Plan: Day 54 - Rifugio Vieux Crest to Gressoney-La-Trinité via Testa Grigia - 14 km, 1500 metres ascent, 8.5 hours.
Actual: B+B Alta Via in St. Jacques to B+B Le Rêve in Gressoney-La-Trinité, omitting Testa Grigia, but visiting Lago Perrin:
20 km, 1500 metres ascent, 8.7 hours including 2 hours breaks.
Best bit: The sun shone. All day.
Hot chocolate. Cioccolada calde.
Three years ago, in the Dolomites in August, we enjoyed hot chocolate every day. The fridge in the car - to cool the beer - was never needed. What a contrast this year. It has taken until today for us to feel a need to buy hot chocolate. Driven by the fear of spending two months in Italy without one, we finally succumbed at Bar Edelweiss at the top of the Champoluc gondola. Alright, it had been a cool (8C) walk through the shady woods, and in the absence of any wind our usual garb of t-shirts and shorts was fine, but we felt entitled to this indulgence. Here's a report.
There was another 'first' this morning. After leaving B+B Alta Via full of their superb breakfast, we headed up the AV1 path to be greeted by a very English sounding 'bonjorno'. This was Michael, leading a party of 11 Ramblers Holidayers around the Tour of Monte Rosa. They had just set off from Rifugio Ferraro so weren't in a mood for a long chat. But they were the first English we had encountered whilst walking for over 7 weeks. Hello Michael and the gang! I didn't pursue the fact that they appeared to have strayed from the TMR route! Perhaps they were rambling into St Jacques for provisions.
What a momentous day! Hot choc, and English walkers.
It was Saturday in the middle of the Italian holiday season. Blue skies beamed down. A gondola transported folk up to 2000 metres. I would feel very sorry for anyone in the Italian tourist business if we had seen fewer people today. It was good to see people enjoying their day out in the mountains.
After our hot chocolate stop we passed through the village of Cuneaz, one of the highest places in Europe that is inhabited all year round. Its narrow streets gave it a Himalayan feel.
Soon the Matterhorn, like a bad penny, reappeared. It was garnished today with a fresh crust of snow. In fact, looking back to our last wild camp at 2700 metres, that was above the snow line. Perhaps we should have stayed put yesterday!
We chose to leave AV1 in favour of path 13. This gave better views, lots of German gentians, a fabulous lunch stop by Lago Perrin (from where we sent this message), and a wonderful, if slightly tricky, contouring path back to Lago di Pinter to rejoin AV1.
Lago di Pinter provided excellent reflections of the Matterhorn. Even my incompetence with the camera couldn't stop something of the 'essence' being captured.
Then it was up to Col Pinter for a new view (and one back to Mont Blanc and Gran Paradiso), and down the other side to find this excellent B+B. The building is modern, but Hermes is most welcoming. The village is a small town, bustling with holiday makers. There seems to me to be a Swiss influence, but the heritage of the place is 'an open window on the Walsers' world'.
A helpful man in tourist information discovered that tomorrow night's camp site (as per our map) doesn't exist. But he also discovered - for himself as well, as we are the first to make such a bizarre enquiry - that there is in fact a much more conveniently placed site that escaped our map maker's observations. Three English lads were having trouble finding accommodation. Thanks to Nick, our booking was secure.
In one the village people were milling around a refurbished statue of Christ, on display here before being returned in a few days time to its home on top of the Balmenhorn (4167 metres), where it was originally placed in 1955 in memory of the fallen of all wars, without distinction of nationality or political creed. A big Holy Mass service will be held up there on 31 August - televised live.
The B+B is full. We are half board. Two places are set in the dining area. Everyone else is using restaurants. We wonder what we have let ourselves in for....
Don't worry, Nick - thanks for sorting the half board and choosing Pierrade for us. It was wonderful after many nights of pasta and polenta, often both. I don't know whether you fixed that or whether Hermes was just taunting the other guests. We just couldn't help thinking, as they passed on their way out, that they were all wishing they had opted for half board. The food - meat, cheese and vegetables to cook directly on a hot plate - was great, and Hermes proved to be an excellent host. It was brilliant.
We have a TV for the first time on the trip. So we could watch Paula Radcliffe trying to impersonate Sue's pained expression every time she takes her boots off, her anguished stretches to remove cramp, and, if we are very unlucky, unmentionables that Sue has perfected. Sue, of course, does it all without removing her rucksack.
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