It’s time, this winter too time has come to put on the snowshoes. We have a conflicting feeling for this thing, both love and hatred: they bring us where there would be no other way to arrive during winter, but they are heavy, both tied to our shoes or to the backpack, and even walking with them, is awkward and hard. That’s it, way better without it, but we can’t do without!
Today we have decided to head towards the Aosta Valley, exactely in the Saint-Barthélemy valley, to try and reach the Reboulaz Hut. It’s quite easy to get there, during summer, but in winter, with the snow, the long trail to get there could be too long or too packed with snow, we don’t know it yet. Anyway, we go.
We leave the car in the little town of Porliod, just after the astronomic observatory – we will go back there during a nice starry night! – and begin almost immediately to walk on the endless crosscoutry-ski track which cross up and down the valley.
We are not totally welcome here, indeed, we could not walk on the ski track, but the snowshoes one is not tracked yet and we cannot even think of all this path in the fresh snow. So, discreetly, we walk one behind the other on the side of the track, but not all the skiers are nice and friendly and we get a good scold from an irritating old lady!
After an hour and a half, even a little more probably, we get to the end of the track, where it goes back after a big bend.
Us, instead, get over the Magià refuge and, a little resting stop after, we get into the unbeaten path, when the sun is already going down behind the peaks, damn short winter days! They always end too quiclky!
The steep part doesn’t immediately begins. First, we have to cross the whole plain – it’s slightly sloping indeed – in the fresh snow, so we get when the slope begins and our legs are already asking for a breack.
Step by step, we get over the valley and begin to go up. The darkness comes relentlessly, the shadows too and half our way up, we have to thanks the snow which reflex the faint light and does not give us a clear understanding of how steep the wall we are walking across is in reality.
With a last effort we get on top of the ridge and…we can see almost anything at all! In part because of the darkness, in part because everything is white, we just head towards the little rock-man on the other side of the hollow which separets us from the Reboulaz Hut, of which we can barely spot the shape after a while. The last steps in the fresh snow, knee deep, then we open the door and such a satisfaction comes: we have arrived against all the odds!
It’s a great satisfaction and the hut is so cozy and organized. In a matter of seconds we light the stove – it’s full of well dried logs and there is even some really useful firelighter – and put some tea to boil to warm us up while we wait for the dinner cook.
Soup with ravioli and then even some pasta for everybody – the hike has made us very hungry! Some little chat after dinner and then we are ready to go to sleep. In the meanwhile, outside, the light snowstorm which has begun right after our arrival, has become a real blizzard – it’s very funny when after liters of tea and soup, the nature calls and the blizzard rages!
The night is long and in the morning a shy light wakes us up, but no ray of sun is getting through the windows. We get up to see outside and we see the snow is still falling and there are at least 30 cm of fresh snow on the ground – 50 in some places where the wind has blown strong! We decide for a strong but fast breakfast: the way down will be long and though!
After cleaning and arranging everything, we close shut all windows and doors and wave the Reboulaz Hut off. From the first steps already, we understand how hard the way down will be: we get knee-deep into the snow at every step, even deeper sometimes, and in a short while we are alle out of breath.
Getting over the hollow and on the ridge, we get aware of what will be today’s real challenge: the steep wall we have crossed yesterday pretty easily, is now covered in a thick layer of fresh snow and is now hard and dangerous to cross. We get a look around searching for another day, but unless we want to jump down the rocks as the ibex do, this is the only possible way.
Very slowly and super carefully, with little accurate steps, we get over this hard part of the trail and we are ready for the fun to begin!
We get down some more meters, just to be sure we cannot slip down towards the valley without wanting to, then the time to have fun starts: we run down the snow wall, jumping in the fresh snow, snowshoes on, with arguable style results!
In the meanwhile, it goes on to snow, but as we get more closer to the valley and the temperature increases, the snow melts the more and more, making our steps heavy and strenuous.
Once we are on the bottom of the valley, a good hour or so of walking in the flat fresh snow still awaits before getting to the crosscountry-ski track. Soon the chat taper off and only the will to get to the track stays: we find our tracks from yesterday and then, closer and closer, we spot the skiers: the effort will end soon.
We get to the big bend eventually, really tired and quite hungry. We stop at the Magià Refuge, wanting to have just a coffee or something hot, but it’s lunch time and the menu with polenta, stew and cheese is too tempting. A minute later we are sit in front of som dishes full of hot and tasty food, satisfied and smiling!
With full tummies and a great energy shot, way more than an hour later, we get to the car, exhausted, but deeply happy and satisfied of these two strenuous and unforgettable days.
See you soon Reboulaz Hut and Saint-Barthélemy valley, we will surely come back!