We’re taking advantage of a weather window to explore the climbing around Grand Paradiso and the Aosta Valley, starting in the lower valley whilst things perk up and dry out after Storm Alex.
Our first stop was Gruviera, a long-established roadside sector, on a damp and chilly Monday morning. We were surprised to find half a dozen teams already out playing.
Not to be outdone, we joined in the fun. The rock is Gneiss (which was nice) and offers a really interesting mix of edges and pockets along with more continuous cracks. It’s surprisingly unpolished despite the obvious high level of usage. The overall crag architecture is a system of soaring corners and aretes, separated by walls at various angles from steep slabs to gently overhanging. Something for everyone.
No need for a guidebook either, with vivid pink markers at the foot of each route, and a topo sign thrown in for good measure!
We started with Topo Pazzo, which takes a really fun pockety crack (must come back for the remaining 3 pitches which follow the same feature to the top of the Buttress)
Then did Spigolo 6a (outstanding route up the Arête) and Excaliber, 6a+, plus Stefano Chi?, 6a.
The added bonus of this ultra convenient crag is that it is about a hundred yards from a charming Osteria – post-climb beer anyone?
They also do quite a line in aperativo
Still chilly but bright the following day so we stay in the lower valley and visit another convenience crag. Montestrutto is the kind of crag I’d normally avoid like the plague (a phrase which has taken on a more immediate meaning in recent times!). It’s part of a developed recreational area, complete with sports field, picnic tables and a kids high ropes area. It’s even got its own bar (okay perhaps that’s a bonus!).
There are about a dozen mini sectors, with child-friendly bolting on some introductory slabs of 3s and 4s.
There’s even a 10m boulder with a passing resemblance to The Matterhorn, complete with routes like Hornli and Zmutt.
However, some of the sectors are not so moderate and Sector Le Mura is a really stunning bit of rock.
30+m high and with only half a dozen routes, they all get stars in the guidebook (which is very sparing in awarding them). The climbing is vaguely reminiscent of the Cromlech with thin edges, cracks and pockets. We did three of these and all were superb.
Entry Level, 6a+, might be the easiest but it ain’t easy. Verging on Left Wall-ish (continuing with my Cromlech comparison).
Statale 26, 6c, is the route of the crag (and probably the trip so far) and takes the obvious central crack/corner (shades of Resurrection?) and Spigolando, 6b, wraps up the trilogy with the fun and airy Arête.