Sue and Martin above Zermatt - 2018

Sue and Martin above Zermatt - 2018
Showing posts with label GTA. Show all posts
Showing posts with label GTA. Show all posts

Sunday, 21 September 2008

An Italian Border Route incorporating part of the Grande Traversata delle Alpi (GTA)

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I have added daily photos and created an index for the postings from our recent two month trip to the Alps, should anyone wish to revisit those entries, or indeed visit them for the first time.

Click here to go to the Index.

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Shopping in the Alps

Here we are, topping up our supplies in Pleyne on 15 July. This was a particularly well stocked alimentari (shop), once we had gained access. Husband (next to Sue) had clearly retired - or gone senile - leaving his wife to run the business. She also ran their farming business and had to be recovered from where she was gathering hay in a nearby field, in order to serve us. We were lucky to find packet soup here; previously stock cubes with various additional items had been used as our 'starter' on wild camps.

Tea bags, chocolate, soup, risotto, tinned fish, a jar of mushrooms, and a big box of croissants are lined up on the counter for our enjoyment later. Not quite the lightweight revolution, but easy enough to carry, and delightful to eat - together with other supplies already in our packs - this was just a top-up.

We met lots of lovely, helpful people in these little, out-of-the-way, shops - they were a pleasure to visit despite the general lack of lightweight food.

Back to the Report for 15 July

Saturday, 30 August 2008

An Italian Border Route - 24 June to 21 August 2008, incorporating part of the GTA - Index

This unidentified flower seems a suitable 'header' for the Index to our blogs for this trip. Sue took this photo on 13 August at about 2100 metres, near the Italian village of Argentera, to the north of the Maritime Alps. The diameter of the flower head is about 15-20mm. Unfortunately, the leaves are out of focus. Has anyone any idea what it might be? Marigold?

