Journey through the Alps


Isola 2000 to San Bernolfo (1700m) F07

19 Feb 2015

Stage: F07

Maps: French IGN 1:25,000 3640ET Haute Tinée 2, & Italian IGC 1:25,000 122 Valle Stura, Vinadio, Argentera

Time: 8.33hrs (dept 08.13 / arrive 16.45)

Distance: 21.7km (ascent 1247m / descent 1469m)

Weather: clear, sunny & warm

Notes: A long day with two passes covering a lot of ground. Climb the ski pistes out of Isola 2000 to Col de la Lombarde (2350m) than descend the Valon de Orgials to la Malgheria (1908m). Climb past the settlement of St Anna de Venadio to Passo Tesina 2380m. It may be possible to descend the western side of this pass but the information that I had indicated that it was safer to climb to the summit of Cima di Tesina (2460m) and make a descent a little further east. Descend the Vallon di Tesina until it joins the Vallon di San Bernolfo. The Lower sections are difficult with steep gorge and tree issues

Accommodation: Rifugio Dahu De Sabarnui in San Bernolfo will open on request for groups in the ski season. Very helpful owner.

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San Bernolfo (1700m) to Ref Rabuons CAF (2523m) F08

20 Feb 2015

Stage: F08

Maps: French IGN 1:25,000 3640ET Haute Tinée 2, & Italian IGC 1:25,000 122 Valle Stura, Vinadio, Argentera

Time: 7.32hrs (dept 08.18 / arrive 15.50)

Distance: 14.1km (ascent 1320m / descent 463m)

Weather: clear, sunny & warm

Notes: The French map is better. Follow the summer path up Vallon di San Bernolfo to approx 2250m then traverse northwards under a line of cliffs towards Laghi Lansfero. Continue north for a short distance leaving the obvious rock feature on the left before swinging west at approx 2700m and heading directly for Pas de Corborant (3007m). The ski route shown on the French IGN map is a descent track, and is not the best ascent route. The final 100m to the top is steep and should be climbed with ice axe and crampons. The same applies to the first 100m of the descent on the west side of the pass. The ski down to Ref de Rabuons should be straightforward and the hut can be seen clearly from some distance away on the far side of a snow-covered lake.

Accommodation: Ref Rabuons is reasonably comfortable with a wood stove and solar lighting.

Bad weather day

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Ref Rabuons CAF (2523m)

21 Feb 2015

Weather: Heavy snowfall – no movement possible

Bad weather day

Ref Rabuons CAF (2523m)

22 Feb 2015

Weather: Very high winds – no movement possible


Ref Rabuons CAF (2523m) to Ref de Vens CAF (2366m) F09

23 Feb 2015

Stage: F09

Maps: French IGN 1:25,000 3639OT Haute Tinée 1

Time: 9.21hrs (dept 08.15 / arrive 17.35)

Distance: 12.4km (ascent 963m / descent 1194m)

Weather: deteriorating from good to poor during the day

Notes: This is probably the most technical section of the French Alps traverse. The route heads north from the hut to Pas de Rabuons (2872m) and then follows a narrow ridge to the summit of Mt Tenibre (3031m). The west ridge is taken from the summit and this leads into a snow filled bowl with a tricky exit through a band of cliffs at approx 2600m. After passing Lacs de Tenibre (2583m) climb Breche Borgonio (2904m). This is steep for the final 250m. After an initial steep section the descent to the Ref de Vens is straightforward.There are very few safe exits to the East or West from this area and the North / South route described here is only possible in good weather with good visibility.

Accommodation: The Ref de Vens was an adequate hut with reasonable sleeping accommodation and a kitchen area. However the wood stove was broken and unusable.

Bad weather day

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Ref de Vens CAF (2366m)

24 Feb 2015

Weather: Low clouds and high winds – no movement possible


Ref de Vens CAF (2366m) to Larche (1680m) F10

25 Feb 2015

Stage: F10

Maps: French IGN 1:25,000 3639OT Haute Tinée 1, and French IGN 1:25,000 3538 ET Aiguille de Chambeyron

Time: 8.10hrs (dept 08.18 / arrive 16.27)

Distance: 23.0km (ascent 1023m / descent 1694m)

Weather: clear and sunny, but cold with strong winds

Notes: This is a fairly straightforward day covering a lot of ground. Climb directly from the hut to the Collet de Tortisse (2591m) and then traverse to the Col du Fer (2584m) before following the broad ridge to Pas de Morgon (2714m). Descend the Vallon de la cabane to approx 2100m before heading northwest then north towards the Pas de Cavale (2671m). Descend northwards and join the Nordic ski tracks leading to Larche around 1907m.

Accommodation: There are 2 options in Larche: Gite d’étape Le Refuge and Hotel Auberge du Lauzanier. Both should be open in the ski season.

Alternate Accommodation option: The Salso Moreno bivouc hut (2050m), located below Pas de Cavale, is an option but lacks blankets or heating.

