Tuesday, July 19, 2011

GTA Hike in the Italian Alps

The GTA stands for the Grande Traversata delle Alpi, a long distance hike through the Italian Alps.

A good English language guide is published by Cierone Press:  Through the Itralian Alps, GTA by Gillian Price.

The total distance of the south to north path in the Cicerone Guide is 633 kilometers, with 44,000 meters of ascent and 44,000 meters of descent over 47 stage-days.

The Italian Alps are actually five different mountain chains, from south to north:

Ligurian Alps: from the Mediterranean to Colle di Tenda, mostly limestone
Maritime Alps:  from Colle di Tenda to Valle Stura, contains igneous and metamorphic gneiss and granite and glacial molding.  Parco Naturale delle Alpi Maritime.
Cottian Alps:  from Valle Stura to the Valle di Susa, includes 3841 m Monviso.  Limestone and metamorphic greenstone.
Graian Alps:  from the Valle di Susa to the Valle d'Aosta.  Metamorphic rock with extensive glaciation.  Includes Mt Blanc and Gran Paradiso.  Parco Nazionale del Gran Paradiso.
Pennine Alps:  from Valle d'Aosta almost to Domodossola, one of the main passes into Switzerland.  These central Alps include 4634 m Monte Rosa, Europe's second highest mountain, and the Matterhorn.

We hiked for 13 days, covered 196 km; climbed more than 13,000 m and descended the same amount.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Last Day of Hiking in July: out of Valle Maira on Day 13

Because this blog goes backward chronoligically you begin with our last day of hiking in July.
We got up very early and hiked down into the Valley of Maira to catch the bus.
4 km and 400 m down.

 We got up very early and hiked over an hour down into the valley to catch a bus to Cuneo and then to Turin.

We were sorry to leave Valle Maira but needed a rest after two weeks of hiking.
If you click on past posts you will go backward to the beginning of the trip.
Most hikers go north to south.  We went south to north, most of the time on the GTA, the Grande Traversata delli Alpe.

Day 12: St Martino inferiore in the Valley Maira

 By this stage of the hike on Day 12, we left the recommended path of the English guide and followed advice of German hikers to stay in the Cultural Center of St Martino inferiore in the Valle Maira. 
Maria Schneider, a German and her late husband, have renovated an abandoned village into a retreat.
It attracts mostly Germans.
It is unbelievably beautiful.

 It was unusual to find two other Americans there.  Doug and June, below, are studying slow food at a Piedmont school.

Day 12: From Gardetta down to Valle Maira and up the other Side

Rifugio Gardetta at 2335 to San Martino inf at 1400.
19 km, 400 m up and 1400 m down.
Descended to the Bal Maira at 1000 m and then climbed back up to 1400 m.

 This was a long hot hike.  The slope on the north side of Valley Maira, however, had its rewards.
We walked surrounded by butterflies, interesting plants, old stone dwellings, and there was a fountain at the other end.

People in Valley Gardetta

 Tina, above, was hiking with her friend Giuletta below.
Tina invited us to her house for coffee the next day.

 We crossed paths with the German hikers above.  They were going north to south - of course.
We were going south to north.  They gave us helpful information for where to stay the next day.
At Rifugio Gardetta below, a large group of French mountain bikers relax in the late day sun - along with a Pot-Bellied Pig who lives at the Refuge.

Rocca de Meja

 This huge dolomitic block dominates the Gardetta Valley.
It is popular with climbers.
We spent a whole day hiking around it, seeing it in the afternoon sun above,
the setting sun below.

 The early morning, above, and as the sun set, below.

Day 11: Sambuco up to the Valley of Gardetta

Sambuco at 1200 m to Rifugio Gardetta at 2335 m.
18 km, 1500 m up and 400 m down.
Pass at 2533 m.  High road at 2400 m.
Descend to 2000 m before going back up to 2335.

 This was a long day with a long climb.  We started early.

Leaving Sambuco, we passed a memorial stone which reads, more or less:
'The Community of Sambuco wishes
to never forget the tragedy of the war.
Pietrino 'Ros' Tropini
assasinated by the German military in the flower of his years.
The 21 August, 1944.'

 Looking back down the valley we had climbed from Sambuco.
On the top, there exists a road at about 2,400 meters - see below.
It is popular with the mountain bikers, motorcyclists, and drivers.
 After leaving the high road, Alan heads toward the Valley of Gardetta.
Rifugio Gardetta is near the top of the valley in the distance.

Sambuco in Valle Stura and Albergo della Pace

 We were hungry and delighted to end Day 10 in the village of Sambuco in the Valle Stura.

 Albergho della Pace has a hotel and Posto Tappa, meaning a dormitory for sports people.
They attract mountain bikers and hikers from Germany and France.
 It is a family run business and they make their own food.
It was by far the best breakfast we encountered in Italy.
Note the 10 pound jar of Nutella below on the right.
 A crowd of hungry Swiss mountain bikers prepares for a day in the mountains.

Day 10: Rifugio St Anna over a Pass and down into the Valle Stura

Sant'Anna at 2010 m to Sambuco at 1200 m.
20 km, 800 m up and 1800 m down.
Pass at 2311 m and the lowest point was 1100 m in the Valle Stura.

 When you start at 2,300 meters, the climb is not that bad.
 The descent, however, went on forever, for 1,500 meters and almost 20 kilometers.

 The transplanted German woman below talked to us on our lunch break about politics and life.
She invited us to her trailer for lunch, but we had to keep going downhill to Valle Stura.

Day 9: Our Highest Pass, Bad Weather, ending at Sanctuary St. Anna

Rifugio Malinvern at 1839 m to Santa Anna di Vinadio at 2010 m.
16 km, 1000 m up and 700 m down.
Pass at 2600 m.

 This day included a climb up to the pass which was about 2,600 meters.
The weather forecast was not great and in fact, along the way we encountered heavy rain, very strong winds, thunder, and hail.  I did not take a lot of pictures of this high area, on the border between France and Italy.
 Looking back toward the pass, above, Alan is able to take a quick break for crackers.  We did not dare stop to eat lunch that day.
 Santuario St Anna below is the highest pilgrimage destination in Europe, at 2,300 meters.
We were very glad to arrive.

Day 8: Rifugio Malivern and New Friends

 Rifugio Malivern, seen above, is in the upper reaches of the Valle Stura.
Barbara, below, a German had been hiking for a month and had lots of helpful suggestions.
 The young Italian student below was working at the hut for the summer.
 Barbara and Ingrid prepare to take off the next morning.  They were smart to walk to a busstop because of a bad weather forecast.  They were hiking, like most Germans, from north to south on the GTA.  We were hiking from south to north.

Day 8: From the Pass Down thru Rock, Snow,and Glacial Moraine

From Termi di Valdieri at 1368 m to Rifugio Malinvern at 1839 m.
18 km , 1600 m up and 825 m down.
One pass at 2520 m.

 Lake Malivern is dammed behind glacial moraines, below.  The steep descent begins on the other side of the lake.