Most people have heard of Lago di Maggiore (Lake Maggiore) as a wedding or summer holiday destination. It might not be on your radar as a spectacular spot for hiking, climbing or via ferratas. I have recently got quite into the via ferrata life: the perfect combination of a hike with some excitement and without a strenuous climb. There are usually spectacular views and a fair amount of reward for the effort put in. What’s not to love?!
When some friends came over from the U.K. to visit me in Milan in November, the Picasass via ferrata had been recommended as the perfect excursion for the day. With its stunning views over Lago di Maggiore, just over an hour’s drive from Milan, it was a good starting place for experienced climbers and novice via ferrata-ers (yes, that is now a word).
How to reach the Picasass via ferrata
The route to reach the Picasass via ferrata starts in Baveno, which is on the eastern Piedmonte side of Lake Maggiore. It is most easily accessed by car, but can also be done via train to Baveno from Milan. The path weaves behind the campsite ‘La Tranquilla’ and heads up the cliff face that overlooks the lake.
The M3 path is very clearly marked (once you locate it!) with red and white dashes on various posts and trees. The initial hike takes around 45 minutes, with a welcomed pause at an outdoor museum that documents the granite quarried and its historical and economic importance in the area. Part of the museum is the Picasass pathway, which was once used by the quarry workers – who were called picasass in the local dialect- to reach the Monte Camoscio quarry site. The footpath then splits to the left and the right at the museum- make sure to take the right-hand side to commence the via ferrata approach. The left-hand path will be the descent later.
How difficult is the Picasass via ferrata?
Picasass is the perfect via ferrata for a happy hiker with some climbing or previous via ferrata experience. The via ferrata route itself winds up the cliff, combining some ladder-like steps with periods of upward hiking and scrambles. There is one challenging overhang moment that may present a novice with a little vertigo. At the end of the route, you can also opt to take the Nepalese bridge which sees you shuffling over a looming valley ravine, or simply walk around the top to end the via ferrata.
How long does the Picasass via ferrata take?
The Picasass via ferrata route took us around 4 hours, including the descent. We were a group of 5, which means there was some waiting around on the route if there were any spots of backlog, and we were definitely taking it leisurely, with a fair few photos and faffing stops. It was relatively late in the season for a ferrata but the rungs were nicely warmed by the sun and we had no real worries about the daylight.
What gear are we talking?
We did this in November and for a northern British gal, it was a very palatable temperature. Extra layers are needed, for both the cooler less arduous descent as well as the beginning. I managed in fleece-lined leggings, a base layer, fleece and a puffa jacket for the cooler spots. For any via ferrata, you will need the specific clips for safety, (check out a full explanation on my other post here). It’s also wise to wear a helmet and take a few extra slings and carabiners, as you never know. Finally, as you’re ascending potentially quite slippery ladders, make sure you’re in good footwear, ideally walking boots with a solid grippy sole.
What’s in the bag?
Depending on what time you set off, you’re likely going to need some form of lunch, so please, pack food in ample quantities. We went for a solid choice of fresh bread and 3 different types of cheeses, all cut up with a Swiss army knife. Biscuits kept us fuelled on the way up and some dried apricots on the way down, safe to say we didn’t go hungry. We all had at least 2 spare layers, as well as a waterproof in case of emergencies or higher winds. Water is a must too as you are exerting yourself, I’d recommend a minimum of 1l per person.
In my totally biased opinion, it is the perfect way to see the stunning lakes. As we gained height throughout the via ferrata the fog lifted, revealing the islands in the middle of the lake, clustered with grand villas and boats. The snow-capped mountains peaked out over the top of the cliff and the valleys undulated around us. It was truly stunning.
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