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Ru Courtod


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Woke up after a night in a way to soft, worn down and uncomfortable bed (for my back) – ow, ow, ow. But my back straightened out soon after I got out of bed. Drew away the window curtains and watched the seemingly chilly weather outside. Not that it was raining, but all cloudy, grey and probably cool temperature. Breakfast at Hotel Relais des Glaciers (and probably the majority of the hotels in the area) was served rather late then what you might be used to, from 7.30am and consisted of a basic breakfast. You stilled your hunger.

The travel agency held morning meetings every hiking day in the conference room, today at 9am, and at that time we were expected to be ready for hiking. This week we were 18 people (out of 20) that had booked the Alpine hiking package. Our hiking guides Lina and Rebecka held the meeting and our mountaineering guide for today Marin (read with French accent). It should be mentioned that many names for people, villages, Rifugios and so on, have French accent here in Ayas Valley, a part of Aosta Valley. Aosta Valley was actually the first authoritarian rule to accept French as its official language in 1536, which was 3 years before France itself did it! Official languages in the region are now both Italian and French which are used for the laws and ruling the region. In school they teach just as much Italian as French to the students. The native language is called Valdotain (locally Patois), an accent of Franco-Provençal and are spoken by 58% of the population as their second language. It is a mix of French, Italian and Portuguese.

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After the morning meeting, going through the arrangement and trail for today and questions, there was an opportunity for those who wanted to buy a hiking map and rent hiking poles. Then we gathered outside the hotel at 9.45am for joint walk to the bus stop and waited for the local bus that would take us to the neighbor-village Magnéaz at altitude 1710 meters. In one group we started hiking uphill a steep ascent to Mandriou at 1849 altitude meters, and further along mountain ridge Pian Pera we were supposed to have a nice view over the Monte Rosa Massif. But the weather had decided to grudge us that opportunity with low clouds and fog. Even though the wind wasn’t that strong it felt chilly and cold which made it difficult to dress for the hike. After a while we reached La Tschavana, a Rifugio (mountain restaurant) situated at 2012 altitude meters. Here we stopped for snacks, coffee break and technical pause (i.e. restroom visit). And just as we were about to get on with our hike heavy fog and some rain showed up. Then it was just to dress up in the newly bought waterproof function jacket and pants and put on the rain proof cover on the backpack.

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We visited a nearby building where they produced cheese and we visited the basement where they stored the cheese.

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We courageously continued along the hand-dug canal Ru Courtod at approximately 2000 meters above sea level. Yes, you read it right. In beginning of 16th Century it was decided to dig a 25 km canal (by hand with pick and shovel – there was no machines at that time) from the nearest glacier Ventina in the Monte Rosa Massif to Saint-Vincent in Emarèse, to meet up the need from an increasing population. Today the canal has no function, since water today is led in pipes from surrounding mountains in Saint-Vincent. But the canal has been preserved and is today a nice element along the hiking trail for local residents and tourists.

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The trail took us through wide open meadows and pastures with gazing cows. The classic sound of bell orchestra from the cows was sometimes deafening, but it somehow belongs up in the Alps. Eventually, after many hours of hiking, we arrived at Restaurant Braconnier and a well-tasted Penne alla Bolognese. Time was probably close to 1.30pm when the food finally was served and you were so hungry. While eating inside the heavy grey clouds suddenly dispersed and the sun shined through.

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When everyone had made their technical pause and taken off their rain clothes, we started our descent to the end for today, the village Antagnod (French accent). Stone houses were close together along the narrow alleys and flowerboxes lit up of blooming pelargonium. If you paid a little attention you noticed that all buildings here in Ayas Valley have slate roofs. Earlier in the days it was the law to use slate roof on top of all buildings, but that’s not a law today. Despite that I couldn’t see a single building that didn’t have slate roof during the entire week, probably because it’s such deep habitual tradition. The village Antagnod counts as one of Italy’s most beautiful villages and is one of the most characteristic resorts in Monte Rosa Ski Area. The village is situated at 1710 altitude meters at the west side of Ayas Valley which contributes to the enviable sunny location that Antagnod has and makes it an ideal village for family vacation. We had time for a visit in the historic St Martin’s Parish Church in central Antagnod, which dates from 12th Century. The most distinguished future inside the church were amount of alters and unique windows with colored glass.

Then we decided for a quick walk back to Champoluc, along the alpine river Torrente Évançon, and After Walk for those who wanted. Further at the hotel a well-needed shower, foot care and shoe care. Because feet well taken care of and well-managed shoes are the best you can have during intense hiking. While waiting for dinner at 7.30pm it started to pour. According to the weather report that rain should have started earlier during the day, but you have to thank someone up there that it started during the evening instead. Dinner entrée was salad buffet, followed by local raw ham with fig as first starter. The wine bottle from yesterday was already beside the table in an ice bucket. As second starter I chose vegetables cream soup with bread croutons. As main course I chose Aosta Valley stuffed chicken (with ham and cheese) and strawberry ice cream had to do as dessert. After the first day of hiking you fell asleep pretty un-rocked.

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in Italy Tagged hiking

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