Plan: Day 19 - Col di Puriac to Lac de l'Orrenaye - 15 km, 1000 metres ascent, 5.5 hours; Day 20 - Lac de l'Orrenaye to Rif Campo Base - 14 km, 800 metres ascent, 6 hours.
Actual: Route as planned to camping ground at Rif Campo Base, 1680 metres:
28 km, 1500 metres ascent, 11 hours including 2.5 hours breaks.
Best bit: The Wonderfully Clear Views.
As you might have guessed, we have enjoyed the multitude of wild flowers on this trip. But until today that icon of alpine flowers, the edelweiss, was missing from our list. Today it appeared - small blooms were sprouting as we passed through France, then larger specimens as we re-entered Italy. I'm sure they will now keep us company to the end of the trip.
We seem to have lost the ibex and chamois for the time being, but the noisy marmots are ever present.
So we didn't mind, last night, when the heavens opened and doused the shrieks that infested our otherwise excellent camping place. The tent needed a good wash. The soup - a consommé made from stock cubes, dried veg and chopped frankfurters, was excellent. Added butter (we have lots) improved the tortellini as the rain battered the tent.
Today dawned bright and fresh. My trouser legs were employed for the first time, and we set off at 8am in fleeces.
The 700 metre descent down a lovely valley then past the ruined village of Le Grange to Argentera was very much like the descent from a Lake District fell, except that there you don't get chirruping choughs and shrieking marmots.
We spent a while in the sleepy village. There was cake and chocolate to be eaten, cyclists on a time trial to watch, and a village square next to the church dedicated to someone who had lived for just 14 years in the mid C19. I even cleaned my new boots here since the morning's wet grass had nicely prepared them for the cleaning fluid for the first time.
This morning's good paths were not waymarked with paint. This means they are ignored by the modern signs that have been erected that seem to deny the existence of routes unless they have been 'painted'. So we often rely on old wooden signs to start us off on these little used paths. Such a sign pointed us up past La Tinetta towards the Roburent Lakes. We had plenty of time - it was planned to be a short day.
Up steeply through random terracing we went, rounding the rocky outcrop of Le Tinetta as a man far below got bored with the cyclists and trained his camera on us.
A Cameron in the Alps?
It was a lovely route through a mass of rock roses and cypress spurge, into superb rock scenery. A large 'tooth' towered above us.
After seeing just one person all morning, it came as something of a surprise to find hordes of people up at the lakes, picnicking in the sun. So that's what we did, for a leisurely hour, whilst Notchy's News Service (we had only turned the phone on to take a photo) brought us news of doom and gloom and Mark Cavendish.
Sunday Lunch in the Alps.
It was just a short way up to Border Post number 65 and our entry into France over Colle di Roburent - 2496 metres.
Just below, our planned wild camp, Lac de l'Orrenaye, littered with picnickers, glittered in the sunshine. It was 2pm.
Plan A - camp now.
Plan B - go flower hunting then camp.
Plan C - it's a lovely day for a walk.
It was indeed a lovely day for a walk. The westerly breeze would soon have cooled us had we stopped.
We left the picnicking hordes as we passed the path down to their French car park and headed on up to Col de la Gipière. The path was now on a French GR route, and therefore waymarked. We passed a couple, puzzling over their map.
Three people approached us as we passed snow finches and wheatears. They doffed their caps. Sue was impressed!
Then we short-cut the Rochouse gully and turned up the well graded path to Col de Sautron. A lone woman descending just about managed a greeting, then we were on our own for the rest of the walk to Rif Campo Base.
Col de Sautron, with border stone number 60, erected in 1823 (so apparently not part of the 1947 border change), is marked as 2687 metres on our map, another landmark, our highest point yet.
From there it was a gentle 1000 metre descent to camp, through 'Dolomitic' limestone scenery with little water or flat ground to camp on. Any wild camping here should be planned for the French side of the col.
Some spots of rain induced the donning of our pillows (waterproofs). That did the trick! The rain ceased immediately.
A short stretch of tarmac led finally to Campo Base at 7pm. The beers were welcome, before we adjourned to the tent to cook the food we'd carried all the way from Pietraporzio.