Index to Sue and Martin's blogs made during their 8 week 'Italian Border Route' walk from Menton to Saas Fee, incorporating part of the Grande Traversata delle Alpi (GTA)
Tuesday 17 June 2008 - A Sense of Panic and an overview of the route
Monday 23 June 2008 - An Italian Border Route - Prologue No 1 packing
Tuesday 24 June 2008 - An Italian Border Route (IBR) - Prologue No 2 getting to Menton
Wednesday 25 June 2008 - An Italian Border Route (IBR) - Day 1 - A Stunning Start
15 km to Rifugio Patrick Gambino
Thursday 26 June 2008 - An Italian Border Route (IBR) - Day 2 - Lovely Italian Villages and a Steep Climb 18 km to Col Sgora
Friday 27 June 2008 - An Italian Border Route (IBR) - Day 3 - Some Unexpected Hurdles (UHs) 24 km to Fontan
Saturday 28 June 2008 - An Italian Border Route (IBR) - Day 4 - A Welcome Pause In Fontan/Saorge a rest day
Sunday 29 June 2008 - An Italian Border Route (IBR) - Day 5 - The Day of the Flowers
23 km to Rifugio Allavena
Monday 30 June 2008 - An Italian Border Route (IBR) - Day 6 - A Fine Alpine Ridge
30 km to Rifugio Don Barbera
Tuesday 1 July 2008 - An Italian Border Route (IBR) - Day 7 - Flirting with the Border
19 km to Limonetto, then bus to Limone
Wednesday 2 July 2008 - An Italian Border Route (IBR) - Day 8 - The Sun Shines on Limone rest day
Thursday 3 July 2008 - An Italian Border Route (IBR) - Day 9 - Alpine Strawberries for Breakfast 10 km to Val del Sabbione
Friday 4 July 2008 - An Italian Border Route (IBR) - Day 10 - The Hills Are Alive.....
20 km to Rifugio Soria Ellena
Saturday 5 July 2008 - An Italian Border Route (IBR) - Day 11 - Under a Vermillion Sky
14 km to Terme di Valdieri then a lift to Sant' Anna
Sunday 6 July 2008 - An Italian Border Route (IBR) - Day 12 - Recharging Batteries rest day
Monday 7 July 2008 - An Italian Border Route (IBR) - Day 13 - An Easy Day on the GTA
15 km to Rifugio Malinvern
Summer in the Alps On Cima d'Orgials - 2647 metres
Tuesday 8 July 2008 - An Italian Border Route (IBR) - Day 14 - In View of Monte Viso
17 km to Passo di Sometta
Wednesday 9 July 2008 - An Italian Border Route (IBR) - Day 15 - The Race
16 km to wild camp near Rifugio E Zanotti
Happy Days view from Passo di Rostagno - 2536 metres
Thursday 10 July 2008 - An Italian Border Route (IBR) - Day 16 - A Long Way Round
18 km to Pietraporzio
Friday 11 July 2008 - An Italian Border Route (IBR) - Day 17 - A Lavender Day rest day
Saturday 12 July 2008 - An Italian Border Route (IBR) - Day 18 - A Jungle Adventure
15 km to Col di Puriac
Sunday 13 July 2008 - An Italian Border Route (IBR) - Day 19 - First Edelweiss
28 km to Rifugio Campo Base
Sunday Lunch in the Alps at Lago di Roburent
Monday 14 July 2008 - An Italian Border Route (IBR) - Day 20 - The Chef's Cupboard rest day
Tuesday 15 July 2008 - An Italian Border Route (IBR) - Day 21 - Medieval Italian Villages
25 km to near Colletto della Battagliola
Monte Viso from Colle di Bellino - 2804 metres
Shopping in the Alps in the alimentari in Pleyne
Monte Viso (2) from near Colletto della Battagliola - 2248 metres
Wednesday 16 July 2008 - An Italian Border Route (IBR) - Day 22 - A 3000 Metre Day
22 km to Refuge Baillif-Viso
Thursday 17 July 2008 - An Italian Border Route (IBR) - Day 23 - Some Good Decisions
21 km to Bobbio Pellice, then bus to Torre Pellice
Mont Blanc from Colle Seilliere - 2854 metres
Friday 18 July 2008 - An Italian Border Route (IBR) - Day 24 - The Wonderful Sara rest day
Saturday 19 July 2008 - An Italian Border Route (IBR) - Day 25 - Inversion
14 km to Ghigo di Prali
Inversion from Colle Giulian - 2451 metres
Posto Tappa at Ghigo di Prali
Sunday 20 July 2008 - An Italian Border Route (IBR) - Day 26 - Sunshine and Showers
15 km to Balsiglia
Monday 21 July 2008 - An Italian Border Route (IBR) - Day 27 - The Lonely Alp
19 km to Fenestrelle
Tuesday 22 July 2008 - An Italian Border Route (IBR) - Day 28 - Sunny Fenestrelle and a Fort Visit rest day
Wednesday 23 July 2008 - An Italian Border Route (IBR) - Day 29 - Half Way!
20 km to Rifugio D Arlaud
Alpine Flowers bellflowers
Thursday 24 July 2008 - An Italian Border Route (IBR) - Day 30 - A Fine Route across the Susa Valley 23 km to the Clapier Lakes
Friday 25 July 2008 - An Italian Border Route (IBR) - Day 31 - A Day out in France
29 km to Rifugio Stellina
The Blue Lake Lac Mont Cenis (or Lago del Moncenisio)
Saturday 26 July 2008 - An Italian Border Route (IBR) - Day 32 - Small Red Dots
17 km to Rifugio Vulpot
Glacier - on the Glacier dei Rochmelon
Madonna Santa Maria
View from a Madonna at 3528 metres
Sunday 27 July 2008 - An Italian Border Route (IBR) - Day 33 - Rescued by An Italian Gentleman 8 km to Usseglio
Monday 28 July 2008 - An Italian Border Route (IBR) - Day 34 - First Cloudy Day
8 km to Laghi Verdi
Gandolfo Bivouac
Tuesday 29 July 2008 - An Italian Border Route (IBR) - Day 35 - Fly Antidote, and a Soggy Pillow 14 km to Laghi di Trione
Wednesday 30 July 2008 - An Italian Border Route (IBR) - Day 36 - News From A Shop Crawl
20 km to Fonti-Minerali
Alimentari at Pialpetta
Thursday 31 July 2008 - An Italian Border Route (IBR) - Day 37 - Arrivederci GTA, Hello Lisa and Joshua 6 km to Camping Piccolo Paradiso beyond Ceresole Reale
Tuborg Beer at Fonti-Minerali
A Picnic in the Alps beside Ceresole Reale
Be Inspired - visit the GTA
Friday 1 August 2008 - An Italian Border Route (IBR) - Day 38 - Grey Paradiso
20 km to Camping Pont Breuil at Pont
Saturday 2 August 2008 - An Italian Border Route (IBR) - Day 39 - A Stroll in the Park
18 km to Rhêmes-Notre-Dame, then a lift to Rhêmes-Saint-Georges
The Old View - not so grey today! Gran Paradiso from a 2760 metre col near Chandally
The New View from Col di Entrelor towards Grande Rousse
Sunday 3 August 2008 - An Italian Border Route (IBR) - Day 40 - In View of Mont Blanc
20 km to Planaval
Blue Skies with Val Rhêmes
Chef and Pantry heading for Valgrisenche
Monday 4 August 2008 - An Italian Border Route (IBR) - Day 41 - The Lazy English rest day
Tuesday 5 August 2008 - An Italian Border Route (IBR) - Day 42 - Another 'Red Dot' Adventure 14 km to Rifugio A Deffeyes
Ye Olde Blogger on AV2 above Planaval
Wednesday 6 August 2008 - An Italian Border Route (IBR) - Day 43 - To The Fleshpots of Courmayeur (Or Not) 24 km to Courmayeur, then by bus to EntrèvesMont Blanc from near Rif A Deffeyes
Thursday 7 August 2008 - An Italian Border Route (IBR) - Day 44 - An Epicurian Adventure
6 km and a rest
Sempervivum montanum houseleeks
Friday 8 August 2008 - An Italian Border Route (IBR) - Day 45 - A Brush with the TMB
18 km to Rifugio Walter Bonatti
Traditional slate roofs
A Mountain Hotel - Rifugio Walter Bonatti
Saturday 9 August 2008 - An Italian Border Route (IBR) - Day 46 - Turning The Corner
21 km to EtroublesView from the Breakfast Table Grandes Jorasses
One for Notchy Col de Malatra - 2925 metres
Polenta in Etroubles
Sunday 10 August 2008 - An Italian Border Route (IBR) - Day 47 - No 22, A Path With a View
12 km to Rifugio Champillon
Another Sunday Lunch above Etroubles
Monday 11 August 2008 - An Italian Border Route (IBR) - Day 48 - French Friends
17 km to Camping Lac Lexert in Dzovenno
Gentians (1) - spring gentians
Tuesday 12 August 2008 - An Italian Border Route (IBR) - Day 49 - First Wet Day rest day
Gentians (2) - field gentians
Wednesday 13 August 2008 - An Italian Border Route (IBR) - Day 50 - Another Day, Another 3000 Metre Col
25 km to wild camp near Bivacco ManentiLeaving Lac Lexert
Valcornera - on the way to Col di Valcornera
Thursday 14 August 2008 - An Italian Border Route (IBR) - Day 51 - The Matterhorn: Hello and Goodbye 18 km to wild camp in Vallone di Courtod
The Matterhorn from the approach to Cervinia
Friday 15 August 2008 - An Italian Border Route (IBR) - Day 52 - Cunning Plans
7 km to St Jacques
A Cunning Plan St Jacques
Saturday 16 August 2008 - An Italian Border Route (IBR) - Day 53 - First Hot Chocolate!
20 km to Gressoney-La-Trinité
Hot Chocolate
The View From Path 13 The Matterhorn again
Sunday 17 August 2008 - An Italian Border Route (IBR) - Day 54 - Walser Villages
17 km to Alagna Valsesia
Monday 18 August 2008 - An Italian Border Route (IBR) - Day 55 - The Last Map
24 km to Macugnaga
Chef in Action
Mountain Bivouacs (1) Bivacco Lanti
Mountain Bivouacs (2) Bivacco Lanti interior
Tuesday 19 August 2008 - An Italian Border Route (IBR) - Day 56 - The Exit Route
7 km to Rifugio G Oberto
Wednesday 20 August 2008 - An Italian Border Route (IBR) - Day 57 - Arriverderci Italie, Guten Tag Helvetia 19 km to Saas Grund, via Saas Fee
Madonna delle Nevi
Saas Grund - The End
Thursday 21 August 2008 - An Italian Border Route (IBR) - Day 58 - A Sunny Day in the Alps
the journey home
Run From The Sun
Kit List

More to follow in due course regarding route, costs, and kit.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Hot Chocolate

No trip to the Italian Alps should be deprived of the opportunity to enjoy the uniquely enjoyable thick hot chocolate served up by the Italians. It took us until Day 54 to succumb, due to the startlingly fantastic weather.

The downside to the good weather was a higher incidence of flies than usual. But these were mainly like the domestic house flies we all encounter at home, and we never felt the urge to seek out fly spray, so they can't have been all that bad...

Back to Day 54's Report

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Polenta


This is how they cook polenta in Etroubles.

We chose not to have polenta for our Sunday lunch on return to the UK, though it was quite tasty in some of its incarnations in Italy.

Sorry about the little hiatus in blogging - it's a bit hard to adjust to a new daily routine, and I'm trying to catalogue about 1500 images of the trip.

A gear review, summary of the route, index to the blogs, additional pictures, and acknowledgements will follow shortly - with maybe one or two more images in the meantime.

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Thursday 21 August 2008 - An Italian Border Route (IBR) - Day 58 - A Sunny Day in the Alps

Plan: Day 58 - The journey home

Actual: And so it was, with sunny views over hillsides planted with vines, past snow capped mountains, a large looking moon peeking over a rocky summit, the train sped along beside airports and motorways on its way past Lake Geneva to the airport.

Here's a message we sent from the train.

So, here are the final statistics:

Cumulative distance (planned in brackets):
860 km (802), 61000 metres ascent (60300), 300 hours (roughly!) walking (327).

No of summits visited: 11

No of cols or passes visited: 86

Highest point: Rocciamelone - 3528 metres

Hours waterproofs worn: 4

No of English encountered whilst walking: 11 from Ramblers Holidays doing the Tour of Monte Rosa (15 not walking)

All our memory cards are full (hence the lack of a 'postcard image' today, Sue's boots have been binned, we are satiated with mountain air and acclimatised to 3000 metres.

So painting the house should be a breeze.

We are home....

Back to Index

Run From The Sun

Goodbye Alps, until next time.

Back to Today's Report

Wednesday 20 August 2008 - An Italian Border Route (IBR) - Day 57 - Arriverderci Italie, Guten Tag Helvetia

One of many waterfalls cascading into the Mattmark reservoir

Plan: Day 57 (second half) - Rifugio G Oberto to Saas Fee - 16 km, 100 metres ascent, 3.5 hours.

Actual: Rif G Oberto to Camping am Kapellenweg, Saas Grund:
19 km, 200 metres ascent, 6.9 hours including 2.3 hours breaks.

Best bit: Bright blue skies and cloud inversions at 2900 metres.

Finished!

And we found an excellent restaurant - Tenne - in which to celebrate.

We were in no rush. It dawned fine, apart from some swirling cloud, and we had plenty of time to chat to the four pipe-laying workmen, and to Fabio, the guardian, before easing our aching limbs up the final 100 metres to our final col.

Passo di M Moro is also home to the Madonna delle Nevi, a 6 metre statue painted gold. Today she was radiant under a gleaming sun and a deep blue sky. The sun was on her back, so photos were tricky. We spent 30 minutes with her - here's the message we sent at the time, leaving just before the arrival of the first passengers disgorged from the nearby cablecar.

We missed the path down so had a bit of fun in a boulder field before locating the security of the red and white stripes of the alpine path markings.

Cloud lay below us, so we thought we would have to pass through it to a dull day in the valley, but it evaporated as we went down. It was lovely to be able to enjoy a final sunny day, despite cloud obscuring some of the high peaks.

Ibex scampered in front of us. Rock pipits, redstarts, choughs and ravens joined the marmots in admiring the splendid inversions.

We stood aside on a steep rock to allow some fat men past. Just as the last one was below them, Sue's ailing boots finally died. They lost all sense of friction and propelled her into a heap at this man's feet.

It was hilarious. I'd been suggesting she change to trainers for some weeks - she later finally accepted that advice!

A ferret dashed across the path looking for mice.

We met lots of people on their way from the car park at the Mattmark reservoir - around 2200 metres - along the well graded path to the col. We noticed a dramatic change in their appearance. Most of them, men and women, were fat; the people we met in Italy were very rarely unnaturally bulky.

I could make a rude comment here, but I won't. I don't know the nationality of all these fat people, but they seemed to speak German or English. Yes, we started to meet English, so the 'encounter count' will end on the last col, as we are now well into territory frequented by the English.

We took the quieter (rougher) track to the east of the lake, noticing the abundance of flowers hereabouts. Willowherbs and bellflowers, daisies and fleabanes, bistorts and stonecrops, eyebrights and spurges, houseleeks, gentians and orchids, and many more to feast our eyes. These have accompanied us daily during the trip. We will miss them greatly.

Waterfalls cascaded gracefully from melting glaciers into the well supplied lake.

We'd been told, perhaps by the German I was rude to a couple of days ago, that it was best to get a bus down from the dam, rather than walk along the road. We hadn't been looking forward to this road and it was unclear from the map as to whether there was a path. So we were delighted to find a most excellent path, all the way to Saas Fee, with only about a kilometre beside the quiet road.

Lunch was perfect. Good bread, tuna with porcini - we hadn't had that for ages, no flies, good tea, bright sunshine, fabulous views, and a lovely waterfall. No worries, just contentment with this 'simple life'.

But it's all about to end!

Saas Fee was duly reached - past a massive 'Go Ape' type of facility with wires stretching high and long above the gorge, bus and train tickets for tomorrow were purchased, Swiss francs were obtained, and the walk was unexpectedly but enthusiastically continued, off the top of our last map, down 'the path of chapels' to Saas Grund, Saas Fee being a tent free zone.

Here we are in Saas Fee - mission accomplished - very satisfying

It being Switzerland, the camp site has plentiful topsoil; we have washed some smell off our clothes for travelling purposes, and I have broken one of the Nallo's poles trying to set up a washing line (my fault entirely - but not a problem - this happened at the start of the HRP trip and the Nallo's spare sleeve held up for the whole trip, we haven't even had to use that today).

We even found a photographer to record our 'compleation' for the purpose of this message home.

Lounging on the sunny site with alpine views and mugs of tea was followed by beers and our excellent celebratory meal at Restaurant Tenne.

And that's about it - day 58 is a rest/travelling day, so I may find time to produce some final statistics. Then there will be photos to add, many messages to send, epilogues to write, etc, etc,

So thank you for watching, and keep tuned to this channel!

Next Day
Back to Index

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Saas Grund

We did pass through Saas Fee, honestly.

But there's nowhere for tents there.

We didn't mind carrying on to Saas Grund. It was a lovely day for a walk after all.

And when will we be out like this again?

The end of a wonderful two months. We hope you have enjoyed these transmissions.

Today's blog will follow in due course when we've drowned our sorrows...

Back to Today's Report

Madonna delle Nevi

This typifies our trip.

She stands at around 2900 metres aloft our 86th and final pass, gleaming under a dark blue sky.

There is nobody else here but us.

It's a poignant moment.

Back to Today's Report

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Tuesday 19 August 2008 - An Italian Border Route (IBR) - Day 56 - The Exit Route

Relaxing in Rifugio G Oberto

Plan: Day 57 (first half) - Macugnaga to Rifugio G Oberto - 6 km, 1500 metres ascent, 3.5 hours.

Actual: Camping Sporting in Macugnaga to Rif G Oberto:
7 km, 1500 metres ascent, 4.7 hours including 1.2 hours breaks.

Best bit: A lovely alfresco lunch with fresh bread, tomato, toma di formezza and mortadella con oliva.

The Exit Route. That's what I thought until I looked at the map. Now I think the continuation of the route may well be from Saas Fee - heading back into Italy over Passo di Saas.

We have picked up a version of the GTA today, marked both on our map and on the ground. It follows a high route along red dots, briefly entering Switzerland before returning to the haven of Antronapiana in Italy.

The only reason to hasten today was to avoid the rain forecast for this afternoon. So we didn't hasten. The cloud was down at 2500 to 3000 metres so views were limited. It was cool. Good walking weather.

As seems to be the norm for the TMR, we started off up the road, provisioning for a couple of lunches at Staffa, one of the villages that makes up the district of Macugnaga. It's a reasonably sized town, with a variety of shops and bars. Alan Sloman would love it here.

I eventually dragged Sue away from these and we followed TMR signs to reach another lovely old mule track that wound gently up through woods, emerging after an hour or so at the Alpe Bill cable car station.

Then it was a rather thrutchy ascent on a rough rocky path below the cable car. Excavators were working on one section of the hill - perhaps something to do with skiing, or perhaps inserting walls to lessen the risk of landslides.

I grumbled about the mess whilst Sue feasted on berries. I could understand why we were the only people on the path. Sue waved to the cable car passengers. I vowed never to return to this path.

The flowers are more sparse now, after two months of summer since we set off, but harebells and biting stonecrop were still abundant on this rocky path. We also noted a different type of 'harebell' that turns out to be perforate bellflower - very common here.

We enjoyed an early lunch - our last above 2500 metres for the time being. It was excellent, with occasional glimpses of Monte Rosa's huge glaciers, gleaming in the sun under what must have been gaps in the cloud cover to our south west.

Then easily up, chatting on the way to an Italian couple we recognised from yesterday (the broken arm was a bit of a giveaway!), to the spacious rifugio (reached at 1.30), where we have a room to ourselves.

Day visitors from the cable car come and go. There appear to be just five other Italians staying. Italy's olympic channel emits images which we don't find particularly interesting. None of team GB's successes are shown. Notchy remains as our window on the outside world, despite the TV. A female ibex and two young linger outside - looking for scraps? (Of news?)

We turn out to be sharing the rifugio with a lone Italian who is walking - probably the TMR - and four others who exude an air of workmen on expenses on a day off. They have polished off two bottles of champagne and are half way through a two litre bottle of wine. Their room is next to the toilet. So is ours, the other side.

The rifugio is very jolly. Prayer flags and christmas decorations vie for prominence with a huge array of sunglasses and assorted loaves of bread for sale. A German calls to make a booking for tomorrow. Sue is enrolled as translator as the guardian and the other five occupants speak only Italian.

Water is scarce - not surprising as we are just a few metres below a 2888 metre pass on the Swiss border - so washing up is not really on the agenda. Dinner is eaten using plastic spoons and cups, and balsa wood knives and forks. Luckily the gnocchi was scoopable and the beef was tender.

It has finally started to rain at around 8 pm, so we could have made it down to Saas Fee for a night on the town. It would have been wonderful up here in good weather (there are lots of deck chairs outside), but in today's cold cloud we have remained inside and had a leisurely afternoon with the yatzy dice, etc.

It will not be a late night!

Next Day
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Mountain Bivouacs (2)

This is the interior of Bivacco Lanti's green metal box (you'll need to read the previous blog - here - for the background).

There are three mattresses at the back and on each side. They can be folded out of the way when not in use. There is also a table and chairs, so not much room for anyone to sleep on the floor! I expect the gear would go there.

Cosy but safe!

I'm sure that fans of British bothies would love to try some of these Alpine bivouacs.

We prefer our tent.

Back to Today's Report

Mountain Bivouacs (1)

We come across mountain bivouacs, or pass nearby them, quite frequently. They are the only places we haven't stayed in.

We prefer our tent.

They could be useful in an emergency, though and they are well used.

This is Bivacco Lanti (they are often named after or in memory of someone).

Bivouacs can be old shepherds' huts or custom built metal boxes.

This one is both.

The shepherds' hut, converted in 1980, sleeps two people, plus two on the stone floor in an emergency.

The green metal box, approx 6 feet by 9 feet, sleeps nine people!

Back to Today's Report

Monday 18 August 2008 - An Italian Border Route (IBR) - Day 55 - The Last Map

Monte Rosa from Rifugio F Pastore

Plan: Day 56 - Alagna Valsesia to Macugnaga - 20 km, 1800 metres ascent, 8.5 hours.

Actual: Camping Alagna at Alagna Valsesia to Camping Sporting in Macugnaga:
24 km, 1600 metres ascent, 9.5 hours including 1.9 hours breaks.

Best bit: The wonderful path over Col di Turlo.

I was rude to a German man yesterday. I'm sorry about that. It was just that he was insisting we get the free bus up the valley to start today's walk.
'You must get the bus.' He said.
'But we've walked all the way from the Mediterranean' I replied, 'getting the bus is not on our agenda.'
'You must get the bus.' He replied.
I apologise for being rude to this obstinate opinionated man (that makes two of us!).

Sue told the camp site lady where we were going.
'It's a long way, you must get the bus' she said.
Sue replied as I had done to the German.
'It's still a long way, you should get the bus' the lady asserted.
Sue wasn't rude to her.

Today the Last Map - I think we started with 11 - was carefully inserted into the map case. A sad moment really, but care was needed because this map will have the honour of returning with us, perhaps for a couple of weeks next year, when we continue our quest to reach Trieste via 'An Italian Border Route'.

It has been a brilliant route, even today's stroll along the Tour of Monte Rosa (TMR) that I have been so maligning was excellent - one of the best paths we have encountered.

Knowing it would be a longish day, we were up and away from our grassy hard core pitch by 8 am. This, like Lac Lexert, was an excellent site, but would be improved for campers like us by a layer of topsoil. Tonight's site is similar. Bob and Rose's titanium spikes are very useful in such places, though their 'heavy duty' titanium vee shaped pegs are of little use. Luckily, we have just the right combination and can keep the 'vees' in reserve for stormy wild camps (just one this trip).

It's worth noting that Alagna Valsesia could be an excellent venue for a rest day. It's also worth noting that camp sites such as the one there often have cabins available for rent, for those who prefer not to camp.

So, we have two days to go but only one (long) day on our planned itinerary. What shall we do tomorrow? Rain is forecast for the afternoon. We shall try a avoiding tactic, we have a cunning plan up our sleeves. One that Nick knows about and that I may already have disclosed in these pages.

This morning's TMR road walk was a lot nicer than the ski pistes the TMR follows. Especially as the free buses are the only vehicles allowed up the road. A sort of mini version of the system used in Zion National Park. (Been there? No? Go!)

