The last stage of Alta Via 1 has a significant length and a significant difference in height - but well distributed.
The view is incredible, thanks to the appearance of Mont Blanc (4,810 m, the highest in Europe) and its legendary peaks, starting with the Grandes Jorasses wall and Punta Walker, the highest one. The town of Courmayeur, one of the best known in the Alps, is also very charming.
The section from Vallon del Malatrà to Courmayeur is a variation of the Sentiero Italia (which continues on Alta Via 1, descending towards Val Ferret and crossing the valley floor), preferred for panoramic reasons: the very easy ridge of Mont de la Saxe is a priceless balcony on Mont Blanc.
The last stretch of the climb to the Malatrà is very steep and barely exposed (briefly equipped with chains and ladders).
Leaving the AV1 after the Vallon del Malatrà, the signs become scarce and it is necessary to look carefully for the rare trail signs: keep an eye on the GPS track.
No water points up to the Rifugio Bertone.
We resume the Alta Via 1 and soon start the climb (approx. 400 m height difference) towards the Col del Malatrà: very relaxed and enjoyable in the first half, it becomes gradually steeper and, towards the end, rather exposed (the last meters are equipped with chain). The Col del Malatrà (2,934 m) is the gateway to the kingdom of the long-awaited Mont Blanc (4,810 m).
We begin the descent (about 600 m drop) which, except for the first meters, is easy. Losing altitude, we see the huge wall of the Grand Jorasses gradually appear, with the pyramid of Punta Whymper (4,184 m) standing out. Without going down to the Rifugio Bonatti, along the AV1, we cross the upper plain of Vallon del Malatrà to connect to the path that climbs (approx. 200 m height difference) to Pas Entre Deux Sauts (2,525 m), from where we descend rapidly (approx. 250 m drop) in the next valley, much narrower and claustrophobic. Shortly after we go up smoothly (approximately 150 m height difference) up to Col Sapin (2,436 m), from which we see the village of Courmayeur for the first time. We climb steeply (approx. 150 m height difference) to the top of Tete de la Tronche (2,582 m): the view is breathtaking.
Resuming the march, we walk along the long ridge of Mont de la Saxe, parallel to Val Ferret, the stretch is really very enjoyable. After Lac du Mont de la Saxe (2,270 m), we begin the long descent (approx. 1,050 m drop): after the Rifugio Bertone, we take the excellent path that descends to Courmayeur. Once in Raffort, we continue on an asphalted road and finally, we reach the beautiful town of Courmayeur, a historic destination for mountain tourism.
This is where Alta Via 1 of the Aosta Valley ends!
Mont Blanc was first climbed on 8 August 1798 by the young Frenchmen Jacques Balmat and Michel Gabriel Paccard, both from Chamonix . The ascent is traditionally considered as the start of mountaineering: the "conquest of the useless".
The Italian normal way was instead opened in 1890 by Achille Ratti, the future Pope Pius XI.
Since then, its walls and peaks (40 of which are above 4,000 m) have been the conquest ground for great mountaineers, who have opened sensational routes and experienced sad tragedies here: from Giusto Gervasutti to Riccardo Cassin, from Lionel Terray to Walter Bonatti, from Carlo Mauri to Pierre Mazeaud ...
One of the most famous peaks of the Italian side of Mont Blanc is Punta Helbronner, where the futuristic Skyway Monte Bianco station stands, to which the new cable car climbs by rotating on itself 360 °.
The peak is named after Paul Helbronner (1871-1938): mountaineer, topographer and geodesist (the one who deals with measuring and representing the Earth). In 1906 he devoted himself to measuring the Mont Blanc massif. His enormous and hard work contributed to the definition of highly accurate Alpine maps. He was the first to publish the entire geodesic description of the French Alps and the Corsican mountains.
In Val Veny, not far from the hamlet of Entrèves, in front of the immense Brenva glacier, stands the Sanctuary of Notre Dame de Guérison, one of the best known in the Aosta Valley. The place is very popular among the believers and the internal walls are covered with images and ex-votos, hung by the miraculously-healed persons.
The sanctuary also preserves the statue of the Madonna which in 1904 was placed on top of the Dente del Gigante (4.013 m) by the most devoted alpine guides: in 1954 it was knocked down by lightning, but its pieces were found and reassembled by the guides themselves, who recently donated it to the Sanctuary.
In the center of Courmayeur it is possible to visit the Duca degli Abruzzi Alpine Museum. In the museum, commissioned by the Courmayeur Alpine Guides Society, you can immerse yourself in the adventures and techniques that have made the history of international mountaineering.
For more info, timetables and tickets, follow the LINK.
The renowned Panizzi Dairy in Courmayeur, with its shops scattered throughout the territory, offers excellent cheeses, milk, and yogurt, all made with 0 kilometer milk.
Rifugio Bertone, near Praz de la Saxe. Tel. +39 347 032 5785
Hotel Croux, in Courmayeur. Tel. +39 0165 846 735
In Courmayeur there are numerous accommodation facilities.
Starting point NOT reachable by car.
The closest location reachbel by car is Saint Rhemy.
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.