Since last year my brother and I made few trips on the mountains due to an accident on Indren Glacier occurred while ascending Punta Giordani (Monte Rosa Group, 4046mt). Shoulder dislocation for me and a broken leg for my brother's girlfriend… fortunately nothing so severe to lessen our love for mountaineering; a bit of sorrow remains because my fall involved Silvia and a lot of gratitude for my brother who stopped the fall of our roped party…
So after almost a year without important trips we decided to go for a two days hike in Valpelline in order to stretch our legs, to take a look at the mighty Grand Combin south face
and because this valley is one of the wildest and less frequented of all Valle d’Aosta (maybe for the difference in height from the starting point of the routes and the summits and for the lack of logistical structures).
Valpelline is an Italian Valley located in Valle d’Aosta south of the Italian – Swiss border; it’s a long and articulated valley which stretches from Aosta to the north and which divides in two after the Village of Valpelline: north to Vaud and east to Bionaz. The main peaks are Mont Velan, Grand Combin, Mont Gelè north side and Dent d’Hérens east side.
A lot of secondary peaks are located here (all above 3000mt in height) just over the line of frontier and we choose Tête Blanche de By because of it’s panoramic view around the whole mountains of west Valle d’Aosta and west Wallis… and also because of the existence of a logistical support (one of the very few of Valpelline), Rifugio Chiarella – Amianthe (2979m) which allows to divide the trip (almost 2000m difference in height to Tête Blanche) in two days.
|This picture taken from Mont Avril shows well the "balcony" position of Tete Blanche just in front of Grand Combin...|
Approach by car
This approach shows the route from Aosta to the destination. Aosta is reachable by car from Italy with Autostrada A5 Torino – Aosta – Monte Bianco, via tunnel del Monte Bianco from France and via tunnel del Gran San Bernardo from Switzerland.
After leaving Aosta we took the road to Gran San Bernardo tunnel and then Valpelline direction. We leaved behind Valpelline village and turn left to Ollomont, and then we drove on to Glassier where we leaved the car.
The Maps. The first one shows the route to Glassier where can be leaved the car. The second is about Valpelline north-west side. The red line indicates the path from Amianthe refuge to Tete Blanche.
The view of the destination. Grand Combin on the left and Tête Blanche covered with snow on the right are far away from Glassier plain...
1st day (1550-2979)m
Te first step of the trail from Glassier to By
Two hundred meters before Glassier (1550 mt) we took the mule track to “By” (2000mt) and in one our we reached the place. By is a fantastic glacier basin surrounded by high peaks, green fields full of flowers and a lot of water streams and a lake: among the best classic views of the Alps.
From “By” we took path number “4” which goes deep into the basin heading North East; then turns left and after leaving a group of mountain chalet than passes under a rocky head named “Punta Ratti” which divides the “Amianthe” basin from the dome of “Tête Blanche”.
The path becomes more steep and hard but the view becomes wonderful. Left the “Morion” chain, right the frozen dome of “Mont Velan”, south the “By” lake is now a little puddle…
Completely surrounded “Punta Ratti” base, the path always grassy until now, becomes rocky, slippery and steeper. The equipped passage is constantly nearer and this means that we are by now arrived at Refuge. The passage is a little exposed but not difficult because is served by a fixed chain that is useful especially during the descent from the “Amianthe”.
Last meters are covered in relax and finally we arrived Rifugio Chiarella – Amianthe (2979m) the target of our 1st day trek.
This Refuge is very comfortable and also is maintained in a good shape by the owner “CAI Chiavari“. A little parenthesis is due to the fact that Chiavari is a nice little town in Liguria, which is mainly known for the sea, the fish and of course as all the villages in Liguria, for the “Pesto” sauce. Clearly the menu provided for an excellent dish of “Spaghetti al Pesto” which is strange at 3000 meters of altitude in one of the wildest and desolate place in this part of the Alps… but Italian food culture never stop amazing!
2nd day (2979-3413)m
We slept quite well… first group of people woke up at 3 in the morning starting for Grand Combin (via Col d’Amianthe, Bivacco Musso, Spalla Isler, Combin de Valsorey) 2 other people at 4-30 starting for Grand Tête de By (via Col d’Amianthe) and finally at 5-45 our group starting for Tête Blanche.
Arête de la Grande Maison
The ascent of Tête Blanche is simple, the path is not clearly defined but the way it’s easy to discover; we have to point to the long rocky change in level (Arête de la Grande Maison) on the east side of the Amianthe plateau. Here there are only 15 meters of exposed path and then after a turning to the left the hiker arrives on a large and long slope of broken rocks which takes to the large summit of Tête Blanche (3413m). We found the slope covered with hard snow due to low temperature of early morning, which helped us a lot both in ascending and descending without crampons.
As we reached the top we realized the fantastic panoramic view offered by this mountain: in front of us (north side) the leading role Grand Combin (4314)m in a warm morning light with his three main summits a and two glaciers “Glacier du Mont Durand” and “Glacier du Croissant” simply an impressive nature masterpiece.
Looking to the west Grand Tete de By with Col du Sonadon is the first one, and then north face of Mont Velan with Monte Bianco and Grandes Jorasses background.
Looking to the south is visible all the central Aosta Valley chain with Tersiva, Emilius, Gran Paradiso group, Grivola, and Grand Nomenon…
Looking to the east Arolla Group with Breney and Otemma Glaciers, Dent d'Herens and Cervino, then Monte Rosa group; finally is visible the north and west faces of Mont Gelè and the long Morion Range.
Now the descent to Glassier almost 2000 meters further down is waiting for us…
In the end this easy “walk” in the earth of Pennine Alps gives to hikers a 100% guarantee show for the eyes which pays back from the length of the route and the difference in height. We suggest dividing the trip in two days also for the much trained ones in order not to miss the fantastic cuisine offered by the Refuge Amianthe…