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Climbing in the Valle d’Aosta, Italy

For the second half of my trip to the Alps, Tom and I found ourselves on the other side of the Mont Blanc Tunnel, in the stunning sun trap that is the Valle d’Aosta.  Whilst it is a beautiful valley, it wasn’t quite our intended plan from the outset…

Having met up with Tom, who had flown out to meet me, we started to hatch plans to stay within the Chamonix valley, and to focus on long mixed alpine routes up high, but a tricky combination of high freezing levels, Foehn winds,  lack of useful up-to-date conditions information, hut closures and shortened lift opening hours seemed to curtail our plans.  The final plan was to head up and climb the Swiss Route on Les Courtes, but on waking up and seeing that the freezing levels had shot up over night, and coupled with the forecasted strong sunshine, we both knew that there were too many factors against us, and that the descent from Les Courtes would have been too dangerous.  Later reports indicated that the route in fact wasn’t in great condition, confirming our thoughts.  All this was enough to see us leaving the higher mountains behind, and heading to the town of Arnad, in Italy.  Flexibility is key!

Whilst not exactly remote or serious, the climbing on the sweeping Gneiss slabs of Arnad were nothing short of excellent, with plenty of technical and varied climbing on 400-500m equipped routes, giving everything from thin and balancey moves, requiring precise footwork and a cool head through to the odd strenuous and thuggy layback or corner, which required more of a grunt.

With a wave of wet weather sweeping its way across the whole of the Alps last Wednesday, we ended up with a four day window, in which we climbed Lo Dzerby, La Spigolo, Toppo Pazzo, Diedro Bianco, Diretta Banano and Diedro Jaccod.

It’s worth noting that the crag does get very busy during the weekends, but we had it pretty much to ourselves midweek. A useful guidebook for the area, particularly for those just visiting for a short stint, is the Plaisir Sud guidebook by Filidor.  The nearby town of Arnad is very convenient for most essentials, with the larger town of Aosta not too far away.