Punta Valfredda (2941m), trail 5
Bino to Punta Valfredda via Valnera Pass.
Trail 5 starts from the hamlet of Bino and arrives at Punta Valfredda (2941m) passing first through Valnera Pass (2676m). It is 5561m long and the total positive elevation gain is 1552m.
The approximate time for the ascent is 4h38. The trail is rated EE difficulty.
The Valnera Pass connects the Lys Valley with Palasina, above Brusson in Val D’Ayas. The trail starts between two holes of the golf course immediately upstream of the village of Gressoney Saint-Jean, to the left of the state road.
Although it is a trail that starts practically from the village, it is very little traveled and crosses a barren and lonely landscape with a few ruined and abandoned alpine pastures. The climb is monotonous and almost constantly in the sun from the beginning (which is why it is strongly recommended to start very early in the morning).
Note that even Valnera Pass alone can be a worthy final destination. From Valnera Pass one can reach, if one does not want to continue to Punta Valfredda, the closer Punta Valnera (2754m), which is less scenic but no less appreciable.
The continuation to Punta Valfredda runs almost entirely to the left of the ridge: it presents no particular difficulty, but it is not clearly marked, and one must be able to identify the path by following cairns and sparse colored bolts (it is in fact this section that made the trail of EE difficulty).
When you reach the top of Punta Valfredda, you have an excellent view (of course) of the Pink, on the neighbor Corno Vitello (can be reached via the trails 5A and 5B in sequence) and the Testa Grigia (trail 6): from the Ayas side you can see the Valfredda lakes, the Palasina lakes, the Corno Bussola and, looking for it carefully because it is hidden by the slope, the very close and mammoth Arp Refuge (easily reached from the Colle Valnera). Looking south instead, one obviously identifies Punta Valnera and the Eclou Mouth (normally reached via Trail 4) and Mont Ciosé (which can be reached from the Ranzola Pass via an unmapped route described as “dangerous,” which I have not hitherto traveled).
Be careful not to get confused: trail 5 passes through the Valnera Hill and leads to Punta Valfredda, while instead the trail 5A leads to Valfredda Pass but from there only Corno Vitello can be reached via 5B (and not, as one would be led to believe, Punta Valfredda: between Punta Valfredda and Colle Valfredda, although close, there are in fact no hiking trails).
1. Start and finish
Trail 5 starts from the hamlet of Bino, next to the golf course immediately upstream from the village of Gressoney Saint-Jean. The altitude is 1395m.
See on Google Maps.
The arrival location is Punta Valfredda. The altitude is 2941m.
See on Google Maps.
You can park in the huge parking lot next to the elementary school upstream of Gressoney Saint-Jean, in front of the Pro Loco, and walk down the road until you reach the Golf Club sign. To the left of the road you can see the yellow trail marker, next to the bridge over the Valnera stream, which after a few meters plunges into the Lys.
2. The route
As with all trails on the west-facing side of the Gressoney Valley, it is strongly recommended that you start very early in the summer because, once you cross the tree line, you will be walking in the sun with no shelter for the entire day.
It starts from the road bridge over the Valnera stream, at the “Golf Club Gressoney” sign: the marker indicates the path that starts by skirting the stream on the left, passes between two holes of the golf course, and then crosses the stream to the right on a small bridge. After about two hundred meters of sloping terrain, the trail arrives at the foot of the mountain, and enters the dense larch forest, with a rather challenging slope from the start.
The trail follows the stream and then enters the narrow gorge in the middle of the photo
This trail does not cross any valley steps, so the gradient remains more or less constant (and challenging) until the Valnera pass.
We first ascend inside the forest, then leave the tree line at about 1890 meters, continuing to ascend along the path that remains winding. You arrive at about 2053m at the uninhabited hut of Valnera Inferiore, the point where Trail 5 intersects with the 1W Walserweg.
A flock of sheep sleeps next to the hut at Valnera Inferiore, 2055m
Continue uphill, heading for another isolated hut on the left, set in an extremely scenic location, Valnera Di Mezzo (2055m) .
Just above the hut at Valnera Di Mezzo, 2055m
After about a hundred meters of elevation gain, we arrive at the ruins of Valnera Superiore (2294m).
