Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Tuesday 22 July 2014 - Summer Holiday - Day 26 - In Search of Cascades

It rained. Sue didn't bother with waterproofs but I wore mine all day. We were equally damp at the end. It was that sort of mizzle from a cloud base just above us.

We walked from the campsite for a total of about 21km with 300 metres ascent. 

First stop, on the way to which the upper river picture was taken, was St Claude, a place perhaps similar in size to Luchon in the Pyrenees. After coffee there, we set off towards a cascade but missed the path. So we tolerated a section of the GR route that traverses the Jura. Mostly uphill on tarmac in trees.

Eventually, after an al fresco lunch courtesy of Spar, we found a way round to a small cascade by a hydro plant - the Combes cascade. It wasn't a huge waterfall. Most paths were blocked off for repairs from July 2014 to April 2015. It didn't seem to have occurred to them that anyone might approach from our direction. 

The lack of a map was a minor hindrance that we overcame by devious means to locate the Cascade de la Vouivre. This wasn't very big either. It's pictured, with Sue dodging the torrent.

Nearby were giant mushrooms/toadstools and different types of Red Helleborine, Bellflowers and Melilots, to name but a few of the plants, which are 'woodland' rather than 'alpine' here in the Jura.

This is an area of waterfalls. We noticed on our return to St Claude that there was a plethora of 'Cascade' postcards, none of which featured those we visited today. 

Dinner was acquired from shops as we returned through the ancient cathedral town of St Claude, and eaten in the room above the campsite restaurant - a large games/TV/dining sort of area - very convenient. 

I think we made the best of a dull, rainy day. We met two other walkers all day. The area is pleasantly wooded and hardly overcrowded. Dutch and French dominate the campsite. 

Monday, 21 July 2014

Monday 21 July 2014 - Summer Holiday - Day 25 - Chiesa to Parc Regionale de Haut-Jura

Rain in France. 

Luckily we arrived here during a break in the rain, allowing us to pitch the tent and enjoy a cuppa outside in the sunshine before another sheet of wet stuff blanketed the Jura mountains. 

'Here' is Camping Le Martinet just outside Saint Claude in the Jura, the delights of which town we have yet to savour.

After 350 miles of driving it was lovely to receive a welcome from Stephanie that matched our recent hospitality in Italy. We arrived after 6pm, just in time to order croissants for breakfast, but too late to get a table inside the restaurant, where we are relegated to an outside spot under a huge canopy onto which the rain is thundering. 

It was overcast in Valmalenco when we paid our farewells to Diana and her other guests after a fine Italian breakfast, and it remained dry all the way past Milan and Turin to Courmayeur. We caught glimpses of the Monte Rosa massif, its huge tracts of snow poking out from giant banks of cloud. 

We couldn't pass Courmayeur without visiting our old friend Alessandro at his hotel in Entreves. He welcomed us with open arms, not to mention tea and cappuccino. Hotel Aigle is a great place, slightly off the beaten track, but commended for both summer and winter visits. It was discovered by Nick in 2008 when he was helping us with some Italian Border Route bookings. You must visit Alessandro sometime, Nick.

We are pictured above with Alessandro, who like me has become a grandad since we last met. The other picture was taken from the hotel towards Mont Blanc, well in the cloud today, but with the Italian (I forget its correct name) glacier tumbling into view below its umbrella of cloud. 

It was a shame to have to pass La Clusaz and Annecy without calling in on Chantal and Joël, and Pierre and Yolaine, who are all away on holiday. And to pass by Geneva without any contact from Alistair and Laurence. Never mind, there will be other opportunities. 

Laugh of the day: Sondrio has some very 'loud' blue and white striped pedestrian crossings. We were delayed briefly as a ginger cat sauntered casually across. ..

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Sunday 20 July 2014 - Summer Holiday - Day 24 - Val Malenco

The sound of rain finally dulled the hum from the power station at around 6am.

The campsite wasn't all bad though. Apart from the stony pitch and the noisy power station neighbour, the staff were happy and friendly, the showers were very good, there were good covered picnic tables and easy chairs, the bar was good, and the cost for two people with a car and a tent - €8. My advice to anyone using this facility - take earplugs if (unlike me) you can cope with them, and place your tent directly behind the climbing wall where you are sheltered from the sound of the power station. 

We packed up after the rain stopped, and headed to the tourist information office. Soon we were in B&B Ca' Erminia where our host, Diana, realised that our breakfast of yoghurt and tea had been a little deficient. So we are actually staying in a B&2B establishment. It's a top of the range place with a lovely bed cum living room and all mod cons. 

We were in no hurry, having abandoned a possible plan to walk part of the Alta Via delle Valmalenco on a hut to hut basis. The weather isn't brilliant and we are a bit tired from sixteen days' walking without a break. So today was just a recce.

We caught the 11.30 cablecar - Funivia Snow Eagle - lifting us in just a few minutes from 1000 to 2000 metres. There was lots of ugly ski paraphernalia at the top, but I think the skiing in Valmalenco is concentrated here, so most of the Alta Via should be free of such eyesores. 

The rain started again soon after noon, and it remained showery thereafter. 

