Graian Alps (Italy-France), 5-14 August 2016
Initially, this trip was planned for just three of us (including 10-year-old Sonya), so we were looking for mountains with fairly flat, snow-free glaciers. Graian Alps proved ideal for this. Eventually, our group expanded to include our oldest son and a friend with his daughter, and we went to the Alps as a 6-strong team - this was a great trip!
The trip incldued 6 days in the mountains, mostly avoiding popular paths, and 3 days at the sea-side. In hindsight, we should have spent another day in the mountains, 6 days wasn't long enough...
The coloured lines show out track. The arrow shows direction of travel. The dashed line is a track of Yasha's evening run, and the "P" icon is a parking spot.
The walking time includes short breaks but excludes lunch break.
- The weather. We had virtually no rain at all during this trip, just a little drizzle one day but even that did not last long. So we wre extremely lucky with the weather this time, particularly in comparison with the last year's trip to Norway. We had some medium strength wind (10-15 m/s) one evening, which somewhat complicated tent pitching. We did not check the weather forecast during the trip, as we did not manage to get mobile signal. There was a printed forecast in one refuge on our way, but the other refuge had no weather information at all (we were advised to ask again in the evening).
- Maps and paths. The IGN topo map of France (here) is very good. For the Italian side, we ordered the map IGC 103 (Rocciamelone). The Italian map was not as good as the French one but it showed the paths more accurately. Getting information about less popular paths proved quite hard. The French map shows winter paths, which are not necessarily passable in the Summer. The Italian map shows more paths but the level of difficulty is not always obvious. There aren't many detailed trip reports on the web. We tried calling the refuges but they only really know the details about the most popular paths. The link between Col d'Arnès – and Col d'Arberon had no technical difficulties but we could not find any information about it - probably because these passes are quite far away from the refuges. We also struggled to find information about Col de la Valette. Some trip reports can be found on the http://www.altituderando.com site. Part of our trip coincided with a popular Tour de la Bessanese for which many reportrs are available (e.g., here). Many people reference this book (googlebooks shows many pages of this book). Some information can be found on the websites of the refuges (for instance, here or here).
- Walking time. The trip was not rushed, we walked quite slowly albeit the total walking time was quite long. We had lunch breaks every day and took our time. We did not quite keep to the plan, and we had to somewhat shorten a basecamp loop planned for the 4th day (we initially planned to climb Col de l'Arcelle ou des Alpins pass from the Glacier de derriere le Clapier and then continue up Pointe de l'Arcelle and Pointe du Ribon - but in practice we just walked around the Glacier de derriere le Clapier). We should have perhaps stayed in the mountains for another day and go further, to the Glacier de Rochemelon and then up Rochemelon (Roccamielone). Our backpacks were not too heavy: around 25 kg (men), 20 kg (Maria), 6 kg (Sonya) and 10 kg (Anya).
- Wild camping. Wild camping is not allowed in the National Parks. Our trip was just south of the Vanoise National Park so we believe we camped in France quite legally. The legal situation in Italy is less clear, but the host in one of the refuges said that we can camp anywhere in Italy and should not worry about anything.
- The level of difficulty. All glaciers were snow-free (this was not obvious at the time of planning) and quite flat. We did not use the rope (except when we lowered Yasha into a crevasse). Crampons were not necessary on some glaciers but we did have a few steep snow/glacier cimbs, so made good use of the crampons. The screes during the descent from Col d'Arnès and Passage du Colerin were quite steep, but certainly passable. Overall the level of difficulty matched our abilities quite well.
- Mobile networks.According to the coverage maps here and here, there is no mobile signal at all in the mountains. We did not check it frequently; there is definitely no mobile signal in the valleys, we managed to get some signal up on one of the passes, but no internet.
- Webcams. Webcams and local weather forecast can be found here.
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