Had we been day walkers we would have used the bus and saved an hour. But anyway, after passing the site of some old gold mines our path left the road under a buzzing helicopter and headed up to Rif Pastore, where the coffees were almost up to the expected standard.

Entering the Alta Valsesia National Park along path 7a, we were not short of the company of chattering Italian families for the first part of the Col di Turlo crossing on a lovely mule track reminiscent of those old hunters' paths we had so enjoyed in the Maritime Alps.

Sue commented on the large number of bare-chested men out on the hill this morning, but my t-shirt remained firmly in place.

Red campion, meadow cranesbill and bladder campion returned to join the more alpine species alongside the path. We also saw heather (ling) in flower for the first time. Autumn must be on the way.

Sadly the early morning sun and the brilliant blue skies over peaks capped by glaciers was short lived. Cloud cover slowly increased and settled at around the height of our pass (2738 metres).

Our memory cards breathed a sigh of relief, as mountain views - even sunny ones like today's - aren't quite the same without summits. We have room left for about 20 more images between us (phew!).

Lunch was taken early - we had learnt from yesterday that the cloud would be lower on the other (north) side. Harebells and bumblebees kept us company whilst all my porter's supplies were consumed. Here's the message I sent whilst waiting for my lunch to be prepared.

Hmmm, perhaps I have a raw deal here. On days when copious provisions aren't needed, my porter just has the tent, and a few items for lunch, for which I carry the butter and milk, whilst I'm trailing along carrying the cooking equipment, library, first aid kit, spare batteries and chargers for cameras and 'phones, solar panels, toilet digging kit, washing line and pegs, a full wardrobe, binoculars, etc, etc, not to mention tent pegs and poles.

No wonder my back hurts!

On the way down we passed a bivouac shelter, Bivacco Lanti, about which more later. Here, and here.

The path from the plaque adorned pass had been empty for the first couple of hours, but then occasional encounters beside a river washing over smooth white rocks and down small falls signified a return to civilisation.

We encountered red and white path markers for the first time in ages as we passed through a scenic hamlet and approached the final descent through sunlit beech woods to another friendly camp site (the warden is telling all the other residents where we have walked from - we are famous!).

Macugnaga, which is a conglomeration of several small villages, does indeed seem very civilised. The Walser influence is less here, with houses more of the 'Swiss chalet' sort of style. But there is still lots of interest to us, and we wish we had more time here.

As it was, a 2 km round trip to the local alimentari, and possibly the last meal in the tent for a while, was just about all we could manage.

Finally, a few messages.

Hello to Alberto and Alessandra from Le Rêve, the B+B where the front door opens into the dining area, from which most of Hermes' rooms with their murals radiate. You should have joined us for a chat - the wine was flowing nicely, as was Hermes's genepy.

Notchy, we last heard from you somewhere near Southport Boating Lake, then the line went dead. Hope you are ok and the Dinosaur passed its MOT.

Gayle, Alan, we are sorry to be finishing this walk (for the time being) as well, but we will try to keep you entertained as best we can. Actually, we could do with someone else setting off on a month's blogging trip for our own entertainment - it's so much more fun when in 'real time' isn't it?

And congratulations to Diana (Sue's mum) on being the first to congratulate us on finishing - when we still had three days to go!

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Sunday, 17 August 2008

Sunday 17 August 2008 - An Italian Border Route (IBR) - Day 54 - Walser Villages

A typical 'Walser' building at Scarpia

Plan: Day 55 - Gressoney-La-Trinité to Alagna Valsesia - 15 km, 1300 metres ascent, 7.5 hours.

Actual: B+B Le Rêve in Gressoney-La-Trinité to Camping Alagna at Alagna Valsesia:
17 km, 1300 metres ascent, 8 hours including 1.4 hours breaks.

Best bit: Escaping from the Gondolas.

The forecast today was for fine but cloudy weather. A little disappointing then that after lunch the clouds leaked a bit. To call it rain would be an insult to that word, but a few cold drips did warrant waterproofs for a short while.

As expected, Hermes provided a fine breakfast, and we set off from our B+B with murals in all the rooms, up path number 4 at 8.30.

Not my original plan, but a better route.

We were soon overtaken by a man in wellies with a rod and a big white dog. They were found shortly afterwards beside a succulent looking pool.

The path was otherwise deserted. Past banks of alpine willowherb we entered a lovely coire with splashing waterfalls and rampant eyebright.

Behind its barrage, Lac Gabiet lay despondently grey and half empty.

Just beyond it, Rifugio Gabiet looked resplendent in its red and white livery.

There were a few people about, having been disgorged from the nearby gondolas, but these melted away as we moved on towards the Tour of Monte Rosa path.

We arrived at another ski piste, and earthworks for more paraphernalia. This seems to be a feature of the TMR.

So we left the TMR and the gondolas strung up above it and headed along a nicely cairned path over Passo Zube. Nowhere did we find a sign for this route or pass, perhaps because there were no paint marks.

Not my original plan, but a better route.

Presumably the TMR is designed to give business to Rifugios. In this area those hostelries appear to be positioned to serve skiers. They are therefore accessed by piste, and surrounded by ski detritus.

I'm sure they are very nice in winter.

Passo Zube (2874 metres) had prayer flags and a wooden sculpture, and was backed by a bank of cloud.

