Col and Mount Bellino (2942 m)
Cottian Alps, Piedmont - Italy
valle Varaita, provincia di Cuneo
Starting point: S.Anna di Bellino
Height to climb: 1140 m
3 h from S.Anna to the Colle di Bellino, 20min from the Col to the summit
First climbed: agosto 2005
A few words
Colle di Bellino is located in the Cottian Alps (Piedmont, Italy). The Col, located just S of the Monviso, is a passage between the Maira Valley and the Varaita Valley (branch of Bellino).
It is the highest point of the GTA (Grande Traversata delle Alpi) trek.
Getting to the starting point
From the GTA
The starting point is on the GTA.
From Cuneo to Costigliole Saluzzo, then take the road for Val Varaita. At Casteldelfino, take left at the junction (signs for S.Anna di Bellino). Past the village, reach the Rifugio Melezè (1806 m), where you leave the car. You may also keep driving a hundred meters past the Rifugio to the very end of the paved road, where you'll see signposts for Colle di Bellino.
By public transport
Bus service between Cuneo and Saluzzo, and from Saluzzo to Casteldelfino-Pontechianale is run by Ati (www.atibus.it, Click on "Orari e Linee"). From Casteldelfino, connection to S.Anna di Bellino is by a local bus (Autolinee Parola 0171 940711 or 333 3427290).
As the starting point is at about 10km from Casteldelfino, past Rifugio Melezè, walking along the road may be tiring and time-consuming. The village of S.Anna di Bellino, however, is renowned for its sundials, and it may be worth having a look at the place, if you have to walk.
From Rifugio Melezè at S.Anna di Bellino (or a few hundred metres ahead, if you park the car at the end of the tar), follow the GTA signposts for Colle di Bellino.
You cross a wide scenic grazing basin, scattered with gias (shelters of stone), leaving on your right the spectacular and a little bit awe-inspiring Rocca Senghi (picture n.1).
The path follows the stream Rio Autaret up a moderately-steep and narrow gully (some stretches of chain help the passage, easy however in ordinary summer conditions when there is little water) (picture n.2)
You then reach a very scenic and green basin (picture 3), a grassy amphitheatre dominated by 3000m high peaks (among them: Mount Maniglia, I Denti di Maniglia - Maniglia's "Teeth" - and the Tete de l'Autaret).
At the 2540m mark, in the nearby of the Grange dell'Autaret ("grange" are small mountain farms, generally made of stone), you meet a fork: taking R you'll head for Colle dell'Autaret and to the Bassa di Terrarossa (on the way to Mount Maniglia); our path is the one on the L, a well trodden path leading up to the Colle di Bellino (2804m).
With a few last steep zigzags on stony terrain the Col is eventually gained; it can also be reached from the other side, the Maira Valley, on another GTA route starting from Chiappera (Campo Base). Actually the route S.Anna di Bellino - Colle di Bellino - Chiappera (or the other way round) is one of the most popular leg of the whole GTA, and Colle di Bellino happens to be the highest point reached in the whole GTA trek.
At Colle di Bellino (picture n.4) the view is interesting but barred to the W-NW by the rocky spurs below the Bassa di Terrarossa.
A breathtaking view is, however, within reach: follow the path starting on your left (giving your back to the S.Anna valley) and reach with an easy 20 minute walk the summit of Mount Bellino (2942 m).
From here you get a sweeping view in all directions (pictures n.5 and n.6), truly impressive to the W and SW. In particular you get a wide-reaching view of the Chambeyron group, with remarkable sights of both the towering Aiguille and Brec de Chambeyron; the Oronaye and the range of mountains of the upper Valle Maira are also clearly visibile to the S.
An interesting detour is also possible and recommended in order to reach the Rifugio Carmagnola. Once back at the Colle di Bellino, start the descent towards the Grange dell'Autaret on the path you came from, but leave the main path just below the Colle di Bellino to take a faint trail on the right. No waymarking is available here, but in good weather and visibility you should not miss the right direction.
You follow the obvious tracks and walk up to a saddle (called "La Colletta"), crossing easy talus and stony terrain. La Colletta is located just above the Rifugio Carmagnola (2840 m).
You can go down to the Rifugio in matter of minutes: once reached the unpaved road (a former military track) coming up from Madonna delle Grazie, you turn L and the Rifugio comes into sight.
The mountain hut (a former "casermetta", a small barracks) looked to me in ruin and no more serving its sheltering purpose (picture n.7) like the other military shelters (bunkers) that can be found all around. I did not realize during my visit, however, that two rooms of the building have been restored and work as an unmanned mountain hut (it belongs to the Carmagnola Alpine Club, Tel.011.9773624).
From the Rifugio Carmagnola it is also possible to reach the nearby Mount Faraut (3046 m) with a 1 hour walk. I've never been there, but the CAI guidebook rates the route as "E", and that means it shouldn't entail scrambling or other difficulties.
To go back from the Rifugio Carmagnola to S.Anna di Bellino (or to the Colle di Bellino and then Chiappera, if you are doing the complete GTA leg) the best thing to do is to retrace your steps back to the fork below Colle di Bellino.
It's a long and tiring route, but it takes place on well marked and trodden paths. It'll reward you with breathtaking views, in a truly perfect Alpine ambience.
If you leave S.Anna di Bellino heading for Chiappera, an even more demanding and rewarding detour is the ascent of Mount Maniglia (3177m). See the route description and pictures here.(Note, however, that I did M.Maniglia from Chiappera). This detour, however, implies skipping the Colle di Bellino.
La descrizione di questo itinerario risale ormai a parecchi anni fa e non verrà più aggiornata. Nel frattempo, però, i luoghi, le vie di accesso ed i sentieri potrebbero essere cambiati.
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