Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Hiking from Terme di Valdieri to Rifugio Questa

Left: Route taken from Terme Valdieri to Rifugio Questa and back. Right: View down on Pian del Valasco.
Route taken from Terme Valdieri to Rifugio Questa and backView down on Pian del Valasco

Hike Notes

Length: ~ 24 km / 15 miles
Duration: 10:12 - 12:52 (1.5 hours before lunch), 13:53 - 20:11 (7.5 hours after lunch), ~9 hours of walking
Location: Italy, Piemonte, Cuneo, Parco Naturale Alpi Marittime, Valle Gesso, Vallone del Valasco

Overview

We went to the Vallone del Valasco the day before with relatives and did a short hike from Terme di Valdieri to Rifugio Valasco. Along the way, we learned a little about the plants and history of the area (thanks M!). We were so enchanted with the valley that we returned the next day and to explore some more. On the second day’s hike, we set our sights on Rifugio Questa and beyond to explore the nearby lakes of Valscura.

From Terme di Valdieri (1368 m, 4554’) to Rifugio Valasco (1763 m, 5784’) is about 8 km / 5 miles, described here on the Alpi Cuneesi site as hike 11.15 in Valle Gesso. From Terme di Valdieri to via Lago inferiore di Valscura (2265 m, 7431’) to Rifugio Questa (2388 m, 7834’) and back is about 19.3 km / 12 miles, described here on the Alpi Cuneesi site as hike 11.12. We did a variation of hike 11.12 going in the reverse direction (Rifugio Questa first and then Lago inf. di Valscura), and we extended the hike by returning via Colle di Valmiana.

Left: View south toward French border across Vallone del Valasco toward Punta S. Giovanni, Rifugio Questa visible. Center: Trail just below Rifugio Questa. Right: Below Monte Matto, descending down into Piana del Valasco.
View toward French border, Rifugio Questa visibleTrail just below Rifugio QuestaDescending down into Piana del Valasco

A couple of things to point out about this hike. First, there are wonderful flowers to see here. It reminded us of hikes we've done in the Cascade Mountains of Washington (e.g., Gothic Basin Hike, Lake Ingalls Hike). Second, we ate very well at Rifugio Valasco (lunch the first day) and Rifugio Questa (lunch the second day). We hike to eat. Third, the trails in this part of the Parco Alpi Marittime are very well maintained. I know I’ve groused about Italian hiking trails in the past and these trails prove me wrong. Fourth, the scenery in this valley is just spectacular. Finally, the valley is rich with history. For example, the Rifugio Valasco (Reale Casa di Caccia) was a hunting lodge for the king Vittorio Emanuele II, and the Rifugio Emilio Questa was a military barracks. Also on the hike between Valasco and Questa, you encounter the examples of le strade militari (military roads), beautiful stone roads used as part of the defense of Italy since the end of the 18th century. Before that, the roads were ancient salt routes, routes for travelers, and later hunting routes.

The Rifugio Questa sits on the edge of Lago delle Portette. After lunch we walked from Lago delle Portette to Lago del Claus to Lago inf. di Valscura. Instead of going down the road from the Lago di Valscura back to the valley and Rif. Valasco, we headed toward Colle di Valmiana before dropping back down into Vallone di Valasco.

Left: Centaurea uniflora (Centaurea uniflora). Center: Adenostyles leucophylla (Cavolaccio lanoso). Right: Rhododendron ferrugineum (Rododendro).
Centaurea uniflora (Centaurea uniflora)Adenostyles leucophylla (Cavolaccio lanoso)Rhododendron ferrugineum (Rododendro)

Plants

A list of the plants we could easily identify using the book Fiori di Montagna delle Alpi Sud Occidentali that we purchased in the information center at the start of the hike.

Binomial name (Common name in Italian)

[Asteraceae]
Achillea erba-rota (Millefoglio erba-rota)
Adenostyles alliariae (Cavolaccio alpino)
Adenostyles leucophylla (Cavolaccio lanoso)
Centaurea uniflora (Centaurea uniflora)
Cirsium spinosissimum (Cardo spinosissimo)

[Campanulaceae]
Phyteuma hemisphaericum (Raponzolo alpino)
Phyteuma orbiculare (Raponzolo orbicolare) *

[Caryophyllaceae]
Lychnis flos-jovis

[Crassulaceae]
Sempervivum arachnoideum (Semprevivo ragnateloso)
Sempervivum montanum (Semprevivo montano)

[Cyperacea]
Eriophorum scheuchzeri (Erioforo di Scheuchzer)

[Ericaceae]
Rhododendron ferrugineum (Rododendro)

[Fabaceae]
Trifolium alpinum (Trifoglio alpino)

[Lentibulariaceae]
Pinguicula vulgaris (Erba unta commune)

[Liliacia]
Lilium martagon (Giglio martagone)

[Melanthiaceae]
Veratrum album (Veratro bianco)

[Orchidaceae]
Dactylorhiza maculata (Orchide macchiata)

[Orobanchaceae]
Pedicularis rosea subsp. allionii (Pedicolare di Allioni)

[Plantaginaceae]
Veronica fruticans (Veronica fruticosa)

[Polygonaceae]
Persicaria bistorta (Poligono bistorta)
Rumex alpinus (Rabarbaro alpino)

[Pteridaceae]
Cryptogramma crispa (Parsely fern)

[Ranunculaceae]
Aconitum lycotonum subsp. vulparia (Luparia)

[Rosaceae]
Alchemilla alpina (Alchemilla alpina)

Left: Achillea erba-rota (Millefoglio erba-rota). Center: Cirsium spinosissimum (Cardo spinosissimo). Right: Lilium martagon (Giglio martagone).
Achillea erba-rota (Millefoglio erba-rota)Cirsium spinosissimum (Cardo spinosissimo)Lilium martagon (Giglio martagone)

Fiori di montagna delle Alpi Sud Occidentali, front cover, back cover, and example page.
Fiori di montagna delle Alpi Sud Occidentali, front cover, back cover, and example page.Fiori di montagna delle Alpi Sud Occidentali, front cover, back cover, and example page.Fiori di montagna delle Alpi Sud Occidentali, front cover, back cover, and example page.

Left: Appetizer at Rifugio Questa. Center: Polenta and barley soup at Rifugio Questa. Right: Military road in Valscura.
Appetizer at Rifugio QuestaPolenta and barley soup at Rifugio QuestaMilitary road in Valscura

Left: A sign describing places and times to reach them at Piana del Valasco. Right: A sign describing places and times to reach them at Terme di Valdieri.
A sign describing places and times to reach them at Piana del ValascoA sign describing places and times to reach them at Terme di Valdieri

Left: Only in Italy can you find a tree with a sign for Toma (local cheese) on it. Right: Trail heading to Valmiana, below Cima Valrossa Sud
Only in Italy can you find a tree with a sign for Toma on itTrail heading to Valmiana

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