If it had not been for a conversation with Joe at Cicerone (the guidebook publishers) we might never have stumbled across the GTA. The Grande Traversata delle Alpi, a 400 mile scenic trek forming an arc through the western Italian Alps with 44,000m of ascent (and the same in descent) over 62 passes.
Neither of us have spent any time in Italy prior to this and neither of us speak any Italian so we’ll have the added challenge this year of ‘getting by’ with a phrase book and sign language in an area about which I’d read ‘you can count the number of English-speakers on one hand’!
Surely that couldn’t be true could it? After all the European Alps have been thoroughly explored, commercialised and populated by everyone with the will and enough euros to go there, haven’t they? It would seem that might not be the case. The limited information available about the GTA tells a story. The original Italian Alpine Club guides are out of print, the one English published guide hasn’t been updated since 2005, and online the information that is available is primarily offered in the German language.
First sight of the maps has been interesting too. The Istituto Geografico Centrale maps were obtained thanks to the kind people at The Map Shop in Upton-upon-Severn, they seem to be quite an old print, lacking in any grid system for point location/identification and if people out there in the land of web-forums are to be believed, are some way from being accurate particularly when it comes to footpaths!
To add to the adventure this year we’ve decided to leave the tent at home. The Alps were once more populated than they are now and mountain villages remain scattered throughout the valleys. In the last 50 years or so the population in many of these has dwindled, in some cases to just a handful of people, and the route of the GTA was designed to drop into these small communities every few days enabling hikers to get a wash and bed, and potentially basic supplies as well as bringing a little much-needed income into these remote communities. In between there are mountain huts, known as Rifugio, dotted around the mountains that provide very basic accommodation and we plan to reach one of these each night.
We won’t be able to complete the whole route in one trip this year as other commitments dictate that we keep our travels within the confines of an employer-friendly period of time, but nonetheless, three weeks will allow us to have what looks like it will be quite an adventure.
I don’t know yet what signal/connections will be like but will endeavour to update this site regularly with updates and photos for anyone interested in following our progress.