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Five or six years ago, I was standing atop M. Sagro in the Alpi Apuane. It was early November and a crystal-clear afternoon above the low-lying haze. To the north, I could see the snow-capped Alps and off to the northwest, I could make out two proud peaks standing above the haze: M. Argentera in the Maritime Alps and Monviso in the Cottian Alps, both on the border between France and Italy.

On the spot, I decided that some day I would climb those two peaks.

A few weeks later, I drove up to northwest Italy to reconnoiter  approaches to the mountains and see if there were any trails. I found a little road going up the Vallone del Gesso, ending at a trailhead leading up to Rifugio Remondino on the north side of M. Argentera. Off I went up the trail and reached the rifugio two hours later where I encountered lots of early-season snow so I turned back.

Last summer, I made another attempt to climb M. Argentera from the south side, but only got as far as Bivacco del Baus at 8,628 feet.

With a nice weather window opening up and a break in my schedule late last week, I headed to M. Argentera once again, drove up Vallone del Gesso and hiked up to Refugio Remondino where I spent the night before attempting the summit once again.

It was a gorgeous, clear day with a cold wind howling out of the north. This time, fortune—once again—smiled on me.

The summit of M. Argentera, 10,816 feet

Approaching M. Argentera near Cuneo

The trailhead

On the trail to the refugio

Refugio Remondino

Alpenglow above Refugio Remondino

A local chamois

The route—naturally—goes up...

...and across this exposed face

Pietro, who works at the rifugio, caught up with me

A little rock climbing as we approach the summit...

...with attached ropes to help

Looking down the south side to Bacino del Chiotas

M. Argentera summit cross

The view to the south

The view toward the sea

A wind-blown eagle dance with the Alps in the distance

By the time I hiked 5,780 vertical feet back down to the car, my legs were toast! But I can’t wait to try for Monviso (12,600 feet) next summer: