Alta Via 2 – Gran Paradiso, Italy


We walked the AV2 (140K) in superb weather conditions – it was sunny every day – a feat unlikely to be repeated for a long time! All that rain gear we carried really was unnecessary! The main hazard was dust kicked up from the trails and the resulting sore throat and runny eyes.This area is definitely my favourite part of the Alps – as one of the oldest protected parts of the Alps and with high deep valleys unsuitable for major ski development, the Gran Paradiso is unspoilt and relatively quiet – even in the busiest summer holiday periods.
Our inspiration for the trip was Gillian Price’s guide – Gran Paradiso – published by Cicerone, and this, (as with all of Gillian’s books), is highly recommended.
Our route was:
• Chardonney to Rifugio Dondena – a straightforward and short acclimatization day of about 3 hours.
• Rifugio Dondena to Rifugio Peradza. For most of this day the trail unfortunately is followed by electricity pylons, but a mixture of sun and rolling mist gave a slightly surreal atmosphere to the walk – especially around Rifugio Miserin and Lago Miserin.
• Rifugio Peradza to Cogne (we couldn’t find anywhere suitable here so we walked on to Cretaz. A highlight here was walking into Lillaz towards the end of the day and seeing our first sight of Monte Bianco at the end of the valley. From here onwards the beauty of this trip is that you constantly see both it and the Gran Paradiso from various vantages
• Here we took a day out – laughingly called a “rest day” when we walked up Punta Pousset – the so called “Gornergrat” of Cogne – with a very hefty 1600m ascent – it was a very hot day but the views compensated for the effort involved. A lovely ascent – with a very entertaining final summit climb to negotiate.
• Next day we moved from Lillaz to Rifugio Vittorio Sella and from there on to Eaux Rousses.
• Here we took a three day detour, leaving the official AV2 – to do this catch the bus to Pont, then walk to Rifugio Benevolo via Pian del Nivolet and Col Rosset. On the second day walk to Rifugio Bezzi via Col Bassac Dere. On the third day walk to Rifugio Chalet de l’Epee rejoining the official route. This detour, for me, was the highlight of the trip – since it takes you into the higher mountains and a world of snow and ice in the upper parts of the Valsavarenche,Val di Rhemes and Valgrisenche. Highly recommended.
Gran Paradiso

• The next day is a quiet 4 hour trek to Planaval and a stay at the only accommodation there – the Hotel Paramount – friendly enough, but memorable for the flies! (situated as it is, amongst vast herds of cattle).

• A lovely day followed from Planaval to La Thuile across a long ascent by a meandering stream to Haut Pas with great views back over the Valle d’Aosta and Gran Paradiso – then to Rifugio Deffeyes and then a long descent alongside a fantastic cascade – this section proved to be quite busy but deservedly so.

• The following day involved, it has to be said, a very tedious and seemingly never ending trek in searing heat along the Vallone di Chavannes to the Col de Chavannes. However, the misery was all made worth it on arrival at the col because from here there is a truly breathtaking view of the whole of the Mont Blanc massif.

• We spent some time here just taking in the views and watching paragliders on the summit –– then down to Rifugio Elisabetta Soldini. For me, this was the best location we stayed in – situated as it is at the foot of the spectacular Lex Blanche glacier.

• The final day of the AV2 takes you down into Cormayeur – although mostly downhill – the day was not without its moments – the morning was calm and we had some stunning shots of the peaks reflected in the lakes in the valley.

Morning Reflections

At the end of the trek we had several days left in Cormayeur and we filled this with three walks – all of which I’d highly recommend. A good tip is to avoid staying in expensive Cormayeur – we stayed in Dolonne, a charming village just over the river, about 5 minutes walk from the centre of Cormayeur at the excellent Hotel Ottoz. One day we caught the bus the Arnex and walked to the Grand Col Ferret and then the Tete de Ferret (this was the only day when it looked as though it might rain………. it didn’t!).

A two day trek – the Val Ferret circuit – saw up catch a bus to Planpincieux and walk to Rifugio Bonatti (3 hours) – after an overnight stop we then went via the Pas Entre Deux Sauts, Cos Cepin, Rifugio Bertone (lunch) and down into Cormayeur – 7 hours. This great walk gives superb panoramic views of the Mont Blanc Massif throughout – the other highlight was seeing a family group of Chamois high up on a rocky ledge. The Bonatti hut received top marks from the group for food and comfort!

Our final day walk was a classic – Mont Chetif (2343m) from Cormayeur – a great rocky route with a superb view over the town, the tunnel, Monte Bianco and Val Ferret – back via Notre Dame De La Garrison (6 hours) – highly recommended if you are there and have just a spare day to fill.

 View of all my photographs of the trip –




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