Through the Italian Alps
The GTA - The Grande Traversata delle Alpi
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A guidebook to the 663km Grande Traversata Delle Alpi trek through the western Italian Alps traversing the Ligurian, Maritime, Cottian, Graian and Pennine Alps to finish near Monte Rosa. The guide splits the route into 47 day stages of 4 to 23km. In total there is 44,000m of ascent/descent, so a good level of fitness and experience is required.
- Late June to mid-September. There may be some spring snow early on, but the treks goes from south to north so this is minimised.
- Starts Viozene north of Genoa, finishes near Monte Rosa. Visits no main towns but public transport to Turin then Aosta always possible to leave the route.
- At 630km (400 miles) split into 47 stages it is a long way and passes through some tough but rewarding alpine terrain. Can be split for those with less time. A stern undertaking.
- Must See
- Argentera, Monte Viso, the Gran Paradiso and the south faces of the Pennine Alps. Crosses half a dozen national parks and nature reserves.
The Grande Traversata delle Alpi is a spectacular 47-day alpine route across the western Italian Alps. Starting a mere stone’s throw from the Mediterranean, the GTA curves its way high over the Piedmont plain traversing the Ligurian, Maritime, Cottian, Graian and Pennine Alps, heading northwards to a brilliant conclusion near the base of Monte Rosa. The sole prerequisites for trekkers are average fitness and a taste for adventure.
With approximately 633km (393 miles) distance, 44,000m in ascent (and descent), a low of 295m and a high of 2804m above sea level, and crossing 62 passes, the Grande Traversata delle Alpi entails a full 47 days on the trail. Crossing stunning alpine peaks and monumental landmarks this trail offers breathtaking backgrounds on what is probably Italy’s most rewarding long distance walking route. Arduous mountain passes where the eye gazes over boundless horizons of rugged rock and snowscapes are encountered on a daily basis as well as lush meadows spread with glorious wildflowers in peaceful valleys.
To make the planning more manageable, the trek has been divided into four parts, each approximately two-weeks in length. Each is made up of one-day stages, concluding at a village or refuge where accommodation, meals and often transport are available. The trek follows good paths and does not demand special alpine expertise. Nothing more than a decent level of fitness and willpower is required to deal with the lengthy hauls.
The GTA Trek
Italy's Western Alps
Walking the GTA
When to Go
How to Use this Guide
Dos and Don'ts
Waymarking and Maps
What to Take
Food and Drink
Part I: The Ligurian and Maritime Alps
Stage 1 Viozene to Rifugio Garelli
Stage 2 Rifugio Garelli to Limonetto
Stage 3 Limonetto to Palanfré
Stage 4 Palanfré to Trinità
Stage 5 Trinità to San Giacomo
Stage 6 San Giacomo to Rifugio Genova
Stage 7 Rifugio Genova to Terme di Valdieri
Stage 8 Terme di Valdieri to Rifugio Malinvern
Stage 9 Rifugio Malinvern to Sant'Anna di Vinadio
Stage 10 Sant'Anna di Vinadio to Strepeis
Stage 11 Strepeis to Pontebernardo
Part II: The Cottian Alps
Stage 12 Pontebernardo to Rifugio Gardetta
Stage 13 Rifugio Gardetta to Rifugio Campo Base
Stage 14 Rifugio Campo Base to Rifugio Pian Melezé
Stage 15 Rifugio Pian Melezé to Pontechianale
Stage 16 Pontechianale to Rifugio Q. Sella
Stage 17 Rifugio Q. Sella to Rifugio Barbara Lowrie
Stage 18 Rifugio Barbara Lowrie to Villanova
Stage 19 Villanova to Ghigo di Prali
Stage 20 Ghigo di Prali to Balsiglia
Stage 21 Balsiglia to Usseaux
Stage 22 Usseaux to Rifugio D. Arlaud
Stage 23 Rifugio D. Arlaud to Susa
Part III: The Graian Alps
Stage 24 Susa to Rifugio Il Truc
Stage 25 Il Truc to Usseglio
