Today we are alone, it’s a strange condition lately since usually we are always with a lot of people and being the two of us is unusual. We decide to go in the Aosta Valley, on Roberto aka Trekking Alps‘ tracks, who is coming back from a two days hike at the Chentre-Bionaz Hut, in Valpelline.
The plan is to meet them along their way down and taking their place at the hut. It’s so nice to have a plan once in a while.
So we leave, backpacks on, we mentally prepare for more or less 1.000 mt of heightdrop, which seems to be pretty spectacular from the first steps, plunged in the full autumn of Valpelline, with its amazing shades of every colour.
We walk down the wide, open to cars, road which crosses the valley and we immediately step into the group of old ruined houses of almost two centuries ago. We know this is the beginning of the path, which by the way is really well signaled starting from the road – it seems to be back in Canada, with its paths signs directly on the highway!
We follow for the paths number 14 and 15, which start together to divide a while after and going to very different places. Just a few minutes after – too less actually, if we just have noticed it! – we find a junction: the path number 15 is signaled in front of us, on the easy flat wide trail which goes on straight, while on a rock, faded by time, we see the both the numbers, 14 and 15. We understand we have to go uphill on the left, right into the woods. Actually it makes sense, the hut is almost 1.000 meter higher than here, we got to climb sooner or later!
We climb, the path is steep even if it’s always easy to find and never too difficoult, nonetheless is pretty tiring. But we are fresh and really eager to reach the peak. So shortly after we are walking on the bridge over the canyon, with its broken down railing, probably from the strength of the water and the ice. We cross it and after a last walk uphill, almost on four legs, we reach a terrace with a prefab and, more upward in the canyon, a hydroelectrical power plant nestled in the rock
We climb over the power plant roof – yes, thanks to a precarious steel stair fixed with just some iron wire – just to realize there is no way out of here, unless you want to climb the vertical, smooth rock wall on the edge of the canyon. We go back on the terrace and try to climb in the steep woods, hands and feet. After almost an hour of trying everything, we surrender: it’s obvious this is no the right path, it’s impossible that Roberto has brought here his probably inexperienced customers.
Dejected, after a last unsuccesfully attempt of cutting horizontally the unstable wall on the other side of the canyon, we go back. Almost at the beginning of the path, down in the valley, we try our last chance: we phone call or guide and ask for explanations, after watching one last time the map. We then discover we have stepped on the “direttissima” – which means straight to the point – the other trail which cuts the nice flat parts of path 14 and the grazings and climb up straight in the canyon. This is its description we have found once back home:
“…Who wants to avoid the long, almost flat parts of path 14, can walk the direttissima which climbs into the wood.
Be careful: the part between ENEL power plant and path 14 in the Arbierès valley IS NOT signaled, IS NOT tracked and is on the cliff in the lower part. A fall at the beginning of the rock wall could have deadly consequeces.
A few minutes after the old ruined house, you can spot some red marks on the left which signal the beginning of the path which leads to the ENEL hydroelectric power plant. You walk it to the big panoramic terrace from where you can enter the underground tunnel which channels the waters from the Bionaz dam to the hydroelectric power plant in Valpelline…”
Now, let’s not mention the fact that the underground tunnel is blocked with a gate and a big lock, the part about the deadly falls is not too nice!
Once we are back on the path again, with already some 500 meters heightdrop walked upward and downward and the sun already on its way down to sunset, we begin the path, this time the right one and we already know we will get to the hut in the total darkness. We begin to walk and soon our legs are tired – running down the path is hard almost like anything else! – but little by little, step by step, we arrive at the Praz de Dieu Alp, with the ruined old mountain pastures.
It’s pretty dark by now, but we know only the last little torture is missing: the last, steep, snowy rock wall. With our frontal lights on, we get prepared for an half hour of walk uphill on the snow, following Trekking-Alps tracks – at least we know it’s the right trail.
The dutch flag – yep, it has been built by a dutch foundation – waving in the wind on the ridge finally signal the end of this really long day: we are arrived at the Chentre-Bionaz Hut, against all the odds we reach our goal. The evening is short, just a little while to eat a hot soup and enjoy the amazing night landscape of the lighted valley, then we go straight to bed, with a view over the valley from our pillow. direttamente sulla valle.
Rested, but still worn out by yesterday’s effort, we wake up after many hours of sleep. We discover bad grey clouds are arriving from Switzerland. This does not prevent us to enjoy the landscape directly from our sleeping bags, from the upstairs beds.
Relaxed and taking it easy, after yesterday’s running, we enjoy a warm breakfast while outside the weather doesn’t want to improve. Since it not a nice day and our legs are totally not 100% ready, we decide better to have a nice, panoramic walk down, enjoying the landscape we haven’t seen yesterday due to the darkness. We will get to the peak another time.
We take our time, making extreme attention to the ice along the rock wall. Then we stop every time we glimpse something interesting. Tranquillity is reigning in Valpelline and we let this sensation to nurture us.
The landscape is just amazing: going downhill is like passing through the seasons. On the top, the winter is arrived, with a nice coat of snow to cover everything, then autumn, with its stunning golden and red trees and, last but not least, in the valley, the last traces of summer on some green, full of life trees.
Nature show, in Valpelline, searching for Chentre-Bionaz Hut, will stick in our minds all along the winter.
Some hours and a short visit to an iced lake after, we are back in the valley, tired but really, really satisfied of the day. Watching the woods, we also discovered that if we have climbed the little wood, yesterday, we would have exit some hundreds meters from the path, already after the really tough part. Next time we will look better at our maps and we will not forget the GPS track, that is for sure.
Once we are back at the car, we decide to have a short tour some kilometers further, at Lac de Places de Moulin, a big dam at the beginning of the valley, which has a really long history. The real wonder, actually, is not only the dam and the turquoise lake, but the fott of Tza de Tzan glacier almost bathing in it.
Back from Canada, we were pretty sad, thinking we will not have other possibilities of watching glaciers just meters from us and lake with stunning colours. Well, you should have seen our faces back there, after discovering this place. You would have discovered how our sadness it totally, absolutely gone and forgotten!
What to say anymore, see you soon Valpelline, we will not forget you, that’s sure!