Welcome to our Stories, a special blog, where our friends write about their experiences and adventures in the Monterosa area. If you would like to visit Champoluc, Gressoney, Alagna or other villages in the Aosta Valley, trek or ski in the Monterosa, discover Sardinia or other places we offer, contact us!

Low budget in Val d'Ayas

Posted: Jan 29, 2014
Categories: Champoluc, Stories
Comments: 0
It all started after my last trip to the Alps. I immediately wanted a new adventure to look forward to. I came back home and told everybody how wonderful life is up in Champoluc. They were all listening but Karin was seriously interested! She told me about her hiking trips to “fjällen”, the Swedish “hills” up north. I didn’t believe it was really going to happen but a few days later our flight was booked. We were going to spend ten days in Champoluc!

We landed on the 7th of June. Milan was not as hot and humid as it usually is during the summer months. Stefano, our friend and tour guide for the day, did a great job showing us around town. For a while we considered spending the night but I think our minds were all about nature. Shopping and partying felt all wrong this time around.

And we sure got a lot nature and very little shopping…

On our first day we hiked up from Champoluc (1500 m) to a small village called Mascognaz (1800m). We were excited and had high expectations. We felt like there was a whole new world to experience. There were many questions about the days to come. Where should we hike? How was the weather going to be? Were we going to be tired as hell or not feel anything?

From Mascognaz we took the 13A trail to Crest and then walked down to Champoluc from there. On the way down we got to try our raingear for real. It was god to know that even in a fairly heavy rainfall, underneath our clothes, we were dry and warm.

To get back home in our cosy apartment was worth a lot. And then tea and cookies made our yatzy-tournament well exciting. The thin alp air had already made an impression, you could tell by our yatzy-game-names, Vagabond of the Alps or The Nomad.


Day two our adventure was called “Ru Cortot”. A level T on our map. T, meaning Tourist/easy/well maintained track. People in the village had told us that it was going to rain and since “Ru Cortot” goes through some woods we hoped to stay kind of dry. Even if we started early (we were in Atagnod by 8,30) we didn’t get back home until 15,30. And after all the “tourist trail” was going to test our will power. When the day was over we sat down at our diaries and counted all the obstacles that we’d met; we had to jump over caterpillars (a truck not the instect), climb over massive fallen trees, distract barking dogs, get rid of a donkey that followed us, go through a deep dark tunnel and find a way over a large flood of water that came right on our trail. And those were just a few problems we had to solve. We definitely learned that even if the map says “comodi sentieri”- “comfortable trails” we had to be flexible.
It was all worth it though. The little trail was so beautiful. Actually, what made it so special was that it changed character over and over. It showed us all different sights and types of land. Sometimes open fields, then large woods. We met cows and passed small alp cottages. It was also great that we didn’t have to go back the same way we came. We started in Barmasc and went north all the way to S:t Jaques and then down home to Champo.

The third day was “Lago Blu” day. The lake deserves its name because it’s the bluest lake I have ever seen. It is located at 2220 metres, a 2-3 hour walk from S:t Jaques. The massive Verra glacier in the back round and steep cliffs all around the lake made me full of respect. It was beautiful and powerful at the same time.

Since beginning of June is low season we barely met people. It made us feel like real adventurers exploring no mans land. I could easily remember the “Buongiornos” of the day. We mostly felt like parts of nature, somehow we blended in with the surroundings. Like animals, plants or even rocks (I’m sure the animals saw us as intruders though).

We were not as tired as usual after dinner so we went up the road to a hotel called “The West Road”. A “Californian style” hotel that serves pizza, cocktails and beer. The reason we walked all the way there was their pool table. Our pool game went on and on since Karin never managed to hit the last ball into the right hole. There were only a couple of other people in the bar and I felt like they were all staring at me and blamed them for getting me nervous. The evening was a little break from our lonely walks and regular yatzy games – our alp life.

Our intention had been to sleep in a tent some days on this trip. But in the end I carried that heavy tent all over airports and on buses for no reason. I admit that with the rain clouds that showed up every afternoon I did get lazy on the spending-the-night-out-in-the-wild front. Instead we decided to sleep in a rifugio one night.

