Cogne: Torre di Sant'Orso

Posted by Sam Harrison on October 7, 2014 at 16:48.

 Mountaineering and climbing

alpine mountaineering alps aosta bivvy cogne glacier

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The days following our attempt at Gran Paradiso brought plenty of rain and, crucially, lots of fresh snow higher up. Darren and Imogen had started their journey home, visiting Annecy and Paris on the way, but Lorna and myself were hanging around in Valnontey for a few more days, giving us time for one last summit attempt. We'd initially been thinking of having a shot at Gran Paradiso from Valnontey, a more difficult route than from Valsavaranche. However, upon seeing the complex glacier at the head of the valley that we'd have to cross coated in fresh snow, and a steep couloir and rocky buttress we'd have to climb in a similar condition, we decided our chances of success were limited and so instead we opted for a smaller peak on the east of the valley; Torre di Sant'Orso (3618m).

We didn't know much about the mountain or the route up it, save for a brief description in the German guidebook we had. We weren't optimistic that the glacier leading up to the summit would be in any fit state and so we set out fully aware that failure was a distinct possibility.

A big appeal of the route was that we hadn't done the walk in to the Bivacco Money before, nor been up on that side of the valley (save for a run I'd been on the day before, which had been all in cloud). After a few kilometres along the valley bed, a typically-Alpine zig-zagging paths worked its way suddenly up the steep eastern flank of the valley, before flattening off somewhat on the approach to the small abandoned settlement of Alpi Money. The path splits on the approach to this and the left-most fork took us up through peaceful Alpine pastures to the start of the glacial morraines. The hut had appeared into view by this point, improbably perched on an inaccessible-looking buttress, commanding a great views over to Gran Paradiso, Herbetet, Grand Sertz and La Grivolla. Said buttress was gained by a series of chains up a groove on its eastern side, though I found it easier ignoring the chains and scrambling up the solid rock underneath them.

Bivacco Money
Great view of Gran Paradiso from Bivacco Money!

Bivacco Money
The Herbetet, Grand Sertz and La Grivola from Bivacco Money.

Two others were also staying in the hut that night, a brother and sister from Milan who had made the ascent just to spend the evening in such a spectacular location. After chatting to them for a while, we headed back down the chains and worked our way up the steep morraines, scouting out the best route. This also enabled us to see whether the route of choice was actually feasible or not, and unfortunately upon seeing the state of the glacier approaching our summit, we decided it wasn't; a mess of crevasses in the lower sections were partially covered in fresh snow, and numerous areas of avalanche debris lined the steep slopes to the summit.

Bivacco Money
Good spot for tea!

It was a shame, but we weren't disappointed. We'd had a lovely walk up to the hut, a fantastic sunset whilst sat outside it having tea, and the next day a peaceful and relaxed walk out via Alpi Money. Whilst two summits on a two-week trip may sound unsuccessful, we didn't think so; simply being out in such impressive surrounds in such a beautiful and untouched valley, and in such great company, was more than enough to make the trip as enjoyable - and successful - as it was.

Alpi Money
Alpi Money
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