Jan 27, 2004 9:05 AM
|I had been waiting impatiently for Sunday. I was on a mission, my goal: to go snowshoeing. Having never snowshoed I did not want to go straight into backcountry and be yet another avalanche statistic. The option of going to a ski resort and marching on ski runs did not appeal to me either. So I asked around for suggestions. A friend suggested Pian della Mussa (a plateau). In the winter the final section of the road, past Balme, is closed off. From Balme on, the road is unplowed and the snow covered road is turned into a cross country and hiking trail. I liked the idea, I had been there before cycling and I knew the road quite well and with x-country ski trail to follow it would be hard to get lost. I was hooked on this suggestion.|
Jan 27, 2004 9:10 AM
|With no one wanting to go with me and sweat it out for few hours in the Alps (all preferred going up on ski lifts) I started planning the trip. I settled on an unconventional approach, I would combine snowshoeing with biking and throw a train ride into the mix for a good measure. So I would go from Torino to Germagnano, pass the airport, Cirie and Lanzo by train then cycle to Balme, from there snowshoeing to Pian della Mussa.
Having been to Pian della Mussa I did not checked a map. I had been there before during summer on a road bike several times, from home and back with an extra climb on the return leg cranking in almost 140km. I knew where Balme was and how the road is (steep on a series of switch backs and then relatively gently climbing) for the final 6 km. I could see in my mind the center of town and where I would leave my bike. Well I wish I checked the map, because then I would most likely realize that what I thought to be Balme in reality was town of Ala di Stura. You can imagine my astonishment upon arriving in Ala di Stura's center and realizing that is not where I AM STOPPING! So with no other choice than to pedal on, I passed the gaping tourists at the guy on a bike in the middle of snowy Alps with a back pack on and snowshoes alas me.
Jan 27, 2004 9:12 AM
|Since I had the watch on my wrist covered by two jackets it did not read the temperature correctly thus giving wrong altitude readings. However the good thing is that the readings remained unaffected by air temperature throughout the entire day and the start and end points are at the same altitude. The offset created by the protective layer appears to be approximately 300m, so just add that to any point on the graph and you have the true altitude. From the start to 1 is the bike ascend. Just before 1 is the preparation for the snowshoe part. 1 to 2 is the snowshoeing ascend. From 2 to 3 is the decent with snowshoes. 3 4 are the stowing away of snowshoes and getting ready for bike descend. 4 5 are the bike descend. In all it was 7 hours 43 minutes trip costing me 6451 kcals plus another 355 kcals for the rides home train station and vice versa.|
Jan 27, 2004 9:14 AM
|The equipment for today's trip: mountain bike, snowshoes, ski poles, back pack with some warm cloths, food, head light, flash light and camel pack bladder which I contemplated filling up partially with something extra', in the end I put only spring water taken en route to Balme. The back pack felt like it was about 10 kg in all. Don't really know how much it was. In the end it turned out I brought only a single unneeded item an extra fleece jacket.|
Jan 27, 2004 9:16 AM
|Waiting for the train to depart and looking towards the Alps. Picture was taken at Cirie stop.|
Jan 27, 2004 9:18 AM
|Shortly after leaving the town of Germagnano. On the hill side there is a little church/monastery. I climb there always on the return leg form Pian della Mussa in the summer. This time I won't. Right before I took the picture there was a road sign, it read 26km to Balme. It was the first indication of my goof up and getting mixed up Balme with Ala di Stura. But I did not catch on at that point and continued on.|
Jan 27, 2004 9:20 AM
|Cruising along. Slowly the hills are becoming more and more mountain like in their appearance.|
|mountains in sight||ZvierBoy|
Jan 27, 2004 9:21 AM
|First glimpse at the mountains. From here we can't still see the mountains surrounding the plateau I am heading for.|
Jan 27, 2004 9:23 AM
|Feeling good and oblivious of my screwed I push on using gears I would not otherwise.|
|first sighting of objective||ZvierBoy|
Jan 27, 2004 9:25 AM
