Refugio GASB at Monte Fenera Vercelli ~ Romancing Italy

Oct 23, 2009

Refugio GASB at Monte Fenera Vercelli

"Monte Fenera is dead" said the owner of the Refugio GASB tucked away on a small ledge on the face of the mountain. At the summit, a prominent cross stands out and is visible from my home. It is this cross that first drew me to the mountain to explore the trails that criss cross its face.

Trail 769 leads to the refugio from Fenera San Giulia, a small commune in Borgosesia. The trail was clearly marked although the path itself had not been maintained. Along one very long stretch, the soil was turned up as if a tiller had passed over it and Nadia joked that the "cinghiale" or wild boar had made it perfect for planting potatoes.

The remainder of the trail snaked its way steadily upward, past stairs chiseled out of the rock and finally branched out in two directions where the rock face opened into a huge cave. It was barred off and covered. To the right was a tall iron ladder secured to the rock and leading to the refugio.

I climbed up, making sure my hands were secure and feet solid with every rung but that didn't stop my knees from getter weaker and weaker. The sign at the top, written in large letters said "Watch your head." It really would have been a shame to reach the top, hit your noggin, lose your grip and tumble to the bottom. For sure, more than one's breath would be knocked out.

Once we learned of a safer entrance, Nadia and I were soon enjoying the view of Borgosesia and the valley that stretched towards Alagna. The refugio itself is very rustic, with a little kitchen, dining room and attic area for bunking down. Although there were some who came for the pleasure of a campout, it seems to have been used mostly by archeologists from all over the world and the Milanese students who come to dig in the caves. If you are interested in joining them or reserving a stay at the refugio, call Bruno at 0163 23371 or 334 124 8052.

Before we left, Gianni gave us a tour of their working cave. The entrance had not been barred off soon enough as thieves stole the age old stalagmites and stalagtites.

The major finds such as the remains of a bear and evidence of prehistoric man were taken to Torino. Nadia had just finished telling me there were no bears in the area. Well, not any MORE.

The other thing that is missing is the human element. People don't go hiking there as in the 50's and 60's. Those that lived within the hill itself have moved away and very few visit the chapels hidden within the tall trees.

For some like Gianni and his refugio, it is difficult to see the mountain become so quiet and unused, dead. But it isn't exactly dead...because it is at this very hill where humans barely leave a footprint, that the four-legged and winged friends, such as the rare black stork, find their refuge.


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  2. Thieves stealing stalagmites and stalagtites? Clearly I still have much to learn.

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