A holiday in freedom among Ayas Valley glaciers and castles
Arrival in Ayas, welcoming and delivery of information material
Today’stage develops prevalently downhill, but it also includes two uphill slopes. The first one leads to the ancient village of Salomon, enchanting place overhanging Brusson village, from which we can admire the lower part of the Ayas Valley and most of the hike that we will go through on next days. The second ascent brings us to the ancient Chamousira gold mines (reservation is required to visit the mine inside). The rest of the stage doesn’t present any other engaging ascent, therefore we’ll be free to focus on landscape. Along the paths leading us to our today’s destination we come across the ruins, restored and open to visitors, of Graines Castle, an example of Aosta Valley primitive manor dating back to 516 AD. We come to Arcesaz where we can enjoy a tasty dinner and a soft bed.
Today we walk along Evançon river, over which we find some Roman bridges from medieval origin. Overpassed Challand-Saint-Victor’s vineyards, we find ourselves on the only climb of the stage, bringing us to the village of Omens from where we can overlook the central valley. In Omens begins our day’s last descent on a nice mule track leading us to the Verrès castle, whose visit is a must. Once we come in the village, if time permits, it is advised to visit the nearby Issogne castle, one of the most beautiful in Aosta Valley. In Verrès, after having visited the old village centre, we can relax for dinner and overnight stay.
With the fourth stage we begin reascending the Ayas Valley on the opposite side compared to the one we’ve followed on past days. After visiting the collegiate church of Saint-Gilles in Verrès, we walk across the "Borna de Laou" arboretum with its exotic plants, until we reach the Saint-Gilles cross. From this belvedere we can note the distinctive sharp skyline of Mont Avic’s peak, in the homonymous nature park. Steeply beneath us is the Verrès village, where we slept last night. We continue climbing until reaching the ruins of the Ville Castle, one of the oldest in Aosta Valley, from which our eyes wander to the low Ayas Valley. Once entered in the Ville Lake Nature Reserve, we’ll have the possibility to admire the works of Land Art on the path leading us to the gorgeous lake. We still go on and attain Col d'Arlaz, where we can observe the remainings of a prehistoric grave. At this point we begin walking along the irrigation canal “ru” d'Arlaz, which brings us to the Sant'Anna church, whose panoramic position allows us to see the whole low Ayas Valley. We finally arrive in Challand-Saint-Anselme for the deserved dinner and overnight stay.
After three walking days and the hard uphill from Verrès to Challand-Saint-Anselme, we claim a short stage for recovering our energies, estimating the wonderful landscape and savouring the pleasures of food. Indeed, today’s path is disseminated with some farms, where sampling local products. Along the way we can stop at the gold mine of Bechaz and follow the explanatory boards leading us in a circular path in the site. Walking for a long track beside the original path of “ru” d'Arlaz, we finally find the Evançon river again, until we reach Brusson, where we taste a delicious dinner before enjoying night’s rest.
Today’stage is dedicated to the ancient irrigation canal Ru Courtod. This imposing 30 km long medieval work, achieved in more than 45 years hard job, collected water at the mountainside of Monte Rosa glaciers and canalized it to irrigate the high Saint-Vincent hill. The first part of the ru brings us through 14 ancient galleries. In some stretches it is even possible to cover the ru’s old ground. By keeping going up, before reaching the Col di Joux, we pass by Napolean’s fountain where, according to a popular tell, the General would have stopped in May of the year 1800 to speak with an Austrian officer, who hadn’t identified him. The arrival in the old village of Antagnod is fulfilled with the view of Monte Rosa’s peaks, a chain of rocks and ice touching the rarefied air between 4000 and 4600 meters altitude. After this long walk, let’s enjoy a relaxing dinner and sleep, regenerating us before the last big stage, the one of glaciers approaching.
This is the stage dedicated to Monte Rosa in its gorgeousness. The journey along Ru Courtod offers us fantastic views over Monte Rosa chain and the surrounding mountains. We go through the Cime Bianche valley, where Ru Courtod has its starting point and which connects Ayas Valley with Valtournenche (Cervinia). When we come to Pian di Verraz we find ourselves at the mountainside of the Verraz glacier’s big moraine, at the foot of Monte Rosa. Our path has reached its maximum height point, now we’ll begin walking down towards Saint-Jacques and Champoluc. Among Pian Villy’s forests and meadows, before arriving at Monterosaterme, in Champoluc, we walk through an area where have been located sculptures created by the best Aosta Valley’s woodcarvers. The stage is quite long, you can eventually shorten it by travelling by bus on the last journey’s part from Saint-Jacques to Champoluc. We finally come to Champoluc, where we’ll have time for relaxing, tasting a good dinner (we recommend Aosta Valley wine tasting) and an excellent last night in the Ayas Valley.
We’ve come at our tour’s last day, let’s wake up, taste breakfast and say goodbye to the Ayas Valley, enriched of a unique and regenerating experience.