Published by Stijn , 24 September 2017, 21h39.

Region: World » Italy » Piemonte
Date of the hike:16 September 2017
Hiking grading: T5 - Challenging High-level Alpine hike
Mountaineering grading: PD-
Climbing grading: II (UIAA Grading System)
Geo-Tags: I   F 
Time: 4 days

"There is no such thing as bad weather, only longer travel distances to reach the good weather." Taking this motto to heart, madu and I drove for six hours to the Cottian Alps, with the objective of climbing the region's highest and most iconic peak: the Monviso / Monte Viso / "Re di Pietra". The mountain has received quite some attention recently, both on Hikr (with now 5 ascents in 2017 out of 13 in total) and in the media (both positively and negatively). We were just hoping that our gamble with the weather forecast would pay off, as we travelled to explore this region, which was completely new to both of us.

Day 1
Pian del Re - Rifugio Giacoletti
2h15, 750m ascent, T3

We park the car at the Pian del Re, at the end of the road in the valley of Crissolo. There's a parking charge here in the high season, but we found the car park to be free of charge. Conveniently for tourists, the "official" source of the Po river is located just 100m from the car park. Ironically, there's no water flowing there at all at this time of year.

For the ascent to the Rifugio Giacoletti, we mostly follow the comfortable "Giro del Monviso" hiking paths (T2). Only the short cut that passes between the Lago Superiore and the Lago Lausetto is slightly steeper (T3).

The Rifugio Giacoletti is cramped and chaotic, but the reception is also very friendly and the dinner outstanding. True to the hut's origins as a WWII military barracks, there is one big 50 person dormitory. On this Saturday night (the last night of the season for the hut) the dormitory is completely full. Yet, there is not a single snorer! Miracles do still happen.

Day 2
Rifugio Giacoletti - Couloir del Porco - Punta Venezia - Punta Udine - Rifugio Giacoletti
2h30, 500m ascent, 500m descent
* Rifugio Giacoletti - Couloir del Porco: T4 and I

* Couloir del Porco - Punta Venezia: T3 until the Bivacco, T5 and II for the summit cross
* Couloir del Porco - Punta Udine: T3+

The Punta Venezia and the Punta Udine are two 3000m peaks that can be quickly reached from the Rifugio Giacoletti. The Punta Udine summit in particular lies just 300m from the hut and the direct ascent along the east ridge is a popular climbing route. The normal route via the Couloir del Porco is only slightly longer. The Couloir del Porco is a via-ferrata-style route, with comfortable chains and a few rungs on the steepest rocks, so that the difficulty does not exceed T4.

From the top of the couloir, we first follow the yellow waymarks towards the north, towards the Punta Venezia. The rocky ascent (which stays to the west of the ridge) is straight-forward until the Bivacco. Behind the small bivouac hut, the path switches to the more exposed east face and the final 4m climb to the summit cross is quite demanding (II, fairly exposed and "abdrängend", bolts available).

We return to the Couloir del Porco saddle, where we now also follow the other yellow waymarks, southbound towards the Punta Udine. Though this route (T3+) is generally steeper than the Punta Venezia ascent, this time the summit can be reached without additional difficulties. Bits of snow and ice on the path also add a little to the challenge.

We descend back down the Couloir del Porco and are back at the hut at 11am, having already bagged two 3000m peaks. Not bad.

Rifugio Giacoletti - Lago Chiaretto - Colle del Viso - Rifugio Quintino Sella
2h45, 550m descent, 450m ascent, T2

The path from the Rifugio Giacoletti to the Rifugio Quintino Sella first descends down to the Lago Chiaretto at ca. 2300m. There, it joins the main path from the Pian del Re for a gradual ascent towards the Rifugio Sella. The final 2.5 kilometres through the rocky wasteland of the Colle del Viso are particularly drawn-out.

The Rifugio Quintino Sella is in many ways the complete opposite of the Rifugio Giacoletti: modern, well-organised and with 4-person bedrooms, but admittedly also a little less charming than the Giacoletti hut. While the Rifugio Giacoletti was full with Italian weekend trippers, the Rifugio Sella now only has a few, mostly international guests.

