Another year is about to end. But this time we have not arrived at the last second to decide what to do to celebrate: we are supervising the weather forecast for a week and a couple days ago we went for an inspection. We will spend New Year’s Eve and the first day of 2016 in Conca Cialancia, an amazing natural reserve just out of Turin, of which not many know the existence, and that’s probably for the better.
A friend of us advised us on a great place to spend this night our style: the Formaggino – literally, cutey cheese – Hut. Actually, it hasn’t been built to be a hut but a night shelter for the rangers instead, but people are allowed to sleep in if it’s not needed from the guards. So, Formaggino is waiting for us!
This warm winter and the total absence of either snow or rain since three months, allow us to get up here with our car along the almost 10 km of gravel road, an old mule track, getting to the parking lot just a 10 minutes walk from the hut. Such a luxury for once, so we can bring along all the food and comfort for a good New Year’s Eve night.
The menu is planned with a salami and wine antipasto, baked polenta – just to be warmed – agnolotti with tomato sauce, sausages and panettone. We end up having food for almost a month indeed.
We spend a really good night together with our friend Michael, who has incredibly succeed to spend a night at a hut, after not one but two failed attempts – he has been our fellow when we have tried to reach the Piero Vacca Hut – only in italian my friends, but with great photos – and at our first attempt with the Molline Hut, when we found it buried in the snow.
We have breakfast and tidy up and clean the Formaggino, then it’s time to get into year 2016 and open it with the first of what we hope will be a long list of hikings.
We decide to have a slow walk and not to try weird and dubious trails, so we just walk along the easy mule track which cross the valley and goes straight up to below the Punta Cialancia, our destination. The natural park leaves precious leaflets both at the hut and and at the parking lot, which gives us an idea of the various possibilities. This one we are on, seems the more accessible, since we have neither snowshoes nor crampons.
At the second to last bend of the mule track, however, we finally find a trace of this fugitive winter: a waterfall which usually flows over the road is totally frozen up and has covered the whole path with a sleek and super slippery ice layer for some meters.
The place is not too safe, since is right on the edge of the cliff, so we better decide to crawl and slide on our butts to cross it, and lots of laughters come!
A bit of shiver was right what we were searching for in this beginning of the year, and lie your butt on the ice totally helps!
Once we get over the last bend of the path, we are almost on the opposite wall of the mountain. As soon as we get behind the bend, we discover we have bothere a herd of chamoix which were nicely grazing with the whole family. They see us and immediately run away, jumping upward to the steep grass fields.
Che invidia! In pochi balzi hanno coperto la distanza che per noi significherebbe una mezz’ora abbondante di sudore e fatica.
We leave them to their easy life and trying to guess the right way – the trail is now only a vague trace – we head to the peak which dominates te whole Conca Cialancia, Cialancia’s Peak indeed.
Soon we are at the Passo della Cialancia, the col just below the peak. But soon as well, we get back on our steps: the path is on the North wall, the only one covered in an old and frozen layer of snow and since we have nothing to have grip on it – neither snowshoes nor crampons – and the wall is pretty steep in dotted in bulging rock, we decide better to stop our hike here.
For today, we have already have our adrenaline dose on the ice, better not to push it too much!
We say we are satisfied for today and set it’s lunch time, even though yesterday’s dinner is still not gone.
We scramble some meters and get to a flat overhand which looks over the whole valley, the opposite of Cialancia’s one and fill up our stomachs and eyes: a cheese and ham sandwich for our belli and the Monviso, Prali and the 13 Lakes for our eyes, not bad to be the first hike of the year!
The only bad thing of being in full winter are the very short days which fly away so fast. We didn’t even notice it and the sun has already begin its quick way down.
So we do begin our way down too and once we get back on the road we have said our last goodbye to the warm sun rays: we will chase them all the time up to the hut, watching them slowly fading away and running from the valley, but it’s too fast for us to reach them and once we get over the frozen waterfall and to the hut, the sun is already down behind the ridge.
Back at the Formaggino hut, we just need to fill up our backpacks and close the door, with the promise to come back soon. The nice weather we had from this morning is slowly getting chased by black clouds on the horizon, so probably from next week we will not be able to reach this place by car but only with a long walk on a road finally covered in a fluffy with thread.
Still, our New Year’s day is not ended yet, a last little prize is waiting just near the car: Lauson Lake is totally frozen, down to the bottom, and we can easily walk on it. We begin to crawl on the edge at first, the catch our bravery and stand up.
It’s such a strange sensation: the surface is flat and transparent and you can see almost down to the bottom and also the tall algaes firmly tightened in the ice strenght. It give a sick feeling walking on it and we cannot get far from the cracks, which at least give the idea of the ice deepness instead of having the feeling of walking on water.
Tired but totally satisfied by this day in the ice mood, we get back to the car and be ready to a good 40 minutes of bounce and jumps which divide us from the paved road. Still, every single inch of it is worth the travel, this place hidden to the most is just magical!
See you soon Conca Cialancia!
This article is available : Italian