Alta Maira Bikes – Gardetta
The ring develops in a high altitude alpine environment. Of particular interest is the passage to the 2,481 m of Colle del Fauniera, a nodal point between the Maira, Grana and Stura valleys, which became famous thanks to the stage of the 1999 Giro d’Italia during which Marco Pantani sprinted uphill to win the pink jersey; today a stone statue located at 2,481 meters above sea level on the hill commemorates the feat of the “pirate”. The passage on the Gardetta plateau is dominated by the dolomitic silhouette of Rocca la Meja while, descending into the Unerzio valley from the pass of the same name, the Attention is focused on the 3,100 m of Mount Oronaye.
You can leave your car above the village of Prazzo Inferiore in the large car park used in winter for access to the cross-country skiing track. From there you start pedaling downhill, along the secondary road that reaches the sports fields and here you come across the “PedalMaira” cycle path which you follow in the direction of the mountain for 1.1 km when you leave it by turning left crossing the bridge over the Maira and starting the 5.6 km ascent in the dense coniferous forest.
There are no crossroads and therefore there is no possibility of making a mistake in first reaching Colletto di Canosio (1651 meters above sea level) and subsequently Colletto San Giovanni di Canosio (1650 meters above sea level). The descent takes place along the sunny slope opposite to the climb, along the narrow asphalt road until it joins the road that goes up from Canosio (1,310 meters above sea level) and which you follow, downhill, until you reach Canosio, the capital; go past the town and at the crossroads near the campsite turn right, starting to climb again towards the villages of Marmora.
Having quickly reached the village of Vernetti (Marmora capital), you leave the main road along the town hall and the post office. Always on asphalt, keep to the main axis, ignoring the crossroads to the Finello village on the right. The road ends at the village of San Sebastiano where you proceed straight, reaching the church of SS. Sebastiano and Fabiano which deserves a short stop. An asset of undisputed artistic value, it houses the fifteenth-century frescoes by Giovanni di Baleison, a medieval artist working between southern Piedmont and Liguria. In 1.2 km of dirt track you reach the villages of Torello and Garino beyond which you come across the asphalt again which you follow uphill towards the village of Tolosano, the last village in the valley.
A sparse larch forest accompanies the ride which alternates slightly sloping sections with more challenging ones. At an altitude of 1,960 meters above sea level, the wide meadows of Punte Tempesta and Sibolet cut across the hillside while, on the opposite side, in the valley which is not visible unless you gain further altitude, the lovely Resile lake is hidden. 24 km from the start you reach the locality of Gias Valanghe, a summer mountain pasture used by farmers for grazing livestock and the production of “Nostrale dell’Alpe” cheese.
Here you have the possibility of accessing the Gardetta plateau via the Mulo hill along the dirt road on the right, but this option requires about thirty minutes with the push bike.
Instead, maintaining the rolling stock, which has a road surface that is not always uniform and in good condition, you follow the long final crossroads that cuts through steep slopes, finally reaching the Esischie hill, a historic connection with the Grana valley and the municipality of Castelmagno.
Continue to climb for another 1.4 km reaching the Fauniera pass. The descent continues into the Stura valley and you must pay attention to take the deviation on the right at an altitude of 2,416 meters above sea level, after passing the Vallone dei Morti, to the Valcavera pass. A short ramp allows you to access the former military road of the Gardetta plateau and cross its entire extension.
You avoid all the deviations located both on the left and on the right reaching, in succession, the barracks of the Bandia hill, the Margherina hill, the Cologna hill and, at an altitude of 2,315 meters above sea level, the crossroads with the dirt road that goes up from the Preit hill and continues, beyond the barrier to the CAI della Gardetta refuge.
After passing the accommodation facility (open from mid-June to mid-September) the road surface becomes more bumpy and grassy as you climb up to the hill of the same name, where you avoid continuing along the military road in the direction of Rocca Brancia and gain the pass with a wide view of the natural amphitheater of peaks bordering the French valleys of Ubayette and Ubaye (2,437 m above sea level).
Take the steeply descending path that reaches military works 180 and 179, bunkers which with their rough and simple features propose the construction solution widely adopted in the constructions of the Vallo Alpino: a tunnel that reaches some internal rooms equipped with slits.
The path in the last part before the Prato Ciorliero basin has technically demanding sections where it is necessary to descend on foot. From Prato Ciorliero (2,010 meters above sea level) the descent continues on a wider gravel road which ends at a stone (cross and gravestones) taking, on the right, the path that descends to the beautiful village of Viviere.
Before accessing the refuge of the same name, go down to the right following the path that reaches and crosses the Unerzio stream, making a semicircle between the wide meadows of Pian Cassin and reaching the village of Pratorotondo below, near an ancient mill. You cross the village right in the center at moderate speed.
The path known as “La Scurcio” continues along the hydrographic left of the stream, but as it is very popular with hikers it is advisable to abandon it, follow the asphalt road downhill to Chialvetta and from here take the single-trail next to the cemetery.
You lose altitude up to Gheit, where, before the asphalt bridge, you turn right and continue on a path in the woods, you reach Frere (Acceglio) (1,196 m above sea level).
Here you avoid crossing the stream, intercepting the PedalMaira cycle path which, skirting the right bank of the Maira stream, reaches hamlet. Madeleine.
From here it is necessary to continue on the SP422 at least up to Prazzo Superiore where you turn right following the cycle path signs and quickly returning to the starting point of the excursion.
- Ascent: 2,410 m
- Distance: 60.0 km
- Region: Prazzo
- Seasons: Autumn, Spring, Summer
- Difficulty: Hard
Mountain sports are potentially dangerous activities and must be undertaken with the right equipment and preparation. We invite you to consult the weather and avalanche bulletin before embarking on an excursion and/or contact a guide for assistance. The Valle Maira Tourist Consortium declines any responsibility in relation to the advice and itineraries shown here, which must be evaluated personally according to the weather conditions and snow cover.