Plan: Day 35 - Usseglio to Laghi Verdi - 8 km, 1400 metres ascent, 5 hours.
Actual: As planned to a wild camp at 2170 metres:
8 km, 1400 metres ascent, 5.3 hours including 1.3 hours breaks.
Best bit: An early finish to relax in the tent.
The sunny morning gave way early on to cloud that still persists. But its base is not far below 3000 metres, so apart from a bit of swirling cloud we have had views all day, and continue to do so from the tent. It's a landscape of chaotic rocks and boulders below dramatic slabs of rock and scree.
We are a five minute walk from Gandolfo Bivouac, a large tin that accommodates six people. Deserted when we passed it. The sort of place you might find Ian Mitchell. We like our cosy tent, though. (Here's the message we sent from the Bivouac.)
Breakfast was laid out for us at 8 am as promised. The 'oldies' soon started to join us. Jorg had already left. (Incidentally, he had met the two Aussies we saw evidence of near our start, and had seen two people from London on the GTA. We are not alone!)
A wander up to the village shop produced some ballast for the rucksacks, featuring a very heavy cake - 'specialita tipica artigianale' from the Cottian Alps.
My porter carries that item.
Handshakes all round with the boss of the Grand Hotel. The room rate was €50 per person for half board. Very reasonable, we thought. But it seems GTA walkers each get a €10 discount. Excellent! The wine, coffee and fanta added very little to this cost.
So we set off up the 1200 metre hill at 9.30 - very late for us.
It was steep.
But, slowly though we seemed to be going, a glance down to the figure at the top right hand corner of the altimeter reassuringly showed '7'. This is our rate of ascent in metres per minute. It's invariably 7, rarely less - sometimes a bit more. Today seemed slower than usual simply because it was steeper than usual.
The vegetation was annoying. Nettles and long grass and buzzing flies. Everything was soaking wet from the overnight rain, including our feet.
Summer is moving on. The autumn crocuses that brighten the days of late summer in the Mersey valley at home are sprouting here as well, and will no doubt accompany us to the end of the trip.
Gillian Price mentions martagon lilies and delicate orchids. They are here, yes, but fading, with rosebay willowherb, bearded bellflowers, meadow cranesbill and St John's wort now showing their dominance.
In amongst the wet undergrowth, wriggling furiously, a tiny snake - 15 cm long but less than a millimetre wide. What else could it be?
We reached Colle di Costa Fiorita in under 3 hours, so we'd actually been moving well. Time then to nip up the nearby summit at 2465 metres. Good views down to sunny Usseglio, where we could easily identify the umbrella under which we lunched yesterday.
A Swiss couple arrived at the pass as we returned to it for lunch. 'Steep!' they said, looking down at Usseglio. 'Oui' we replied 'mais hotel trés bon'.
They are the only people we have seen since leaving Usseglio. We walked for less than an hour from that pass through a zone of houseleeks, leopardsbane and marmots to reach this nice patch of grass before 3 pm, so we are having a 'semi rest day'.
We have no signal in this remote spot, so who knows what might have happened by the time this reaches you.
Gordon Brown may have resigned...
We expected rain, and as I write, soon after 5 pm, it has arrived. The washing line has been dismantled and we are listening to the soothing patter of rain drops on the tent. The only other sound is the click of knitting needles as Sue hastens to manufacture a woolly jumper for Jacob before winter sets in. Soon the hiss of the stove will replace the clicking as she has a hungry customer...
'Is that the kettle whistling?'