 Our fourth day became our show your muscles day… Because without some muscles we would not have made it all the way to Rifugio Arp, a 100 bed guesthouse at 2200 metres. At first we were kind of relaxed, until now when a sign had said three hours walk we’d make in two. We thought we’d get to Arp early. But we had missed a little detail, we had to walk over Colle Palasinaz (2600m) and then down east into the next valley called Gressoney. By the time we got to the end of Valle di Mascognaz we were hungry, cold and tired - ready to give up. The only sign we had seen on our way said “Rifugio Arp” alright but it was turned and pointed straight back towards Champoluc. At first I was sure someone had messed it up, but the longer we walked without any indication that we were on the right track, the more I wondered if we could have missed the whole rifugio. Somehow my curiosity made me continue. I kept telling Karin that it must be right after the next hill and so we climbed higher and higher. Even though the weather was getting really stormy. I heard my mother’s voice in my head “As long as there is no thunder you’re going to be fine in the mountains”. For every thunder we heard she sounded more and more angry.

What a relief when I saw a sign that said “Rifugio Arp”! And this time it pointed in what I thought could be the right direction! Karin and I jumped around hugging on the top of a mountain, far from people and cell phone net. (I had tried to call Carolina who runs Arp earlier but my phone was not connecting.) Fast as usual we eat our sandwiches (it must have been about 5 degrees) and then we hurried down some cliff sides with the frozen lakes of Palasinaz around us as if nothing ever bothered us. And we agreed that this was not level T anymore, we had evolved to a level E, meaning that we were expected to have some knowledge about the environment and that we needed the right equipment. Almost like starting to play on medium instead of on easy on Guitar Hero back home at the x-box.

Finally at the Rifugio we couldn’t have been treated any better! We were the only guests but the Carolina showed us the place at its best. She put us right in front of the fireplace with hot tea and blankets. Off course we fell asleep as soon as she took a break from telling us something about her family or future plans of Arp. I think she woke us by asking what we liked for dinner. “Pasta, rice or soup?” I thought we needed a good dinner and said “Pasta per favore”. What we didn’t understand was that she meant for first course. After the pasta we got two more meals and we were so stuffed but oh so happy! For the 40 euro we paid it felt like we had won a lottery or something. Talk about all inclusive when you don’t expect it!

The way back to Champo on the next day was calm and easy. We stopped and boiled pasta and since the sun was out a lot we laid back and relaxed whenever we found a good spot. As I said before we almost never met people so at one point when we had taken some clothes off to sunbathe I suddenly heard voices (even if at first I thought it was cows). A bit chocked I rose and saw two Italianos walking towards us. I don’t think a lot I said to the boys made sense. I kept asking where the best places for camping in the mountains were. Either they thought we were real skilled adventurers (I wish), but it is more likely they took us for crazy tourists.

Back home we made the biggest salad. Our bellies were still full from the three course meal at Arp. We had eaten so much cheese that we were sure that if we got a cut somewhere cheese would come out of the wound, not blood.

Happy that we didn’t try the Arp hike on our first day and proud of our achievement we slept until late in the morning the next day.

Next day was rest day. But believe it or not, we walked for over four hours anyway. This was the sunniest day of our stay. We had decided to get as much sun as possible so we walked up to Lake Contenery and sat down to read our books. We didn’t notice how strong the sun was since there was a cool breeze in the air. Back home it looked like I still had shorts and bikini on when I was naked. Pale skin where clothes had covered it and red as ketchup on the rest. We laughed at it and Karin gave me the new yatzy-nickname: Big Tomatita.

On our last hike we wanted to see something spectacular. We choose to walk to Mount Zerbion. A top on the west side of the valley that rises over clouds to 2720 metres. We were actually in heaven up there. It seemed to us that the whole world lay right underneath us. It was a pretty though climb up, followed by a walk on a narrow trail on top of the mountain side. We could see Valle di Ayas below to our left and Valtournenche on our right. The landscape stretched as far as the eye could see and it sure was the best last hike we could have imagined.

After some rest and three or four yatzy games we eat the best pizza in the world at Churen downtown Champoluc. Overwhelmed by the satisfaction these kinds of excursions give, we went on and had a drink at the local bar. Some Italian, Swedish and Danish guys gave us company (off course, we were the coolest two friends on earth!) and I managed to take four whole steps on the Slack line!

Next level here I come!

Nastassja Capetillo


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