Here we in Valpelline, another time. Indeed, together with Valle Stretta it’s one of those valley you can’t help but fall in love with, one for every Italian region!
The program for the weekend it pretty tough: 1.500 meter heightdrop to reach the refuge and then another 400 for the peak, it will be a long weekend.
We leave together with a couple of friend and the now stable adventure camarade, Roberto Trekking-Alps.
We start walking in this so strange beginning of winter: it’s November 14th and we should see the snow, at least on the 3.000 meters peaks which surround us. But there is none to be seen, we don’t even bring our snowshoes, it would only be useful weight to carry.
We get into the woods for the first part of the hike, then we reach the By grazings with its nice lake. Everything is in the shades of yellow and brown, really dry and you have a feeling of being in a total different place then in the worldwide known green Aosta Valley.
Our way up is pretty easy and never too steep – the only difficult part will be just under the refuge – but it is quite a long way and we do not miss some stops all along the way to reast and chat. More about that, one of our two friends is at his first mountain experiences and we would gladly avoid to make him hate it!
While we are sitting on the rocks during one stop, here it comes: a sleeping bag not too well stored in the backpack, jumps out of it and begins to roll away. Powerless, one of us tries to overrun it and the others just stop and stare, but there is nothing to do: it rolls, jumps, bounces, seems to stop on the edge on the cliff, then jumps down along the steep canyon of the river, towards the bottom of the valley. No way are we going all the way down, the path is still long to go and the sun has almost ended its short winter round in the sky.
Who will sleep in the cold? As the only woman, I give myself up to chivalry!
We get to the starting point of the geared path – a fixed rope and some iron steps – which tell us we have almost ended our walk: the last rock wall, strenuous but never too difficult, and here we are on top of the wall and, just steps after, we can see the flag flapping in the wind and the Chiarella all’Amianthe refuge.
We are 2.979 meters height, in the winter cabin of the refuge which overlooks the whole valley, amazing!
Once we get to the flat rock where the refuge is built and we leave the shield of the rock wall, we are exposed to a really strong wind, but surprisingly not really cold. Well, it’s not cold for this altitude, but cold enough to decide to get inside and not get out anymore, physiological necessities excluded.
As the only woman, I get the sleeping bag for right of birth and the others do the best they can with the lots of blankets of the refuge. It will be a long night of sleep, since at 8 pm we already had dinner and everything is set and clean. Only the strong wind which slams against the walls and make the whole refuge vibrate wakes us up during the night.
The morning after, well rested and refreshed, we prepare to conquer the Tête Blanche de By. We leave our two friends at the refuge, a little pain at a knee could evolve in a gnarly pain during the long way down, so better not taking the risk.
The way up is not easy: a really strong wind blows and it gets stronger and stronger as we get closer to the peak, the snow is frozen and slippery, while the dirt spots are mostly muddy. Indeed, we slip so much!
More than once, we are tempted to surrender, but the will to go on is stronger and even if we would gladly have a pair of crampons, at worst we would end up with our bums on the ground. Being sure of our feet at every step, we get to the peak of the Tête Blanche de By at 3.413 meters – such a shame for those 77 meters left! – and the wind is shameless.
Totally happy and pretty frozen, we enjoy this winter corner, which we had to search at almost 3.500 meters.
And then, finally, we do touch the real peak, a little stick which we wonder how can stand this wind.
We quickly enjoy the landscape, along with a nice piece of chocolate: from up here we can see everything, peaks, valleys, glaciers, it really is amazing. But towering over everything it the Grand Combin system with its two glaciers, almost hidden in the coming and going clouds.
We stay just some minutes on the peak, the wind is freezing us and our friends are waiting down below, so we begin to walk our way back, no doubt the most funny part. Our bottoms on the ground, all the effort of our way up is summed up in just a few minutes of slide to the end of the snowfield!
Quickly, we are back on the rocks, the little corner of winter is already far up there, on the peak of the Tête Blanche de By. Just a few steps and we are back at the refuge where our friends are waiting for us with backpacks ready to leave and a quick sandwich before the long way down.
While we walk back to the refuge, we finally have a chance to see all the building part of the system: there is the big main refuge, which is lived in during the summer, the winter building where we have slept and another couple of little buildings which probably are storing places for all the supply and food – it is likely that everything comes with the helicopter here.
The only difficult part of the way back is quickly done, right below the refuge, while we By lake shine from the sun reflection down in the valley, with its swallow shape.
The way back is long even because the effort done during the way up begins to take its price.
We can even succeed to retrieve the lost sleeping bag, which is having a dive in the river, soaked and heavy! But better than have it lost for good!
We have a stop half way, just above the By grazings and then we go straight to the bottom of the valley, slowly but steady, enjoying every single step in this beutiful valley.
Some hours after we can finally spot the car and it’s a great relief in the end. Our feet begins to hurt because during yesterday and today we walked up and down this valley for 1.860 meters of heightdrop each way. Even more, we have walked them downward all together and contrary of the commond believe, the way down is not the easier at all.
The Valpelline valley continues to gift us emotions and we will continue to come back here over and over again!
This article is available : Italian