was also gentle but straight into a cold wind despite the clear blue skies.

Cima dell'Arolley
On arrival at Rifugio Citta di Chivasso we had tea, biscuits and a chocolate cake sitting in the sun in their conservatory. The refuge has a magnificent wood burning stove a fine collection of books including Cicerone guides and the guardian visits each party of visitors giving advice about their onward journey.

View from Rifugio Citta di Chivasso south. 

The refuge has a shower  and fairly traditional toilet facilities. The rooms are warm and cosy which was welcome in the unseasonably cold weather that we were experiencing.
Our meal consisted of ministrone soup followed by pork and french beans. Lindsey had a cheese omlette. For desert there was a creme caramel and jam biscuits. for breakfast we had tea, bread jam and toasties with fruit juice.

Ascent 1140m
Descent 510m
Dist. 10.5km

The stove in Refugio Citta di Chivasso

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Refugio F Chabod to campsite in Pont

It had rained during the night and we woke to a torrential downpour. Everyone was getting togged up in full waterproofs before stepping out. Within 10 minutes of leaving Rifugio Chabod (2750m) the rain stopped but it was cold enough for us to keep them on for a while.

We took route 5a heading NW from the refuge towards Alpage Montandayne (2461m) which is now abandoned. On the way we crossed a cascade on a fine substantial bridge, without this it would have been impassable after the heavy rain.

The Alpage consisted of a long low building tucked into the hillside and in excellent condition. We assume that it was used to house the animals at one end and for cheese making at the other end. We had fantastic close-up sightings of ibex who seemed to be unconcerned by our presence.

From here the path turns south and crosses the same cascade as earlier but this time without a bridge, which was quite difficult and added to our already wet feet. Luckily there was a flat grassy area that the water crossed and it split the water into narrower strips. The low cloud and fog drifted up and down in the morning giving some spectacular photo opportunities. The cloud  eventually lifted.

The path became a stone built structure with numerous switch backs releasing us into the grassy valley at Alpage Pravieux (1871m). We then walked the 1.5km up the road back to the campsite (Camping Pont Breuil) at Pont (1960m) where we pitched our tent. (Not the tent in the picture.)
Ascent 170m
Descent 960m
Dist. 4km

Camping Pont Breuil looking north