Stage 26 Usseglio to Balme
Stage 27 Balme to Pialpetta
Stage 28 Pialpetta to Fonti Minerali
Stage 29 Fonti Minerali to Noasca
Stage 30 Noasca to San Lorenzo
Stage 31 San Lorenzo to Talosio
Stage 32 Talosio to Ronco Canavese
Stage 33 Ronco Canavese to Piamprato
Stage 34 Piamprato to Fondo
Stage 35 Fondo to Le Cavanne
Stage 36 Le Cavanne to Quincinetto
Part IV: The Pennine Alps
Stage 37 Quincinetto to Maletto
Stage 38 Maletto to Rifugio Coda
Stage 39 Rifugio Coda to Locanda Galleria Rosazza
Stage 40 Locanda Galleria Rosazza to Rifugio Selle
Stage 41 Rifugio Selle to Rifugio Rivetti
Stage 42 Rifugio Rivetti to Sant'Antonio
Stage 43 Sant'Antonio to Rima
Stage 44 Rima to Carcoforo
Stage 45 Carcoforo to Santa Maria
Stage 46 Santa Maria to Campello Monti
Stage 47 Campello Monti to Molini di Calasca
Appendix I Tourist Information
Appendix II Main Peaks along the GTA
Appendix III Italian–English Glossary
Appendix IV Further Reading
WAYMARKING AND MAPS
A good part of the GTA route is signed with official red/white waymarking – usually painted stripes on rocks or prominent landmarks, if not signposts. However, lengthy stretches are not, and local numbering is sporadically referred to, where present. It varies wildly.
Note At the time of writing a new waymarking campaign was being launched in the Province of Cuneo, accounting for the substantial initial section of the GTA. Consequently there may be the odd small discrepancy between the route description and the situation on the ground. Differences may also crop up due to the reintroduction of appellations in local dialects. A good rule is to trust waymarks rather than putting your faith in the map.
As cartography goes an excellent general road map is the 1:200,000 Touring Club Italiano Piemonte e Valle d'Aosta. Walkers should have the detailed individual walking maps covering the stages they intend to trek. The simplified sketch maps provided in this guide are only intended to give the route and major landmarks. A commercial 1:50,000 or 1:25,000 map showing contour lines, landscape features, settlements, minor roads and mountain huts is priceless in case of bad weather, problems with orientation and exit routes (not to mention identification of far-off landmarks, a great source of satisfaction). The IGC, Istituto Geografico Centrale, is the main mapmaker for Piedmont – unfortunately unremarkable for accuracy, updating and graphics. Their 1:50,000 series have been used as the principal references for this guide. However, the initial stages for the GTA are also covered by excellent 1:25,000 maps by Blu Edizioni (Recommended maps
Stages 1–8 IGC ‘Alpi Marittime e Liguri’ 1:50,000 sheet 8
Stages 1–2 Blu Edizioni ‘Alpi Liguri, Parco Naturale Alta Valle Pesio e Tanaro’ 1:25,000, cartoguida 2
Stages 3–8 Blu Edizioni ‘Parco Naturale delle Alpi Marittime’ 1:25,000, cartoguida 1
Stages 9–14 IGC ‘Valli Maira Grana Stura’ 1:50,000 sheet 7
Stages 14–19 IGC ‘Monviso’ 1:50,000 sheet 6
Stages 19–24 IGC ‘Valli di Susa, Chisone e Germanasca’ 1:50,000 sheet 1
Stages 24–28 IGC ‘Valli di Lanzo e Moncenisio’ 1:50,000 sheet 2
Stages 29–33 IGC ‘Il Parco Nazionale del Gran Paradiso’ 1:50,000 sheet 3
Stages 33–41 IGC ‘Ivrea, Biella, Bassa Valle d'Aosta’ 1:50,000 sheet 9
Stages 41–46 IGC ‘Monte Rosa, Alagna e Macugnaga’ 1:50,000 sheet 10
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Stage 47: Bivacco Pian del Lago now has blankets + pillows and a gas stove. It does not have a WC. Later, Bivacco Alpe del Lago is no longer "grotty" and, except for not having a gardien, is probably the best bivacco on the GTA. It has mattresses, blankets, pillows, a wood stove as well as a gas stove, and a full supply of cooking equipment. It has lighting (solar) and an excellent WC.
