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PIEMONTE

Rifugio Valasco, Rifugio Questa, and the military mule tracks of Valscura

In the Upper Gesso Valley, incredible military roads, crystal clear lakes of Valscura and Claus, and two historic refuges.
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E
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7:00 h
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20km
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1020
9
description

THE HIKE

Beautiful circular hiking trail in the Upper Valle Gesso, which has all the features for a perfect excursion: crystal clear lakes, paved mule tracks, refuges with polenta, waterfalls, and some bizarre buildings built by some nobleman with too much money — we miss just one glacier and we'd hit the jackpot.


From the Valdieri Spa to the Valasco Refuge

We start from the Terme di Valdieri (1410 m). After the spa, we find ample parking at €3.50 per day. The first stretch is a bit monotonous - a dirt road on the valley floor in the woods. A path cuts some bends.


Valasco stream in the Valasco plain
And where does this pebble come from?

The sound of a waterfall announces our arrival at the Piana del Valasco (1763 m, 1 hour). The entrance postcard to the plain, with a couple of fir trees, enormous landslide boulders, and the river that widens into crystalline pools, seems to have been created on the drawing board by a landscape designer. From here the scenery is simply spectacular for the rest of the hike.


On the flat we reach the Valasco Refuge (m1764, 10 minutes), a bizarre building with 2 turrets and a beautiful central courtyard - it was the summer hunting lodge of Vittorio Emanuele II of Savoy.


The Valasco Refuge, former hunting lodge of Vittorio Emanuele II of Savoy
The bizarre Valasco Refuge, former hunting lodge of Vittorio Emanuele II of Savoy

The Military Road 452 Valasco - Valscura

We take the dirt road again which now begins to climb to the right of the valley. Another waterfall welcomes us to the Piana Superiore di Valasco, where we catch our breath before embarking on the steepest climb of the excursion. Here the dirt road begins to reveal the care of the original route - a military road of a certain strategic importance, opened for the first time at the end of the 19th century, and then renovated in 1909 and around 1930.


After passing the 2000-metres line, the pavement bends northwards out of the woods. After a 600 meter traverse, the route divides - on the left the 1909 route climbs with steep hairpin bends. The wider road, from 1930, continues to draw a wide hairpin bend (necessary to bring artillery to Lake Valasco), then digs a short tunnel in the mountain before reconnecting with the 1909 cart track.


We continue along this incredible feat of engineering to the Lower Lake of Valscura (2260 m, 1:30 hours). Just before the lake, we find the ruins of the camps of the Third Alpini Company 1888, to defend the Baisse de Druos, the border with France, about an hour's walk away. At their peak, these camps housed 140 men and 2 officers.


The Valscura - Fremamorta military mule track

The most spectacular stretch of the excursion begins from the Lower Lake of Valscura. The military road narrows into a mule track, but what is lost in width is gained in quality. The pavement is made up of perfectly fitted flat stones. With a uniform slope, the mule track makes its way through debris and stones, drawing a clear and uniform strip in a panorama of haphazard stones.


The Valscura - Fremamorta military mule track
The Valscura - Fremamorta military mule track

On this route we first arrive at Lago del Claus (2340m, 20 minutes), the most beautiful of the three lakes we visit today, then to Rifugio Emilio Questa at Lago delle Portette (2380m, 15 minutes)


Claus Lake
The Caribbean Claus Lake, the most beautiful of the three lakes on this excursion

To return we can descend along a steep path from Rifugio Emilio Questa, but even better we can traverse down to Valle Morta, and then descend from there to the Piana del Valasco (1:30 hours) with a more moderate gradient. From there we return to the Terme di Valdieri (1 hour).


Mappa

MAP

Foto

PHOTO GALLERY

EQUIPMENT

The mountains are a dangerous environment: make sure you always have the right equipment — hiking or trail shoes, warm clothes and waterproofs in case of unexpected changes in weather conditions, a small emergency kit.

 

I've made an Amazon "shopping note" to make sure you have everything — ps if you buy from these links, 3% goes to support the development and maintenance of Hikes of the World 🙏.

 

  • Breathable t-shirt ( example )

  • Sweatshirt, fleece, or light jacket

  • Waterproof windbreaker (for example: men / women )

  • Gloves and hat (you never know)

  • Backpack with rain cover

  • Trekking poles (not essential, but they help to unload the weight of the backpack and ease the impact on the joints)

  • Trekking or trail running shoes (in great vogue lately because they are lightweight. These Salomon ones - for men and women - are an excellent entry-level, preferably Gore-Tex)

  • For via ferratas: complete via ferrata kit (I have this one , very light and compact, with this harness and helmet — or you can buy complete kits ). Buy in store to receive ad hoc support

  • To sleep a night in a refuge: sheet or light sleeping bag

  • Water bottle or thermos

  • Light crampons if you think you will find ice or snow on the route

  • Power bank or cell phone charger

  • Camera

  • Drone, for those who love to "fly" (used in moderation and at a distance from other people. I have had the DJI Mini 2 for over 2 years and have found myself very happy with it. The DJI Mini 3 also allows you to take vertical photographs)

  • Small emergency kit ( example )

  • Sun cream (essential)

  • Sunglasses

HIKES IN THE SAME REGION

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