Via Ferrata in the Vanoise

We spent the last few days of our holiday exploring the via ferratas of the River Arc Valley. Yesterday we went to Fort Victor-Emmanuel in Aussois, where there is the highest concentration of via ferrata in France!

Victor-Emmanuel Fort
Victor-Emmanuel Fort

We started off with Via Ferrata du Diable. This VF started on the cliffs below the fort. It was fairly easy going and provided great views towards Avrieux and its huge wind tunnel facility (where they can reach wind speeds up to mach 6!).

Richard hanging on for dear life
Richard hanging on for dear life
Rachel hanging around
Rachel hanging around

After about 30 minutes, the VF led us around the wall of the fort and through one of the gun ports in the wall!

Richard sitting in the gun port - yes this really is a sport!
Richard sitting in the gun port – yes this really is a sport!
Richard appearing through the gun port
Richard appearing through the gun port

The route then continued in the port and out of another gun port before continuing along the edge of the fort.

VF positioned around the edge of the fort
VF positioned around the edge of the fort

Before the route finished, it incorporated a nice bridge underneath the fort’s drawbridge!

Richard VFing under the fort's drawbridge
Richard VFing under the fort’s drawbridge

After completing this VF, we played on another one in the canyon next to the fort and explored the forts before walking back to Modane (past the wind tunnel facility and the array of objects, e.g. aeroplane wings and hydrofoils that had been tested in the tunnel).

On our final day in France, we went to the Val Frejus resort up the hill from Modane, where we knew there was another VF. We found it with ease given that the tourist information were of little help, and we were soon on the case. This VF is probably around 600 m long and sited within a deep gorge. The VF crosses the gorge multiple times and gives great views of the thundering waterfalls.

The route started with a bridge and then a steep climb up on the cliff face.

Richard climbing the steep cliff face
Richard climbing the steep cliff face

After this the route became rather overhanging and committing, e.g. hanging on with one hand whilst needing to move VF gear with the other. I called to Richard that he might not like it, so he took the easier route, whilst I quickly made progress in the hope that my arms wouldn’t give up first. All worked out ok, and I reached the next bridge, which looked down on one of the waterfalls.

Looking down on the waterfalls through the bridge
Looking down on the waterfalls through the bridge

Richard rejoined me for the next section, which passed over numerous bits of steep cliffs and wire bridges.

Three-wire bridge
Three-wire bridge

After about 60 minutes, we reached the end of the route and ate jaffa cakes :-).

After the VF, we walked up the mountain (for about 2 hours) and admired the flowers and views from the top, before heading down to Norma Village, where Richard had promised ice cream (it was good ice cream too!).

View from the top of Mount Rond
View from the top of Mount Rond

Tomorrow we’ll be in Turin and then we’re heading home to pick the remains of the greengages and eat the masses of veggies that have hopefully been growing whilst we’ve been away :-).

Girls Weekend Out(Door)

How to define a perfect girls weekend outDoor?

  • Switzerland
  • 1000m in hight uphill
  • bivouac at 2500m sleeping under the starry sky during the nights of the perseids surrunded by several 4000m mountains (Eiger, Wetterhorn, Schreckhorn, Finsteraarhorn, etc.)
  • whisteling marmots to accompany our dinner and chamoise flocks arround us
  • being the first ones on the route up in the morning
  • beautiful Via ferrata all along the ridge up the Schwarzhorn (2928m) climbing several steel ledders up two escarpments
  • awsome blue sky with fantastic mountain views
  • vanilla ice-cream with hot berries for dessert
  • shopping at Grindlwald at the foot of the Eiger

No more comments 😉 – just big smiles 😉 😉 😉 😉 😉

Dolomiti: Giorno 7

Our final morning in the Dolomiti started at Rifugio Roda de Vael. The views were lovely and we set off to finish our traverse of the Masare Crest before heading back to the car and Munich. We retraced our steps of the previous afternoon in much better weather, stopping to watch a couple of Marmots wrestling, and were soon back in the little hanging meadow. At the top of that is the rather nice Fenestre del Diavolo, a window in the rock, complete with a metal cross, now leaning at quite an angle, filling it. From there the cables start again, with a fun section into a small gully that seems to have a lot more footholds now than I remember from my previous visit. The cloud had unfortunately come back in by this stage, but we pressed on to the summit of Roda de Vael, and were lucky enough to get occasional glimpses of the valley below. After waiting on the summit for a while hoping the cloud would clear, we continued down to Passo di Viaolon, and descended back to the Paolina chair.

Marmots wrestling on the way to the start of VF Roda de Vael.
Marmots wrestling on the way to the start of VF Roda de Vael.
Dave, Rachel and I at the summit of Roda de Vael.
Dave, Rachel and I at the summit of Roda de Vael.
The view from Passo Viaolon.
The view from Passo Viaolon.