(thanks to Peter Forrest)
pp61-62 the descent path from Colle Vailetto is well maintainedp74 Rifugio Malinvern tel changed to 0171 1936018 or mob 340 2768964 www.rifugiomalinvern.itp99 Chalet Seggiovia tel 0175 950410 www.chaletseggiovia.comp107 buses run via Bobbio Pellice to Pinerolo where the railway starts(Thanks to Christine Major)
Stage 20: The owner of the posto tappa (Agriturismo La Miando) at Didiero/Salza will transfer walkers between Balsiglia and Didiero in his car. This avoids an 8Km walk along the road between Didiero and Balsiglia either before or after the long stage 21.
Contact Tel. +34 3488145311 E-mail email@example.com (Thanks to David Folkes)
Maletto no longer has accommodation so detour to Agriturismo Belvedere at Trovinasse tel 0125 658731 sleeps 18, open June to Sept + weekends at other times
Just out of Santa Maria is The Yellow House B&B tel 346 0206177 firstname.lastname@example.org Meals down the road at La Piana (Osteria La Piana)
p148 Talosio, grocery store has closed down. For bus connection to Pont Canavese, phone the night before or taxi (See bar).
p151 GTA marked on east side of river from Scandosio to Cugnone and Pianetto to Piamprato.
p159 The "rotting bridge" has been repaired.
(Thanks to Greg Pettingill)
p114 Agriturismo La Miando has changed its contact details; email email@example.com
Tel number to change to mobs 3488145311 or 339276321
Many Thanks to Geoff Caplan for his information on wild camping on this route.
WILD CAMPING AND THE GTA
Some notes on my experience covering the first 30 stages of the GTA using a tent. If you have the experience this can be an economical and highly enjoyable way to tackle the route. It also offers the opportunity to walk into October, when many huts are closed and the hills are quiet.
Legally the wild camping situation is complex as the route passes through many different types of administration. But it practice the same rules you would use in a UK National Park seem to work out fine: (1) Choose isolated or secluded spots (2) Pitch late
(3) Strike early (4) Don't light fires anywhere close to woodland (in some areas this is illegal). Camping near to huts seems to be acceptable if you ask permission and if suitable pitches are available. I found the herders friendly, provided you stay away from their huts.
I only had one issue, when a Forest Ranger stumbled across my discreet camp while searching for poachers and politely asked me to move. But after a quick negotiation he relented and allowed me to stay.
2. FINDING PITCHES
Because of the steepness you can often walk for many hours between viable sites. Be wary of passing a good spot from mid-afternoon onwards unless the map suggests promising territory ahead. I always found a pitch, but it was sometimes a close-run thing, so be prepared to bivvy if you get into trouble. Sites are not always close to water, so plan ahead and carry what you will need.
Outside of the few official sites it's difficult to find suitable spots in the valleys. I resorted to a couple of stealth camps, but didn't enjoy the experience. The biggest challenge is getting through the Susa valley, where accommodation is expensive. But I found abandoned cultivation terraces a few hundred meters up beyond the town.
On the lower slopes there are often herds, and the good sites can be heavily churned up and soiled (and cow-bells are loud!). The best sites and most memorable camps were often quite high. For the 29 nights on the trail my accommodation was: 20 x wild camps; 2 x valley stealth camps; 3 x official campsites; 2 x CIA bivaccos; 1 x CIA winter room; 1 x Posto Tappa (in apocalyptic weather!).
3. RESUPPLY & WATER
I walked mid-September to mid-October, so most huts were closed and many village shops were only open part-time. After mid-October most village shops close for the winter. It can be difficult to coordinate valley crossings with opening hours, so I carried a buffer of 3-4 days extra food for flexibility. Choice can be limited, and don't expect to find freeze-dried food pouches. On the hill I generally subsisted on artisan cheese and salami (wonderful and widely available), powdered soup, pasta, rice, bread and chocolate. During the season you could buy food at the huts, for a price.
For fuel I strongly recommend meths, which is widely available in shops, pharmacies, huts and farms. Camping gas is rarely stocked.
Much of the water is soiled by livestock so a safe water filter is pretty much essential. I used a Travel Tap.
