Val Grande – The Wonder in the Backyard

I was born in Verbania, and grew up on Lake Maggiore. Since I was a child, I heard tales of people going to Val Grande. It was basically in my backyard, my local wilderness. And it’s very known to be the biggest wilderness area in all the alps.

My school bus driver, Gianfry, became the famous hermit of that valley. One day Gianfry simply left, for a more simple life, living alone in a pasture, in full contact with nature. He became kind of famous, books were written on his choice, and he saved lot of people got lost in the valley. A hero from the wilderness!

When my parents took me to Val Grande for the first time (I was something around 8yo), we went to Corte Buè, a small abandoned village in the lower part of the valley. I remember the dark sensation of that place, in the middle of the forest. I honestly didn’t like it, compared to other alpine views I was used as child of mountain lovers.

I almost forgot Val Grande for years. I did some hikes there, but always favoriting other places.

I did not understand a shit!

It was October 2019 when my friend Giovanni proposed me to film the second part of Allontanare le Montagne, our documentary about local mountaineering. He proposed Val Grande, and I was very against the location. But he told me “Luca, trust me, it’s going to be amazing!”.

That was the plan:
me and Anne would climb up from the north, from Val Loana. Giovanni and Michele would sky-run the Sentiero Bove (a full book could be written on this magical route of about 30km) leaving from home by bike. We would met on Cima della Laurasca (2190m), filming the very scenic ridge to Bocchetta di Campo, the bivouac where Anne and I would stop for sleeping, climbing the exposed Mt Pedum on the day after.

Arriving to Val Loana was magic: a pristine alpine valley in perfect Fall foliage. We started hiking from the bottom, reaching before the pasture of Scaredi, then climbing up to Cima della Laurasca. The view from above was one of the best I’ve ever seen: the lake, south, and the giants of the Alps on the other side. A view I could not believe possible to have in Italy, literally in my backyard.

Giovanni and Michele arrived, even if they were in movement from about 15 hours, they were smiling to us, we shared with them some food and started filming them running on the kms long ridge to Bocchetta di Campo. Then Anne and I followed them, in one of the most scenic landscape of my life.

We partially followed the original trail, creating our own route on the most sharped parts of the ridge. A perfect knife to the sun setting back to Monte Rosa (4600m). I lost the count of the pictures I shot, and filming here was incredibly exciting.

After one hour on the ridge, we arrived to Bocchetta di Campo, an old style bivouac before Cima Pedum, our day after summit. Inside the bivouac was very dirty, but the weather allowed us to sleep outside, in our 0 confort sleeping bags. It was an incredible night, under countless stars.

Can you imagine which kind of sunrise we got on the day after? The sun risen right back of the lake, creating unique tones. We then packed our stuff and started our climbing of Cima Pedum. Just 300m of ascension but not on easy terrain, with exposed parts. On the summit we were able to look down to the Integral Reserve,the part of the park where even hiking is forbidden. The most wild part of Alps.

We then came back to Loana Valley from the same way.

You know I traveled more than 40 countries in 7 years, exploring countless mountain ranges around the world. All this beauty was simply in my backyard, 15km from where I was born.

In 2014 I took 54 flights, and in 2018 I flew to New Zealand (as well as other 25 flight). The Co2 emissions I created in my travel are embarrassing, in fact I’m planting trees (3200 to date) trying to absorb a part of them, feeling guilty every single day. I feel so stupid to have traveled 18.500km to see Peak Rory in Wanaka, when I had this landscape behind my house.

Traveling has a huge impact on the planet. To prevent our extinction we should stop immediately every travel (as well as eating meat, the second biggest impacting individual action). On the other side, traveling is a powerful self-grow medium.

For this reason I’m starting the campaign: “Travel less, travel better”. I choose to not random roam filling a bucket list, but I try to travel consciously, picking very few destinations, informing myself on what I’m going to visit, and always wonder why I want to visit that place. I also donate so much to plant new trees. I never use the airline Co2 offset when I buy plane tickets (it’s just greenwashing by them), but I donate a 25% of the ticket cost to certified onlus, as Plant for the Planet.

And now that i discovered all this beauty in my backyard, I need even less to travel far by planes!

In this last picture, is the tiny-huge city of Milano, in the very late sunset from Bocchetta di Campo. It’s incredible how the city life was close but very far from this wild place.