Cogne, Valnontey and the Valle d'Aosta

Posted by Sam Harrison on August 27, 2014 at 12:50.

 Mountaineering and climbing

alpine mountaineering alps aosta cogne italy

. View all the photos on Flickr

This year, we planned our Alps trip to coincide with the Alpine Club meet in the Cogne valley, a subsidiary branch of the Valle d'Aosta in northern Italy. Lorna, Imogen, Darren and myself headed out for the final week of the meet to explore this relatively unfrequented (mountaineering-wise, at least) range of mountains in the Parco Nazionale Gran Paradiso. Similarly to last year's Vanoise trip, I'll split the holiday over a few posts, starting with this quick(ish) summary.

We did consider driving out this year, but public transport won over in the end, and with last year's horific coach journey in mind, we opted for trains most of the way. So it was, on Friday 1 August, we found ourselves enjoying a customary pre-holiday pint of beer at the Betcheman's Arms on St Pancras station, awaiting the 1622 Eurostar to Paris Gare du Nord. The entire journey to the Aosta valley is barely achievable in a day and so we broke it up with a stay at the new Yves Robert HI hostel in Paris, just a short walk from the Sacré-Cœur basilica on Mont Martre, which offered great views of a well-illuminated Tour d'Eiffel.

The next morning, after a leisurely breakfast at the hostel, a reluctant 1km walk back to Gare du Nord (painful with 36kg on your back!) and a familiarly hot and crowded metro journey to Gare de Lyon, we caught the 1041 train, bound for Turin. Messages on the digital displays at the station informed us that the train was going to be replaced by a bus for the section through the Fréjus rail tunnel (from Modane to Bardonecchia), meaning we would almost certainly miss our 20-minute connection in Turin. Unfortunately, that connection was the last we could take to get to Cogne within the day, and so our only option was to rearragne our pre-booked Cogne-Valnontey taxi to pick us up from Aosta instead. Our taxi driver didn't speak a word of English and we don't speak many words of Italian, but fortunately Darren's iPhone and Google Translate saved the day.

We arrived at the Lo Stambecco campsite in Valnontey at 8.30pm in the pouring rain, and were greeted with a warm welcome by the campsite owner, who ushered us into the campsite's bar and offered us a glass of homemade fruit liqueur whilst we waited for the rain to ease off. The liquer was gorgeous and the coffee I bought equally so (if there's one thing the Italians know how to make well!).

The rain stuck around the following day, and we used the opportunity to catch the free bus down to Cogne (3km at the foot of the valley) to buy some supplies. There is a tiny shop in Valnontey, that sells bread and a few other essentials, but its stock is a little limited. Cogne, on the other hand, has a number of alimentari, all offering bread, fresh fruit and veg as well as good supplies of tinned and dried foods. There are also a number of gear shops and at least one of them stocks screw-on gas canisters, both of the Camping Gaz and normal varieties. They're not cheap though; €8.50 for a 220g Coleman cylinder. Groceries aside, there is a tourist info as well as a guides office in the main square in Cogne, as well as numerous pizzerias and gelaterias (it wouldn't be Italy without, right?!).

Despite some rather dubious weather, we managed four summit attempts, and I'll split up my blog posts as so: We got our route information from a number of sources: An article in the 2010/11 Alpine Journal by Martin Gillie on mountaineering in the area was invaluable, and Camp to Camp supplemented this by providing more information on recent ascents. The full range is covered by the 2005 German Rother guidebook "Gran Paradiso" by Gerd Klotz, which has not only comprehensive route descriptions but also numerous photos of the routes to go along with them. We felt that it tended to undergrade routes a little, though whether that was due to conditions whilst we were out there or not we can't say. If you want some specific information on the area - climbing or walking - then don't hesitate to get in touch, I appreciate there is a bit of a lack of useful information out there about the valley at the moment.

And last but not least, a selection of my photos from the trip can be found here on Flickr.

Valnontey from the campsite.

. View all the photos on Flickr
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