Unless you are super-fit, I strongly recommend going ultra-light if you want to enjoy your walking. For the best sites take a shelter suitable for high camping and sleeping equipment rated to -5C. I took the MLD TrailStar tarp tent. At only 500 grams it is absolutely bomb-proof and spacious enough to cook in safely. Highly recommended. You'll often have to camp amongst dung so take a suitable groundsheet if you are tarping. Ground conditions can be tough: I used Groundhog pegs and they were well worth the extra weight compared to Ti crooks. I took an insect-proof nest but didn't encounter any biting insects, even in the valleys, though this may vary by time of year. Obviously, don't camp light and high unless you have the experience: severe weather can blow up very quickly.
Little English is spoken in this region, and camping requires more interaction with the locals than hut-hopping. So I learned some Italian for the trip, and it proved extremely useful on many occasions. Plus it greatly enhanced my ability to interact with the local culture.
Nov 2013Stage 30: changes to route between Fé and Perebella, now well waymarked throughout so no longer any need to take the bus.p144 When crossing the Orco and heading for the uphill turn LEFT and not right for Fe. At the first junction after about 50m turn right behind the school and follow the waymarks to a sign onto the "broad embankment " in the guide. From here clear new waymarks take you up past Coste. The path has been cleared and marked above here and cannot be missed but it's still hard work!p145 After Sant'Anna when you reach the rusting sheds follow the "tempting track" of the book rather than ignore it. The book route is now almost impossible to find. Follow the waymarks for 10-15min and you reach a sign that directs you down a clear and recently cleared path to Perebella.Thanks to Andrew Holmes
pp43+46 the Himalayan bridge has been replaced by a modern structure
Thanks to Andrew Holmes
Thanks to Greg Pettingill
p126 - Rifugio Il Truc will not be open for the summer of 2013 season. You can however use Rifugio La Riposa, firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks to Stuart and Marie Scott
p53 Limonetto posto tappa is closed but the welcoming Ange Blanc restaurant (www.langeblanc.it, tel 0171928221) has rooms (sleeps 8) open May–Oct. It is located on the GTA route a short distance above the village on the last stretch of road.
p128 Capanna Ravetto is now open for walkers. Sleeps 30, open mid July to end August. September weekends only. Tel mob 338 9007813. If no signal tel 011 6270441 (custodian's home number) requests can be passed on the hut.
p130 The middle section of the route from Usseglio to Colle di Costa Fiorita is reportedly not in good condition
p156 the path up from Piani di Cappia is now clearly marked
Thanks to Ivan and Sue
p46 Rifugio Mongioe www.rifugio-mongioie.com
p50 Rifugio Garelli tel no changed to 0171 738078
p57 Palanfré accommodation www.palanfre.it extra tel 340 6973954
Stage 14 is now well signed
p99 Taverna al Sole is closed
p123 Susa: 10 mins out of town B&B Rocciamelone www.bbrocciamelone.it tel 3925863805
p132 Good accommodation and meals at Les Montagnards www.lesmontagnards.it tel 0123 233073
p159 Quincinetto: a 15min walk from town is B&B Cascina Salet www.cascinasalet.com tel 340 5564970
thanks to Peter Forrestp132 Biv Gandolfo now has blankets
p146 San Lorenzo: meals and limited accommodation (book ahead as is family home) at Trattoria Da Livio tel 0124 800213 cell 340 1260343
p151 Albergo Centrale no longer takes credit cards
p167 if you opt for the tunnel, take a head torch as there is no lighting
Stage 17, p105 the path from Pian del Re is now well marked.
Stage 17, p106 Below Colle della Gianna the GTA is now signed to take the left fork via Colle Proussera to Rif Barbara Lowrie.
Stage 18, p108 Rifugio Barrant was closed in July 2011
Stage 18/19, p110 the phone number for the Posto Tappa in Villanova is now 0121 957850
p115 Accommodation and meals are also available at the lovely Foresteria Massello located close to Campo La Salza. www.foresteriamassello.it tel 0121 808678
The route between Fé and Perebella, now well waymarked throughout so no longer any need to take the bus.
p144 When crossing the Orco and heading for the uphill turn LEFT and not right for Fe. At the first junction after about 50m turn right behind the school and follow the waymarks to a sign onto the "broad embankment " in the guide. From here clear new waymarks take you up past Coste. The path has been cleared and marked above here and cannot be missed but it's still hard work!
p145 After Sant'Anna when you reach the rusting sheds follow the "tempting track" of the book rather than ignore it. The book route is now almost impossible to find. Follow the waymarks for 10-15min and you reach a sign that directs you down a clear and recently cleared path to Perebella.