Goodbye view (which had been good), hello cloud. We soon stopped for our Sunday lunch - which is usually in bright sunshine. Not today. Fleeces and gloves were employed. It was 8C. The lunch - tea, fresh bread with ham, cheese and tomato, was excellent as always. Notchy's News of invincible Brits poured in, adding to the ambiance of our cold cloud.

A chamois lurked nearby with her baby.

The descent down path 3b, which the TMR adopts after Passo Foric, was pleasant enough apart from the pesky droplets and the limited views.

Below 2000 metres the sun came out and we passed through some high hamlets that retain faithfully the Walser heritage. The buildings have a very distinctive construction - slatted wooden frames, with internal rooms inside the veranda created by the frame.

Here we met just about the only person seen today - a young girl who cheerily greeted us 'buongiorno' in what I swear was a Scottish accent! Local dialect?

A light brown hawk flew off from a barn ahead of us. A goshawk?

Down through pleasant woods to the affluent pedestrianised streets (well, street) of Alagna Valsesia and our camp site, which we were relieved to discover does actually exist.

Dinner was in the tent due to more droplets and the fact that we'd been carrying it since Cervinia! Why go to a restaurant when you can reduce the weight of the porter's pack?

The sky is clearing. The sun will shine tomorrow for our last full day's walk.

All is well with the world - and especially with my mother, who has just worked out how to contact us whilst on the trip.

Hello mum, we hope to see you at the weekend.

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Valcornera

Here's a shot in Valcornera, on the way to a 3000 metre pass, Col di Valcornera.

Back to the Report for 13 August

Saturday 16 August 2008 - An Italian Border Route (IBR) - Day 53 - First Hot Chocolate!

The Matterhorn from Lac di Pinter

Plan: Day 54 - Rifugio Vieux Crest to Gressoney-La-Trinité via Testa Grigia - 14 km, 1500 metres ascent, 8.5 hours.

Actual: B+B Alta Via in St. Jacques to B+B Le Rêve in Gressoney-La-Trinité, omitting Testa Grigia, but visiting Lago Perrin:
20 km, 1500 metres ascent, 8.7 hours including 2 hours breaks.
Best bit: The sun shone. All day.

Hot chocolate. Cioccolada calde.
Three years ago, in the Dolomites in August, we enjoyed hot chocolate every day. The fridge in the car - to cool the beer - was never needed. What a contrast this year. It has taken until today for us to feel a need to buy hot chocolate. Driven by the fear of spending two months in Italy without one, we finally succumbed at Bar Edelweiss at the top of the Champoluc gondola. Alright, it had been a cool (8C) walk through the shady woods, and in the absence of any wind our usual garb of t-shirts and shorts was fine, but we felt entitled to this indulgence. Here's a report.

There was another 'first' this morning. After leaving B+B Alta Via full of their superb breakfast, we headed up the AV1 path to be greeted by a very English sounding 'bonjorno'. This was Michael, leading a party of 11 Ramblers Holidayers around the Tour of Monte Rosa. They had just set off from Rifugio Ferraro so weren't in a mood for a long chat. But they were the first English we had encountered whilst walking for over 7 weeks. Hello Michael and the gang! I didn't pursue the fact that they appeared to have strayed from the TMR route! Perhaps they were rambling into St Jacques for provisions.

What a momentous day! Hot choc, and English walkers.

It was Saturday in the middle of the Italian holiday season. Blue skies beamed down. A gondola transported folk up to 2000 metres. I would feel very sorry for anyone in the Italian tourist business if we had seen fewer people today. It was good to see people enjoying their day out in the mountains.

After our hot chocolate stop we passed through the village of Cuneaz, one of the highest places in Europe that is inhabited all year round. Its narrow streets gave it a Himalayan feel.

Soon the Matterhorn, like a bad penny, reappeared. It was garnished today with a fresh crust of snow. In fact, looking back to our last wild camp at 2700 metres, that was above the snow line. Perhaps we should have stayed put yesterday!

We chose to leave AV1 in favour of path 13. This gave better views, lots of German gentians, a fabulous lunch stop by Lago Perrin (from where we sent this message), and a wonderful, if slightly tricky, contouring path back to Lago di Pinter to rejoin AV1.

Lago di Pinter provided excellent reflections of the Matterhorn. Even my incompetence with the camera couldn't stop something of the 'essence' being captured.

Then it was up to Col Pinter for a new view (and one back to Mont Blanc and Gran Paradiso), and down the other side to find this excellent B+B. The building is modern, but Hermes is most welcoming. The village is a small town, bustling with holiday makers. There seems to me to be a Swiss influence, but the heritage of the place is 'an open window on the Walsers' world'.

A helpful man in tourist information discovered that tomorrow night's camp site (as per our map) doesn't exist. But he also discovered - for himself as well, as we are the first to make such a bizarre enquiry - that there is in fact a much more conveniently placed site that escaped our map maker's observations. Three English lads were having trouble finding accommodation. Thanks to Nick, our booking was secure.

In one the village people were milling around a refurbished statue of Christ, on display here before being returned in a few days time to its home on top of the Balmenhorn (4167 metres), where it was originally placed in 1955 in memory of the fallen of all wars, without distinction of nationality or political creed. A big Holy Mass service will be held up there on 31 August - televised live.

The B+B is full. We are half board. Two places are set in the dining area. Everyone else is using restaurants. We wonder what we have let ourselves in for....

