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SKITOUR: TOUR DEL GRAN PARADISO in a day by Matthias Scherer, Tanja Schmitt and Heike Schmitt


A total of 5350m in ascent 5390 in descent and 48km to go. A big and awesome day had ended again in the mountains of the Gran Paradiso

La Sportiva Ambassadors Matthias Scherer, Heike and Tanja Schmitt have done the 'Tour del Gran Paradiso' fast and light with La Sportiva skis and ski boots. Since 11 years I live with Tanja in Cogne in the Gran Paradiso national park. Every year after the ice season we were roaming our mountains and collected so over 300 days up there on skis... Gran Paradiso is the mountain dominating the Valnontey Valley home to famous ice climbs like Repentance which we've done 25 times in the past. The 'Tour del Gran Paradiso' is a classic ski traverse like the Haute Route from Chamonix to Zermatt, but less known and therefore less populated and wilder. It is done usually in five days: starting in Valnontey Village, leading over Sella Hut via Gran Serz and Chabod Hut in three days to the summit of the Gran Paradiso to continue to the Emanuele hut, Col du Gran Paradiso, Becchi Col, Pontese hut and finally rejoining the Cogne valley via the Teleccio col and the Valeille.    Our project since years was it to do it in a day. It has been done in the past in a day but to our knowledge always without making the top of Gran Paradiso, what would mean for us additional 1000 vertical meters, so 5350 verticals instead of 4350 verticals and of course some more k's to go... The crux was to find the right day with cold temperatures and stable snow for the last south facing ascent to the Teleccio Col which we would have to do in the afternoon. Finally this year on the 9th April conditions seemed right. Tanja and I had done the week before the Gran Serz in 2h40 from Valnontey - the day was extremely stormy so we could not go any faster but we knew that conditions for a try on the big one were good. A 3am sharp Tanja her twin sister Heike and I left from Valnontey Parking and arrived at 6.30 am with a tremendous dawn on the top of Gran Serz. We traversed quickly the summit ridge in the cold morning wind and skied down the Timorion glacier to start the ascent to the Grand Neyron Col. A quick stop after traversing the col to take some food and then again skins off and the long traverse on the Montandayné glacier to get to the track up to to the Gran Paradiso. Skins on again and by keeping our rhythm we reached exactly at 11am the summit of the Gran Paradiso eight hours and 3200 ascent verticals after our depart from Valnontey. A complete iced up descent brought us 45 min layer to the Emanuele hut. Two Cokes and some coffees later we were on the road again. Reaching the Gran Paradiso Col in the full sun was a good challenge for all of us. We had 3800 verticals in the legs an were over ten hours on skis... We all had some problems with our feet and after some massage and short rest we restarted our journey knowing that now the spicy part in terms of snow safety would start... But we've chosen the right day and the snow remained stable on the descent towards the Ivrea Bivouac and we could quickly restart the ascent of the Becchi Col. At 3.50pm we reached the col. In the days before in our planing we had made a route book with times and till know we were exactly on schedule reaching all points at our predetermined time. Our idea was it to cut now a part of the original tour by avoiding the descent to the Pontese Hut and instead traversing via the Carnère ridge directly to the Teleccio col. The mysterious part - Since none of us knew this section... After a short detour to the ridge and the look on the steep and unclear looking terrain on the opposite we decided to go the safer and longer way. Tanja had extremely pain in her feet from two giant blisters on her soles - result of a pair of bad fitting socks. Still she is hard in taking and clenching her teeth she went on.  Our water reserves were expelled by the time and the last 1150 verticals to the Teleccio Col we hydrated only with snow, salt tablets and Clif Shots .... In the beautiful light of the setting sun we reached the Col Teleccio the last obstacle of the Tour. Breathing in the magic of the moment we hugged each other in silence seeing the effort mirrored in our faces... My Ambit showed  8.30pm and 5352m of ascent. Quickly in the light of our head torches we started the well know descent towards our home at Lillaz. The descent had us never taken longer than 90min in the past so were sure to be back home soon. But on days like this nothing is sure and shortly after passing the Malvezzi bivouac Tanja made a hard turn - the binding opened and her ski disappeared in the night... 9.30pm: we were at 2700m, we were over 18 hours out in the mountains, had tackled over 5300 verticals in ascent, it was getting very cold, so a decision had to be made quickly. No way to find Tanja's ski in the dark. Tanja decided to finish it by feet and we would stay with her. The team is more important to us than the time.  Knowing the way back down the Valeille from countless days on skis and on ice climbs made the task not easier for Tanja. Breaking in sometimes over the hip proofed to be a hard challenge. Finally at the Arolla Bridge we took all off the skis and marched the last 4 k's back to Lillaz where we arrived all together at 0.47am. 21h47 min had it taken to us to made the whole Tour including the summit of Gran Paradiso. A total of 5350m in ascent 5390 in descent and 48km to go. A  big and awesome day had ended again in the mountains of the Gran Paradiso... Text: Matthias Scherer Pictures: Matthias Scherer