20th.-26th.August 2004, Alto Via Uno
The Alta Via Trail 1, also known as the Alta Via dei Giganti, or “the giants’ trail”, is a trekking route through incomparable scenery, across the foothills of some of the highest peaks in Europe such as Monte Rosa, the Matterhorn and Mont Blanc.
This itinerary offers, as well as superb examples of natural alpine architecture (including the elegant pyramid of the Matterhorn), matchless specimens of rural architecture that are inextricably linked with the life of the alpine pasturelands, such as the traditional Walser buildings in the Gressoney Valley and the upper reaches of the Ayas Valley. The route leads from Donnas to Courmayeur, with 17 daily stages that require 4–6 hours walking time, offering stopping points for all needs: camping sites, huts, refuges, hotels and hostels. The routes descend into the valley at the end of some stage, where it is possible to use the services provided by each of the villages or interrupt your journey and return to the central by valley bus. Theroute can be walked in the summer months and crosses medium and high altitude mountain areas, through meadows and pasturelands, woodlands and rocky outcrops, maintaining an average altitude of around 2,000 m. and often touching almost 3,000 m (on Col di Vesonna the route reaches 2,783 m.).
I had walked the first part of this route South of the Monte Rosa range with the sportclub group in 2002 returning to Switzerland with a crossing of the glaciated 3290m high Theodule Pass. Two years later together with my brother I recrossed the Theodule Pass and continued the route Westwards almost as far as Courmayeur. Our route was:
20th.August, Zermatt 1616m – Zmutt1936m – Zermatt. (ca 3 h.)
21st. August, Cablecar to Trockener Steg 2939m – Theodule Pass and Hut, 3295m. – Cervinia 2006m– Finestra di Cignana, 2441m – Refugio Barmasse, 2189m (ca 7h.).
22nd. August, RifugioBarmasse – Fenêtred’Ersa, 2290m – Fenêtre de Tzan, 2736m – Leseney, Refugio Luca Reboulaz, 2588m (ca 6 Std.).
23rd. August, Leseney – Colle di Torray, 2767m – Rifugio Cuney 2652m – Col di Chaleby, 2683m – Col di Vessona, 2783m – Close, Valpelline valley, 1457m (ca 8h.) Bus toAosta. Hotel Grand Paradiso.
24th. August, Rest day in Aosta. Bus to Ollomont. Hotel.
25th. August, Ollomont, 1356m – Champillon, 2078m – Rifugio Champillon, 2430m – Col Champillon, 2709m – Praillas – St.Oyen, 1373m. (ca 8 h.) Hotel Mont Velan.
26th. August, St.Oyen – St.Rhemy – La Cantined’Aoste, 2263m (lunch) (ca 3 h.) – Grand St.Bernhard, 2460m (Total 4 h.)
We had mostly good weather for six days but this changed dramatically soon after we left St.Oyen and we sought refuge in the Cantined’Aoste. This unattractive but historic building on the South of the Grand St.Bernhard pass was supposedly visited by Napoleon before his battle with the Italian army. It now offers some accommodation and refreshments and we were kindly given a sumptuous meal by the lady owner. After which in view of the snowfall higher up the pass we abandoned our plans to walk any further. The final day would have taken us via the Fenêtre de Ferret (2698m)back into the Val de Ferrett in Switzerland. There one joins part of the Tour du Mont Blanc which we completed much later in 2014.