A medium short and easy stage, with great panoramic views.
The highlight of the day is the arrival at the Colle del Gran San Bernardo, the historic gateway to Switzerland, and the entry into Italy of the Via Francigena.
The stage is a variant of the Sentiero Italia (which from Saint-Rhémy-en-Bosses reaches the Rifugio Frassati from the valley, remaining at a low altitude), preferred for the historical and landscape interest of the Gran San Bernardo: truly unmissable!
Water points are absent from the Gran San Bernardo pass to the Rifugio Frassati. Bring a good supply.
We start on the paved road, towards the Gran San Bernardo pass. After a couple of hairpin bends, we take the uphill path on the right (about 200 m height difference): it is the Via Francigena, which enters Italy from the famous pass. We arrive at the beautiful Lac du Gran San Bernard, preceded by the statue of San Bernardo.
After skirting the southern shore of the lake, we reach the Colle del Gran San Bernardo (2,469 m). We spot the Grand Combin (4,314 m), with its huge glacier, and Mont Vélan (3,727 m). Crossing the border into Switzerland, we walk along the north side of the lake and retrace our steps, descending the Via Francigena almost as far as we attacked it. We then begin a cross path towards the Praz de Farcoz pasture, where we start the steep ascent to the Col de Saint Rhémy (approximately 300 m height difference), on a good path.
The Col de Saint Rhémy (2,550 m) rewards us with an open panorama towards the south-west, which embraces the Gran Paradiso (4,061 m) and the Grivola (3,969 m). We start again entering the next valley, in a beautiful high altitude landscape. With a short but steep stretch (approximately 150 m height difference) on scree, we arrive at the Col des Ceingles (2,809 m), which dominates the green Comba des Merdeux (picturesque, despite the name). We continue losing quickly altitude (approximately 300 m drop) on a good path and, after a short traverse, we reach the Rifugio Frassati, managed by the volunteers of Operation Mato grosso.
The Rifugio Frassati, built by the volunteers of the Mato Grosso operation, is dedicated to Piergiorgio Frassati, son of the editor of the newspaper La Stampa in Turin, a boy who loved the mountains and was very active with the poor. He died at the age of 24 of meningitis and an oceanic crowd, made up mostly of poor people, unexpectedly showed up at his funeral. He was proclaimed blessed by Pope John XXIII.
At the Gran San Bernardo Pass there is a breeding of beautiful St. Bernard: large mountain dogs, used for centuries for surveillance and above all for the rescue of travelers lost in the snow and fog.
In 1887, the St. Bernard was officially recognized as a Swiss breed and has been the Swiss national dog ever since, although it is actually… of Asian origin!
Among the dogs of this breed, the most experienced is certainly Barry, who lived at the Ospizio de. Gran San Bernardo from 1800 to 1812, saving over 40 people over the years.
In his memory, at the Ospizio there is always (even today) a dog named Barry.
The fontina is the Valle d'Aosta cheese par excellence, with a semi-cooked paste, whose production dates back to the Middle Ages.
There are many types: excellent to be served melted, it is ideal for the classic Valle d'Aosta fondue, a dish based on fontina cheese, milk, egg yolks, butter and pepper, which are blended together to create a tasty and velvety cream.
Rifugio Frassati, at the head of the Comba di Merdeux. Tel. +39 331 943 8054
Starting point reachable by car.
Departure point NOT reachable by bus.
The nearest town reachable by bus is Saint Rhemy, starting from the city of Aosta.
Here the LINK to check the timetables.
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.