Our route around Lago Palù took us to Rifugio Palù. Sadly we were unable to locate the mushrooms that Diana had alerted us to, but the lattes in the Rifugio were the best of the entire trip, served by happy smiling people relishing a busy Sunday at the Rifugio. What a contrast to the grumpy folk at Rifugios Averau and Nuvolau last week. 

Our recce continued with a walk to nearby Alpe Roggione, where an elderly lady spends the summers living in a very basic shelter, pictured behind the folk in the above photo. She chatted to us whilst her grandchildren played in the Lilliputian houses nearby and her chickens ranged freely without even realising that they were chickens. 

Three men appeared. After enjoying the delights of the Alta Via delle Valmalenco for three days they were descending in the day's indifferent weather before returning to work in nearby Milan. Jacobo, Paulo and Max are pictured in front of the old lady's house, together with Sue and Isabel. It was great to meet you three and we hope you get in touch with us and even visit the UK.

We soon stopped for an al fresco lunch during a pause in the drizzle. Then we completed an 8km circuit with 300 metres ascent, via Bocchel del Torno and Alpe Campolungo. There was the usual plethora of flowers in the view punctuated woodland, with masses of bellflowers, orchids, saxifrages and houseleeks, to name but a few. 

By the time we'd returned to the B&2B via the cable car and Chiesa village, we'd decided to substitute Alta Via delle Valmalenco for next year's suggested trip to walk Alta Via 2 in September. 

It was strange to look at our car and to puzzle how it looked as if it had spent the day in the Sahara desert and not in a Chiesa car park!

Later, in Ristorante Malenco, over a traditional local meal of Bresaola (air cured beef), Pizzocheri (pasta made with black flour, cheese, cabbage and potato), Sciatt (deep fried cheese balls with salad) and tiramisu/crema Catalane for dessert, our waitress explained the difference between the unerringly friendly people here and the grumps we had encountered at Rifs Averau and Nuvolau. "We are all Italians here" she claimed, indicating that many of those met in the South Tyrol area had different, non Italian, character traits.

Whatever - the friendly welcome that we have enjoyed in this valley over the past 24 hours has resulted in their local hutting route being promoted above AV2 on our long distance calender. 

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Saturday 19 July 2014 - Summer Holiday - Day 23 - Badia (Pedraces) to campsite at Lanzada in Val Malenco

Most of our group left early, so last night was full of goodbyes after an excellent week at Collett's Haus Valentin chalet. Today we bid farewell to the remainder, and to Collett's helpful staff - Cam, Claire, Ed, Henry, Poppy and Will. Plus one. Thanks to them all for helping to make the week a success.

By 10.00 Sue and I were on the road again, this time heading to new ground for us, Val Malenco.

Passo Gardena to Bolzano was slow going, then we picked up supplies in Silandro, soon after which a quiet apple orchard provided a good lunch stop, the only difficulty being that both Sue's supermarket apples were rotten, as were many of those in the orchard. 

Then a classic journey over the Stelvio Pass, where it was Sue's turn to drive - she remembered that it was me who had the honour last time. There was much jostling for position with motorists and cyclists, with motorbikes whizzing everywhere. Luckily I was driving by the time we needed to reverse up a tunnel on the descent. Today's pictures were taken at the pass.

At Sondrio, one of a number of nondescript towns in a nondescript valley - the Adda - we turned right up Val Malenco, reaching the campsite at Lanzada at the second attempt, around 6pm. A long journey, especially considering it was well under 200 miles in distance.  The campsite is not a great place but as far as we can tell it's the only site in this long valley.  The power station next door provides a hum that drowns the sound of the river that is full of melt water - today's temperatures were in the mid thirties. There's also the music from the climbing wall behind which there is space on the campsite for half a dozen tents. I don't think ours will be here tomorrow night. 

Actually, as I write, the sounds of the insects and the children playing is nicely overlaying the power station's humming noise.

We've enjoyed an al fresco meal from salad ingredients purchased en route, and beers from the campsite's bar, in the shadow of the Bernina Alps that tower above us. It has been hot and hazy today, with cloud building, but it's a very pleasant evening here in northern Italy. 

Friday, 18 July 2014

Friday 18 July 2014 - Summer Holiday - Day 22 - A Walk from Haus Valentin

For our last day with Collett's at Haus Valentin we hid the car and Sue left with Susan and Roy to do the classic Tridentina Via Ferrata. 

They had a great day out. 

Meanwhile, I took the chairlift to La Crusc together with Mike, Gary and Jenny, and Mick and Gayle. .

It was a lovely ride, and great to arrive at the top café just as the sun appeared from behind the Fanes to warm the outside seating.

Andrew, Mike, Karen and Alan appeared from differing directions and set off towards towards the north. 

A couple of cappuccinos later the rest of us set off down path 15 on the start of our journey to San Cassiano. It was a lovely day with fabulous views and just a few fluffy clouds. 

Sass de Putia, yesterday's summit, was shining in the near distance (pictured - top), and there were fine views to the Marmolada and Piz Boe summits, the former of which was reached by Ken today.

Satiated with the views, we (I) missed path 12A, so we headed instead up path 12 to do a loop that took in the missed path. Albeit that involved an unexpected 300 metre ascent. 

After elevenses then lunch, both with fine panoramic views, we continued down paths 15 and 15A, to reach the valley to the east of San Cassiano, from where we strolled down to La Villa on the route taken last Sunday. 

