Safety informationPlease note that the path from Rifugio Vittorio Emanuele II to Rifugio Chabod should not be attempted in bad weather: snow, low visibility or rain. The path crosses several boulder fields and many rock slabs and can be treacherous in slippery conditions. Whilst the path is defined, it is more of a mountain trail than the more frequented ascent and descent routes and route-finding may be tricky in limited visibility. It is also a long day with considerable amounts of ascent/descent so please make your decision to continue carefully. That said, in good weather the path is wonderful and offers stunning views of Gran Paradiso, the surrounding peaks and to the valley below.
Tips, hints and links
Points of Interest
At 4061m, Gran Paradiso is the highest mountain entirely in Italy (Mt Blanc, or Monte Bianco to the Italians straddles the border with France) and the only peak in the country that exceeds 4000m. The first recorded ascent was by English climbers JJ Cowell and W Dundas (aided by French guides Michel Payrot and Jean Tairraz) in 1860. These days it is a popular mountaineering objective, thought of as one of the easiest 4000m peaks to climb in the Alps and a good introduction to alpine climbing. Generally accessed by either Rifugio Vittorio Emanuele II or Rifugio Chabod, the route to the summit is longer (but more scenic) from the latter. Part of the fun of this walk is the opportunity to sit outside the rifugi in the sun, soaking up the views and the buzz of arriving and departing climbers high on summit fever!
Gran Paradiso Rifugi
If you undertake the full traverse, you will experience two of the better-known mountain refuges inn the Italian Alps. The Vittorio Emanuele II refugio (2732m) was part of the game hunting infrastructure created by the hunter King. The original building was very small and the distinctive metallic new structure was added in 1961 to augment the original. Although you can’t see Gran Paradiso from here, the rifugio buzzes with mountaineering activity as many climbers use the hut as their base to climb the mountain. The other base for climbing Gran Paradiso is the second refuge on this hike, the Rifugio Chabod (2750m). Situated in a magnificent position, it faces the north-western face of Gran Paradiso. This more modern refuge was named after a local citizen who became the first President of Aosta’s autonomous government after World War II.
One of the joys of walking in the Gran Paradiso National Park in the summertime is the abundance of fabulous alpine flowers, at their best in July. At lower levels, the hillsides are generally covered in woodland dominated by larch, pine and juniper. Dwarf juniper and birch are also to be found in the higher reaches where the treeline fades away to the more open Alpine zone. Alpenrose shrubs, with their distinctive pink flowers, are numerous at the fringe of the treeline and higher up the slopes. The Glacier Crowfoot blooms at altitudes of up to 4200m, and varieties of saxifrage grow in the high rock buttresses. Lower down, high pasture lands are carpeted by a range of orchids, lilies and smaller blooms. Edelweiss are rare in the park but can be found in several places (including on the Kings Path walk). Species that are endemic to the Gran Paradiso National Park include the Twinflower (Linnaea Borealis), Cinquefoil of Pensylvania (Potentilla Pensylvanica), Mikvetch Major (Astragalus Alopecurus) and Thomas Herb (Aethionema Thomasinium). You don’t have to be able to identify any of the species, or know the Latin names, to enjoy the sheer variety of flowers as they adorn the landscape with colour.
Food & Drink
It’s best to bring a packed lunch on today’s route as the Rifugio Vittorio Emmanuele II does not serve food or drinks during the day (although the Rifugio Chabod does). There is a small shop in Pont where you can buy basic supplies of food and drink to take with you on the walk, alternatively ask your hotel to provide a packed lunch (be sure to order the night before).