“His majesty the eagle
soars over the monumental larches”
Mountain hut managers: the Gerbelle family
In 1986 two brothers, Ivo and Dario Gerbelle, originally from Valgrinsenche, decided to undertake a long and courageous adventure together, to construct their mountain hut. The Chalet de l’Epée, whose stoned structure with a lose (flagstones) tiled roof suits the alpine style, rises up in a site where there was an old Alpine hut on the Alta Via route n.2.
“When you come up to our mountain hut, the scenic path will take you across a majestic wood of centuries-old larch trees, safeguarded as special plants. 54 trees, with an average age of over 500 years and diameters of 1 and a ½ /half meters. They represent the power of nature, protecting the little village of Arollaz and the other villages below. You will feel dwarfed next to these giants. The surrounding environment is evocative: the valley of Bouc offers a breathtaking landscape, with a panoramic view over the Punta Rabuigne and the Lepère glacier, right up to the beak of Mont Forciaz”.
Since 1988, the year in which the mountain hut began activity, Ivo and Dario have married Tiziana and Antonietta, and have respectively had 3 and 2 children. Now both of the families dedicate themselves to welcoming adventurers, alternating between the various roles and daily tasks in perfect harmony.
Chalet de l'Epée
The Chalet is open not only in the summer period, but also on weekends in April and May, during the skiing season and, on group reservation, also during the week. It has a capacity of 80 people, with small separate bedrooms and spacious dormitories for groups. A winter dwelling which sleeps six is also available.
Usually hikers stay at the refuge for a medium to long period, using it as a starting point for their hikes. For the environmental importance of the place, the Chalet is also the privileged setting for lovers of nature tourism. A wild and uncontaminated place, it is the kingdom of marmots and rich in alpine fauna, Ibex deer and Chamois. His majesty the eagle nests in this area.
One the rocky spur, at the back of the mountain hut, a climbing wall has been constructed, with short climbs of varying difficulty, an ideal place for lovers of competitive climbing and a great workout for novices who will be accompanied by a guide.
The mountain hut is a stop-off place for hikers making the ‘Tour of Grand Paradis’, which leaves from nearby Savoia, passes by the Col du Mont and finishes at Cogne, with the climb to Gran Paradis. It is a check point along the Alta via Glaciale.
Highly recommended by mountain lovers is the Epée-Bezzi crossing, a particular gem among the hikes of the Valgrisenche. In addition, you can experience the hike to the Col Fenêtre, along the Bouc valley, the mountainside of the Becca di Tei and among the morainic rubble, to reach the Colle at 2,840 meters altitude.
Valgrinsenche is considered by mountain lovers as the home land of alpine skiing. It offers trails which wind around the vast steep glaciers, typical of the southern slopes of the alpine mountain group, in a wild environment, with the ideal conditions for skiing.
Tiziana, wife of Ivo, is in charge of the cuisine and proposes a very rich traditional menu: starting with an appetizer of sausage and lard from Arnad to tease your appetite… proceeding then with polenta and stew, ratatouille, and the not-to-be-missed fontina cheese.
And to the delight of the biggest food lovers, the irresistible home-made cake or panna cotta (Italian dessert made by simmering together cream, milk and sugar, mixing this with gelatine, and letting it cool until set). It is all accompanied with Piedmont and Valdostan DOC wine.
To finish: blueberry grappa.