Thanks to Andrew Holmes
p132 A summer bus runs W (not E) to Pian della Mussa.
p136 the owner of Ristorante Setugrino at Pialpetta will evidently drive walkers up to Rivotti for a modest fee, thus shortening the day.
p141 Albergo Gran Paradiso at Noasca reportedly has a charming receptionist now.
(Thanks to Peter Forrest)
Reader's comment: thanks to Andrew Holmes
Maps. There is a new series of maps produced at1:25000 by fraternalieditoreltd (www.fraternalieditore.it) for much of the Piedmont mountain areas. These are hugely superior to IGC maps of the same scale especially in the accuracy of path information.
Stage 7 The bus link to Terme Di Valdieri is direct to Cuneo and not Borgo San Dalmazzo as stated.
Stage 19 Ghigo Di Prali has two accommodation choices and Pensione Miramonti 0121807920 is very good value and friendly.
Stage 20 There is a new accommodation option 40 minutes below Balsiglia which is the community owned La Foresteria Di Massello 0121808678. This offers dormitory or individual rooms in a new building with good food and very good rates. Good library with wildlife videos! The manager will run you to Balsiglia.
Stage 21 The "limited groceries" entry for Usseaux should read "no groceries" No longer any shop.
Rif Sella www.rifugiosella.it
p106 the final stretch to Rif Barbara Lowrie is overgrown and totally obstructed in several places by fallen trees.
Rif Jervis www.rifugiojervis.it
p115 Signora Tron will provide meals (phone ahead 349 1813364)
Usseaux posto tappa www.pzit-rei.it
Sentiero Balcone from Salbertrand to Susa is reportedly overgrown.
Susa hotel www.hotelsusa.it
Thanks to Peter Forrest (July 2010)
p49 Rifugio Mondovi was extensively renovated in 2008
p53 Colle di Tenda - nearby Bar Le Marmotte does delicious meals and snacks and will ring down to the Edelweiss guesthouse who come and pick up guests.
p57 In the vicinity of Gias della Barma (1640m) keep on the L bank opposite the massive limestone slab of Costa Lausea pitted with tiny nummulite fossils. You wind down the steep valley to huts and and a fountain.
At Palanfré - there is no longer a shuttle bus to Vernante
p60 Trinità - Locanda del Sorriso www.locandadelsorriso.com
p65 Rifugio Genova www.rifugiogenova.it
p69 Rifugio Morelli-Buzzi has changed management - and is still hospitable
p71 The beech wood was damaged by avalanches in the winter of 2008-09 due to unusually heavy snowfalls.
On Piano del Valasco - Rifugio Valasco www.rifugiovalasco.it tel cell 348 3230266
p78 Sant'Anna di Vinadio www.santuariosantanna.it Renovations mean a good choice of accommodation is now available.
p110 Villanova Posta Tappa has been revamped and is brighter
p120 Rifugio Arlaud www.rifugioarlaud.it stays open until 23/9
p130 Stage 25: Albergo La Furnasa at Villaretto (Usseglio) has been recommended (Via 24 maggio 16, tel 0123 83854)
p166 Rifugio Rosazza www.rifugiorosazza.altervista.org tel cell 339 4602133
From Kath Irving & Bill Dale (2008)
Stage 17 to Rif. Barbara Lowrie. We found this a hard day. The descent from Colle della Gianna (p. 106) was through a recent vast cascade of white rocks and boulders. The red/white marks are there and a path is becoming re-established but it was very slow going.
