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  • Writer's pictureMarion Marquardt

Alta Via Valmalenco

Updated: Dec 8, 2021

The Valmalenco is a lonely side valley of the Valtellina, on the south side of the Bernina chain. There is a high altitude hiking trail that crosses the entire Valmalenco in 6-10 days (depending on the route). It is not without reason that it is called the most beautiful in the Valtellina. The mountains are bizarre and you can continuously enjoy views of the high mountains of Monte Disgrazia, Piz Bernina and Piz Palü.


We had the Alta Via Valmalenco on our bucket list since our first visit to the region. When we went snowboarding there in the winter of 2019, we saw a wonderful illustrated book about the trail in the Rifugio Palu and from then on it was clear: we will be back.


In July 2021 the time had come. We have planned 7 stages and reserved the rifugios in advance. We started at around 30 degrees in Chiesa in Valmalenco. The first stage is already tough. With over 1,700m ascent and almost 800m descent, it is probably the toughest thing we have hiked in one day so far. And what can I say, the stage also pushed us to our limits! But already on the first day we are rewarded with breathtaking panoramas.

Bergsee Sassersa lake mountain valmalenco
Mountain lake of Sassersa
ventina pass valmalenco altavia
View from Ventina pass

After the first stage was so excessive, we shorten the second day a little. Fortunately, the huts are not fully booked, so we can reschedule flexibly. In terms of weather, this also plays into our cards, because thunderstorms have been announced for the third day. All the more reason to start walking early in the morning. At noon, when it starts pouring and storming, we are already relaxing in the mountain hut.

The fourth stage is a bit more demanding again. We have almost 1,400 meters of altitude ahead of us. Daily goal is the Rifugio Marinelli at 2,800 m - the highest mountain hut on the trail. It is also the base camp for expeditions to Piz Bernina. This is also on our bucket list, by the way. But we still have to do a bit exercise, especially with crampons and ice axe on glacier terrain :-)

It is a long way to get to the refuge. And once again the weather is unpredictable. One hour before arrival, it suddenly starts to hail and snow. We are lucky that the next mountain hut is close. We stop spontaneously to sit out the storm. We are the only guests. As we find out, it's the hut manager's birthday, so he invites us for a bottle of wine. Of course we can't say no. And so it becomes a very entertaining forced break. After about two hours it tears open again and we happily make our way to our destination for the day. The last part is really bizarre with fresh snow in July and dramatic views of the Piz Bernina.

Alta via Valmalenco bernina rifugio Marinelli
On our way to Rifugio Marinelli

Here are a few impressions from stages 2 - 4:

The weather the next day unfortunately is not so ideal - we have a mixture of snow and rain with zero visibility. Unfortunately, we cannot take the high path to Rifugio Bignami either, as we don't have crampons with us. With the view it wouldn't be worthwhile anyway. And so we hike over the Fellaria Joch into the neighboring valley.

The next day the sun finally awaits us again. And so we can first admire the Fellaria Glacier, which is right on our doorstep! We then continue across the Val Poschiavino. This is not the most direct route, but the side valley was highly recommended by the locals. We hike up the high valley and cannot stop being amazed. Finally we cross the Campagneda pass. On the way downhill there is one beautiful mountain lake after another. We even see marmots and a young ibex. Since it should be pouring rain again the next day, we spontaneously decide to finish the Alta Via the same day. Fortunately, after 7 hours we are back on the road and find a nice german couple (!) who gives us a lift to our parking for the last few kilometers.


Here are a few impressions from stages 5 - 6:

The annual Valmalenco Ultratrail (VUT), a competition for trail runners who run the same route in around 14 hours (!), starts on the same day. We rather enjoyed the route :-) And once again we are totally happy, as is so often the case when we were out in the mountains. The physical exertion, the great impressions and the phenomenal hospitality in the Italian mountain huts, coupled with excellent cuisine, is our recipe for happiness.

VUT finisher valmalenco altavia
Finisher Alta Via Valmalenco :-)

And last but not least, we proudly present our short video from Alta Via Valmalenco. Don't forget to turn on the sound :-)

And if we have given you the taste, a detailed description including maps is available on my homepage at https://en.valchiavenna.de/altavia-valmalenco


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