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Larche (1680m) to Maljasset (1910m) F11

26 Feb 2015

Stage: F11

Maps: French IGN 1:25,000 3538ET Aiguille de Chambeyron, and French IGN 1:25,000 3637OT Mont Viso

Time: 10.14hrs (dept 07.41 / arrive 17.55)

Distance: 27.1km (ascent 1925m / descent 1739m)

Weather: clear, sunny & warm

Notes: This is a long and interesting stage crossing several passes. There are two route options for the first half of the stage as far as Biv Barenghi.  We took the eastern option via Cabane de Viraysse and Col de Portiola (2899m). A western option via Col de Mallemort (2558m), Col du Vallonnet (2524m) and Col di Stroppia (2865m) is similar in terms of time, distance and ascent. The second part of the day crosses three further cols: Colle del Infernetto (2783m), Col di Ciaslaras (c3020m) and Col de Mary (2641m). None of these are particularly difficult however care must be taken to identify the best line of ascent / descent as this is not always obvious. The final ski down the Vallon de Mary is straightforward. In good conditions this is possibly the most enjoyable day of the French Alps traverse.

Accommodation: There are two options in Maljasset, a CAF Refuge and the Gite de la Cure. We used the second, which was excellent.

Alternate Accommodation option: This long day can be split by using the Bivacco Barenghi (2815m). This is a small hut with 9 beds and blankets but no heating or cooking facilities. A slight variation to the route would enable the winter room at the CAF Refuge Chambeyron (2626m) to be used instead.

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Maljasset (1910m) to Ref Agnel CAF (2580m) F12

27 Feb 2015

Stage: F12

Maps: French IGN 1:25,000 3637OT Mont Viso

Time: 9.38hrs (dept 07.55 / arrive 17.33)

Distance: 21.09km (ascent 1224m / descent 591m)

Weather: overcast with some light snow

Notes: This is another long day but with less ascent than F11. The route crosses 3 passes with a short section in Italy before returning to France. Follow the GR de pays route to the Col de Longet (2650m) then head northwards to Col Blanchet (2897m). Cross this and traverse to Col de St Veran (2844m) and onwards to the Col de Chamoussier (2884m). This last section is not shown as a ski route on the French maps but is quite obvious. The large Refuge Agnel can be seen from the final col. It is debatable whether it is best to try to hold a high traverse following the line of the summer path to gain the hut or whether it is quicker to make a straight descent and then climb up to the hut. This may depend on whether a previous party has made a track. There is an alternate route option that may have advantages in certain weather conditions: from Cabane du Col (2529m) climb to Col de la Noire (2955m), descend to Refuge de la Blanche (2499m) and climb to Col de Chamoussier (2884m).

Accommodation: Refuge Agnel is large and comfortable and open during the ski season.

Alternate Accommodation option: Refuge de la Blanche 2499m

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Ref Agnel CAF (2580m) to Abriès (1550m) F13

28 Feb 2015

Stage: F13

Maps: French IGN 1:25,000 3637OT Mont Viso

Time: 4.52hrs (dept 07.51 / arrive 12.43)

Distance: 17.8km (ascent 537m / descent 1564m)

Weather: overcast with some light snow

Notes: There are two possible routes. The first takes the GR58 Tour de Queyras to l’Echalp and then follows to valley floor. We chose a higher route that joined the main valley further north at Ristolas. Head north from the hut to Col de l’Eychassier (2917m), continue north to the small valley of Torrent de la Roche Blanche, turn west and climb an unnamed pass at 2827m before descending the obvious valley passing Bergerie de la Ségure (2207m). There is a good forest road in the lower section of the valley. From Ristolas it is a short distance on Nordic ski trails to Abriès.

Accommodation: There are several hotels and shops in Abriès.

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Abriès (1550m) to Montgenèvre (1850m) F14

01 Mar 2015

Stage: F14

Maps: French IGN 1:25,000 3637OT Mont Viso, French IGN 1:25,000 3536OT Briançon / Serre-Chevalier

Time: 11.18hrs (dept 07.00 / arrive 18.18)

Distance: 30.4km (ascent 1901m / descent 1585m)

Weather: clear morning becoming overcast in afternoon

Notes: This is one of the longest days of the French section covering a lot of ground with a large ascent. In hot weather an early start is essential to avoid dangerous snow conditions on the south facing Col du Malrit. Leaving Abriès it is best to use the access tracks north of the village to gain as much height as possible before turning west at around 2000m towards le Chatellard and Bergerie des Salins. Follow the ski trail shown on the IGN map to Col du Malrit (2866m). Descend the obvious valley to the hamlet of Les Fonds (2070m). Follow the valley NW (Nordic ski trail) to 1880m and then leave the tracks and climb to the col at Lac de Sagne Enfonza (2300m). This gives access to the Montgenèvre ski area and the runs can be followed down to town.

Accommodation and supplies: It may difficult to find accommodation for a few nights in Montgenèvre as most hotels and apartments want weekly bookings. There are several shops in Montgenèvre.

Alternate Accommodation option: It is possible to split this long day by using the Refuge at Les Fonds (2070m). This may be open at weekends during the ski season and there is also a small winter room.

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Rest Day

02 Mar 2015

Weather: raining




David Hamilton
High Adventure
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