The sun continued to beat down as we passed some lurid sculptures and interrupted a slow worm's sunbathing schedule. 

Our 21 km stroll with 400 metres ascent concluded with the riverside walk from La Villa to Badia (aka Pedraces), where the Tridentina team plus Bob and Margaret joined Mike and me at Ricky's excellent shop for celebratory cake and ice cream at 4.30. Meanwhile Jenny was admiring her pedometer's total of 36000 steps for the day - her best tally all week. 

Then it was back to Haus Valentin for a lovely evening with our entire team of nineteen, and miscellaneous other folk.

The two lower photos were taken during the course of the evening, which concluded with some reluctant goodbyes as many of the team need to leave early for home in the morning. 

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Thursday 17 July 2014 - Summer Holiday - Day 21 - Sass de Putia

Another 17km day, this time with about 1000 metres ascent. Yesterday was a similar distance, with only 800 metres ascent. 

A forty minute drive saw the AV1 six plus Mike and Jenny at Passo del Erbe, the jumping off point for this easy ascent. 

It was a first visit to this location and the 'high season' feel didn't really endear it to us. But we managed to negotiate the crowds with some success. That was until after lunch on the 2875 metre summit with fine views across the Dolomites and towards the Alps. Then the descent along steep wires found us trapped in a Hillary Step scenario whilst a coach load of German tourists passed us on the way up. Sue, Susan and Roy muscled their way past; Mike and Karen had fainted at the sight of the wires; Mike B, Jenny and I sat it out until the crowd had moved on.

Today's picture shows what we thought of the crowds.

We made our way round the clockwise circuit via refreshments at a handy café,  then drove back for cake or ice cream from Rickys in Pedraces.

A lovely evening followed the busy day.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Wednesday 16 July 2014 - Summer Holiday - Day 20 - Via Ferratas Averau and Nuvalau, and an evening in the pub

Again, due to time constraints I'll let the pictures do most of the talking.

Eleven of us - me, Sue, Susan, Roy, Ken, Alan, Chris, Mick, Gayle, Jacqui and Jenny - headed up to Rifugio Averau on a lovely day. After refreshments at the 'hut', we managed to conjure up nine Via Ferrata kits for an ascent of Mount Averau. Gayle and I were content to miss out and head up to Nuvolau instead. We watched from there, outside the oldest mountain hut in the Dolomites, as the others summited Averau, before descending and ascending to the start/finish of the Via Ferrata after a leisurely lunch. 

We regrouped at the end of the Averau VF before heading back to Rifugio Averau for a third time for Gayle and me. Nuvolau was then chosen as the next objective. I was more than happy to revisit the summit, and content to assure Gayle that she could mark the occasion as a second ascent. 

More refreshments served by a grumpy waitress (they all seemed grumpy today, perhaps suffering from an excess of school children), were followed by the Nuvolau Via Ferrata, for which some of us used our VF kits. It was Gayle's first go at this activity, and she quickly followed Mick's lead by asserting it was "Quite Good Fun".

Some found the walk back to Rifugio Averau rather less fun, but Sue found a Frog Orchid, and a few gulps of beer later we were sufficiently revived to be able to head briskly back to Falzarego, and all but Mick and Gayle (staying in Colin), and Jacqui (tired) made it down to the Badia Pub by 7.30 to celebrate my official birthday. 

The sixteen of us had a great evening, but I now find myself unaccountably tired.


Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Tuesday 15 July 2014 - Summer Holiday - Day 19 - Sassongher

The elite group for Sassongher was down to eight - me, Sue, Susan, Roy, Mick, Gayle and two Mikes. Six heroes - Alan, Chris, Jacqui, Ken, Gary and Jenny - went up the Piz da Lech via ferrata and arrived back before us. Andrew, Helen, Karen, Bob and Margaret preserved their energy on less sapping activities. 

It was a lovely day as you can see from the pictures. Sue failed to extend her orchid spotting, but added Starry Saxifrage to yesterday's Birds Nest and Coral Root Orchids. 

The wires near the summit were easily dealt with after our ascent through the woods from Corvara, and after 16km and 1100 metres ascent we were happily back in Pedraces (now known as Badia).

I could invent lots of incidents, or even recall them if my memory was better,  but it isn't. Perhaps in due course more photos will tell the story of this classic day in the Dolomites. 

But for now.

Sleep tight!

Monday, 14 July 2014

Monday 14 July 2014 - Summer Holiday - Day 18 - Col di Lana

Today  ten of our squad of 19 enjoyed the 11km with 700 metres ascent walk up and over Col di Lana, a 2452 metre double summit, from the south.

The AV1 six were joined by Mike, Gary,  Mick and Gayle for this pleasurable day despite a bit of cloud and a few light showers.

Sue was ecstatic when she discovered some 'new' orchids - the names of which I'll supply tomorrow. 

The summits are laced with trenches and tunnels, and the whole shape of the mountain was changed by huge amounts of explosives detonated by both the Austrians and the Italians in WW1.

The pictures hopefully provide a flavour of our day, during which we gained intermittent views between the showers.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Sunday 13 July 2014 - Summer Holiday - Day 17 - Pralongia Plateau

With rain forecast, seven of our party - Ken, Helen, Andrew, Roy, Mike, Karen and Jacqui - headed off to Bolzano to see the ice man.

