The 19th of April came with at least 50 cm fresh powder, again, and the next group of guests of TheAlps, expected 4 days later to Champoluc, were supposed to go hiking.
In cases like this, it is necessary to check the trails before guiding people around in the completely wrong gear, on the worst tour. It is ok to become a little wet and tired on your way when hiking – it is part of the play – but we should make more people interested in this sport rather then give them such a bad first experience that they never come back, don’t you think?
And my guests were nearly all at their first meeting with the hiking trails of the REAL mountains, the Alps.
But April is very unpredictable and the weather changes fast. Snow disappeared in fact from the trees directly and also from the ground in a couple of days into the sun of Italian spring, but there were still places where the winter had left its sign. I really needed to check, so I hiked the trails myself before my guests landed!
My conclusion was that we needed both shorts and snowshoes to be able to have a nice experience of the trails in April!
After a good lunch at the Atelier Gourmand, at the lift station of Champoluc, we started from the always open and service oriented Hotel Castor, where my guests were lodged the first night. With the Van and a Jeep we drove to the square of Saint Jacques, after passing the Frachey Sport rental shop, supplying snowshoes and poles, and even to rent two pair of hiking boots.
The trail I picked was number 7 on the hiking map provided for only 2 euro by the Tourist Office. This trail goes to the Rifugio Mezzalama, at 3009 m at the border of the glaciers, passing first Fiéry, and Pian di Verra, and later the Lago Blu, at 2220, which was the first goal of our tour. The start is steep in the woods and it was difficult to understand why we have to carry the extra weight of the snowshoes in our backpack. Sunny and hot and steep.
(See a trail map here)
Pian di Verra at 2000 something is then a big flat area and the snow was still covering it entirely. Put the things on your feet and try to go “normally”. Not so bad at the end…The lake was still partly icy and the color was more grey-green than blue, also due to the clouds that now covered the sky. Out with the rain gear and on to trail number 8A on the map, towards our Rifugio, that came as a mirage right before it started to rain heavier.
Rifugio Ferraro is not especially inviting from the outside: the house is pretty shabby and the yard is even shabbier, but the Himalayan prayer flags and the beautiful view from the place promise a good experience. In the inside the walls are covered by pictures and things taken from the many trekking tours that the owners have done in the Himalayas. The food is strictly traditional from the Aosta Valley. A good mixture that gives a feeling of peace and relax. The rooms are spacious and there are nice toilets and even a hot shower. This is a rest point for many longer trekking that are possible to accomplish in the Monterosa area, as the 9 days long TMR, a circular tour between Switzerland and Italy.
Next morning, after a short yoga and meditation pass, we set off towards the Pian di Verra, decided to follow thealps Sentiero Frassati, or number 8B, that I had scouted a couple of days before. This is a very impressive trail, climbing up on the side of black cliffs and a waterfall to start with. Everyone was happy!
After the steepest part there is a new plateau, the Tzere valley, which is a secluded and wild place people don’t use to hike to so often. Except that the TMR crosses here. During summertime it is not unusual to meet long distance trekkers walking from Teodulo pass between Zermatt and Cervinia right to Resy and Rifugio Ferraro.
It was also covered by snow and the trail we had to follow was on a steep snowy slope as well. On with the snowshoes and this was the most tricky part of our tour. We needed to really take one step a time and tramp hard to get hold and avoid to slide down the steep slope, ending in the river at the bottom of the plateau. No problem, all of us managed, except for a short slide – but scary!
Over to the cross, Ceucca at 2204 m, on the edge of next cliff, the panorama is astounding, and we are also accompanied by a flock of young ibex, not so scared but a little disturbed by our sudden appearance. Group photo and some snacks, and we are ready for the last descent to Saint Jacques through Fiéry.
The weather is still nice when we sit at the historical restaurant Fior di Roccia, now a stop for freeriders and trekkers of the Monterosa era, a place to play cards in the long summer nights, when I was a child in the past times.