I have a feeling 2017 is going to be another year of many more adventures, exposures and explorations. My New Year’s celebration kicked off with a marvelous snow trek from the 1600m height of Alpe Devero in Italy’s northern Piedmont region.
G and I had a big breakfast before driving off home at eight o’clock in the morning. Our gear was already packed the previous night: hiking boots, high gaiters, trekking poles, snow shoes, gloves (two pair for each), wool hats, scarfs, sunglasses, sunblock, skin moisturizer, extra socks, several layers of warm clothes, food and water.
The two and a half hour drive northwest was scenic with views of Lake Maggiore to the right and lofty ice-covered Monte Rosa mountain massif to the front. Highway roads were nearly empty, the sunshine was extremely bright and the random music from the radio capital channel turned out pretty decent. I remember singing along the “Bleeding love” and videotaping the roadside landscape with background music of “Light my fire” acoustic cover.
“Oh the time to hesitate is through, there’s no time to wallow in the mire”…
The roads became more twisted as we exited the highway at Crodo. The car drove past the picturesque Formazza valley and continued zigzagging uphill for roughly 30 minutes before reaching Devero. Along the way there was a weirdly beautiful ice waterfall popping out of the mountain as if a magic spell had frozen the moving water. But that was just a fraction of what this wonderland had to offer. As we approached the ski resort, a fairytale-like landscape opened up in front of us with lovely wooden cottages, babbling icy stream and brownish mountains against the backdrop of clear blue sky.
We sat on a grey wooden bench to get ready for the trek: first putting on high-ankle-collar and waterproof trekking boots then a layer of knee-high gaiters to keep out the snow, finally the large and cumbersome snowshoes which were rented at the resort for ten euros a day. I was still soaking up the bizarre surroundings and couldn’t really concentrate on the set-up. Under intense sunshine the vast snowfield dazzled the eye as if it were coated with sparkling blue diamonds. The cold and dry winter turned the pine trees brown, blended in perfectly with the old rocky mountains. A bunch of ducks were quacking loudly in the yard. Looking further beyond I saw a fluffy German shepherd dog lying calmingly on the snow.
It was nearly mid-day when we started hiking uphill. The snowshoes sounded rather noisy on the hard snowpack surface and required a little extra effort to lift up the feet when walking on deep powder snow. Following the signs and footsteps of previous trekkers we crossed a craggy and narrow pathway through the snow stream. The one-hour steep trail to Alpe Misanco (the first rest stop) was challenging but relaxing at the same time because of the mountain’s cool fresh air and soothing sounds of water flowing through rocks. I couldn’t stop myself from snapping photos every ten-fifteen minutes although G constantly babbled “this is nothing, there will be more snow and it will be more beautiful”…
We rested on a big stone at Misanco for snacks and hot tea before moving on to Lago Nero (The Black Lake). By now the sun was already above our heads so it got a little warmer. I packed along a small bottle of water, hoping to refill it in some natural fountain on the way but there was none. There were a few cottages but they seemed closed during wintertime. Anyway it was alright because I wasn’t very thirsty in cold weather but it’s advisable to bring a 2 litter bottle if you tend to sweat a lot.
The landscape just became more magical and breathtaking as two of us headed towards the lake. Thick snow blanketed the round big stones, creating dozens of little adorable hills on the all-white terrain. The snow was powdery soft and seemed untouched as if no one ever set their foot on.
The undulations of snowy terrain
Not seeing the sign we were kind of lost in directions and followed another group to the lake. Turned out the whole surface was already covered with snow and it might be not so safe to navigate anywhere near the lake. Reckon we wouldn’t make it to Mount Cazzola and rush back to the ski resort by the sunset, G and I decided to slowly enjoy the trail instead.
We continued ascending for another 30 minutes till the height of somewhat 2100m. The next rest stop was in the middle of nowhere since both were already starving and felt the urgent need to refuel energy. Laying out a waterproof raincoat upon the snow, we sat down for lunch and sipped our ginger tea while admiring the panoramic view over the multi-peaked mountains. The last hour of light before sunset gave them a stunningly warm golden glow.