[ blog » 2020 » 08_Tour-Alps ] d05: Les Alberts to Chianocco – Col de Montgenèvre (by Philipp Gesang, location: Chianocco campsite, Piemonte )

Leaving France

The weather forecast made me split this day in two; no need to risk getting caught near a mountain summit by one of those thunderstorms we’ve had down here for two days in a row. Aaand it’s thundering now. Let’s hope my laundry gets at least somewhat dry before it starts raining.

The first 49 minutes of the day were dedicated to mastering the Col de Montgenèvre which is just uphill from the French-Italian border, situated on the ancient Via Domitia highway that led from Italy into the Provence. Only around 500 m of climbing until I reached the highest point, next to nothing compared to yesterday’s 2290 m. A big monument to Napoléon I they got there, resembling an Egyptian obelisk. From there it wasn’t far to the Italian border and down into the Susa valley.


The Montgenèvre climb is way tougher on the Italian side. Like two and a half times more elevation with much steeper sections and plenty of tunnels. It made the downhill a wild ride, completely unlike the relaxed descent from the Lautaret. Those galleries once again made me pat myself on the back for installing dynohubs on all my bicycles: now I just leave the lights on for the whole ride without worrying about batteries. About 1000 m altitude down from Montgenèvre the slopes got gentler, allowing me to actually enjoy that spectacular Italian countryside.

Susa is a settlement as old as history and thus is ripe with architectural monuments, most notably the Augustan arch and the remnants of a fourth century aqueduct. That’s only the classical era; there are numerous medieval buildings in the town centre.

Seeking Cover

After satisfying my hunger for sightseeing I noticed a wall of dark clouds emerging from behind the Colle delle Finestre in the Cottian Alps that line the south side of the valley. Distance wise it was around half-time at that point according to my plan, with more climbs to come. The forecast was rather grim though so I chose to err on the side of caution and went looking for the nearest campsite to hole up at. The last couple days effectively taught me to not underestimate the weather in these parts.

Openstreetmap directed me to a place that was tagged a campground near Novalesa but hilariously, it turned out to be a hideout of a group of activists protesting the planned TGV connection Lyon-Turin which will run through this valley. I had a short chat with them and they directed me to Bussoleno where an actual campsite may be found. They were friendly and about to offer me to stay with them but I declined, train-haters not being my crowd. At all.

Bussoleno too turned out to not have a campsite but not far down the valley from there I managed to find one just before the rain hit the place with full force. While I watched the puddles grow around my tent I realized I should have brought the heavier tent I used in Scotland last year. The one I’m using now just isn’t built to withstand the kind of natural forces I’m dealing with here; some of these raindrops seem to pass right through the outer shell. Boy, am I glad I’m not up there in the mountains on some pass road right now.


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