Backpacking the Italian Alps

Our main backpacking holiday of 2014 was spent in the Italian Alps, near the skiing village of Sauze d’Oulx.

photo of Sauze d'Oulx

To settle back into backpacking we decided to go for a short, single day walk up to Col d’Belgier. The weather was looking miserable but we were keen on reaching the top and so kept on walking. Eventually hitting the cloud, we discovered that it wasn’t too wet and so carried on.

The next day it was finally time to start the first proper expedition! We stocked up with food in the morning and then started walking up towards Col d’Belgier, but instead of going to the col itself we gradually climbed the valley edge through the forest until we emerged about an hour from Col d’Assieta.

We continued up over Col d’Assieta, down the other side and collapsed straight into a campeggio which may or may not have been open… It was either camp and hope for the best or walk for another 3 hours straight down to the bottom of the valley. Fortunately we found an open window to the facilities and could be civilised.

The next few days were relatively quiet photo-wise, lots of early starts and meandering down into the valley.

Meandering

We wild camped an hour above Susa in an chestnut wood, the wood used to be terraced and had a fresh spring bubbling out of the wall. Definitely a 5* campsite. It was here that I took one of my best fungi photos. You can read about my thoughts on flash vs no flash photography here.

Photo of coral fungi

Coral Fungus

We walked the final hour into Susa and decided to catch a train back to Oux instead of walking along the valley bottom. Once we figured out the Italian timetables and that tickets were bought on the train, we got on and shared a carriage with a large group of scouts or something similar. Every time there was a tunnel we had to put up with the obligatory gasps, screams and sudden flashes of light.

The conductor never did come to our carriage, so we got a completely free journey! We then moved on to Camping de la Lame near Nevache (Above Briancon).

Storm incoming

The weather started to get stormy so we chose to do a few day walks from the campsite, exploring up and down the valley. This presented numerous photographic opportunities.

Yet another day in the rain, though it started to lessen up. This time we explored up the valley above Nevache.

I started the day by taking a quick video of this odd Trough Worm, it appeared to be anchored to the side of the trough with a dozen snaky tendrils well over 60cm long sentiently sensing the water. It gives me the shivers just thinking about it.

As the weather had cleared up we decided to do the Lac de la Serpente route, a walk up to the top of the ridge line that passes by several lakes.

The next multi-day walk we did was up to Lac Blanc where we camped at the source to the river. This is one of my favourite wild campsites, we clambered up the side of the valley until we found the source. Beside it was a small plateau with really soft grass, we quickly discovered that it was damp as soon as you put any pressure on it but we avoided the wet by camping along the edge. The view was splendid!

Splendid Alp view

It also appeared to the location of some battle, buried amongst the grass were bits of shrapnel and I found a bullet smashed up at the end. We had walked past the old fortifications on another of our other expeditions.

The final part of the walk was crossing over the col into the next valley that ran parallel to the one we came up.

Probably the most impressive walk of the holiday was the last one. We climbed 3131 metres up to the top of Mont Chaberton. The top is flattened and still has the remains of the artillery battery built between 1898 and 1910 by Italian troops.

And of course, the written list of locations
28 July – Sauze d’Oulx, Col d’Belgier
29 July – Sauze towards Col d’Assieta, wild camping
30 July – Col d’Assieta to Campeggio Pian dell’Alpe
31 July – Pian dell’Alpe to chestnut wood above Susa
1  August – Susa to Sauze
2 August – Explored below Nevache
3 August – Explored above Nevache
4 August – Lac de la Serpente
5 August – Nevache to Lac Blanc
6 August –  Lac Blanc to Nevache
7 August – Lac Crystal
8 August – Mont Chaberton

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