Part 2. Haute route du Grand-Paradis from Valnontey to Lillaz
The first part of our trip is here Part 1. Haute Route from Zermatt to Verbie
1.04 Sunday Cogne – Valnontey (1666m) – Refuge Vittorio Sella (2584m) (d+ : 918m ; d- : 0m)
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First impression – no snow at all!!!! Just yesterday we were covered with snow in Chamonix and all the lifts were standing because of avalanche danger. And today – spring, sun, and it is not clear when to put on the skis. Half of the way to refuge we went by foot carrying our skis on backpacks. Refuge Vittorio Sella is very friendly, food is fantastic – real Italian hut! And they have a cute dog.
2.04 Monday Refuge Vittorio Sella (2584m) – Gran Serraz (3552m) – Col Gran Neyron Est (3414m) – Refuge Chabod (2750m) (d+ : 1482m ; d-: 1316m)
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We had fantastic weather! It was good as far as the route to Ref. Chabot is long and traverse of Gran Serraz (Grand Serre, (3552 m)) is not so easy and evident in bad conditions. There were about 7-8 groups that left Refuge Vittorio Sella in the morning. 4 of them, including us, reached Gran Serraz. However only two came to Ref. Chabot 3h later then us.
We started from ref. Vittorio Sella quite late. The route was obvious – you take right side of glacier du Lauson.
There was a small steep passage to reach glacier du Grand Vallon. Groups in front of us passed it without ski. I also took off the ski, but in couple metes put them back – for me it was easier like this.
The last meters to Grand Serraz is rocky. The passage is marked by a large piece of rock with an overhang – it is easy to find.
There is a small bivouac at the col du Grand Neyron. It is small, rather dirty and uncomfortable. Evidently rarely anyone stays there. It seems logical, as far as the Chabod hut is just an hour away. We were very surprised then later in Chabod we were told that one group, which started with us today, passed the night there.
We were surprised to see North face of Grand Paradis completely covered with ice. In fact when we climbed it during previous summer it was mostly covered with snow. I am not sure, if we were quite lucky then, or it is always more icy in winter, than in summer. Refuge Chabod is a very cozy and comfortable hut. I like it very much, even though it does not belong to CAI. It is always very hospitable and the food is good. Real Italian hut! Unfortunately the weather was getting worse. I do not think we will have a chance to climb Grand Paradis next day.
3.04 Tuesday Refuge Chabod (2750m) – Grand Paradis (4061m) – Refuge Victor Emmanuel (2732m) (d+ : 1311m ; d- : 1329 m)
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Yes, morning was awful. Cold, windy, heavy snow, no visibility. Completely impossible do Grand Paradis. But we anyway decided to try to reach Refuge Victor Emmanuel by the easy route. 3 groups, that were in Chabod, decided to go down. But one wanted to try to reach Refuge Victor Emmanuel with u, but gave up after the first 2h of the climb.
Refuge Victor Emmanuel is by far not the best hut I have seen. It is big, very old and cold. People were quite unfriendly. When we came, nobody even interested who we were, and where from have we arrived in this terrible weather.
We came early and tried to dry our stuff and slept. Later two small groups reached the hut from below. In the afternoon hellish wind rose. I thought it would rip off the roof from this old hut.
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The wind raged all night. The walls of the house went shaking. Only we got up in the morning. The rest, apparently decided that in such weather it is not necessary to wake up at all. The wind subsided a little, but it was still strong.
We reached the pass Col du Grand Paradis without much problem, we could even see some nearby peaks. The final climb to the pass we did without skis, and required crampons. It was quite cold and the wind was blowing strong. On the pass the snow started even harder. Visibility was bad, and then disappeared completely. We were terribly cold, despite the fact that we were breaking the trailing. We drank tea in some mink under a stone and continued on our way, guided only by GPS. Visibility – zero. Watch with GPS and a good track helped really a lot!
We had a little rest in Refuge Ivrea – nice and comfy bivouac on the middle of the way. At this moment it cleared a bit, but the moment we started it disappeared again completely (just in time to make the next a bit narrow passage quite funny — saved by GPS again). When we got to the Refuge Pontese, the joy knew no bounds – we we very happy to arrive. The hut wardens were in fact also quite happy to get company, and were quite surprised to see somebody to arrive from the mountains in such a horrible weather.
Refuge Pontese is a very nice and comfortable hut. It is private, but costs no more then regular CAI huts. In the hut, we were the only visitors. The gardiens, Mara and Nicola are very nice and welcoming. They speak English and French. They warmed us, dried us, give a tea with cookies. And in the evening we have got a fantastic Italian dinner. Mara opened a bottle of good wine in our honor. Highly recommended hut!
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Wow! What a morning! Quiet and sunny! Finally blue sky! But you have to pay for such beauty – to trail all the way after two days of snowfall. Since there was no one in the hut except us, Mara decided to take a break too, and she ski-toured with us part of the way. Thank her for the photos. We reached Col de Teleccio quite fast, just to find ourselves in a cloud sitting on the other side of the mountain ridge. However, after several hundred meters of descent we exited teh cloud, and skiing became just awesome!!! Nobody around, fresh powder. We left our car in Vanontey. It is possible to descend directly to Vanontey via Colle di Money. But it is more steep than the Col de Teleccio and we were not sure of the avalanche situation after the snowfalls of the previous several days.
From Lillaz Fedor went to Vanontey and got our car back.
6.04 Friday Valnontey – Beaumes de Venise
We still had 3 days and we rushed to Beaumes de Venise – the climbing paradise. To summer, sun, warmth, and the fresh strawberries! Bingo!
Some useful links, that I used to prepare this trip:
Grand Paradis, Haute Route : De Valnontey à Lillaz
Haute route du Grand-Paradis