Gran Collet and Col del Nivolet
Key information: Gran Collet and Col del Nivolet
- Fantastic and demanding walk in close proximity to Gran Paradiso peak: foothills up to a high neighbouring saddle; down onto a flora-rich plateau; lakes, streams, moraines and small steadfast glaciers; spilling into a superb and ancient glacial valley.
- Vast Piano del Nivolet, the 2,400m altopiano, bursts annually into an unforgettable sea of colour, completely carpeted by buttercups and pasque flowers, in early summer.
- The expected Gran Paradiso mélange of wildlife, with audacious golden eagles, emboldened marmots (the eagles have developed a taste for lambs in the serene valley), and large herds of unconcerned ibex and chamois.
- You will be walking in high mountains with unpredictable weather. Come prepared.
- Walkopedia rating88
- Natural interest17
- Human interest4
- Negative points0
- Total rating88
- Length: 6.5 miles
- 5 hours
- Maximum Altitude: 2,832m
- Level of Difficulty: Strenuous
It would be both unwise and unfair to eschew the national parks flagship and eponymous mountain range completely. This walk takes you from its foothills up to a high pass directly opposite, for stunning panoramas, and then peacefully decants into a new and dramatically different landscape on the plateau above southern Piemonte.
The walk starts from the roadhead at Pont, served by a midsummer bus from Aosta, in the foothills of Gran Paradiso itself. First off there is an easy, altitude-eating climb, up Vallone di Sayaz alongside the rushing stream. This is relatively gentle walking, over regrettably quickly, gradually bringing the entire prospect of the massive range into view. Grand Etret glacier sits at the head of the valley, overshadowed by the hulking Denti del Broglio. Gran Paradiso, 4,061m and the parks namesake, towers over even this neighbour.
Turning away from this vista is a wrench, but the exhilarating saddle you now climb to, turning to head west, slowly brings yet more into view. The ascent is tough, regularly treacherous underfoot through grassy bowls and precipitous terraces, and can be snowbound well into summer. Although relentlessly steep, its difficulty provides isolation that other paths around Gran Paradisos massif cant, and peace to match.
Take pictures early, for atop Gran Collet a granite shoulder intercedes into pictures: looking back, before you reach the lip, north to south run Becca di Montandayne, Piccolo Paradiso, Gran Paradiso, Tresenta and Ciarforon; Pont nestling beneath the improbably proximate goliath. Atop Gran Collet itself Mont Taou Blanc, above the wide Piano del Nivolet, and beyond, an area of lakes and small glaciers and snow-covered slopes; higher up, Punta Basei.
The other side is gentler, as is the entire landscape compared to the terrain you have just climbed. Inquisitive ibex and herds of chamois roam, and marmots dance unabashed in the verdant alpine pasture. The native golden eagles have, apparently, and much to shepherds chagrin, turned to the easier pickings of smaller lambs for their chase.
You join a path from Pont via La Croix de lArollay, an alternative route during bad or lingering weather in the high Gran Collet pass, and walk the floor of this ancient glacial valley. Still high up in the grand scheme of things, the meadows of Piano del Nivolet are here thickly covered with flowers, remarkably lush either side of a fast running river of glacial and snow-melt. Small wooden bridges cross the torrent, and cross again. Then, two large lakes, and a tarmac road to take you finally to the walks end at the Col del Nivolet.
This route can be combined with the Punta Basei walk to extend the trip beyond one day.
Cicerone - Walk 12
See our Gran Paradiso overview page for practical information.
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Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and potential problems, and many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks, dangers and problems. Problems of any sort can arise on any walk. This website does not purport to identify any (or all) actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to any particular walk.
Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to “Important information” for further important information.
Anyone planning an expedition to this place should see further important information about this walk.
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