Weaving around the iconic peaks of the Matterhorn, Monte Rosa, and Mont Blanc are a fantastic tapestry of trails. Our Italy: The Tour of the Giants adventure follows sections of the famed Alta Via and Tor des Geants (Tour of the Giants) routes, and recently were the destination for Carol Hemminger and her husband, John, to kick off their 17th WT journey! Check out some of her wonderful photos from both on and off the trail as they hiked through green meadows, over cloud-covered passes, and into dreamy alpine towns.
We commenced our hike after taking lifts from Buisson in Valtournenche to the village of Chamois. I recorded 10.7 miles to our hotel on the outskirts of Breuil-Cervinia, close to Lago Blu, with a stop for lunch at Cheneil.
Our hike started from our hotel on the southern end of Breuil-Cervinia. After enjoying the reflections of the Matterhorn in Lago Blu, we walked through town to the gondola station and were whisked up to Plan Maison to continue our hike. I recorded 9.1 miles, including a long lunch break at Rifugio Duca degli Abruzzi while some in the group did a spur hike to the Carrel Cross. The hike ended back in the town center of Breuil-Cervinia.
We continued via a second lift above Plan Maison to our trailhead above Lac Goillet. From here I recorded a 10.2 traverse to Saint-Jacques in the Val d’Ayas. From Saint-Jacques our bus transported us to our hotel in Champoluc.
We started our hike from this meadow above Champoluc in the upper Val d’Ayas. After ascending 1,600 feet along the river, including part of a “five-star” moraine ridge, we descended 2,000 feet and caught the funicular back to the valley floor. The hike was 7.5 miles in the elevation range of 6,400-7,800 feet.
In the photo above, the Breithorn peaks are to the left, Pollux (13,425′) juts up from behind the glacier right of center, and Castor (13,871′) rises to the right. The “twins” Pollux and Castor are two of the >4,000 meter-high peaks of the Monte Rosa massif. A steep, unstable moraine with minimal vegetation drops to the glacier fed river from the left. A second moraine stabilized by more vegetation frames the river on the right.
We caught a lift up from Champoluc to start our 9.8-mile hike across the ridge from Val d’Ayas to Valle del Lys. The hike took us through the Walser village of Cuneaz before ascending to the Pinter Pass, then descending to Tschemonal in the valley below Gressoney-La-Trinite, our hotel destination.
I set off with James, Mark, and John L. for our Day 7 hike to Rifugio Quintino Sella. A gondola from Staffal followed by a chairlift brought us to our trailhead where we met our local guide who told us he thought we would soon climb above the thick clouds that filled the valleys. We hiked about a mile before we were finally above the clouds, with occasional lapses.
Our hike took us from Dondena in the Parco Naturale Mont Avic, via Lago Miserin, the Fenetre de Champorcher pass, and Rifugio Sogno di Berdze to Lillaz in the Parco Nazionale Gran Paradiso. I recorded this hike as our longest at 14.5 miles (though Gianluca said “No way!” when I reported this distance). Our total time was 7:53 hours, including lunch at Rifugio Miserin.
The entire group set off from Cogne together and hiked two miles to the picturesque village of Valnontey. There we fragmented into smaller groups. We opted to follow the glacier-fed river for almost five miles before ambling back to Cogne, with a lunch stop in Valnontey. The storm clouds rolled in very quickly in the early afternoon and we did a quick jog through the rain the last ten minutes to return to the hotel in Cogne.
Our final hike was an ascent of Mont Chetif above Courmayeur. We traveled by gondola and chairlift to a trailhead just below Rifugio Vieille, and set off upward with the sheer drop off into Val Veny providing spectacular views.
The grand finale of our trip was a traverse of the Alps below Mont Blanc from Courmayeur in Italy to Chamonix in France. We took four different gondolas to complete the traverse of about ten miles. The high point was at Aiguille du Midi (12,467′) in France.
—Text and photos by 17-time WT Adventurer Carol Hemminger, Italy: The Tour of the Giants.