In 2014 we decided to look for an alternative multi day trek in our local area that would provide challenging progression and something a little different from the Tour du Mont Blanc and Walkers Haute Route from Chamonix to Zermatt. We didn't have to look far and the Alta Via 2 Traverse of the Gran Paradiso made for a fantastic trek. After recceing the trek during the summer of 2014 we decided to offer this in 2015 as a guided trek and self-guided.
As we knew that the trek was rigorous trek with our guided option we decided to offer this to previous clients whom we knew would be capable of the difficult and challenging terrain.
So on August 11th 2015 we met in Chamonix and provided a transfer through to Courmayeur for the group. We enjoyed a trek briefing over dinner and at 9am we were on our way by minibus transfer to the start of the trek in Champorcher at the far end of the Aosta valley.
Day 1: The first day takes you from the remote village of Champorcher up and over the Fentre de Champorcher 2828m to the Refuge Peradza. We had such a friendly welcome.... free shoulder & neck massages whilst we had our recovery beer! And delicious food and wine later in the evening.
Day 2: A long day ahead starting with a decent from the refuge to Lillaz and then along the valley bottom to Cogne. Lunch stop of panini and cappuccino before making our way to Vanotey & then a fairly steep ascent to Refuge Vittoria Sella at 2584m.
Day 3: Promised to be interesting as we had had snow overnight! We had to ascend over the Col Lauson, which is the highest & most delicate Col on the trek at 3299m, which is high by any alpine trekking standards. The group were fit and coped well with the terrain after a short sharp 800m ascent we were up and over and making our long descent to Eaux Rousses in the Valsavarenche valley.
Day 4: With the weather improving we made our way initially through larch woodland to the Alpage of Orvieille a perfect location for a rest stop whilst we watched the Marmots playing. It never ceases to amaze me just how much wildlife you see in the Gran Paradiso in comparison to other alpine areas, such abundance of Marmots, Chamois & Ibex and because the area is so quiet & devoid of human beings they don't seem to mind you being around. From here we made our way steeply at times to the Col Entrelor 3007m a tricky descent down into our next valley & to the beautiful village of Rhemes Notre Dame.
Day 5: Our Col for the day was the foreboding Col Fenetre 2840m... The group had seen it the day before from the descent of the Col Entrelor. The final ascent to the Col Fenetre is so very steep as the path works its way up into such a tight gully looks impossible from a distance. Once into the gully it's fine and the zigzag path is good, progress is made quickly due to the gradient, which I would suspect is perhaps 50% at times. As often happens if one side of the Col is steep and narley the other is more serene and the descent from Col is lovely & so picturesque winding down past the refuge L’Epee, which provides a great rest stop with delicious food & coffee. Traversing for a while with fabulous views of the Valgrisenche valley before descending into the larch woodland and down to our accommodation for the night at Bonne.
Day 6: Starts easily as we made our way through the Valgrisenche valley bottom to the village of Planval & the last chance for a cappuccino before our ascent of the Col Crosatie 2838m. This is my favorite Col of the trek the terrain is truly wild and remote as the views from the top are just majestic looking out to Mont Blanc, the big Swiss 4000m peaks and back over the Grivola & the Gran Paradiso.... This is a place to sit a while and reflect. The descent is initially tricky so care needs to be taken for the first 30 mins or so you then find yourself dropping into the most beautiful & remote valleys and down to the amazing little refuges of the Dortois Paradis in the Vallon du Fond. This is an un-manned refuge that has catering facilities but with prior arrangement the owner will pick you up in his 4x4 and take to his Auberge for an amazing dinner with delicious local food & wine. This truly was an evening to remember & the group loved every minute.
Day 7: We retraced our steps through the woods to the ruined refuge, from here we followed the trail to the Alto Pass or Haute Pass, this high valley is so remote and the ascent to the Col is long and challenging. Amazing views looking back to our Col from the day before but it wasn't a place to linger as the wind chill at the Col forced us to descend as quickly as possible to find shelter in the Refuge Defeyes... More Cappuccino & the biggest blueberry tart you ever could imagine!!! From here we made our long descent to La Thuille, it might be long but it certainly takes in some beautiful terrain with stunning views. La Thuile ski resort in the winter is a great little town the biggest we have seen since leaving Courmayeur and it provided us with a lovely hotel, great food and an amazing pack lunch the following day from the local deli.
Day 8: And our final day and back to the bosom of Mont Blanc we headed up out of La Thuile into the remote and beautiful Youla Valley to the Col d’Arp and then a fabulous traverse to the Col Youla with truly stunning views of Mont Blanc from the Italian side. Care needs to be taken initially on the descent as the ground is steep and very loose. The trail leads you onto the Tour du Mont Blanc route and you make your way past the refuge Maison Vielle to Col Checrouit and steeply down through the trees to Dolonne and onto Courmayeur. A warm welcome from our lovely hotel owners at the Hotel Crampon and a few celebratory bottles of Procecco were in order!
If you are into alpine trekking and are looking for a new challenge try this... It's stunningly remote and beautiful and to top it all its in Italy which means a warm welcome, lovely people and delicious food and drink.
We also added an option for clients to summit the Gran Paradiso 4060m at the end of the trek. We acquired the services of two UK high mountain guides Stuart McDonald and John Cune, who got us up to the summit safely and successfully.
We are running a guided Gran Paradiso trek again in 2016 and also organize self guided options. For more information on any aspect of the Gran Paradiso see our website: http://www.montblanctreks.com or contact firstname.lastname@example.org