That left twelve of us - me, Sue, Susan, Alan, Chris, Mike, Bob, Margaret, Gary, Jenny, Gayle and Mick - to meet in La Villa for the gondola up to Piz La Ila. After leaving my map case on the lift (it was recovered later).

The weather was surprisingly good, given the dire forecast, as we completed a leisurely 16km circuit with less than 100 metres ascent. Lots of Rifugios were passed, with just one, Ulla Pralongia, visited for coffee etc. Lunch was taken on the way down to Armentarola and San Cassiano. Today's picture of the Conturines was taken on the way.

We were back at the gondola station by 2.15, so had plenty of time to enjoy the afternoon and evening at Haus Valentin,  Collett's base in Pedraces where those of us without a camper van (ie all except Mick and Gayle) are spending the week in luxury - not that the camper van is anything other than luxurious, with its constant supply of tea and cake (just like Collett's!).

Saturday 12 July 2014 - Summer Holiday - Day 16 - Rifugio Pian de Fontana to La Pissa, then Pedraces

Alta Via 1 - Day 7 - 12km, 300 metres ascent, 4.5 hours.

AV1 Cumulative Total: 126km, 6700 metres ascent. 

A blue sky morning for our final section and the refuge was bathed in sunshine. Antonio refilled the bread basket as soon as it was empty, and the coffee pot too!

We got going at 7.45, soon looking back to the scene pictured above, before descending 300 metres through beech woods, then re-ascending a similar amount over crisp beech leaves through sun dappled woods to Forcella la Varetta. The path from there was a mule track, high above the narrow valley, and against the limestone we found the first Edelweiss of the trip as well as a proliferation of saxifrages amongst a fabulous selection of alpine plants. The umbellifers lining the path were huge. Orange lilies lay amongst them, somewhat dwarfed! 

Then, a steep descent and a cyclamen littered woodland section where, in the clearings, butterflies were enjoying the warm sunshine. 

A refuge at 1250 metres (Rifugio Furio Bianchet) provided cappuccino and chocolate-orange cake in the sunshine, before our final 800 metre descent. Mostly on an unsurfaced track, it wound gradually down to the valley floor. Some dark red helleborines were found, and there were lots of insects with black spotted wings. Four jovial Italian ladies on their way up to Bianchet stopped for a chat.

The last section was a steep path that crossed a bridge over a deep gorge, La Pissa, dropping us neatly onto a road at 12.15. We had time for a quick lunch of two-day old sandwiches, before our taxi arrived at 12.40. 

Dark clouds built as we journeyed back to Lago di Braies, through Agordo and Arabba, Corvara and Brunico, until 3.10 pm. Tea, then it was an hour's drive back to Haus Valentin in Pedraces, which we had passed earlier, and a rendezvous with numerous folk who will feature in the next phase of this Summer Holiday.

NB Delay due to my attempting to post as Nallo Lady, as today's entry is largely copied from Sue's diary.

Friday, 11 July 2014

Friday 11 July 2014 - Summer Holiday - Day 15 - Passo Duran to Rifugio Pian de Fontana

Alta Via 1 - Day 6 - 18km, 1100 metres ascent, 8.25 hours.

A classic day on AV1. 

Sunlight of Delight and Views of Desire.

For the first time on this trip, several of our waterproof clothes remained stashed today. Others came out briefly towards the end of the day when we skirmished with a cloud as we descended through a zone of marmots and the occasional Burnt Orchid - amongst a vast selection of flowers. 

Beniamino and his staff saw us off before 8am after a good breakfast. (Pictured) After a short descent along the road, we headed along path 543 all the way to the Pramperet Rifugio. It's a wonderful belvedere path for most of the way. Fabulous views and splendiferous flora. Forest, scree slopes, and lazy rises through rock bands.

A good lunch at the friendly hut saw us winding our way up to Forcella de Zità Sud with a couple of Germans who were grateful for our guidance across some snowfields and up a rocky crest to the col, the last few metres being up a steep snow slope. 

Sue, Susan and Roy nipped up to a summit whilst Karen and Mike and I admired the view (also pictured).

It was a 700 metre descent to this fairly basic but friendly Rifugio that hadn't been built when I first visited AV1 in 1991. Its derelict predecessor building is pictured on the wall in 1983.

The descent was perhaps the toughest part of the trip to date, as it was unrelentingly steep and slippery on the limestone that was being lubricated by the passing cloud.

We are enjoying our last evening of 'hutting' before descending to the fleshpots of Pedraces. The food tonight is as good as ever - pasta, pork, polenta, nut cake etc.

The alpenglow on the Schiara is wonderful. 

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Thursday 10 July 2014 - Summer Holiday - Day 14 - Rifugio Coldai to Passo Duran

Alta Via 1 - Day 5 - 22km, 800 metres ascent, 9.25 hours.

Mudpits of Despair and Cow Pats of Doom.

After an ordinary breakfast we set off at 7.45am in an effort to cover some ground before the predicted rain. After a couple of minutes there was rain in the air. That was the on and off story of the day. Waterproofs, that is. Actually we could have got away with leaving them in our bags. But we didn't. 

Sue is pictured shortly after the start, posing in front of Lago Coldai and the Civetta.

