Wednesday, November 13, 2013


Marguareis, Valle Pesio, Italy (July 1, 2004)

The centerpiece of the Marguareis Park is the homonym massif. With an elevation of 2,651 meters is the highest peak on the Ligurian Alps. Seen from the Pesio Valley, it shows an impressive rocky wall broken by deep ravines filled with snow until late in summer. From the south side, however, climbing the mountain is just the matter of a long walk on a gentle grassy slope that goes all the way up to the summit. 

Canalone dei Genovesi
As mentioned before, the massif and the plateau behind it (the "Carsene") are made of a porous sedimentary rock similar to the carbonate mineral found on the opposite end of the Alps in the Dolomites. This rock is very easy to weathering, and gives rise to the karstic phenomena that characterize the area, including cave system feeding the Pis du Pes by collecting the water of the Carsene plateau. While accessing the summit from south is technically easy, it is also a very long trek, as one has to first reach the elevation of the Carsene from the base of the valley, cross the whole plateau, and finally walk up to the summit. And then walk all the way back, requiring quite a long hike at a brisk pace, starting at dawn to get back just before dark. The alternative is of course to climb one of the steep gullies that lead directly to the summit cutting through the rocky north face of the mountain. This last option is the route I chose the only time I climbed the Marguareis.

The summer after I finished high school, while I was waiting to go to Pisa for the first year of college, I spent some time in Valle Pesio hiking with one of my classmates and a few local friends. For our Marguareis expedition we chose the route passing through the "Canalone of the Torinesi", which is the normal route passing through the ravine first climbed by a group of alpinists from Torino. The route is quite steep: one has first to reach the entrance of the ravine by climbing the talus cone at its base (similar to the one in the small photo at the left), then go up the gully on a slope as steep as 40 degrees, where the main hazard are the loose rocks ready to fall on the head of your companions if you are not very careful. For this reason the preferred time for the climb is in early spring, when the gully is still filled with hard snow keeping all the rocks in place. Our climb was in summer, though, and the snow had all melt, and we had to negotiate our climb with the unstable rocks in the ravine. We did make it to the summit by late afternoon (much later than everybody advised), electing to descend from the back of the mountain, through the Carsene plateau, preferring the long leisurely walk to the fast hazardous descent. We finally arrived in San Bartolomeo just after sunset (causing a certain amount of apprehension to my parents waiting for us in front of a very cold dinner).

That day was also the last time I saw my schoolmate. Stefano (that was his name) shortly after our hike had an accident while training in a climbing area near Torino: the rope he was hanging on wasn't properly secured, and he fell all the way to the base, hitting his head and entering into a coma. He passed away after a few weeks, never waking up.

Marguareis, Valle Pesio, Italy (October 3, 2008)

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