Tour de Monte Rosa – day 4

Summary: Hiked up from Gabiet (2300m) to Col d’Olen (2900m) and then down to junction 2200m) (+600m, -700m, 5h30). Then ascended the Passo Foric (2400m) and descended to Alagna (1200m) (+200m, -1200m, 4h30).

Sunday September 13

Breakfast was a quick affair, and then it was off up the trail a little after 8AM. The previous afternoon’s storm had basically cleared, leaving a smattering of thin wispy clouds at lower elevations and a great deal of water on the trail. North of us were a number of high peaks, covered in what must have been fresh snow. We climbed.

The trail played hopscotch with the service road for a while. Around 9AM, the lift line to the top of the pass began operating, although we didn’t say anybody on it. The views were great. Twenty minutes before we reached the path itself, we reached the snowline. Most of the snow was in the process of melting, but in shadows and little hollows, we could see that there’d been a decent dusting of the stuff.

From the Col d’Olen, we could see quite a bit – back toward where we’d spent the night (and Stafel), across at a lift station and peaks, and ahead and down at a small pond and scientific research station. But clouds were now moving quickly from east to west, and portions of the view became periodically obscured. Following the signs toward Rifugio Guglielmina, we began the descent.

In fact, it turned out that there were 2 refuges, both open, a few minutes beyond the pass. At the Rifugio Vigavano we got direction. Shortly past there, we met two Italian hikers who went to considerable effort to show us (through binoculars) a group of mountain goats that had perched themselves on a ledge a few minutes further down the trail.

The descent was as long and steep as usual. There were a number of markers and signs left over from skiing season, which took away from the wild aspect of the area, but we saw no other hikers. It was past noon when we reached a little junction and opted for the shorter but steeper route and began ascending toward another pass. The trail was a narrow notch in an otherwise very steep hillside. I did not pause to admire the drop until we reached the Passo Foric.

We had a snack break near the pass, sitting on the crest of the long ridge separating two valleys. On the left was the valley we had come from, and we could make out several paragliders in the distance. On the right was a different valley, somewhat less steep, and teaming with several hundred sheep. By then, clouds had formed in earnest, and the refuges that we’d passed along the way down were all but invisible.

The next stretch felt interminable. A few minutes after we’d passed the sheep, the rain began, and it was soon coming down quite heavily. This made the trail even more slippery than usual, and slowed us considerably. We progressively worked our way down several long shelves, through green pastures and stands of colorful wildflowers. An hour beyond the pass, we reached a village of stone houses and huts at the edge of a much larger valley. Plumes of smoke coming from several chimneys told us they were indeed inhabited. Despite this, we were still many hundreds of feet above the apparent bottom of this new valley.

Happily, the rain began to slack off from there. Near 3PM, we passed some neatly mowed fields and arrived in another, larger village, this one with a hotel/restaurant and a church. Although lunch was no longer being served, we had some pie and tea, and managed to dry out a bit.

A little beyond the village, the trail entered the trees. From there we followed short switchbacks down. We passed several groups of hikers, this being an apparently popular Sunday route. Eventually, we had a few gaps in the trees, and could see that a valley floor containing a road and numerous houses was approaching. It was nearly 5PM when the trail rather abruptly ended at a paved road.

We found Alagna to be a good-sized town, and it took some time and effort to orient ourselves. There were many nice older chalets and houses, but also some newer ones scattered about. We succeeded in finding the tourist office and getting information on hotels. Our first two choices were closed, but the third, the Hotel Genzianella, was not. We got a rather large room on the 3rd story, with a beautiful view overlooking the town center, including the cemetery and church.

In spite of sore feet, we still explored the town for a good while before going to dinner at a restaurant at one end of what was effectively the City Hall building for the town. The food was good. We went to bed around 10PM.

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