Gran Paradiso, a tour in Heaven with Peakshunter.


Going up Gran Paradiso

Snowy peaks, endless ski descents, engaging routes and a taste for adventure Does this sound like Heaven? Well, it is. This is a world famous ski tour set amid Italy’s first national park, the Parco Nazionale del Gran Paradiso. Focusing around the only 4,000-metre peak entirely on the Italian soil, the Gran Paradiso (4,061 m), this is a jewel tour that any ski touring enthusiast should have under his or her belt.

Starting in Valnontey and ending in Lillaz both close to Cogne, the tour touches ridges, cols, peaks and superb descents, intertwined with cozy, welcoming mountain huts, the Vittorio Sella, Federico Chabod, Vittorio Emanuele and Pontese, in the Aosta Valley and Piedmont’s Valle dell’Orco. The days are long and the stages can be technical, involving rappels, ridge crossing, the use of crampons and an ice axe, and you’ll have to carry a heavy rucksack. All the efforts and the energies deployed will pay off in the end, however, as the scenery you’ll encounter is among the most dramatic and exquisite in the Alps.

If you are after big crowds and noise, look elsewhere. This is a remote, often wild corner of the Alps, where the cold snaps and the wind often blows mercilessly. It is the perfect playground if you want to test your skills and endurance.

We were given sound advice by our guide, Alberto “Silver” Silvestri, both before and during our tour: vital information, often small pieces of advice which enhance your experience and make it an enjoyable one, whether it’s setting the correct pace or telling you what to wear. Alberto is part of Peakshunter, a team of young, motivated and strong mountain guides who love their jobs and want to share their passion. They organise adventures pretty much everywhere in the Alps and beyond.

If you wear a smile on your face, everything will be easier in life; this is especially true when talking about these guides, who will lead you onto hip and groovy adventures, whatever you’ll choose to do.

All pictures © Lucia Prosino and Amin Raouf.

Sponsored by Dynafit, Pomoca, Grivel, Julbo, Tascapan, Distillerie Saint Roch, Farmacia Dott. Nicola



Frozen Love – Matthias Scherer and Tanja Schmitt


Couples who share their passions are not so infrequent in the sport industry. We find examples in the climbing, swimming, skiing, mountaineering world in general.

Tanja and Matthias, however, are united by a love for something rather treacherous: ice climbing.  It is the frailty of it all, hanging from a brittle and unstable piece of ice that appeals to them, for they are always reminded that life is but a short flash and needs to be enjoyed fully.

I met Tanja and Matthias at the IMS in Brixen, South Tyrol, in 2012. This mountain festival offers the chance to spend time with mountaineers and climbers, and so I immediately captured their spontaneity and their kind manners.  They have lived in stupendous Chamonix and are now based in Cogne, the ice-climbing capital in stunning Aosta Valley. Being German, and from a non-mountainous region, means that they had to adapt to different cultures, languages and settings to be able to follow their interests.

What I found most fascinating, though, was the fact that they always come back from their frequent trips  – to the fabulous Canadian Rockies or magical Norway for instance – with many excellent photographs and videos, whose soundtrack they compose themselves on a computer software.  Frozen Love is one example   A journey into the allure of ice climbing and a testament to their love.  Others are the ascent of Repetance in Valnontey, Cogne   and a video on Canadian Ice

Their websites  and  are also incredibly rich in pictures and extremely detailed descriptions of their ascents, with slideshows, comments, advice and superb shots which aptly frame their vision.

Among Matthias’ most memorable lines are Juste une Illusion and Rappelle toi que tu es un Homme in France, Lipton in Norway, Rainbow Serpent, Replicant and Killer Pillar in Canada. As for Tanja, some of her most cherished routes are Double Scotch in France, Rübezahl in Kandersteg (climbed together with her twin sister Heike), Crash, Dancing with Chaos and Shooting Star in Canada, and Hydnefossen, Hauksfossen and Kjerrskredkven in Norway.

They also practice ski touring and, in the summer months, when ice is nowhere to be found, they go rock climbing. They have also been very active on the mountaineering front with several first ascents, such as a new route on the north face of the impossibly beautiful Grivola, in the Gran Paradiso National Park, in 2006.

They take part in several courses and will be at next month’s Alpine Arc’ademy in Chamonix  An excellent way of getting to know the basics of mountaineering in the company of professionals, with magnificent surroundings as a backdrop and a chilled-out atmosphere.

See you there!


Tanja climbing Shooting Star, Icefield Parkway, BC Canada (Photo Matthias Scherer)


Matthias climbing Rainbow Serpent, Ghost valley, BC Canada (Photo Tanja Schmitt)


Tanja climbing Dancing with Chaos, Icefield Parkway, BC Canada (Photo Matthias Scherer)