During the course of our traverse alongside the western cliffs of the Civetta, we encountered everything from steep snowbound scree slopes to meadows with wild flowers and newly born calves, then forest paths with cesspits of cowpat laden mud.

The twelve Germans from Lago di Braies made a brief appearance before heading off to the Tissi Rifugio for coffee, whilst we continued in the cool weather as far as Rifugio Vazzoler for our own refreshments. 

Lunch soon followed, then a magnificent belvedere path concluding with beers at Rifugio B. Carestiato amongst a dog loving family from Padova.

Down at Passo Duran, Beniamino and his staff at Rifugio S. Sebastiano have provided excellent accommodation and have fed and watered us brilliantly. But there is no wifi and a minimal phone signal with the usual network problem, so transmission may be delayed. 

As to the heading, Mike decided to tramp into a cowpat laden mud pit, hence triggering the comment from Susan. It did rain a lot last night and the ground is unseasonably soggy just now.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Wednesday 9 July 2014 - Summer Holiday - Day 13 - Rifugio Città di Fiume to Rifugio Coldai

Alta Via 1 - Day 4 - 16km, 900 metres ascent, 7 hours.

In search of dinosaurs' footprints.

By the time we reached Rifugio Staulanza for coffee we were on Plan E. Plan A, the AV1 route over to Rifugio Venezia, had been extinguished by the dangerously steep snowfields due to abnormal amounts of snow last winter. Readers may recall that we suffered similar problems in the Pyrenees last year. 
Plan B was rejected as being too short - the direct route past Mt Pelmo.
Plan C was rejected as being too long - the other way around Mt Pelmo involving a lot of descent and ascent.
Plan D was abandoned due to snow gullies that Karen would have struggled with. 

Plan E resulted in an excellent day despite indifferent weather that had us putting waterproofs on and off and trying to avoid the mud. 

After the interesting route to Staulanza we headed along the belvedere path, number 472, through much mud, towards Rifugio Venezia. Shortly before Col delle Crepe we headed up to look at the dinosaurs' footprints pictured above. The other pictures show us at the start of the day in front of Mt Pelmo, and the Civetta group from belvedere path 472.

Descending from Col delle Crepe towards Palafavera, we paused briefly for lunch under some pines in light rain. Then it was down to the road and up a jeep track and footpath to reach our destination before 3.30pm.

Luckily, it's another cosy refuge, if rather larger than last night's. 

Outside, one minute it's snowing, next it's all clear with distant mountains bathed in sunlight with a rainbow foreground. 

The three Johns are here, but the French and the Chinese have gone further today. There are quite a few others here. Showers are good if brief, and we have a room for four and one for two. Half board is €40 for Alpine Club members.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Tuesday 8 July 2014 - Summer Holiday - Day 12 - Rifugio Dibona to Rifugio Città di Fiume

Alta Via 1 - Day 3 - 17km, 1000 metres ascent, 7.25 hours.

A wet day in the Dolomites. 

After a fairly damp day we arrived here soon after 3pm. That should leave plenty of time for blogging, but in a cosy Rifugio full of sociable folk - our own six, the three Johns, French and Chinese couples, etc - it isn't so easy!

The first hour and a half today's walk was thankfully in a pause from the rain that had fallen all night and demanded a dash from the annex to the main building for breakfast. 

A steep slippery 300 metre descent to the Cortina-Passo Falzarego road was followed by a steep thrutchy 300 metre ascent almost as far as Rifugio Cinque Torri. Before reaching that sanctuary we turned left and took a steep slippery 300 metre descent to the Cortina-Passo Giau road. By now the rain had made the tree roots of which the path was composed even more slippery.

After a short section on a freshly sanitised pathway, normal service was resumed by way of a steep thrutchy 300 metre ascent to mercifully level path to Rifugio Croda da Lago 'G Palmieri'.

Lunch was taken in this fine establishment as the rain tipped down outside and an elderly group of Japanese tried to commit hari kiri on the welcome grate. Then waterproofs were redeployed for the stroll up to Forcella Ambrizzola. My five companions are pictured leaving the Rifugio. Mike had given up on his brolly by this point.

The afternoon was spent on limestone pavements then mud. A beautiful high level stroll in light rain, followed by a gluey descent to a "cute" (to quote our friends from Paris) Rifugio Città di Fiume. 

It's full tonight with just 25 like minded tourists and some Italian scouts who have sought refuge from the rain.

Last night I discovered some wifi, and this Rifugio, despite being quite remote, also has it. Great stuff! 

Monday, 7 July 2014

Monday 7 July 2014 - Summer Holiday - Day 11 - Rifugio Lavarella to Rifugio Dibona

Alta Via 1 - Day 2 - 21km, 1300 metres ascent, 8.25 hours.

Last night's wrestle with the wifi in 'hotspot corner' distracted me from the 'start time' discussion. I wasn't expecting our American friends to go to bed at 8.30! My 7am breakfast plan had been thwarted by the desire for a long sleep. They must still be jetlagged. Not to worry, we were away by 8.15, in lovely weather.

Last night's remote spot was never likely to have phone reception. If it had, I'd have no doubt received a message saying that I had no data network connection despite the good signal. This Samsung phone seems too complicated for its own good and no amount of wrestling with settings seems to solve the problem. 