Dolomiti: Giorno 6

For the last two days of the trip we decided to head for Cattinaccio on the grounds that it might have less snow, and was closer to the motorway to take us back to Munich. Both Dave and I have visited the area before, so we both knew parts of it quite well. We stayed the night before in Vigo di Fassa, a lovely village surrounded by the beautiful mountains of Cattinaccio, Latemar, and the Marmolada. In the morning we caught the Paolina lift up from Passo di Costalunga and proceeded to Rifugio Rode de Vael, in a lovely spot overlooking the valley.

Rifugio Roda de Vael with the Masare Crest behind. VF Masare runs along the ridge to the left of the hut, Fenestre del Diavolo is in the peak directly above the hut, with Roda de Vael behind it.
Rifugio Roda de Vael with the Masare Crest behind. VF Masare runs along the ridge to the left of the hut, Fenestre del Diavolo is in the peak directly above the hut, with Roda de Vael behind it.

It had poured with rain as we were preparing, but by now had cleared enough that we decided to have a go at Via Ferrata Masare, which runs along the crest of the mountains above the Rifugio. As we set off the weather seemed to be improving, and we enjoyed the first half, with occasional views through the clouds, fantastic pinnacles, and one particularly exposed traverse that I found quite exciting. However, as we approached the end, the rain came back, happily just as we were passing a small cave. We sat in there and had our lunch, and the weather improved again so we continued.

About ten minutes after lunch, however, the rain started again, this time accompanied by thunder, and we decided that being attached to a big metal cable on a mountain in a thunderstorm might not be the best idea in the world. Fortunately we were once again in a spot where there were some overhangs for shelter, so we scrambled into those to wait out the storm. Instead, we got harder rain, and then quite a heavy hailstorm, with the hail stones bouncing into our inadequate shelters. It looked for a while like we might spend all afternoon there, but happily this storm too passed, leaving the landscape distinctly whiter than it had been, and after a few minutes we were again on our way.

Done South to North, Via Ferrata Masare ends in a little hanging meadow where you can either climb down and return to the Rifugio or continue up the meadow and onto Via Ferrata Roda de Vael which continues North and finishes off the traverse of the crest of the ridge. Given the weather we elected to beat a retreat down the rather cave-like route back to the Rifugio. Just after we finished the cables, the thunder returned again and it poured down as we hurried back to the hut for shelter. This time the weather didn’t break, and we spent the rest of the afternoon watching it from the warmth of the Rifugio.

Climbing a ladder between two slabs on VF Masare.
Climbing a ladder between two slabs on VF Masare.

Happily the weather finally relented around 5pm, so Dave went for a walk to take pictures, and I ran the shepherd’s path to Rifugio Ciampedi and back on the lower path. The views were gorgeous and I saw plenty of Marmots, some Chamois, and (in the valley bottom) cows, goats and donkeys. Unfortunately the weather came back in once again and Dave and I both got quite wet returning to the Rifugio. Rachel’s decision not to go out again proved the smart one!

Dolomiti – giorno 2

A long day to Pradidali

The weather in the morning of day 2 was a great improvement on that of the previous evening, so Richard and I walked up to the start of via ferrata Sentiero Attrezzato Dino Buzzati, to take a look at a route that was only 100 m long – unfortunately our idea of a nice ‘warm-up’ route was cut short due to snow en route – we should have guessed at this point that many of the routes may be affected by snow. Nevertheless, we were rewarded with nice views across the valley.

View from the start of via ferrata Sentiero Attrezzato Dino Buzzati

On returning to the rifugio, we began the trek to Rifugio Pradidali. We chose a route along Via Ferrata del Velo (route 739), which had quite a few fun sections of climbing.

Richard on Via ferrata del velo

This route led onto via ferratta Sentiero Attrezzato Nico Gusella. Just before reaching the start of this route, we met a party coming the other way who said that they had turned back because of snow. However the guidebook was so complimentary, “a pleasant and undemanding route with the most dramatic scenery in Pale”, that we continued anyway. Indeed it did get rather snowy and we crossed a few bits of ground that we didn’t fancy re-crossing should a return be necessary. So, when we reached the near end of the route and were faced with a rather snow-filled gully the decision of whether to go on or turn back was a difficult one. We decided to go on.

Thankfully, Dave had brought a rope and we had a couple of ice axes with us, hence we very carefully descended the snow gully. In normal conditions it would probably have taken about 30 minutes to get to Passo di Ball at the gully base, however on arrival at the pass, we calculated that it had taken 3 hours.

The slow, careful and tedious descent of the snow-filled gully
Before and after: snow-filled gully on via ferrata Sentiero Attrezzato Nico Gusella

Thankfully, the remainder of the route was straightforward and we arrived at the rifugio happy, hungry and slightly cold. We were glad of the huge warm fire.

Rifugio Pradidali (2278 m)