We face a stage of medium length with important differences in height (positive and negative) to overcome the Colle di Trione.
The walk ends in the historic village of Balme, frighteningly dominated by the intimidating south face of the Uja di Mondrone. To the west, we admire the Bessanese (3,640 m) and the Uia di Ciamarella (3,676 m).
The descent from Colle di Trione is demanding and it should not be underestimated. It is also very easy to get lost, there are many branches without signs and the traces left by the cows are deceiving. In the same stretch, the signs are irregular and often not very reliable on timing.
Water points are absent up to the bottom of the valley: bring good supplies.
We set off on the Grande Traversata delle Alpi, starting soon the long climb (approximately 1,450 m height difference). Through a long climbing cross path into the woods, we arrive at the beautiful plateau of Alpe Trione, enclosed in a basin: from there, the climb becomes steeper, up to the small Trione lakes (2,161 m), after which we face an even steeper stretch to Colle di Trione (2,498 m).
We catch our breath and face the long and steep descent (approximately 1,100 m drop) towards Val d'Ala. The first ramp, towards Lake Vasuero, is demanding and the ground is not the best. Afterward, the slope decreases a little but it is often difficult to follow the trail, as several ones are not marked and those created by the cows are not helpful either. Even the signs, when present, are a bit confusing and give completely wrong and inconsistent arrival times.
After Alpe di Pian Pra, we return to the woods and the path improves. We reach the valley floor near the Stura River and take the asphalted road to Balme.
From the town, there is almost a sense of claustrophobia for the dizzying southern wall of the Uja di Mondrone, which seems to collapse at any moment. Closing the Val d'Ala, towards west, the imposing massifs of Bessanese (3,640 m) and Uia di Ciamarella (3,676 m) - at their feet, Pian della Mussa, where the famous song of La Montanara was composed.
Balme is the city of alpine guides, starting with the "progenitor", Antonio Castagneri, protagonist of 43 first ascents in the Alps.
Such was his fame that Quintino Sella (founder of the Italian Alpine Club) wanted him with him on a climb to the Matterhorn, to support his young son.
At Balme, in 1896, skis were used for the first time in Italy by Adolfo Kind, a Swiss engineer who used them to go from Balme to Pian della Mussa.
At Pian della Mussa, at the foot of the imposing massifs of the Bessanese and Uia di Ciamarella, was composed the famous alpine song of La Montanara.
In Balme you cannot miss the small Ecomuseum of the Alpine Guides. Really interesting, it combines naturalistic elements to the history of the small town, from the transition of smugglers into alpine guides (who for a century accompanied the Turin mountaineers in the exploration of the Western Alps) to the Resistance.
For more info, timetables and tickets, follow the LINK.
Going from Balme to Turin you can admire one of the many "Devil's Bridges" that can be found in Italy. That of Lanzo (built in 1378), with its round arch, is a beautiful example. At the center of the bridge, there is a stone arch, the remains of a door built in 1564: it was closed to prevent foreigners from entering the country in the event of a plague epidemic.
Renowned throughout the region, the torcetti di Lanzo (from torchietti, namely "twisted") are a real delight: a classic of dry pastries, since 1800.
Traditionally created as sweets made with leavened dough, enriched with sugar or honey, cooked in wood-fired ovens: they were in fact baked while waiting for the oven temperature to be high enough to bake the bread.
In 1854 the recipe was codified in the "Treatise on cooking, modern pastry, sideboard, and related confectionery" by Giovanni Vialardi, head chef of King Carlo Alberto and Vittorio Emanuele II: once "mass' good", torcetti become later a true refinement.
Impossible to stop eating them before they run out.
Les Montagnards (GTA stopover), in the Cornetti di Balme hamlet. Tel. +39 0123 233073
Bivacco Gino Gandolfo, along the route of the next stage, after the Green Lakes (about 2.5 hours from Balme); 10 beds, blankets. Always Open
Starting point reachable by car.
Starting point reachable by bus, starting from the city of Turin with a change in Ceres where you change bus company.
Here the LINK to check the timetables to Ceres.
Here is the LINK to check timetables of the second bus company from Ceres to Pialpetta.
Starting point NOT reachable by train.
Va' Sentiero is a grassroot project, thanks to the spontaneous contribution oft housands of people.
Even the most complicated dream, a 7,000km uphill dream,
can be achieved... together.