Among all the mountains, Monviso is certainly the one that most inspires people's imagination. Its shape, its contour, and the other smaller peaks that emerge when looking in the direction of the upper Po Valley... It is definitely a suggestive panorama, especially on a beautiful day like Thursday, July 31st. Sometimes I enjoy watching my young daughters (4 and 7 years old) when they draw a landscape on a piece of paper and instinctively, without even realizing it, when it's time to draw mountains with a pen, Monviso appears! It truly is the quintessential mountain.
These "landscape" mental patterns are also in my mind, and so the new adventure that I wanted to accomplish this summer took shape (it was 2014). Keeping an eye on the weather forecast, the ideal moment had arrived on the last day of July. It is never easy to do something sporty that takes the whole day on a Thursday because of work. But they say where there's a will, there's a way, and luckily, there are wives! With the work hurdle solved, I asked my wife to spend the whole day at the gym, and the adventure was able to take shape...
With an early morning wake-up at 2:50 am, I gathered all the necessary equipment (backpack, poles, flashlight, clothes, food, water, etc.) and "jumped" into the car to reach Pian del Re. It was still night, with an incredible starry sky. The day promised to be good, just as predicted. Completely alone, I started walking quickly towards the first climb in the direction of Lago Fiorenza without encountering anyone. At the beginning, as you know, the kilometers fly by because you're fresh! Too bad that things change, as we'll see...
Arriving at the first refuge (Quintino Sella), the day was still young, and everyone was asleep, so I continued without lingering too much. Shortly afterward, I reached the San Chiaffredo pass, to head towards Valle Varaita through a couple of lakes and the beautiful pine forest that opens up before descending into Valle Varaita. The tinkling of cows grazing could be heard in the distance, given the large number of animals present in the fields. Arriving at the wooden bridge, I met some "souls" who were busy with their Viso tour, all foreigners. Through a fairly easy climb, although long, it was time to reach the Vallanta refuge. The staff of this establishment was uniquely kind! After taking a snapshot, I headed towards "Passo Losetta" at 2815 meters. From there on, the snow was abundant, and many lines of climbers were intent on crossing it without slipping. In less than an hour, I was already at the Monvisò Refuge for a quick water refill from the fountain. After passing this establishment, the first goal seemed very close by now, in fact, from that point, I usually arrive at Pian del Re in a couple of hours. There were still people on the trail, with a few appearances of Italians (very few), I climb up to Traversette, covering a 200-meter long tongue of snow, and here I am back in Italy! With a good pace, the final descent, and back at Pian del Re, closing the first loop in 7 hours and 51 minutes. A "saved time" to face the second tour with a good energy reserve. Here is the customary photo with the very kind staff of the bar-restaurant, as proof of the ongoing enterprise.
I immediately realized that things would be very tough as soon as I left the parking lot and headed back towards the first lake for the second lap. It was a real psychological strain, as usually after closing those first 35km, you go back home. But it wasn't the case for me yesterday! After some negative thoughts about quitting, not because of tiredness since I was still fresh, but because of the monotony of a new lap identical to the first one, they were making themselves felt in a decidedly forceful way! After overcoming the obstacle (all mental), I was back to "scampering." I immediately noticed that in the same spots my eagerness to continue was no longer the same as a few hours before. My energy reserves had certainly decreased. Fortunately, however, I had held back during the first lap! At every refuge reached, I realized that I was accumulating minutes of delay. Even the motivation was no longer the same as in the beginning. Furthermore, the awareness of slowing down at every encountered reference point made the determination even less. I had entered a vicious circle of mental negativity. Nevertheless, I kept going. During the new descent into Valle Varaita, I realized that my water bottle was almost empty; I had forgotten to refill it at the Sella fountain! It's true that when you're tired, your head "plays tricks" on you. So, struggling up the long climb towards Vallanta, I had accumulated a thirst that had surely compromised my pace. My desire was to drink and nothing else; seeing all those streams of water crossing the road certainly didn't help! After further delay on the schedule, I could finally drink and eat a bit at the Refuge, with the comfort of being able to refill the water bottle properly. However, the damage was already done, and making amends at the last minute with a condition of strong physical/mental stress did not allow for quick remedies. It took me several hours to quench my thirst. When you put yourself to the test in an ultratrail, you are used to such situations, provided you have some experience. Meanwhile, the weather was beginning to turn its back on me, with big clouds turning into thick fog above 2700m; at "Passo Losetta," visibility was greatly compromised. By now, I was alone given the late hour (I was approaching 7:00 pm), which proved to be an advantage from a naturalistic point of view, with the encounter of countless beautiful animals! Crossing the snow with great difficulty and some ruinous falls due to tiredness, given the weakening of my reflexes, I had finally returned to Monvisò refuge for a new water supply. From that point on, I felt the impending "weight of the night" approaching. Still alone, I continued towards Traversette at a much slower pace than usual. Although I was tired, the desire to arrive did the rest, and so I found myself, still in the fog, in front of the Buco di Viso. Without thinking, I entered it with my headlamp on and headed towards my hometown. From our side(Italy), the weather was incredibly bad, the beginning of a weak rain that would soon become heavy with intense thunder coming on. It was almost night. With the fear of taking the wrong path right at the end, I was careful not to slip, eyeing all the directional signs painted on the rocks. When I began to see the parking lot of Pian del Re (now completely empty), it was a relief. I arrived at the car at 9:43 pm with a total travel time of 17 hours and 18 minutes for 70km with 5000m of positive elevation. A final greeting to the Pian del Re Refuge with a commemorative photo. With great satisfaction, I drove back home for a big meal and a long, regenerating sleep.
It is possible to watch a live video of the entire adventure on YouTube: