OverviewThere are big peaks whose names are famous even outside the boundaries of the climbing world. And there are “minor” mountains, hiking peaks known and treasured only by a small circle of local enthusiasts. Il Forte is one of these “little peaks”.
Barely covered even by the most specialized guidebooks, the 3 hours hike (with a bit of scrambling) leading to this 2366m summit is a miniature trekking into a variety of beautiful alpine landscapes. From a pleasant medium altitude forest to a panoramic but easy ridge of rocks and grass, you’ll pass little coniferous woods, old shepherd huts, a lonely lake, waterfalls, springs and a variety of other environments.
This is the epitome of the “family hike”, at least up to the Afframont lake. Quick access (90 minutes drive from Turin), short walking time, very moderate steepness, well marked trail and little to none objective danger makes it perfect for children looking for a great day in the mountains.
Getting ThereIl Forte is located above ancient village of Balme, near the top of the Valle D’Ala, middle of the three Valli di Lanzo, parallel valleys located between the Val di Susa and the Valle dell’Orco (and the Gran Paradiso group).
To reach Balme, from the Turin airport (Caselle) take the SP1 highway following the indication to
Ciriè -> Mathi -> Balangero -> Lanzo.
Drive through the tunnel under the rocky hill where Lanzo is built, then follow the indications
Germagnano -> Pessinetto -> Ceres –> Ala di Stura -> Balme.
Upon reaching the final section of road before Balme (big white sign “Balme” to the right), turn left on a concrete bridge towards a group of ugly multi-storeys buildings (the tourist village of Albaron, one of the most unwelcome “presents” of the house development of the 70’s). After 100m park the car before a pizza restaurant, near a small skilift. On a nearby pole there’s an arrow marked “Lago di Afframont”.
Red TapeNo permit required. Camping near the lake (and everywhere else) is more or less tolerated if you’re not making a nuisance of yourself – remember to take your trash away with you. The lake itself it’s rather well know for fishing, but you need a permit – ask in Balme at the “Bar Centrale” if you’re interested.
When To ClimbThis is an almost all year round target, except when snow is abundant. However, the better seasons are late spring (exp. May-June) because of the flowers, and autumn (exp. October) because of the colours. Part of the trail is filled with stones that could become slippery if wet or covered by dead leaves. Bring trekking poles or simply one walking stick for everyone. Last but not least – the immediate surroundings of the lake are prime targets for lightning if a thunderstorm comes. If that’s the case, stay away from boulders and trees!
TriviaAll three “alpi” (herder’s huts) are some variation of the “ciavana” (or chavanne, or zavana – this word is recurrent through the western Alps in different languages) – a place for the production of cheese. Most of these were unused until few years ago, but now seasonal production has begun again, and most of these huts have been restored. High above the slopes of the Bec del Faucett (reachable via a evident trail starting from the northwest corner of the lake) there are the ruins of another, older “alpe”, now completely abandoned. “Ciavane” tends to be built on the northern side of valleys, or in forests away from pastures.
The name “Afframont” is a cartographer’s mistake – the original name for the lake was “Lai fra li mount” (the lake between the mountains).
The lake of Afframont, as most of the lakes of the area, is associated with the ancient local folklore of the “masche” (witches), something dating back to the Roman domination of the area. Legends here tells how in special days of the years (exp. near Michaelmas), the “masche” gathers around these lakes to perform their rituals. The most famous “lago delle masche” in the Lanzo valleys is the Lago Nero (the black lake) in the parallel and neighbouring Valle di Viù.
While now relatively little know, the Lanzo Valleys area had great strategic and economical importance for nearly 2000 years, because of their mining resources (silver, gold, iron, talc – some of the old mines are now tourist attractions), but also because of their vast availability of easily accessible and conveniently placed altitude pastures. The nearby Pian De La Mussa (now one of the favourite picnic spots for the Turin crows) was known as one of the most profitable of these pastures as early as the I° century BC.