Martin in Gatineau Park - 2018

Martin in Gatineau Park - 2018

Thursday, 10 July 2008

Wednesday 9 July 2008 - An Italian Border Route (IBR) - Day 15 - The Race

Rifugio Migliorero - and the Lady in White

Plan: Passo di Sometta to Rif E Zanotti - 16 km, 1300 metres ascent, 6.5 hours

Actual: Route as planned to a wild camp just before Rif E Zanotti in a lovely meadow at 2270 metres:
16 km, 1450 metres ascent, 9.3 hours including 2 hours breaks.

Best bit: Wall to wall sunshine and another idyllic camp site.

We decided not to go home!

'Not here' said the nun, 'the nearest place for a coffee is Rif Migliorero'.

We had spotted her leaving what could have been a café after we had spent our first two hours descending 700 metres to Callieri down a path, P19, that is clearly rarely used.

Striking camp had been a leisurely affair as we admired more reflections of the mountains in our little lake. There had been no condensation, but on the way down, past butterwort and bistort in the cool mountain air, we did notice patches of ground frost.

A stretch of lovely shady woodland, with cuckoos and other cheerful birds, was interspersed with marshy overgrown sections where orchids and tall thistles were rampant. The willowherb will be rampant here in a week or two - it probably already is in our garden.

'We're going there.' Said Sue to the nun.
'OK' said the nun, 'we'll race you'.

Now you would think 20 small children and a nun would be no match for two hardened randonneurs at the peak of their game. So we let them off to a start whilst we lazily washed down the second half of our breakfast with delicious spring water - who needs coffee anyway?

The muesli substitute had been a great success, except that at our earlier sitting we had only been able to get through half of the magnificent jam and pastry cake that goes under the name 'Prodotto Artigianale - Fatto a mano'.

This gave our competitors a start, but we were still confident of overhauling them.

As we entered the small village of San Bernolfo we admired a big board showing all the local footpaths. We had considered a higher route, using the red dotted paths on our map. This board had lots of big red crosses and the words 'Via attrezzata!' next to them. We don't know what it all means, other than we are glad not to have chosen that route.

Our path - and we are back on the GTA, albeit not Gillian Price's version, now involved an 800 metre ascent to a col.

Though marked as such on our map, this does not appear to be the main GTA route. The path ran ambitiously through a potato patch. In the steepest way possible, that is.

The King clearly didn't venture this far on his hunting expeditions. This path was of a different time. No concessions for the weak. We were grateful that the horde of children ahead had broken the trail through the potatoes and onto the gravelly hillside. They were still far ahead, but we were catching the nun!

Clumps of fading asphodel and rampant dark mullein and yellow rattle failed to stunt our progress as we slowly overhauled the failing nun.


We passed a girl dressed all in white, exhausted beside the path.

The nun and her entourage were still ahead. Would we catch them? They disappeared.

Sue thinks they had (divine?) assistance.
I'm just baffled (really, try spell checking my surname!).

It was a THRUTCH (and as AS would say, 'the capitals are intentional') to Passo di Laroussa. There was no sign of the kids, it was lunch time, and we had run out of water. Great!

As we descended, 400 metres below us Rifugio Migliorero, a four storey affair resembling a wizard's castle, came into view. Sitting in the sun outside, my binoculars revealed, was a large group of schoolchildren accompanied by a nun in a gleaming white habit. How had they got there?

It took us all of 45 minutes to descend to the nearest stream - almost within shouting range of the Rifugio. We crossed many snow patches but saw no other footprints.

We had lost the race, by fair means or foul, but we enjoyed a perfect lunch in the sun before heading off again (at 2.45!) for the afternoon's instalment of our walk.

We had to pass by the Rifugio. The nun stood beside the eerie building. We could see her mouthing...'We beat you then, you English weaklings. Even my little children beat you.'

Scurrying on, her words faded in the breeze as we slowly ascended the 500 metres to our next pass, Passo di Rostagno, our high point of the day at 2536 metres. Happy Days!

A black redstart fledged before my eyes, tumbling down the steep slope pursued by its worried mum.

It was another thrutch. As the nun stood looking like Gandalf outside his castle, we looked over the pass to a vista of fine mountains, backed by the snow clad Ecrins, some 100km distant. But 300 metres below us, only 45 minutes away, was Rivendell. Yes, a deserted valley with a fine meadow.

'That's our home for tonight' said Sue.

And it was a very good home indeed, generously shared with Family Chamois.

Next Day
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Alan Sloman said...

You what?
I heard that - I'm not deaf, you know!

Don't you go nicking my capital letters - I need them all!

So some skinny Italian kids beat you eh? I know how it feels.

Great blogging, Keep it up!

Anonymous said...

'via attrezzata' = you'll find bolts in places where you'd wished to be...