Martin in Gatineau Park - 2018

Martin in Gatineau Park - 2018

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Wednesday 13 August 2008 - An Italian Border Route (IBR) - Day 50 - Another Day, Another 3000 Metre Col

A staircase on the way to Col di Valcornera

Plan: Day 51 - Dzovenno to Lago del Piano sup - 22 km, 1700 metres ascent, 8.5 hours.

Actual: in Dzovenno to wild camp at 2800 metres near Biv Manenti, very close to planned stop:
25 km, 1800 metres ascent, 9.3 hours including 2 hours breaks.
Best bit: The stunning turquoise of Lago di Place Moulin under a deep blue sky, and the brilliantly clear mountain views.

Whilst it 'chucked it down' outside last night, we enjoyed an excellent meal in the Lac Lexert restaurant. It was almost full both nights we were there. It is the only restaurant in the vicinity, so it has no competition. But it has a good chef. We couldn't help comparing it with the very average place in Rhêmes St Georges. Lac Lexert's restaurant won on all counts, including price. We admired Patrick Favre's display of trophies, and his Salt Lake City 2002 Olympic equipment. His camp site, apart from the hard core deterrent to campers, is a very good place. We commend it.

The rain bounced off the Nallo tent for most of the night, but the morning dawned fine and clear, so after breakfast in the tent, followed by breakfast in the bar, we set off in t-shirts and shorts, under a blue sky, in search of path number 16. Here's the message we sent at the time. This was the path that according to a board outside the camp site would take us all the way to the Place Moulin barrage (dam).

We found the path, back down the road. It led down into a gorge with a huge mare's tail waterfall across the valley. A minor navigational error had us briefly in the wrong direction, but that was remedied and we enjoyed a descent into pleasant woodland along a path marked for snow shoeing. Lots of snow making equipment remained silent as we passed by. We weren't concerned, we had no snow shoes. We would have welcomed some frost though - the dew/rain from last night on the grass soon had our feet wet.

Why do Asolo manufacture their (still comfy!) boots from blotting paper?

After an hour and a half on this path (not marked on our map - but a good one) we had just about got back to the height at which we had set off. Now we joined the path that Was marked on our map.

A large sign confronted us. The path was closed due to a landslide caused by the bad weather in May.

The road was fairly quiet and got us past lots of tall thistles, etc to the barrage, despite an elderly Italian trying to persuade Sue to take another route.

Lots of cars were parked here. We joined the throngs to enjoy the stroll alongside the shining turquoise Lac di Place Moulin, with the freshly snow covered peak of Dent d'Herens lording the head of the valley under a blue sky.

Shortly before Rifugio Prarayer we enjoyed our usual alfresco lunch, supplemented today by a hunk of fontina cheese from a kiosk at the barrage. This lunch stop had one of the finest of our many fine lunchtime views. There was a drying breeze for our tent and socks. And this change has been gradual but was very noticeable today - no flies. Flies have blighted some of our lunch spots and our wild camps; today they have been absent from duty at both venues.

We were a bit concerned about the time it was taking to make progress - we hadn't expected path 16 to descend so far, or then to be closed (the road took us a long way round). The sign to our col suggested another three and a half hours as we passed Rif Prarayer at 2.15. And it was marked 'EE'. I sometimes have trouble with vertigo on these 'experts only' paths. But we continued on our merry way.

The views were immaculate. Crystal clear snowy peaks dribbling glaciers down rocky coires under a deep blue sky. Here's a message with a picture, saved at the time for a cloudy day.
Black redstarts chattered at us beside the well constructed old path.

This is an unnamed route on our map - just path no 12, so we didn't really expect to see anyone. But it turns out to be Alta Via No 3, and that has some customers - we met about a dozen descending. There were no vertigo inducing difficulties, just a few steps, an easy chain and some steep scree, so we easily beat the signposted time and were perched up on Col di Valcornera (3066 metres) by 5.15.

More stunning views, but the 4000 metre summits to the north were either obscured by closer peaks or engulfed in cloud. The Matterhorn remains elusive.

Less than 30 minutes from the col a rifugio (Rif Vuitiermoz-Perucca) stood enticingly in a landscape of rocks. Not a patch of grass to be seen. We went down steep scree and across snow patches to reach this haven, quite a busy looking place. Now the view down did reveal a few patches of green, so we took the risk and continued. A wild camp beckoned, we hadn't had one for a while.

This patch of grass next to a spring at 2800 metres soon appeared, just before we reached a bivouac hut. It's flat, and in a secluded little basin, though a 5 metre stroll brings us into sight of the Rifugio.

My chef hasn't done much cheffing for a while, so is eagerly concocting some fine camp grub, to round off an excellent day, during which we seem to have flown across a fair section of our penultimate map.

There's no phone signal though, so both our readers will have to wait.

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