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A walk among Italian giants — Aosta Valley High Route 1

Markus Stoeckli

A walk among Italian giants — Aosta Valley High Route 1

Hiking Collection by Marika Abbà

13-29

days

3-6 h

/ day

120 mi

46,175 ft

43,350 ft

The Aosta Valley's Alta Via 1 is also known as the 'Alta Via dei Giganti' because it runs along the slopes of Monte Rosa, bows before the majesty of the Matterhorn and tickles the feet of Mont Blanc. The route runs from Donnas to Courmayeur over 17 stages, totalling about 190 kilometres (118 mi).

This trek is a wonderful adventure: you’ll encounter different natural environments rich in biodiversity and unique peculiarities; you’ll find the strong identity of the Walser community, whose customs have been handed down from generation to generation; and you’ll come across marvellous hamlets with classic Alpine architecture – a mix of stone, wood and simplicity.

The best time to walk Alta Via 1 is from July to September, but always take care because you may encounter tongues of snow at low altitudes even in the early summer months.

The route mostly stays between 2,000 and 3,000 metres (6,500–9,800 ft), with each stage ending at a hiking hut or in settlements on the valley floor. There’s usually a good number of accommodation facilities in all villages, but I advise booking well in advance. If you decide to take a tent, there are some campsites as well. It’s important to remember that bivvying is strictly forbidden below an altitude of 2,500 metres (8,200 ft): you could incur heavy fines.

Since the itinerary is high in the mountains, often in rocky environments, always check the weather conditions and leave early in the morning to avoid possible thunderstorms, which often spring up in the late afternoon.

Bring breathable and waterproof layers, warm clothing, poles and sturdy boots. Always carry a good supply of energy bars and food, a large water bottle and perhaps a small thermos flask to fill with hot tea.

You can get to Donnas by train from Turin or Milan. To return home from Courmayeur, on the other hand, you can take a bus to Aosta and from there the train towards Turin. As many stages end in the valley, you can also cover a small portion of the route and return to Donnas or your starting point using local transport. For useful information for moving between the different valleys and within the region, head here: lovevda.it/en/before-your-trip/getting-around/bus.

On the official site of the Valle d'Aosta tourist board, you’ll also find all the updates on the status of the Alte Vie and the list of hut and accommodation facilities in the area: lovevda.it/en.

Happy walking!

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Alta Via della Valle d'Aosta 1

118 mi

46,075 ft

43,125 ft

Last updated: September 15, 2022

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Tours & Highlights

  • Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors

    Stage 1: Donnas to Sassa — Aosta Valley High Route 1

    Difficult
    05:58
    7.59 mi
    1.3 mph
    4,825 ft
    1,350 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    The journey along the Alta Via 1 of the Aosta Valley starts from Donnas, a small town a few kilometers from the border with Piedmont and the imposing Bard Fort. Walking through the streets of the town you can see its ancient origins, a surprising example is the Via consolare delle Gallie, carved into

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  • Difficult
    04:26
    5.07 mi
    1.1 mph
    3,450 ft
    650 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Sure-footedness, sturdy shoes and alpine experience required.

    Cross the stone bridge that crosses the Giassit stream and continue towards the hill which takes its name from the river that cuts through the basin. In front of you is a succession of mountain pastures and, as the altitude increases, crags covered with conifers. The slope becomes more and more sustained

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  • Intermediate
    04:08
    5.37 mi
    1.3 mph
    1,850 ft
    2,425 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    Leave the Coda Refuge and walk towards Col Sella. The stretch you are traveling on is in Piedmontese territory, the hill establishes the border between the two Regions. Flank Lake Goudin and continue your descent, sometimes steep, towards Alpe Serrafredda.

    

    At the crossroads, continue in the direction

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  • Difficult
    06:49
    8.85 mi
    1.3 mph
    2,700 ft
    4,325 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Sure-footedness, sturdy shoes and alpine experience required.

    Backpack on and off to the fourth stage of the Alta Via. Retrace a stretch of yesterday's path backwards and at the crossroads proceed in the direction of the pasture of Marmontana, located under the hill of the same name. The climb to Colle di Marmontana becomes steep, but don't despair because up there

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  • Difficult
    07:38
    11.2 mi
    1.5 mph
    3,250 ft
    3,775 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Sure-footedness, sturdy shoes and alpine experience required.

    The time has come to immerse yourself completely in the Walser culture and discover the main characteristics of this people, so fasten your boots, close your backpack and off you go!

    

    Before taking the mule track to Colle Lazouney, take a quarter of an hour and get lost in the alleys of Gruba and Niel

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  • Difficult
    06:49
    7.96 mi
    1.2 mph
    4,550 ft
    2,800 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    Leave Gressoney-Saint-Jean behind, cross the bridge over the Lys stream and continue in the direction of Alpenzu Grande.

