Actual: Route as planned:
13 km, 1400 metres ascent, 6.3 hours including 0.8 hours breaks.
Best bit: The beautifully paved paths across huge rock fields.
We enjoyed a lie in and a late start today, as breakfast wasn't until 8am. Not a problem as it was raining!
By the time we set off before 9 the rain had disappeared without trace. We daubed ourselves, as usual, with sun tan cream for the 1000 metre ascent to Rif Questa.
Following stage 8 of Gillian Price's GTA (Grande Traversata delle Alpi) itinerary, we enjoyed the beauty of Valle di Valasco in the company of yellow splashes of flowering laburnum. The main track wound up through shady trees, but we started along a narrow path next to the roaring river and its lovely cascades.
The gradient eased as we accompanied lots of day walkers across a level meadow at the end of which was the 'Reale Casa di Caccia', a turreted hunting pavilion which opens next week as a nicely refurbished rifugio.
Views opened up as we strolled on along the old hunting track, paved to accommodate the King's carriage, past butterwort, meadow cranesbill, yellow wood violets, and marsh or common spotted orchids, to name but a few.
We took the longer of two options, turning off the Questa path just below the Rifugio to join a superb track (fit for the King!) to Lago di Claus.
By now a brisk breeze was blowing and the cloud had increased, making us pleasantly cool. The track crossing a large boulder field was remarkable - as wide as a road and with a jigsaw of rocks providing an almost flat surface.
A short descent took us to Lago inf. di Valscura at 2274 metres. Here groups were picnicking in the shelter of rocks. We sat behind Capanna Mario Bassino, a locked bivouac hut, without a view of the lake, but with a fine valley vista and well protected from the wind.
Pied wagtails bobbed and black redstarts chattered as we admired the profusion of gentians and pansies.
There was little sun now. Fleeces were required! We enjoyed tea, with bread and goats cheese, but only spent 35 minutes here. An unusually short lunch break.
The area has several derelict buildings and there is a large two storey barracks higher up towards the French border, reminding us that life has not always been so peaceful around here.
Setting off - for the first time - in fleeces, there was another climb to Colletto di Valscura (2520 metres), over small snow patches but nicely graded. We were on our own now and saw no other walkers after the couple we had encountered descending from the col. He had obscenely short shorts and a rucksack that appeared to be a large plastic bag secured with string; she was dressed in black and had obscenely large bosoms.
The col marked our exit from the Parco Marittime. A sad moment as we have so enjoyed that area. But move on we must, and rain was threatening (it held off, and brightened later).
The descent was tricky - our most difficult ground yet. That was because some large and fairly steep snow slopes had to be crossed - there were previous footprints but it needed concentration, as a slide wasn't a pleasant prospect. After this, the rocky path led through rubble down to Lago Malinvern at 2122 metres.
Arolla pines softened the harsh landscape.
We soon lost our fleeces, but grey clouds remained.
35 minutes later we were at the smart Rifugio Malinvern at 1839 metres - an early finish at 3.05pm. We have a nice room for three to ourselves and a large pot of tea. And comfort and advice from the guardian regarding our (slightly adjusted to hug the border) ongoing route. Thank you for that.
Meal time and evening were spent in the excellent company of Merlijn and Milka, from Amsterdam, enjoying happy hill memories and planning for future trips, with a bit of Alpine Flower spotting thrown in. Hello M + M, we hope that by the time you read this you have enjoyed your visit to the Ligurian coast, and Milka has had fun in the Dolomites.
Hello also to Damiana, who so ably assists the guardian at this friendly establishment and who kindly gave us her recipe for ginsinella together with a delicious sample as a nightcap.
Summer in the Alps