Climbing Monte Rosa in the Aosta Valley

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It was a total pleasure riding the BMW F800GS over the Petit St Bernard Pass from France to Italy into the Aosta Valley.  La Thuile, the first village you come to is particularly lovely in the summer.

Arriving in Couymayeur soon after marked the end of my journey on the bike and the start of my next journey, that would be something quite different.  Climb time!

I met up with my friend and mountain guide Marco and we set off to the other side of the valley.  There’s always a certain amount of nerves and excitement before a climb, especially when I pack my paraglider and there’s a chance I might be flying back down.

A huge wall of 4000m peaks, the Monte Rosa Chain, extends from the Breithorn all the way across to the multiple summits of Monte Rosa.

Just a three day trip, the plan was to get up to the first refuge, attempt a few summits on the second day, possibly staying up high and then if the weather was ok fly down on the morning of the third day.

We reached Gressoney and stopped at Staffel – where we took a series of three cable cars up to 3000m at Indren. It was a steady day.  Just an hours hike up to 3,500m to the Mantova Refuge, our base for the night.

All my kit plus my paraglider meant my ruck sack was huge!

A very huge Rab back pack!
A very huge Rab back pack!

The next morning we were up just after 5am and left as the sun came up.  Sunrise and sunsets on any mountain are always a particularly beautiful time.

Looking back down to the Mantova Hut at sunrise.
Looking back down to the Mantova Hut at sunrise.

Within a few hours we had negotiated a lot of crevasses, been enjoying the stunning views above the clouds and were on the first summit, the Balmenhorn, 4,167m.

Click here to see the short Punkt video we made on the top.

From there we headed over to the Zumstein summit 4,563m.  The ridge to the summit was very dramatic.  You walk along the edge, one side plummeting away to the clouds below – it was dizzying and reminded me of the summit ridges on Everest!

The final summit, just in time for lunch, was the Capanna Regina Margherita Hut, 4,554m.  The highest mountain refuge in Europe.  A place I’ve wanted to go to for years!  It’s a very cool hang out.  There’s dorms, good food and even….wifi!!!

We took the decision to head back down to the Mantova Hut after lunch, the weather forecast was not looking great – cloud and high winds.  We’d sleep there again and see what our final morning had in store for us.

I was up at 2am, 4am and 5am!  Each time the conditions were not suitable for flying… either too much cloud or too windy.  We left the hut mid morning and began our hike back down.

For me flying down is a welcome bonus and if it doesn’t happen that’s ok because the climbing and hiking part are wonderful too.

Heading back down.
Heading back down.

Marco and I were silent as we headed down.  The morning light was amazing and the views were spectacular.  I was deep in thought about the paragliding and thinking “what if this…. what if that….”and as if Marco could read my mind he broke the silence and said to me…

I like this quote, “A snowflake never falls in the wrong place.”

Amazing view of Mont Blanc lit by the sunrise.
Amazing view of Mont Blanc lit by the sunrise.

Photos by Marco Tamponi.