The wifi at Lavarella was unstable to say the least. I kept receiving messages saying my blog posting had failed, but it was showing up on the website. I tried and failed miserably to respond to AlanR's message of sympathy. Thanks Alan. And thanks for commenting on one of yesterday's pictures, proving that the 'failed to send' message was a glitch. (And perhaps indicating that the network problem is resolved.)

Here there is no wifi, and a vague phone signal but no network available to me unless the problem resolves itself, so readers could have a long wait to hear about our excellent and energetic day on AV1.

We started by rising past Rifugio Fanes in the company of marmots and nutcrackers, to a low col, Passo di Limo. Then it was a lovely walk through meadows to a turning to a notable and memorable notch that gave one of our 2005 team a nickname. A German group of twelve who started at the same time as us yesterday, pointed out the 'path closed' signs. Apparently the steep route the other side of the col had suffered a landslip. So we continued on down to near the road head at Capanna Alpina, then up to the splendid Scotoni refuge, for drinks and excellent apfelstrudel. From there we forsook AV1 in favour of the quieter 18B and 20A route to Forcella Lagazuoi. Lunch was enjoyed with views to Corvara and Sassongher, of which more next week. We could also see numerous people wending their way along the supposedly closed path beyond the notch. Then we encountered many snowfields on the way to the Forcella, where a cold wind and short shower greeted us. We'd met a very friendly and quaintly dressed English couple on the quiet path.   

The rain soon eased and we wended our way along various AV1 paths past a couple of cols and numerous signposts to the Lipella via ferrata. After missing path 404, we took the excellent 412 route through undulating woodland, to reach Rifugio Dibona at beer o'clock - which today was 4.30pm. The rifugio is at a roadhead high above Cortina, and is where in the past I've driven Braemar Simon with his paraglider, as well as descending rapidly from the summit of Lipella on one occasion after many hours of ascent on the via ferrata.

We are sharing the annex with a French group, but at least we have a room for just the six of us, and the food here is very good. As are the views. Today's pictures, if and when they transmit, are from the Campestrin valley and from path 20A on the approach to Forcella Lagazuoi, where many of the other folk walking AV1 are staying tonight.

Lots more flowers today, starring Least Primrose, but not many birds apart from the abovementioned and a flock of Choughs.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Sunday 6 July 2014 - Summer Holiday - Day 10 - Lago di Braies to Rifugio Lavarella

Alta Via 1 - Day 1 - 20km, 1400 metres ascent, 8.25 hours.

Away from the fleshpots of Lago di Braies at 8.45 after a hearty breakfast of unlimited portions, we joined the crocodile heading up to Rifugio Biella. By the time we got there three hours later, we'd lost the blue sky and had our waterproofs on and off. The wonderful reflections in Lago di Braies were long gone. 

Lots of flowers as usual kept Sue busy with her camera at the back of the pack.

Lunch was enjoyed shortly after passing Rifugio Sennes, before some more spots of rain from a bulky cloud to our south caused another brief deployment of waterproofs. 

It's a long way down to Rifugio Pederü, along a slippery surface. Drinks at this huge 'hut' at the roadhead went down well and set us up for the stroll up to this lovely rifugio. 

Improving weather ensured this final stage of today's walk was an absolute delight, with lovely light on the high summits of the Fanes across the valley. 

Good company, good food, and an early curfew for the hut's wifi, mean that I have to leave you now after this excellent first day on AV1.

Today's pictures were taken above Lago di Braies, and on the approach to Rifugio Lavarella. 

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Saturday 5 July 2014 - Summer Holiday - Day 9 - Lischana Hütte to Lago di Braies

Last night's rain had cleared by the time we rose for a 7.30 am breakfast before ambling back down to the road head above Scuol. The lovely path dropped through bands of thin cloud. Redwings and a larger thrush sized bird flitted amongst the foraging marmots. There were frequent pauses for photos of one or other of the huge variety of wild flowers, with numerous different orchids gracing the path side during the course of our two hour descent. 

After 5.5km and a vertical drop of over 1000 metres we were back at the car by 10.30 on a pleasant day with blue patches of sky on the one hand and drops of rain in the air on the other hand. 

The 150 mile journey to Lago di Braies passed uneventfully, with no traffic problems. After elevenses at a roadside café we descended slowly along the Merano road towards Silandro. For many miles our windscreen was filled with the sight of the snow draped Stelvio Alps, shrouded in several layers of cloud. By Bolzano the temperature had risen to 28C, so we were pleased to rise to 1500 metres, where it's a bit cooler and we are ensconced in the splendid Hotel Pragser Wildsee, the view from which is shown above.

Markus will be pleased to hear that the food and accommodation are both excellent. We arrived here around 4pm and then spent some time washing clothes and preparing for a week's hutting trip on Alta Via 1.

We went down for refreshments and were greeted by Susan, Roy, Karen and Mike, who had just arrived from Munich (having started earlier from Connecticut and California) to join us on this trip.

Thanks go to various folk for your comments and emails. The 'phone has been playing up today and this posting is only possible thanks to the hotel's wifi, as no network service is being recognised. It may be some time before another wifi is encountered, so don't worry if there are periods of silence. 

Friday, 4 July 2014

Friday 4 July 2014 - Summer Holiday - Day 8 - Lais da Rims

Today was rather overcast and a bit windy. I'm writing this from inside the cosy Lischana Hütte with a pot of tea, waiting for rain, whereas yesterday we were outside in t-shirts and blinding sunshine. 

