Rutor massif, 28 August - 3 September 2020
This was one of the least technically and physically challenging trips of the last 7 years. This was due to a number of factors. After Lova's accident, there were only four of us so we wanted to avoid crevassed glaciers. The choice of destination was limited by the pandemic. Initially we planned to fly to Italy, then drive to France and hike around Lac du Mont Cenis. However the pandemic cases kept creeping up and we replanned the trip, so that the start and the end of the trip would be in Italy and we would cross the border with France high in the mountains. Then France was added to the quarantine list and we decided to abandon France and planned a trip in the Rutor massif only a couple of weeks before the departure. The list of countries in the quarantine list was updated on Thursday evenings. We waited for the announcement that Italy was left out, and then spent half an hour frantically buying luggage, insurances etc and left for the hotel by the airport the same evening.
Coloured lines show our track. The arrow shows direction of travel, and the "P" icon shows the car park.
Walking time includes short breaks and lunch break.
- Rutor massif. This part of the Alps is amazing, with steep summits, glaciers, lakes. We often caught sight of Mont Blanc, Matterhorm, Monte Rosa, Gran Paradiso. We were surprised to see quite a few snow fields even in the beginning of September: there must have been a lot of snow this year. Our initial plans for the trip had to be changed. The weather forecast (proved accurate) had 50 hours of non-stop rain in the beginning of the trip. We decided to go to the ruines of Baraques du Fond hoping to find shelter for the night - and we were not disappointed. We then did not go anywhere on the second day. This was certainly a right decision, as had we crossed the Planaval pass, we would not have enjoyed Rutor glacier in bad weather - and this was one of the highlights of the trip. This however meant that another day had to be shortened. In another deviation from the original plan we did not go up Grand Assaly. Freshly fallen snow would have probably stopped us from climbing a rocky pitch anyway, but the reason for the deviation was different. We saw some snow-covered rocks above the bottom of the glacier and we got worried about possible rockfall.
- Technical level. This trip was technically very easy. The snow fields leading up to the Planaval pass were covered with a layer of fresh snow which made them quite slippery. The crevasses in the lower part of the Rutor glacier were clearly visible: this part of the glacier was snow-free prior to the recent snowfall. The Usseletti glacier and the ridge up Becca Bianca had no technical difficulties and the fresh snow did not make them much harder. This glacier had very few clearly visible crevasses.
- Weather. After the rain stopped in the afternoon of the third day, there was no more precipitation. The clouds frequently made the view very atmospheric.
- Gas cartridges with a threaded valve proved impossible to find, and we bought CampinGaz. We were well prepared and carried stoves for both types of gas cartridges.
- Maps, paths, route descriptions. We used an l'Escursionista No 2 1:25000 (La Thuile, Piccolo San Bernardo) map which was scanned and calibrated for GPS. Strava heatmap was great help during planning; no other map could compete in terms of accurate display of paths. Trip reports for most passes and summits are easy to find on the internet. Part of our trip was on marked paths which were easy to follow.
- People and other wild life. It was the end of our fourth day when we saw first human beings. The feeling of being on our own was overwhelming. This was due to bad weather, as we saw lots more people in the second part of the trip. We saw a few marmots, and, remembering Yasha's experience (marmots stole food from under his tent during a recent trip), we made sure our food was inaccessible to animals.
- Mobile coverage (e.g., for checking weather forecast) was good on almost all ridges and passes.
- Weather forecast. We used MeteoBlue and Aosta valley forecase service.
- Webcams can be found here.
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