Day 3
Rifugio Quintino Sella - Passo delle Sagnette - Monviso (normal route) - return the same way
9h45, 1500m ascent, 1500m descent, PD-/WS- and II+

We start at 5:10 in the morning for our biggest objective of the trip: the Monviso along the normal route. After a 40m descent to the southern end of the Lago Grande di Viso, we have no trouble finding the turn-off towards the Passo delle Sagnette, since we have already explored this part of the route during the previous afternoon. A first bit of "via ferrata" is really just some 30m of steeper terrain with fixed chains. Things get more interesting after the second via ferrata info panel. The fixed chains continue for much longer now. After an exposed step at the beginning, the terrain remains relatively gentle for the first half, but the second half is much steeper and quite demanding (T5). A via ferrata set can be used (this is indeed presented as an obligation by the info panels) though most mountaineers with Monviso aspirations will probably do without securing themselves. Ascending the Passo delle Sagnette at dusk, with the lights of the Po valley in the background, is already an amazing experience in itself.

From the Passo delle Sagnatte, a sandy path descends steeply down into the rocky valley to the south of the Monviso. Cairns and yellow waymarks lead the way up to the Bivacco Andreotti (restored in 2014, only for emergencies), which officially is located at 3225m above sea level, yet my well-calibrated altimeter puts it clearly higher at ca. 3250m.

Some 50m above the Bivacco Andreotti, the scrambling part of the ascent begins. The climbing (up to UIAA grade II+) is never too sustained, but there is never much time to relax either. Yellow waymarks lead the way, sometimes there are so many of them that they can get confusing. In particular, at the large cairn at ca. 3660m, you should follow the waymarks towards the left, rather than the path (also with yellow markings) to the right, which brings us to a rather long and exposed traverse into the south-east face. Since our route description also mentions such a traverse (the correct one is shorter and 100m higher) we don't immediately realise that this is not the correct route, but rather an escape path from the east ridge climbing route. This mistake costs us some 20 minutes.

The atmosphere in the skies was beautiful around sunrise, but since then clouds have quickly moved in. It starts to snow very lightly and we put on our crampons some 100m below the summit. Two other groups (a Swiss guide with client who climbed the east ridge, and six young Italians who did the normal route) are already in descent, so we now have the whole mountain to ourselves. We are pleasantly surprised that the views from the Monviso summit towards the north are still half-open. It's not the 360° panorama that you would hope for on such a free-standing summit (no other peak in a 50km radius even comes within 400m of Monviso's altitude!), but still an amazing vista.

The few millimetres of fresh snow make the descent more challenging. The previously dry rocks are now slippery and many yellow waymarks are hidden under the snow. We take our time and now use the rope (which had remained in our backpacks for the ascent) to descend safely. The route back to the Rifugio Sella is already familiar from the ascent. In limited visibility, pay attention not to miss the turn-off to the Passo delle Sagnette: at ca. 2930m (large rock with yellow text) don't keep following the yellow waymarks down towards the Bivacco Boarelli, but instead follow cairns up to the pass. After descending the main part of the via ferrata, we avoid the lowest fixed chains on an obvious hiking path (hardly any difference in time).

We are back at the hut after ca. 10 hours. The weather hasn't been quite as good as expected, but we can still look back on an enjoyable and rewarding day out. Later in the afternoon, it starts snowing also at the hut. By the evening a full 5cm of fresh snow has fallen at 2600m! Those aspiring to do Monviso the next day, will have to deal with completely different conditions than us.

Day 4
Rifugio Quintino Sella - Viso Mozzo - Pian del Re
3h30, 400m ascent, 1050m descent, T3

It's a beautiful morning. The Rifugio Sella offers wonderful views of the sunrise over the Po valley. The late breakfast is relatively luxurious for Italian standards (and compared to the more basic nighttime breakfast for Monviso hopefuls). We have time for one more 3000m peak. We break trail in the snow on the marked hiking path onto the Viso Mozzo (T3). The ascent is not particularly interesting, but the summit views are stunning. Towards the east you can see from Monte Rosa across the Po valley to the Apennines. On the other side, you look directly across to the majestic Monviso, seen here in the most impressive perspective.

The descent from the Colle del Viso to the Pian del Re is once again a little long-drawn. Hard to believe that the Dematteis brothers only need 1h40 from Pian del Re to the Monviso summit, when we need as much time from the Colle del Viso down towards the Pian del Re. Respect!

Hike partners: madu, Stijn

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T4- F
1 Jul 12
Salita al Viso Mozzo · Ricky e Lalla
8 Aug 10
Tour del Monviso · ser59

Comments (2)

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danicomo says:
Sent 24 September 2017, 22h07
Wowww,...... bellissimo!

Stijn says: RE:
Sent 25 September 2017, 21h03
Grazie Daniele :).

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