After an 8am breakfast - this is not a 'crack of dawn' establishment, though Silke will oblige if asked, Markus and I were requisitioned to the site of Heinz's love nest, where what looked like the components of a garden shed were piled onto a foundation of pallets. We helped Heinz and Marlene (who luckily is a carpenter) rearrange the piles and erect one wall. Unfortunately, as we lifted the second wall that should have meshed with the first, it fell to pieces. Shame! But Markus and I obtained our honourable discharges, leaving the others to assemble the shed bit by bit. 

We bade Markus farewell, and he headed down the hill and home to Dornbirn. It was great to see you Markus, and thanks for orchestrating this bit of our trip. 

Meanwhile, Sue and I headed up the good path to the plateau, Lais da Rims,  south east of the hut. After only a few minutes we encountered a traverse across a steep snow gully. I baulked at this but managed to find a way around the obstacle by tiptoeing up some very loose scree, at the top of which a couple of ptarmigan were having a 'love-in'. They were still at it when I returned several hours later. 

Sue entertained herself by taking flower pictures while she waited at the top of her 'easy scramble'. I should have brought my ice axe and crampons instead of leaving them in the car.

There were no other technical difficulties as we ascended to the plateau at around 2950 metres. By now we were wishing that we had snow shoes as we kept sinking deep into the snowfields that dominate the scenery up here. We met the man with his son who are staying at the hut, then three Swiss who had walked up from San-charl and admitted to being a little disorientated. We comforted them by pointing out the path. "Three Swiss taking directions from an English couple" they mused "it doesn't seem right, but thank you."

We continued slowly onwards in the footprints - well, footholes - of the Swiss as far as an iced lake at 2856 metres,  4.5km from the hut. Lunch time - nice bread, cheese and tomato from Scuol's Co-op. Today's picture is taken from here. You should be able to see the Ortler Alps in the distance, but today's visibility was far inferior to yesterday's. 

Two joggers postholed past us, and a heavily laden pair stumbled towards us through the snow. We saw them later descending slowly to reach the path to Sur-En.

A front was slowly approaching. The limited views were diminishing. We flogged our way back up to the plateau's high ridge, retracing our steps to the high point. This is the start of the ascent of Piz Lischana (3105 metres). It's mostly a tricky scramble, but the walk up to the first high point - 3044 metres, was easy so we went up, despite increasing wind and cold. Sue justified the visit by finding Glacier Crowfoot and a variety of Rock Jasmine that has her stumped. This is probably higher than any point reached on last year's Pyrenean Adventure. 

Then it was back down to the hut to complete our 9km walk with 700 metres ascent by around 3.30, for a welcome pot of tea and another leisurely afternoon and evening. On the way we passed the shed/love nest and were impressed to see that it now has four substantial walls, if not a roof. Heinz and Marlene are probably rectifying that defect whilst I write this and Silke prepares supper.

That's all for now from a very warm and cosy Lischana Hütte, where Khaled Hosseini's brilliant novel 'And the Mountains Echoed' has been succeeded by the rather lesser literary qualities of the adventures of Agatha Raisin.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Thursday 3 July 2014 - Summer Holiday - Day 7 - Scuol to Lischana Hütte (Chamonna Lischana)

As predicted, early morning sunshine burst onto the tent. Sue and I didn't wake until after 8 o'clock. A quick brew for us kept Markus waiting - "I'm not in Challenge mode, I haven't even brought a stove" he professed. Eventually we enjoyed breakfast in town, where the 'Café' was the place to be - an excellent spot. 

Apparently Scuol has 2000 residents of whom 500 are Portuguese. "Nice people" reports a local, "but rather prone to a surfeit of children." In the holiday season there are an additional 4000 tourists. 

It was noon by the time we had done our shopping, showered, dried out the tent, sorted all our hutting gear, and parked at the start of the Lischana path on a beautiful cloudless day. The 6km, three hour climb of just over 1000 metres to the hut at 2500 metres was a delight. Through woodland at first, passing copious clumps of Lady's Slipper Orchids - it's worth walking up here for that reason alone - then into a more open area with fine views back to Scuol and the Silvretta Alps beyond. Paragliders in the distance looked like moving bits of snow slopes. The hillside glittered with a rich tapestry of alpine flowers. 

It was good to see Markus's sister Silke again. She spends her summers helping to run this mountain hut together with Heinz, Gabi and Marlene. They have just six guests tonight. Sue and I have an excellent room to ourselves.

We lounged with beers for a while after arriving at around three o'clock, before visiting Silke's nearby herb garden. Markus helped her to cultivate and seed it a couple of weeks ago. We hope it survives the ravishes of 'Fritz the Ripper', Lischana Hütte's resident gluttonous marmot, and the ibex that regularly visit.

The rest of the afternoon passed as much of this holiday, in 'chilled out' mode, in the sunshine outside the hut, before adjourning for a fine meal.

Today's images are of the iconic orchid, and the view from just above the hut to Scuol and the Silvretta Alps.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Wednesday 2 July 2014 - Summer Holiday - Day 6 - Heidelberg to Scuol

We said goodbye to Thomas last night as he had to leave early for work, and the unenviable task of a three hour telephone conference between Germans and Japanese, conducted in (pidgeon?) English. 