    

    Among the stone and wooden houses of Alpenzu Grande you can breathe again the Walser atmosphere and traditions and immerse yourself completely in them. From this place you have an enchanting

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  • Difficult
    05:08
    6.87 mi
    1.3 mph
    3,475 ft
    1,475 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    Leave Crest and take the dirt road that leads to the small village of Soussun passing through lush coniferous forests.

    

    The almost flat path leads you to Alpe Ciarcerio, where the funicular from Frachey di Champoluc arrives. In this place, as for the rest of the day, the Monte Rosa massif is majestic

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  • Intermediate
    04:08
    5.51 mi
    1.3 mph
    850 ft
    4,225 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    Leave the Grand Tournalin Refuge and take the path that leads to the Col de Nannaz at 2,772 meters above sea level. The route is a succession of pastures, rocky crags and grassy steps.

    

    Step by step, you are on the Col des Fontaines, a truly enchanting pass! Here I recommend that you take a break for a

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  • Intermediate
    02:28
    2.99 mi
    1.2 mph
    2,125 ft
    0 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    The ninth stage can be defined as a "cool down", because it is very short, although it still requires a fair amount of effort from the point of view of the altitude difference.

    

    Take path number 6, the same that leads to the start of the Gorbeillon ferrata, which runs through the woods and reaches the

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  • Difficult
    07:45
    10.0 mi
    1.3 mph
    4,050 ft
    2,525 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Sure-footedness, sturdy shoes and alpine experience required.

    After a day almost entirely of relaxation, the time has come to use the stored energies; take your backpack, let's go!

    

    Proceed in the direction of the two hamlets of Cortina, Superiore and Inferiore, and from there go up to the Fenêtre d'Ersaz hill, from where you have a surprising view of the Matterhorn

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  • Difficult
    06:28
    9.09 mi
    1.4 mph
    1,350 ft
    5,475 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    Say goodbye to the Cunéy Oratory Refuge and head towards the Col de Chaleby. As you gain altitude, the path becomes more and more rocky, with steps, runs along a lake and reaches the 2,653 meters of altitude of the pass.

    

    A slight descent takes you to the basin where there is another alpine lake. Head

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  • Difficult
    06:10
    7.69 mi
    1.2 mph
    3,575 ft
    3,600 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Sure-footedness, sturdy shoes and alpine experience required.

    After stocking up on Fontina for the trip, follow the path that climbs up through the meadows, enters the coniferous forest and continues towards the Suchéaz mountain pasture.

    

    Pasture after pasture, the climb becomes more and more sustained until it reaches the Col de Brison, 2,480 meters above sea level

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  • Difficult
    03:14
    3.46 mi
    1.1 mph
    3,425 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    The thirteenth stage is short, but certainly challenging. Leave Ollomont behind and head towards the coniferous forest.

    

    Today's route is characterized by a steep slope and by the presence of several mountain pastures. Leaving the forest you can see jagged peaks in the distance, the bright white of the

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  • Difficult
    05:51
    8.87 mi
    1.5 mph
    1,675 ft
    4,375 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Sure-footedness, sturdy shoes and alpine experience required.

    From the Létey Champillon Refuge, head towards the Col de Champillon. The day begins in a great way, with a steep climb, which immediately reactivates all muscles and circulation. At the pass, however, the effort is rewarded with a beautiful view of the Grand Combin.

    

    I recommend that you help yourself

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  • Difficult
    04:22
    6.63 mi
    1.5 mph
    3,275 ft
    200 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    Say goodbye to Saint-Rhémy and cross the Gran San Bernardo stream. The trail climbs up the slopes of the mountains through numerous hamlets.

    

    Under the slopes of Tête de Crevacol are the small stone huts of Merdeux, used by shepherds in the summer months. The valley is wide, very sunny; with increasing

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  • Difficult
    03:46
    4.96 mi
    1.3 mph
    1,175 ft
    2,850 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Sure-footedness, sturdy shoes and alpine experience required.

    Today's stage leads you straight away to a very iconic place: the Col de Malatrà. Backpack on your shoulder and embark on this first ascent to one of the most significant passes of the Tor des Géants, the most famous ultra-trail race in Italy and one of the most important in the world.

    

    The pass is located

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  • Difficult
    04:33
    7.40 mi
    1.6 mph
    650 ft
    3,300 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Sure-footedness, sturdy shoes and alpine experience required.

    Here you are at the last stage of the Alta Via della Valle d'Aosta 1: a long, demanding, nothing short of breathtaking journey. Even today there will be surprising views, so no more chatter, boots on your feet and off you go!

    

    The path descends slightly and leads you first to the Sécheron mountain pasture

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Collection Stats

  • Tours
    17
  • Distance
    120 mi
  • Duration
    89:42 h
  • Elevation
    46,175 ft43,350 ft

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