Pietra e Dahu

May 2015

The Dahu looks a bit like a deer or an ibex, although exact descriptions vary, as it’s pretty fast and can’t often be seen or studied. There are two main species, the laevogyrous and the dextrogyre. The difference stems from the disposition of their legs. It is well documented that dahus have shorter legs on one side to be  at ease of the sharp mountain sides they often frequent. In function of which side has the longer legs they will be of the left or right handed variety. This anatomical wonder means they will only go around the mountain in either clockwise or anticlockwise circles, and that two dahus of opposite type can only mate on the fortunate occasions they come across each other. The only other animal to bear these characteristics is found in Scotland, under the name of Haggis or Haggis monster.


We had decided to take our chances, and with flooding and storms in Grenoble headed over the other side of the Alps to the friendly and tasty Italian side.  Think pizza al taglio, expresso, ravioli, pastries, speck and some beer to wash it all down. Our trip to the other side turned out to be quite gastronomic…

Entering the Valle Stura di Demonte we stopped off at Pietraporzo, a small hamlet sitting on a small artificial lake. Entering the only restaurant in town we asked for directions. The owner was more than pleased to help and we soon had a destination up the valley. But before jumping back into the car we paused at the trattoria. Once again we were surprised by the Italian hospitality, and after multiple blasphemous interjections the baker had prepared us several slices of pizza, focaccia and ham with a smile from ear to ear. With these provisions we were ready for our first Italian peak. Climbing in the rain we got higher than we expected and managed to summit the small mountain at the end of valley. From the top we could see the nearby peaks, were we were planning to go the next.

Next day we hiked up the longer valley and started up the steeper snow-slopes. It was very warm and the snow hadn’t frozen in the night. With the sun poking out of the clouds it was soon heating up. Following some other skiers we entered the valley of Pico Tinebro which we were hoping to summit. But looking at the time we realised it was too late. The end of the valley was steep, meaning we would have to climb a first col before edging up the ridge. Just to try we climbed up a bit higher before turning back, as the snow was becoming a deep paste. Arriving at the lip of the valley the slope became steeper. With the first turns a few centimetres of superficial snow sliped off. Waiting for it to stop we skied down the fresh surface on the slightly harder base. Getting back to the grass we stopped to picnic and sleep in the sun. But the day wasn’t over, as we had decided to change valley. Driving down the Stura we turned into the next valley and drive up to Saint Bernolfo. Setting up our stuff we had decided to eat supper in the refuge du Dahu, which had been recommended. Starting with the home-brewed beer we soon moved on to the pasta dishes, wine, pork and maybe too many sausages. An epic meal indeed!

With a goods night sleep and a heavy stomach we set of for our third Italian peak, Collaunga, at 2700. The sky was slightly overcast and temperatures were positive, but the snow was harder and promised a better descent. As we neared the end things got a bit steeper. Most people were cutting across a small traverse before climbing up to the col and then heading back to the peak. I decided to try the face straight up, which came out on a small ridge. Without an ice axe I was slightly worried it would get hard, but my preoccupations were unfounded and I was able to make my way out before getting to the summit. Discovering most people were coming up the valley parallel, we decided to try it and thus do a loop. The snow was, as predicted, better than the previous day and we made it down. From here it was back towards France.

But not before one last stop in Pietraporzo. Upon walking into the shop we were greeted by the same smile but an empty pizza tray. With a grin we were told to wait a second. Hardly had the words been issued, a little bell rang in the back of the shop.

A tray of freshly baked pizza was put down in front of us.

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