|To the left, behind the clouds, finally I got a glimpse of one of the peaks surrounding Pian della Mussa. On my way up I was passed by my many cars with x-country and alpine skis. From few of the folks I got a stares of astonishment and in couple of cases hello waves. In the former case, I tried to figure out if they were put off by the bike or the back pack with snowshoes and the later perhaps they were waving: Hey you stop and turn around! He he. It is always heartening to see folks in cars to trying to encourage you on.|
Jan 27, 2004 9:27 AM
|Finally at altitude and just before Balme. The ground was covered here everywhere with snow. The wind picked up some and in shade it felt cold. Coincidentally, the wind started to blow harder right outside Ala di Sture. I wished I had gotten to stop there! With the back pack on and the non-aero mountain bike position I felt as if I was being pushed downhill at times.|
Jan 27, 2004 9:29 AM
|Thundering in, at last, into Balme.|
|a town too far||ZvierBoy|
Jan 27, 2004 9:31 AM
|Looking ahead to the chain of mountain peaks around the plateau. After I realized my mistake I thought the road would be closed right around the pine tree on the left hand side of the road, just before it starts to climb some. When I saw the road open, at that, point my hart sank and I thought to myself: I came to snowshoe here and not cycle! I started to consider abandoning the cycling and just cruising here with the snowshoes. I was literally fed up with biking. To all this added the fact I could not use the granny gear and had to use 36-26 gear as my smallest combination. I did not like it with the extra weight on my back.
In the summer I'd climbed with 39-26 and 39-29 gearing but this time I wished for 1-1 or ever 1-2 combo. Yes, next time I will look over a map no matter where I am going.
Jan 27, 2004 9:33 AM
|At last! With the bike parked I started to get prepared for the second leg. I put on ski pants, heavier gloves and zipped up the jacket. Of out of the view, to the left there was a trail grooming machine with plows for making x-country ski trails. I was ready to try out my brand new snow shoes|
Jan 27, 2004 9:34 AM
|All buckled in I begun the march. About 250 meters farther up I came along on a little hut with a man from an Alpine rescue. I checked with him if it was alright to go off trail rather than trample the cross country trail. He replied politely there was a separate trail for hikers where I could walk on groomed or un-groomed snow as long as I stayed close the trail markers. With that in mind I plowed right on to beat up the montain. ;-)|
|this is fun||ZvierBoy|
Jan 27, 2004 9:36 AM
|Having climbed up to the hikers' trail I looked back. In the center of the picture you can see a, slightly obscured by trees, dark narrow and straight line which ends suddenly, that is the lat final section of the plowed road. From there on is all snow. Far down into the volley and somewhere to the right behind the hump is where I started from.|
Jan 27, 2004 9:38 AM
Jan 27, 2004 9:38 AM
|Arriving at the Pian della Mussa. Summer houses all covered by snow.|
Jan 27, 2004 9:39 AM
|A slightly different view of the buildings. It is quite a difference being here during summer and winter. There was definitely something more mystical to this place now, with not so many people around and no cars.|
Jan 27, 2004 9:41 AM
|Just before the refuge (a mountain hut?) Cirie. This is where I always turn around in the summer.|
|obsorbing in the view||ZvierBoy|
Jan 27, 2004 9:43 AM
|Looking around and enjoying the view. This is where the plateau finishes. There are two trails going up but I am not sure if they are opened during this time of the year.|
|where is the liquor?!?!?!||ZvierBoy|
Jan 27, 2004 9:45 AM
|The refuge and a white San Bernardino dog. I looked for the infamous casket with rum under its head! The darned dog probably drunk it all during the early hours of the day. I stopped at the hut for some hot food. Ate polenta with sausage, drunk vin brulee, than had some coffee and genepy for the grand finale. Inside there were about 30 people eating and drinking, having a laugh with the corner fire place giving off plenty of heat. Here also I had the biggest surprise of the day. While devouring the polenta I overheard at a table adjacent to me some people talking about a guy on a bicycle with snowshoes. I kept listening in since I was pretty sure there was only one guy crazy enough to be here with a bike and snowshoes in a 100 km radius and that was actually me. After a second mention someone flat out asked me if it was I who rode the bike. Having confirmed their guess, a handful of them came up to me and avalanched me with questions. A small talk ensued and we shared few laughs|
