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La Mandria


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Woke up to yet another cloudy and chilly morning at Hotel Relais des Glaciers in Champoluc. The clouds were really heavy and lay like a cap over the Ayas Valley this morning. Breakfast was served at 7.30am and the morning meeting scheduled at 8.45am with plans for today’s hike. Today the group split up into a red and a blue group, where the red group would hike faster and climb more altitude meters than the blue. Psyched to a thousand and trained prior to this trip I chose the red group – now I would certainly be hiking! We became totally 8 people, plus hiking guide Rebecka from the travel agency and the local mountaineering guide Patrick. Now some of you readers might wonder – and what’s the different between a hiking guide and a mountaineering guide? Well, a hiking guide only requires 10 days of education while a mountaineering guide has 5 years. A mountaineering guide also has first-aid training and insurance that covers helicopter ride down the mountain in any case of emergency. So, if something would happen during a hike, say a heart attack or broken leg, the guide makes a phone call for a helicopter that takes the injured to the hospital. Another thing is regarding the hiking boots or shoes. With a hiking guide you must have hiking boots with high legs, if you hike with a mountaineering guide that’s only a recommendation.

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With packed backpacks we, in the red group, started walking north through the village to the Crest Lift taking us up to 2000 altitude meters. The very second leaving the lift we experienced a magnificent view over Ayas Valley and Champoluc, despite clouds lay low like a quilt above us. First hour of hiking went steadily uphill and you got really warm in your clothes. We stopped at Rifugio Belvedere at 2303 meters above sea level for a break. After changing clothes and a technical pause we continued our hike along the dirt road that eventually became a rocky path, where you sometimes wondered if you even followed a path or not. The higher we got the foggier it became and the view over the surroundings was limited. Sometimes it felt like you walked into a wall of fog, and seconds later it dispersed and you could see hundreds of meters around you. Well above the tree-limit, the wind made itself reminded and it got chilly.

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After passing Lago di Saler Dessusand right up to the highest point of today at 2549 altitude meters we passed alpine steppes with marmots. Even though we couldn’t see any we could hear their warning sounds (to each other) that it now indeed was dangerously hikers on their territory. Marmots dig complex tunnel systems down to 10 meters depths, which could get up to 70 meters long or even longer. The marmots are very cleanly animals using specific tunnels to sleep, birthing, fleeing, restroom and to clean themselves etc. I tried to look out for them as much as I could to, if possible, get a vision of a marmot. But the path was so rocky that you stumbled right away if you took your eyes of the ground in front of you, so it was almost risky. Suddenly mountaineering guide Patrick spotted mountain goats and pointed towards the massif further ahead. It was far away and it took a while before you could focus your eyes to localize them. They fled pretty much vertically uphill the mountain and the discussion started immediately within the group what special muscles those mountain goats have and how their muscle fibers are built up. Apparently, there are research going on in this subject where they’re trying to map down the muscle composition and genes of the mountain goats.

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A shorter hike down to Lago Ciarcierio at 2371 meters above sea level and a short break long enough for people wishing to take a swim could do so. But I can tell you it was definitely not weather for swimming today. So, we kept on hiking down to Rifugio La Mandria at 2271 altitude meters and we could finally warm up and enjoy Tartiflette, lunch for today. Considering that time was close to 2pm and you were starving you could have eaten pretty much anything. But this Tartiflette was well-tasting; gratinated sliced potatoes with bacon and crème fraiche. After clothe change and a technical pause we were all ready for the relatively steep descent to the mountain train Frachey at 1976 altitude meters. We boarded the train that took us down to the village Frachey at 1610 meters above sea level. From here it was optional to wait for the bus or walk back to Champoluc, which would take about half an hour. We decided pretty fast and unanimous for the walk back – we were here to hike!

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Along the way we passed a park with wooden sculptures. A few years earlier a thunder storm had gotten along the valley resulting in several broken trees. Artists got as a project to carve the tree stumps into art. I have to say it was very beautiful sculptures and art! Upon arrival in Champoluc it was After Walk for those who wanted. At the hotel it was time for a well-needed shower, foot- and shoe-care. Dinner was served at 7.30pm. Brought the salad with me before sitting down at my table. First starter was Mocetta (local cold meat) with cherry tomatoes, celery and nuts, and as starter number two was homemade pasta with asparagus and smoked ham served and tasted really nice. But the portion was gigantic and not adjusted for a 5-course. The main course was veal and sausage stew with polenta. I finished the dinner with a strawberry ice cream dessert. You had no trouble falling asleep later in the evening.

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in Italy Tagged hiking

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