Stage 19 to Ghigo. There are some changes to the route here. After the GTA turns off at the bend in the track at the beginning, it goes up through the wood but only for a short distance. It emerges on to an enormous new bulldozed track, with no signs at all. We turned right, which was the right decision, and followed the track to some derelict houses where it stopped and we picked up a mark. The marks sent us uphill to the left on a narrow path through grass with the odd faded mark, to a grassy ridge and an old hut and then on to the established 4WD track. This wound uphill to a new T junction - with not a sign in sight anywhere! We turned left and continued to twist our way up to Collette Faure. A marked path lead down from here but very soon it joined a new bulldozed track. This could only be the one that went right at the T junction. So had we turned right there, we would have wound round to the same point but missing out Collette Faure. This new track really is a scar on the landscape, although hopefully it will soften in time. There are no marks and it continues right up to the deserted village Bergerie Giulian, where it stops and the marks start again to lead you uphill through a farm area and on towards the col.
From Peter Forrest (Nov 2009)
It is just possible to get to Viozene and then Rifugio Mongioie in a day's travel from the UK using the Ryanair flight from Stansted, although it's a convoluted journey (plane/bus/train/bus/taxi/walk).
The train-line from Turin airport to Turin centre is currently closed due to major infrastructure works. However, the better option anyway is to take the bus from the stand opposite the taxi rank. This cheap and frequent service runs direct to Porta Nuova station.
The single-track railway from Ceva to Ormea does not run for much of the summer: only during school term-time and on special days. There is, however, a replacement bus service.
This arrives at Ormea too late to catch the last bus to Viozene. It is c.30 euros by taxi to Viozene (tel no as per the guide). From Viozene it is but a short walk to Rifugio Mongioie, arriving c.12hrs after check-in at Stansted.
p47 The pretty Himalayan-style bridge shown on p43 of the GTA Guide was brought down by an avalanche 2 winters ago and crossing involves an interesting scramble across the rocks and stream, the latter probably being tricky early in the season. A mountain ranger advised that the bridge's rebuilding is uncertain.
Many thanks also to Martin & Sue Banfield - as well as the above readers naturally - for taking the time to let me know of changes. (Apologies if I've forgotten anyone!)
p53+199 tel no for Limone Tourist Office changed to 0171 925280
p62 The Foresteria at San Giacomo is now operating with evening meals provided by the restaurant though the camping ground remains valid as well
Piano di Valasco
p71 On Piano di Valasco the casa di caccia hunting pavilion has been transformed into Rifugio Valasco open 15/6-15/9 rooms with private bath + dorms tel C/O Rif. Questa 0171 97338
p57 Palanfré: Albergo del Parco tel. mobile 334 3052503
p62 San Giacomo: while the Foresteria is closed, walkers get a warm welcome from Luca at the camping ground tel. mobile 349 7305438. A large tent and home cooking is provided. Baita Monte Gelas doesn't do dinners for the time being.
A summer shuttle bus goes to Entracque.
p66 exit route to Lago della Rovina - a summer shuttle bus provides a link with Entracque.
p72 Rif Questa now has an inside toilet!
p76 from Rif Malinvern the path begins a short way down the track from the hut.
p84 Sambuco: the Posta Tappa is no longer at hotel/restaurant Osteria della Pace but now C/O Racletterie La Meridiana (via Umberto 35) tel. 0171 96650, sleeps 15.
p84 Pontebernardo has an interesting museum of pastoral life in a building next to the church.
The route is magnificent and should be high up on the list of things to do for the serious trekker. The practical text is intermingled with intriguing info (tinted), that is a dream to use and enjoy. Very good value.
The Aitchison-Jones Walker's Handbook 2007
The location cannot fail to impress. A mere 50 kilometres inland from the beaches of the Mediterranean coast where the air is heavy with the scent of sun cream, the light grey barrier of the Maritime Alps soars thousands of metres above sea level, their airy peaks festooned with wisps of mist. At the feet of the mountains lie sparkling alpine lakes amidst meadows of wildflowers. And the breathtaking valleys are home to hundreds of wild animals.
Italy Magazine, August 2009
Gillian Price was born in England but has lived in Venice for many years. Gillian has steadily explored the mountain ranges of Italy, and Corsica, and brought them to life for visitors in a series of outstanding guides for Cicerone. She is an active member of the Italian Alpine Club (CAI) and Mountain Wilderness.View Articles and Books by Gillian Price
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