The Pagarì Refuge
At the foot of the imposing northeast face of the Maledia, at the edge of the Pagarì Glacier (or what remains of it), with Alpine ibex nosing around the refuge: this is the typical Alpine scene that presents itself to the gaze of those who make the climb up here. The route follows the (probable) path of one of the most daring cross-Alp salt trade routes ever realized.
A few dozen meters downvalley from San Giacomo di Entracque (1209 m), the track crosses a bridge over the Gesso della Barra torrent. Passing by the picnic grounds and the turnoff for Ponte della Rovina and Trinità di Entracque on the left, the route follows the paved road, closed to private traffic, that crosses through woods full of magnificent beeches and firs before coming to the former Royal Hunting Lodge and the Principessa Elena barracks, which now serve as lodgings for summer camps and are owned by religious groups.
Behind them (fountain), the road becomes unpaved as it penetrates the Vallone di Moncolomb, climbing up in switchbacks, still through shady beech woods. After a long tract in the woods, having passed by several secondary paths and turnoffs (mostly shortcuts), the track passes by the humble Gias dell'Aiera (1342 m, 30 minutes from San Giacomo), the point of departure of an old mule track used by Savoy hunting parties.
The route continues on the unpaved road, which, when it levels off, comes to the mouth of the Pra del Rasur. Passing by the old (and not easy to spot) mule track on the left for the Vallone Frassinetto, the track emerges from the woods and also passes by the short extension to the Gias del Rasur on the left.
The dirt track descends into the broad pasture meadow below and runs through it on the orographic right of the torrent until reaching its end at the ruins of the lower Gias del Vei del Bouc (1437 m, 40 minutes from the Gias dell'Aiera). At this point the dirt road ends in a fork: the route ignores the mule track on the left leading to Lake Vei del Bouc and instead takes the mule track to the right for the Pagarì Refuge.
The track crosses over the torrent on a wooden footbridge and passes by the Gias Colombo on the right, then proceeds slightly uphill on a mule track that gradually turns into a footpath.
After a long traverse, near a large boulder the track passes a turnoff on the right for the Moncalieri shelter and crosses over the Rio Pantacreus (there is a wooden walkway just uphill from the trail if the stream is too full to wade across). It then quickly passes a mule track in poor condition on the left that leads along the bottom of the Vallone di Moncolomb (this is the old trail to White Lamb Lake, almost completely erased in its upper tract). Beyond the turnoff, the track begins to climb steeply up the side of the valley in a very long stretch of switchbacks to the southwest.
The switchbacks, sometimes fairly tight and stepped, continue through thickets of brush up to the lower Muraion Pass (or Passaggio del Muraion), just beyond which the trail levels off slightly and there is a nice view of the Vallone del Muraion and the top of the valley.
The track then continues on among rocks in open ground, except for a few patches of green alders on the banks of the Rio Pagarì. Once it has crossed over the Rio Pagarì, steep traverses climb up to the turnoff on the left for the Lago Bianco dell'Agnel (White Lamb Lake), which the route passes by. At this point there is another series of long switchbacks that rise up the slope in a southwesterly direction.
The switchbacks gradually become tighter: passing by the trail for the Moncalieri shelter on the right and the one leading to the Pagarì Pass on the left, the trail is now in sight of the Federici Marchesini Refuge al Pagarì (2650 m, 3 hours and 50 minutes from the lower Gias del Vei del Bouc), commonly referred to simply as the Pagarì Refuge, just a short walk away.
Access and parking
From Borgo San Dalmazzo drive up the Valle Gesso. After passing Valdieri, turn left for Entracque. Before entering the town, turn right for San Giacomo and then right again for San Giacomo. There is a parking fee in the summer season.
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