Plan: Day 52 - Lago del Piano sup to Lago Goillet - 14 km, 600 metres ascent, 6 hours.
Actual: Wild camp near Bivouac Manenti to wild camp at 2700 metres, beyond Colle superior delle Cime Bianche:
18 km, 1300 metres ascent, 8.1 hours including 2.3 hours breaks.
Best bit: At last, The Matterhorn, close up.
The prediction of UK weather spreading south dictated a crack of dawn start, so we were away by 7.45 and in the warming sunshine by 8 o'clock.
We passed the Very Small bivouac hut. Two people were using it. It was hardly bigger than our tent, and they were having to cook outside. Glad we didn't stop there!
The descent was through an area of rock scenery and fine waterfalls. Goats scrabbled amongst tussocks in the rocks - we had heard the gentle tinkle of their bells last night. We passed a smelly overhang where they must shelter when it rains.
Pipits and a dipper hunted for food around a good spot for camping at 2570 metres.
The phone crackled into life after we'd spent the night 'out of range'. Notchy's News came bounding in. It seems that Georgia is trying to get revenge over Russia via a beach volleyball contest. But are they playing fair?
As you can see, we have both hands on the carotid artery when it comes to world news!
The marmots were of course fully conversant with this news. They had been listening carefully, but as we strolled on they resumed their happy play in an area at 2500 metres just made for people with big tents, or field kitchens.
At the Cignana col, 2441 metres, we'd expected a view of the Matterhorn. A panoply of peaks and glaciers was revealed, but no Matterhorn. Just an eagle floating in the distance, and black vanilla orchids at our feet.
Two fishermen passed by - the first of many people that we would encounter on our paths today.
Over a rise - this had to be a view of the Matterhorn. A bank of cloud and some rude Italians blocking the path was all that greeted us.
Frequent boot stops were needed for Sue, who removed some more leather from the troublesome clog, and resolved to go on a shopping expedition with Alan Sloman next time I escape to the hills.
Suddenly the mist dissolved and the big mountain appeared.
It was magnificent.
The tip of one of Sue's walking poles broke in surprise.
We duly reported the big mountain's presence.
Path 107 to Breuil-Cervinia is for 'Expert Excursionists'. We strolled along very professionally, as we are indeed 'EE's, vying for position on the path with push chairs and gents in smart slacks, and joining those users in dodging the flying mountain bikes.
The Italian signposting of paths can be bizarre, as in this instance. We have encountered no small degree of interference from the Health and Safety police, and it's hard to judge whether the warnings are justified. Was yesterday's path 16 really impassable, for example - someone had torn down the tape intended to deny entry...
We took no photos of Breuil-Cervinia. It's basically a ski resort, and looks like any other ski resort. Though not as bad as the awful place in Andorra that we passed through on our HRP trip.
Our new path 16 was however very well signposted from the town centre - very commendable as this is where we most commonly get lost. It even took us past a sports shop. They shook their heads gloomily when presented with Sue's broken walking pole.
'I'll go shopping with Alan next time' pronounced Sue, 'he'd let me explore all the shops', she paused, 'and he'd buy me a beer!'
Some counselling was then necessary, and a reminder that as 'banker' on this trip she can buy a beer whenever she likes!
Shopping done, we sought a post box and some water. We found neither. So I am still carrying the final batch of unposted cards, and a bar in the town is still looking at its cloudy tap water, regretting that it can't even be given away.
At least we had enough for our lunchtime brew. We drank it whilst admiring the Matterhorn from a grassy meadow that we decided had very recently been vacated by a herd of cows.
The cheese and ham and ciabatta were all delicious.
Path 16 to Colle superior delle Cime Bianche basically ascended an ugly ski piste. This was the sort of terrain we had dodged around Sestriere by taking the GTA route. We could have dodged this by continuing along AV1, but that would have deprived us of the excellent Valcornera area, and of our spectacular views of the Matterhorn.
The 2982 metre Colle is a wide one, and the ugliest by far that we have seen. A traffic sign and warnings of explosives directed us around earthworks so extensive that the JCBs looked like Matchbox toys. Ho hum. At least the alpine toadflax seemed to like it!
At the col we joined our final 'named route' of the trip - the Tour of Monte Rosa. We could follow this all the way to Saas Fee. But we won't - it doesn't seem to us to be an entirely attractive route.
The other side of the giant colle was different. A well trod path led gently down to an azure coloured lake - Gran Lago in Vallone di Courtod. Wooded hillsides graced distant slopes. Glaciers lurked above us to the north east. Grass gradually took over from the rocky landscape as we descended to a fine choice of camping spots. We chose this one, at 2700 metres, close to a mountain stream, but not too noisy.
We are enjoying a lazy evening in the tent. At 5pm, an hour after we'd arrived, the first evidence of that 'low pressure centred over Britain' arrived, since when we have gradually been enveloped in cloud, with intermittent rain.
More is forecast for tomorrow - a wet day - so will we finally have a day in the rain? Probably.