Written by Viorel Borteș
It all started with a firm invitation and a not so firm answer from my behalf. I decided to go after all and I will tell you all about our adventure holiday in the Alps.
After a long drive we make our first stop in Austria, in Mondsee, a small settlement 34 km from Salzburg, on the shore of the Mondsee Lake and right under the Drachenwand Mountains. The warm water lake is 11 km long and 1,5 km wide Mondsee Lake. Feeling stiff after the road, we take a short walk to the beach. Here, both locals and tourists were spending this hot afternoon.
In the morning our car was stuck on off-road and we had an Austrian highway ahead. In the end we managed to fix the problem and headed out to Geneva. On the shore of the Lake Geneva in western Switzerland, the city is the capital of the eponymous canton.
Our road takes us to France. Obviously we cannot just pass by Chamonix, the Capital of Alpinism. The city is an important resort in the French Alps, strategically set at the border with Italy and Switzerland. It was opened in 1741 as a base for expeditions. At 1305 m high, it is dominated by Mont Blanc, with its 4810 meters. The first men to climb this peak were Jaques Balmat and Michel Paccard in 1786. There are several other peaks in the area, all over 4000 m high, such as l’Aquille Vert, Grandes Jorasses, Dent du Geant, Mont Maudit and Mont Blanc du Tacul.
We cross over to Italy through the Mont Blanc Tunnel, which was built between 1957-1965. It is 11,6 k long and connects France to Italy, more exactly the Haute-Savoie and Valle d’Aosta. We have enough time to visit Valle Ferret, a picturesque valley that passes by the southern part of Mont Blanc and spreads between Col Ferret at the border with Switzerland and Courmayeur, under the impressive Grand Jorasses.
Some hamlets, once homes to shepherds, have been turned into guesthouses and camping sites.
Rock climbing in Valle d’Aosta
We were running out of time so we hurried up to Turin, our base for what we decided to do in the area. Turin is situated in north-western Italy. It is crossed by the river Pad and is bounded by the Alps in the north and west. It was the first capital of the Italian United Kingdom between 1861-1865 under Vittorio Emanuele II.
Valle d’Aosta is where we decided to go rock climbing. The province has a special status, it is a sort of autonomous region that doesn’t pay taxes to Rome, but does receive subventions. The settlements have French names (they were Italianized during Mussolini) but everyone speaks Italian. Pretty weird, isn’t it? The Swiss canton Wallis is in the north, Rhones-Alpes in the west and the Piemont in the south.
Arrampicata sportiva con mani nude — this is what we had in mind for our first day on the mountain. Albard di Bard is a small village, more like a hamlet. The road up to it is so narrow that our car barely fits. We pass by grape orchards and reach a parking place in a meadow. Our route is in Monte Coudrey (I thought we were in Italy!). The rock is red like the bark of trees and the friction is incredible. Lazy as we are, we’re excited like small children when we find that the approach to the crag is actually a descending path through an edible chestnut forest.
Tirannosauro Rex — 6a+, 300 m, 9 pitches is the route we chose for this day.
From the first belay point we see the Fort Bard under our feet. This is a fortified complex built in the 19th century by the House of Savoia over the ruins of an old castle. It served as a military prison for a while and then as a weapon deposit. In 2006 it opened again as The Alps Museum.
The weather is fantastic. A slight draft cools us down. The route is not so hard because the difficult pitches are interrupted by easier sections. So we reach the edge feeling really good and even more rested than when we started. The retreat is pleasant and we quickly get back to the car.
On the road back to Turin we are already making plans for the next days. Don’t miss the second part of our adventure holiday in the Alps — Gran Paradiso!
Old boys team: Mihai Pupeza, Eugen Popescu and Viorel Borteş