The ruins of Valnera Superiore, 2294m
There is nothing one can do but go forward with head down, hard face and steady pace. We continue to climb, going from cliff to cliff, always hoping to see the hill appear, which never does. Before the pass we will need to reach a flagpole at about 2680m, which can be seen from a distance….
The flagpole at 2680m
…and when you reach it, you will find a pond at 2780m: the profile above the pond this time is finally that of the pass.
The pond at 2570m, a short distance from the pass
You first come to a giant boulder…
The large boulder preceding the arrival at Valnera Pass.
…behind which you reach the marker stone marking the arrival at Valnera Pass (2676m).
Valnera Pass, 2676m, and the ridge towards Punta Valfredda, 2941m (August 2021)
Detour to Punta Valnera
From the Hill, if you do not want to continue to Punta Valfredda, you can opt for the nearest Punta Valnera. This point is not visible from the pass: you have to follow the path 5/6A in the direction of the Estoul Lakes. About 15 minutes from the pass we come to a fork in the road: towards you go to the Arp Hut, we must instead go left, where after a short climb we arrive at the Valnera Collar placed at 2681m. Here, Trail 6A descends from the Colletto to continue in the direction of the visible Estoul Lakes, but you can instead follow the very obvious but friable trail to the left/northwest that climbs to Punta Valnera (2754m). Advisable to use a map on a cell phone so as to disentangle the many tracks that branch off the hill.
More information and photos in the trail 4 page.
It starts from the Valnera Pass
Take the path that descends towards Val D’Ayas, in the direction of the Arp Refuge
At this junction, proceed south
It climbs to an obvious collar, from which the trail to the summit of Punta Valnera starts
Continuation to Punta Valfredda
Looking north, there is a long ridge that turns to the northwest, never steep on this side and quite rocky: this is the route to Punta Valfredda (2941m). The trail is indicated by several cairns scattered not very regularly, and must be scouted with hawk eyes. It is important to always try to adock the next cairn before abandoning the previous one: this is not always possible; one must sometimes proceed by intuition and, perhaps, be prepared to turn back on a few occasions when one realizes that the path taken does not lead to any further cairns. Not surprisingly, this trail is rated EE precisely because of this last section.
The trail keeps to the left of the ridge line at all times: several expanses of large boulders are encountered, to overcome which it is best to locate marked passages where the boulders are “tamed,” otherwise crossing can be quite tiring.
As usual in such cases, the best advice is to carry a map on your cell phone with a GPX track loaded on it that allows you to see where you are in relation to the route you need to follow, and consult it frequently to correct your position when necessary.
In the photo, taken from Punta Valfredda, you can see the entire ridge all the way to Colle Valnera, on the far right: not particularly steep, but what from a distance look like wide scree are actually the expanses of large boulders mentioned above.
The ridge up to the Valnera Pass as seen from Punta Valfredda
From time to time a notch in the ridge allows a glimpse of the valley next door, Valfredda (traversed by Trail 5A), above which towers Corno Vitello.
A notch along the ridge provides a view of the parallel Valfredda and Corno Vitello
From cairn to cairn we finally reach Punta Valfredda (2941), marked by a large summit cairn.
The summit cairn at Punta Valfredda, 2941m
From Valfredda Peak, the Valfredda Lakes and the more distant Palasina Lakes are visible to the east, above which the highest peak is Corno Bussola (3023m).
The lakes of Valfredda (foreground), Palasina (background) and nearby Corno Bussola
Looking north, however, one can see Corno Vitello (3057m) and, behind it, the dark ridge leading to Testa Grigia (3314m).
From Punta Valfredda The Corno Vitello, behind it the Testa Grigia
This is the map of the trail, according to the SCT Trail Cadastre of the Aosta Valley.
3. Personal excursions
Day with very few clouds: I left around 6:30 a.m. in order to be as high as possible by the time the sun would begin to bite me. In the morning I found a large flock of sheep in a corral at Valnera Inferiore, guarded by several Maremma dogs who, from inside the corral, barked furiously at the invader until I stood nearby. On the way back, at the height of Valnera Superiore, I found the same flock free, including the dogs: I approached with caution, but the presence of the shepherd meant that the wonderful dogs hardly gave me a glance :-)
Spotted several ibex both along the final ridge and below the summit.