... some of my pictures from Stella Alpina 2004! You can also watch the images as a slideshow.
After a rainy week and a not much less rainy friday morning, we finally decided to start. However, instead of passing through the Valais (and under its still pitch-black rainclouds), we took another route which lead us through Geneva and from there in an almost straight line towards Bardoneccia. These roads brought some beautiful landscapes, combined with nice gravel roads ...
Arriving on friday evening just after sunset, we were surprised to find only very few tents at the Rifugio. It seems that the bad weather in the week just before the meeting prevented many people from coming. However, those that were in the region were rewarded by a weekend full of bright sunshine. The temperatures were fresh (well ... if you consider that this is mid-July, it was cold), but perfect for riding.
In 2004, the summit was not attainable as the road was blocked by quite a lot of snow 9.5 km after Rifugio Scarfiotti. Thus, the last 2.5 km remained inaccessible.
Here is a panorama picture of the campground (courtesy of Clemens Henn - thanks a lot!), taken on Saturday afternoon from the north-western side of the area. Download 300 kB.
If you ride the Assietta from east to west, the "official" exit would be around Sestriere. However, if you explore the region carefully, you can find a few - legal - ways to exit towards Sauze d'Oulx. - A problem with those pictures is that they do not really show the slope of the path. However, if you observe the trees carefully, you may get an idea ;-)
In case you do not know about this event: "Stella Alpina" is an alpine flower similar to the Edelweiss and it is also the name of a giant, mostly non-organised motorcycle meeting, the 'Stella Alpina Motociclistica Internazionale'. Since 1967, this meeting takes place in Bardonecchia, usually on every (?) second weekend in July. If you are interested in the history, do a Google search for Mario Artusio - he is the man that created this event and who still organises it.
In spite of the "rallye" connotation, this is not a competitive event. If there is an "aim", then it is to ride the gravel/dust road up the the plateau of the Colle Sommeiller (3009 m), which is one of the highest legally reachable points in the Alps. If you ride up there on Sunday morning, you can buy "trophys" such as souvenir stickers, T-Shirts etc.
The "usual" campground is close to Rifugio Scarfiotti (2156 m), which is located 18 km from the village of Bardoneccia (two third of this road is dust and light gravel). The ride from the campground up to the Colle Sommeiller is another 12 km on a barely maintained gravel road, whose surface offers everything between fine dust (or mud, depending on the weather ;-) up to crude gravel.
The biggest "flow" of motorcycles is usually on saturday evening and everything from light motocross machines up to fat Harleys etc. has been seen there. A problem not related to the road but to the huge number of motorcycles on this particular weekend is that from Saturday afternoon on, there is a constant stream of motorcycles heading uphill ... thus, especially when you head down to Bardoneccia you want to be extra careful. Some of these folks seem to think they are alone on a racetrack, not expecting oncoming traffic :-(
Apart from this, the region has many more highlights that invite to legal gravel touring. Many of these paths are indeed public roads, maintained with considerable effort, so you really want to ride in a way that remains "compatible" with the surroundings and the people up there.