Grande Traversata delle Alpe (GTA)

Present: John Anderson, Dennis Chapman, Andrew Dyson, Ian Hargreaves, Brian & Susan Melia, Lynn Moss

With 9 days walking planned at the beginning of September we met up at Quincinetto which is in the Aosta Valley in the Piedmont region of Italy. Susan had been unable to join us on the GTA the previous year but with Brian and Helen Kerr had caught up by doing the Campello Monti to Quincinetto section in July.

The routine of the route was unchanged, get up, have breakfast, walk up a mountainside for several hours, sit on a col and admire the view then loose all or most of the height in the descent to the next valley, find the accommodation (usually posto tappa/albergo), drink beer and cheap but very agreeable red wine (in Susan’s case pints of gin and tonic…the concept of gin measures has not yet reached this area) and eat wonderful homemade meals usually prepared from local produce, including donkey. What’s not to like!

The beauty of linear walks is that the views change gradually as the days pass. The Monte Rosa massif dominated the skyline last year whereas the backdrop this year was Gran Paradiso, indeed we spent much of the trip in the Gran Paradiso National Park where visitors are not permitted to take dogs, presumably for fear of them being devoured by either wolves or pastou sheep dogs.

This area of the Alps is relatively quiet although within a 90 minute drive of Turin. Many of the houses in the villages in which we stayed appeared to be holiday homes and consequently show signs of significant refurbishment. In complete contrast whilst walking in the higher alps we passed through many abandoned villages, some of which have been preserved and have an eerie atmosphere.

Brian parted company on the Wednesday meeting up with us on Saturday having opted for a change of scene and pace by taking part in the 170K Monte Rosa Ultra race. This benefited Ian who had tripped whilst entering the shower room in the posto tappa at Talasio on day 4 and cut his right shin very badly spilling blood on the floor leading some German walkers also staying there to inquire about  ‘the murder in the bathroom’. Lynn expertly dressed the wound but on the advise of one of the Germans, who happened to be a doctor, Ian took the next three days out being transported from valley to valley in the Panda hired by Brian.

We made two good decisions. The first was to take heed of the advice given by Simone at San Lorenzo  to avoid a section of the marked GTA path leading to Noasca as heavy rains had caused severe erosion damage leaving it exposed and potentially very dangerous. This was subsequently corroborated by others who chose to ignore the warning.

View of Gran Paradiso from above the Colle del Nivolet

The second was to sit out what would have been the penultimate days walk (Ceresole Reale to Pialpetta) based on a forecast of very poor weather, heavy rain and low cloud. This was the only bad weather day. Completing this section on the following day in good weather gave magnificent views, including Monte Viso in the distance, from Colle della Crocetta at 2641m, the highest point of the trip.

On 5 of the 8 days we walked over cols exceeding 2000 metres and in total climbed some 9000 metres, descending 8000m. GTA3 next year will give the opportunity to climb the 3538m peak of Rocciamelone.

Memorable moments: Lynn ‘nurse Gladys Emmanuel’ Moss attending Ian’s wounds in attire which will remain undisclosed, Brian’s laid back approach to the Monte Rosa Ultra race, Andrew (deluded soul) believing he received a marriage proposal from Sabrina at Noasca, the very excellent pizzas at posto tappa Fonti Minerali followed by eminently forgettable breakfasts (closing for the season the day we left), the lack of Brits, amazing mountain scenery and the friendliness and enthusiasm shown by the Italians we met. Bring on GTA3 September 2018!

Dennis Chapman

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