Trekking the Giants' Trail: Alta Via 1 through the Italian Pennine Alps
Beneath Mont Blanc, the Matterhorn and Monte Rosa
By Andy Hodges
Guidebook to trekking Italy's Alta Via 1 - a 180km trail through the Italian Alps, following the northern flank of the Aosta Valley from Donnas to Courmayeur. Nicknamed the Giants' Trail, the route offers fantastic views of the Alpine giants: Mont Blanc, the Matterhorn and Monte Rosa. With travel advice and accommodation listings.
SeasonsOnce the rifugi open, from late June to early September each month offers different views and experiences.
CentresFrom Donnas the route visits Gressoney-Saint-Jean before passing the world-famous Great St Bernard Monastery to finish in Courmayeur.
DifficultyRegular, fit walkers will enjoy crossing cols of nearly 3000m and travelling across the 'grain' of the mountains. Harder than the Tour of Mont Blanc, but without technical difficulty, this trek will provide a suitable challenge for those familiar with Alpine trekking looking for quiet huts and stunning views.
Must SeeThe Alpine giants of Monte Rosa, the Matterhorn, the Grand Combin and Mont Blanc form the stupendous backdrop to two weeks' trekking through the old kingdom of Savoy. With almost 1000 years of history, the Great St Bernard Monastery is a rewarding diversion.
Italy's Alta Via 1, a 180km trail through the Italian Alps following the northern flank of the Aosta Valley, boasts magnificent views of the Alpine giants: Mont Blanc, the Matterhorn, the Grand Combin and Monte Rosa. Indeed, it is sometimes known as the Giants' Trail and can be combined with a sister-route, the Alta Via 2 (covered in a separate Cicerone guide), which runs along the southern flank of the valley, to form the Tor des Géants. Stretching from Donnas to Courmayeur, the Alta Via 1 offers fantastic alpine walking, with welcoming refuges and small hotels providing overnight accommodation (and great food) along the way.
The guide presents the route in two sections, for the advantage of those who can't spare the full fortnight-plus needed to walk the entire AV1. The trail is described in 16 stages, with alternative stages covering some popular variants, including an optional detour to visit the famed monastery at the Great St Bernard Pass. Each stage includes clear route description and mapping, plus notes on local points of interest and accommodation options. An alternative itinerary, list of useful contacts, kitlist and glossary can be found in the appendices.
The AV1 crosses cols of nearly 3000m as it traverses the side-valleys of the main Aosta Valley. Suited to those with some of experience of alpine trekking, the walking is demanding but without technical difficulty. And the rewards are many: quieter huts, breathtaking vistas and a chance to immerse yourself in fabulous mountain landscapes overlooked by soaring, snow-clad giants.
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Andy was born and bred in Northern England and first developed his mountain skills in the Lake District and Snowdonia. Since discovering the joys of the Alps with a Cicerone guidebook in 1999, Andy and his wife Sue have explored much of the Western Alps, walking, running, cycling, ski touring and snowshoeing. With 25 years' service in Dartmoor Search and Rescue, Andy has vast experience of the moors and recently completed the in-depth training and assessments to become a qualified International Mountain Leader.View author profile