Nestled at the foot of Monte Rosa on the Italian side between the mountain and a glacial run off lays a remote green valley. On the gents slopes at the bottom sit hundreds of granite boulders dragged, shaped and eventually dropped by some long gone glacier. What's left now is remote but well worth the trip. An unspoiled and mostly undocumented boulderers dream with more blocks and problems than you could wish for.
We arrived too late in Milan to make it to the rock before dark and so set up camp in a hotel and went in search of less organic things to climb. There is a juvenile appeal to monkey bars and perhaps even more so to rings. Thankfully we didn't have to evict any small children in order to play. Instead we monkeyed around and attempted in vein to burn off some of the enormous pizza which has become the staple food of our Italian trips.
We drove north from Milan towards the Swiss boarder, first on the motorways and then on increasingly smaller and smaller roads until we found ourselves winding up valley slopes above melt water rivers and tiny stone built villages. The destination was Pecetto a tiny hamlet of traditional alpine buildings that sit huddled around a chair lift up into the mountains. In the winter with a layer of snow this would be a sight to fit on any Christmas card and it seems that its existence probably depends more on the colder months where the chairlift will ensure a steady flow of skiers and snowboarders. In July the lift seems to be catering to hikers and our little band of boulderers.
The top of the chairlift spits out at a nondescript forested plateau and we start trekking up hill towards a blanket of cloud. The walk winds up a rocky path for about 10 minutes to a crest where it opens out to show a vista of post apologetic proportions. The path ends at a sheer drop down to a dry glacier bed maybe 400 metres across and stretching as far as can be seen both up and down. Nothing is growing until the far bank and the millions cracked and broken rocks are only interrupted by the occasional patch of dirty fossilised ice. The glacier has long since departed but nature hasn't yet transformed the wasteland to match the greenery we see in every other direction.
Crossing the glacier bed is a gentle scramble and the top of the slope on the other side reveals our destination, a green valley tucked out of sight until you reach the crest and round a corner. Even from a distance the boulders are in evidence, standing out a grey monoliths in the sea of grass. There are patches of snow visible in every direction, with more on the higher slopes and as we walk the cloud begins to clear to reveal more and more of the majestic alps that surround us.
The boulder field sits around a refuge, a small hut that sells food and drinks and more importantly rents out bouldering mats. This is a life saver for the lazy who, like us, didn't fancy dragging mats up the chairlift and approach.There is no proper guide to the area, but behind the bar is a hand drawn map offering some local suggestions for good bouldering routes. It's rustic, tattered and almost entirely undecipherable. We tried to identify boulders from it but for the most part ended up treating the boulders as blank slates for new routes. This was fun but led to some slightly sketchier climbs than might have been advisable.
The first boulder we approached was a beautiful monster of granite. Standing out high above the surrounding rocks we were drawn to it like a magnet. A couple of climbs and one nerve wracking highball later we moved on to smaller tamer rocks. The condition of the rock was fantastic with Louis and Seb both putting up some pretty nice climbs . We met a couple of hikers, one of who decided to drop in and join for a few of the climbs.
The area is fantastic and well worth visiting from Milan for some exploratory bouldering. Especially if you like pets because the refuge has a friendly resident dog!