|honest officer, i did not drink anything!||ZvierBoy|
Jan 27, 2004 9:47 AM
|Standing outside the hut with the poles at ready in case the hot wine and genepy start to work their magic!|
|off i go again||ZvierBoy|
Jan 27, 2004 9:48 AM
|Returning back to Balme. You can see the groomed trail and the untouched snow immediately to the left. Farther ahead a couple of hikers are trudging back down towards the town as well. Time was running out now. The sun was low enough that it was covered by the peaks here. I think it was past 3:30 pm and I had to do 32 km back to Germagnano.|
|too dark to waste time||ZvierBoy|
Jan 27, 2004 9:51 AM
|Coming back down it was much more fun than I anticipated. I overtook hikers, 2 other people snowshoeing and even a group on alpine skis during a flat part of the descend. Turned out the people with the skis were from the group I spoke to at the hut. We wished each other good luck and they departed soonest as we got to a steeper section. Several pictures earlier there is a shot taken from almost the same point. I took this picture wanting to compare the change in amount of sun visible in the volley. There is quite a difference, isnt there?|
|final look back||ZvierBoy|
Jan 27, 2004 9:52 AM
|Final look at the mountains around the Pian della Mussa.|
|i may need the lights!||ZvierBoy|
Jan 27, 2004 9:54 AM
|The sun was setting down. Good thing I brought lights with me just in case.|
|across the stream||ZvierBoy|
Jan 27, 2004 9:56 AM
|Almost back at the bike. To get back I had to take a narrow bridge crossing over a stream. You can see all the snow layers accumulated on the rocks. It doesn't look like a lot. At the Pian della Mussa it seemed there was more snow covering the ground.|
|beat up by dust||ZvierBoy|
Jan 27, 2004 10:00 AM
|I arrived back to the train station in one piece. Descending back to Germangnano I managed to get dust in my eye. The following day at work some genius concluded I got drunk Sunday night and did not went to sleep until the wee hours of the morning. Cheers!!!
If you get a chance to do snowshoeing, do it, it is so much fun. The downhill part is suprising similar to x-cross skiing motion. I am hooked.
Jan 27, 2004 10:08 AM
|What a most spectacular report. Beautiful terrain, beautiful adventure, beautiful day. Kudos to you for taking advantage of the outstanding opportunities you have available to you.
Jealousy is an awful thing...
|thnx - nm||ZvierBoy|
Jan 27, 2004 10:11 AM
|Thanks for the great report (nm)||cmgauch|
Jan 27, 2004 1:17 PM
Jan 27, 2004 2:16 PM
|Great report and pic's.
Do you live Torino? I'm thinking of hopping over from London for a long weekend break in Torino. I've read a lot and it seems to have good museums, hotels and restaurants. Any recommendations for places to eat or stay and I'm not on a budget so fire away.
Jan 28, 2004 12:38 AM
|yes, I live here.
If you ask me there seem to be an invasion of Brits here right now. :-) Maybe it is Winter Olympics '06 related or maybe just for the skiing. A lot charter flights coming in.
There is plenty of good restaurants in the center. You can't go wrong even if you choose blindly. If you are coming for a skiing weekend be aware that in the resorts that are over run by the Brits (no offense intended, this view is shared by an Englishman, Scott, and Minx I work with)the food is terrible. So if you stay in Sauze d'Oulx for instance you might want to go somewhere else to eat something better.
As for hotels, I stayed here only in one and that was 3 years ago when I came for interview. I guess I can't contribute here.
Skip the museums go exploring the vineyards south of Turin... ;-)
Jan 30, 2004 11:37 AM
|Been wanting to visit ever since I bought a Gios-Torino in 1975. Will probably get there in the spring as I don't ski.
|Thanks for the great report (nm)||BaadDawg|
Jan 27, 2004 2:16 PM
|Aside from the tremendous beauty of your post I found myself getting extremely tired as I kept on reading.
On the ride back to the train in the dark you must have been freezing no? Wet from sweat and tired from all the exercise?
|Absolutely gorgeous! Thanks for the wallpaper =) !||Kram59|
Jan 30, 2004 10:01 AM
|I am green with envy. Sounds like you had a great adventure.|| |