Don't worry, Nick - thanks for sorting the half board and choosing Pierrade for us. It was wonderful after many nights of pasta and polenta, often both. I don't know whether you fixed that or whether Hermes was just taunting the other guests. We just couldn't help thinking, as they passed on their way out, that they were all wishing they had opted for half board. The food - meat, cheese and vegetables to cook directly on a hot plate - was great, and Hermes proved to be an excellent host. It was brilliant.

We have a TV for the first time on the trip. So we could watch Paula Radcliffe trying to impersonate Sue's pained expression every time she takes her boots off, her anguished stretches to remove cramp, and, if we are very unlucky, unmentionables that Sue has perfected. Sue, of course, does it all without removing her rucksack.

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Saturday, 16 August 2008

The View From Path 13

Here is The Matterhorn again. It won't go away!

Path 13 is not on our planned AV1 route, but looked a better route for views, and has provided a superb lunch spot.

Now we have to traverse across fresh snow back to AV1

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Friday, 15 August 2008

Friday 15 August 2008 - An Italian Border Route (IBR) - Day 52 - Cunning Plans

Early morning at the wild camp in Val Courtod

Plan: Day 53 - Lago Goillet to Rifugio Vieux Crest - 18 km, 800 metres ascent, 7 hours.

Actual: Wild camp at 2700 metres in Val di Courtod to B+B Alta Via in St. Jacques:
7 km, 0 metres ascent, 2 hours including 0.2 hours breaks.
Best bit: The plan worked!

Yesterday the Matterhorn came and went. All in one day. Quite a surprise to us as we had spent about a week getting past Mont Blanc, which was still in view from Colle di Valcornera a couple of days ago.

But wait, flinging the curtains open this morning as the sun beat down on our lie in, what was that rocky cone on the horizon? The Matterhorn, of course, taunting us from its distant perch high above yesterday's broad col.

Cunning plan number 1:
The forecast was 'rain', so we expected that to happen. The plan was simple. Hole up at our lovely camping spot for the day and enjoy a long day in the sun tomorrow to reach the B+B in Gressoney booked by Nick. We had plenty of provisions. Eating them would lighten our loads.
Observing the blue sky above, we quickly realised the utter failure of this cunning plan.

Despite the failure of cunning plan number 1, that had at least given us a lie in and a dry tent, and rain was still expected. Whilst we were going through our daily daubing of sun tan cream ritual (we haven't missed a day on the entire trip), dark clouds were building all around.

Leaving camp after 9 am we descended into emerald green meadows, meeting a group of seven French people struggling slowly up the well graded path.

It was a lovely path that led into the Ayas valley, past farmsteads and goats, one of them a massive male with huge winged horns.

We had originally planned to wild camp beyond Rif Vieux Crest, which was fully booked.

The clouds grew darker. We felt the occasional spot of rain.

The path led down past huge puff balls to a former guides house at Fiery, then on to Blanchard and the small village of St Jacques. We noticed the 'rascard' type of construction - timber buildings supported by mushroom shaped pillars in stone and wood.

Cunning plan number 2:
Clearly a wet afternoon was in prospect. It would be easy to reach Gressoney in a day from here. B+B Alta Via beamed at us enticingly. It was 11 am. We booked in.

The plan worked. The rain soon started. It would have been a fairly dismal afternoon's walk. A coffee in a café and a stroll around the village were enjoyed whilst the sun lasted. We reported home - Sue, relaxing with her coffee in this nice little village.

'Holed up' is not the right description for our sojourn in this lovely wood-panelled farmhouse built in 1682. The bedrooms are bijou but warm and comfy, and there's a spacious living room for us to spend the afternoon in comfort.

Hopefully we can find a restaurant for dinner. My chef is tired after two days of cooking!

Yesterday I announced the Tour of Monte Rosa (TMR) as our last 'named' footpath. I was wrong, we have now joined the Grande Sentiero Walser (GSW), that retraces the steps taken by the Vallesi people between the 12th and 14th centuries as they migrated in search of new lands to colonise. We are also close to the TMR, having left it in favour of our old friend, AV1, which we consider to be a superb route. We will follow it tomorrow until we turn along the GSW to Gressoney la Trinité.

I've taken the liberty today of checking messages:

Thank you, Gillian, for informing Cicerone of our existence, and thank you, the team at Cicerone for your nice message. We are indeed having a fantastic time and will be in touch via Gillian when we return home. We look forward to seeing you at the Kendal Mountain Festival in November, and in the meantime will let you have some comments on one of your other (more flawed than Gillian's) guides.

Hello Helen - thanks for your message. We aren't really feeling neglected as we know we have around 50 regular readers, very few of whom make comments.

One of those who does make comments is the inimitable Mr Sloman, himself a perambulant of long-distance walks and inveterate blogger and womaniser. He knows that the receipt of comments whilst 'on the road' adds to the pleasure. Interactive blogging, I suppose.

Alan - (touché!) before we left on this trip I took Sue to a Shop (yes!) to buy a new Thermarest. She looked at the Cascade Designs 6.5 cm sleeping mat and took advice. All that glistens is not gold. It has defects, that's all I'm saying, and her purchase of the pretty pink Prolite womens mat is not regretted. It is a star of the trip, along with her ('stonking pillow') RAB vapour rise fleece (an expensive pillow, if you ask me!). But thank you for your comments Alan; we enjoy them nearly as much as Notchy's News Bulletins. (I would publish these if I could afford to buy the copyright.)

Tomorrow the sun will shine.

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