By the time we'd dragged ourselves from holiday slumber, Andrea had laid out the traditional table of buns, cheeses, cold meat, yoghurt, fruit, jams, etc, with her home made jam and cheese stealing the show.

Leaving at 9.30, we avoided the rush hour traffic as we started our 330 mile journey to the Swiss village of Scuol. The A6/A7 route to Ulm worked fine as we left the sunshine of Heidelberg and ventured into gradually more overcast surroundings, eventually turning hillier, but by then the sight of any hills was obliterated by persistent rain. 

Lunch in Lindau brought back memories of a wintry visit to Dornbirn and Markus and Wolfgang's 'Ritzy Shack'. It was warmer today. But wet. Memories of E5 returned as we wound our way around the waterways that flow into Bodensee. 

From Lindau we took a scenic route via Buchs and Klosters to reach the excellent campsite at Scuol by 6.30. More memories for me as we passed over the 2300 metre Fluellapass, pictured top, that Markus and I cruised over on our TransAlp bike ride a few years ago. Given that this same Markus arrived at Scuol's posh campsite at the same time as we did, the reminiscing carried on long into the evening. We had passed through here on the bike ride, shortly after accidentally appearing to lead a mountain bike endurance race.

Tents went up under a seriously leaky sky. Then after a quick brew we adjourned to admire the Hotel Traube's lavish menu. We couldn't resist. The top of a mountain had appeared as if by magic between two buildings in Scuol, and Traube's chef turned out to be on good form. The pictures should speak for themselves. 

I'll mention Swiss prices just as an aside, being as we are paying a brief visit. The campsite costs slightly more than twice as much as its French equivalent. Other prices are subject to a similar formula. Be warned and consider staying away if you are on a tight budget. 

We emerged from the restaurant to a cool, clear evening, today's weather having ranged from a sunny 20C to a snowstorm at the pass. We are now set for a frosty night. Brrr.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Tuesday 1 July 2014 - Summer Holiday - Day 5 - Heidelberg

A lovely day with Andrea and Thomas, walking into and around Heidelberg. 

Sue found a website with '97 attractions in Heidelberg' and we visited quite a few of them as well as gathering candidates for another three attractions. 97 seems to us rather a pathetic failure to reach 100. So 'wild fruit' can be added to the list, with blueberries, raspberries and blackberries - yes, on 1 July - all being sampled today.

After a substantial 'Full German' breakfast on a lovely sunny day, we set off around 11 o'clock and rose through woods to a communication tower near a convenient café. There are a myriad of signposted routes in this area, especially for mountain bikes. We followed a red route through woodland that emerged at the ruins of Klosterruinne St Michael - a religious centre dating from before 400BC.

The ruined abbey was an interesting place, as was the amphitheatre like structure nearby. The latter, pictured top, is Thingstätte, built by the Nazis in the 1930s with a huge capacity. Hitler never came here, but the place was used for the shameful glorification of Naziism. Nowadays it occasionally hosts concerts.

Below the amphitheatre was another of several towers encountered today, Stephansklosters Tower. We climbed to the top to admire views of Heidelberg. Nearby was a 56 metre deep hole in the ground - Heidenloch - which appeared to be someone's persistent but futile attempt to dig a well. An impressive hole, especially when I found the light switch that illuminated it. 

Lower down, we passed Bismarcksäule, another tower that we climbed (maybe that's the answer to the 'why do I feel so tired?' question as I try to avoid nodding off whilst writing this).

Views of the town slowly got closer as we made our way down to the Philosophersweg - another of Heidelberg's attractions. I'd been here before, on a summer holiday in 1981. Only two other readers will remember this trip, and neither is listening at present, but the wonders of text messaging will see to that. It doesn't seem to have changed much in those 33 years. The middle picture was taken from the Philosophersweg whilst watching a red squirrel devour the fruit of an almond tree. 

The 'Old Bridge', which is actually a new bridge because the Nazis destroyed the old one in an attempt to halt the Allied advance in WW2, delivered us to the tourist zone, and a welcome beer. Beer o'clock is indeed alive and well, Humphrey. 

Duly refreshed, we stumbled up to the castle, which covers a substantial plot overlooking the town. The castle deserves an entry of its own; all I have time to report now is that it is a miscellany of different architectural styles, partly ruined and partly fairly new, with a rich and colourful history.  The bottom picture was taken from here. 

By the time we got back down to the Old Bridge we'd walked a good 18km on a hot day and were pleased to be able to hop on a bus to return to Wilhelmsfelder Strasse and the delights of an evening with Andrea and Thomas. Their cooking philosophy is very like ours, as is their taste in wine, so we've really had a great day and a great evening. Thanks A and T - for your companionship and wonderful hospitality. We miss you in Timperley. 

Thanks also to HMP3 for your recent comment on this rather mundane trip on which my diary entries are principally for the purpose of keeping in touch with friends like you, and family whilst we are away. Believe it or not there really were zebras and camels outside yesterday's supermarket, beer o'clock is alive and well, and my daughter has finally got round to reading about my 'Pyrenean  Adventure', perhaps at some cost to her children. My son may find a copy in his chalet room next week.

Goodnight, sleep tight. We will!