Martin on the TGO Challenge 2017

Martin on the TGO Challenge 2017

Friday, 8 August 2008

Friday 8 August 2008 - An Italian Border Route (IBR) - Day 45 - A Brush with the TMB

Outside Hotel Aigle with Alessandro, my new porter (in his dreams - he was very jealous of our trip)

Plan: Day 46 - Courmayeur to Rif W Bonatti - 13 km, 1600 metres ascent, 7 hours.

Actual: Entrèves to Rif W Bonatti via Leuché and Rif Bertone, then Mont de la Saxe, Col Sapin and Pas d'Entre deux Sauts:
18 km, 1600 metres ascent, 6.8 hours including 1.8 hours breaks.

Best bit: A fine traverse ending in a great rifugio, where our bedroom window looks out to the Grandes Jorasses, gleaming in the evening sun.

We were strolling along Mont de la Saxe before Nicholas's warning came to mind.
'You'll find yourselves in a string of ants - a daily procession between the huts.'
True - the ridge ahead did give that impression, but in truth we probably saw fewer people today than we may have done in the Lake District. It wasn't a problem.

We had started at 9.20 after much hugging and handshaking with our excellent host - hello Alessandro - the Hotel Aigle had been a great place to visit and we do hope to return.

Breakfast had been special - home made marmalade for the first time since we left home. Alessandro's creation, as was the tasty proscuitio.

Morning showers were predicted but we have grown immune to such gloomy messages and set off confidently in t-shirts and shorts, as usual.

Our luck with the weather had been brought home by a tale from Alessandro about a friend of his who after leaving college took time out to walk from Ventimiglia to Trieste (roughly our ultimate aim). It took him 80 days, on 40 of which it rained. I hope he didn't use Asolo boots!

We took Alessandro's advice and headed off up Val Ferret, soon joining path 32 and winding up through pleasant woodland with harebells and mushrooms to join the TMB clockwise path to Rif Bertone. We were moving quickly after all the 'carbs' we had infused over the previous 36 hours. My ascent monitor even crept up to 13 metres/minute! 7 is the norm. Having just dispatched a kilogram of maps etc home, and not wishing to acquire any of the pantry, I quickly slowed to match my porter's pace!

I paused to send a message showing the traditional roofs we have encountered during the entire route.

Fuelled with fanta and coffee, we launched ourselves from Bertone, imitating the swooping swifts as we passed a rude French group of day walkers who declined to acknowledge our existence. Most folk move aside when we lumber up behind them, greetings are exchanged, often we have a chat with them (in a rudimentary sort of way). This lot were like a slow juggernaut hogging a motorway.

No matter, we found a lovely spot underlooking Grandes Jorasses, for a lunch involving fig and nut bread - a new one on me, but tasty.

Then it was on along the pleasant crest with the fine views and 'marching ants' to our 11th summit - Tête della Tronche (2584 metres) - for more fine views, though sadly today the Mont Blanc massif did have a bit of cloud on it.

Other than a few metres in the Monte Viso area, this section from the Bertone to the Bonatti rifugios is the only part of our entire route that we have walked before. That was in the lovely September of 2000. Today compared well, if not being quite up to that wonderful September day when there was just a handful of people rattling around Rifugio Bonatti.

After the little summit and a stroll down to Col Sapin, we left most of the TMB brigade to take the Armina route to Bonatti, whilst we continued over another col to descend by the Malatrà valley. Snow finches, ravens, and a flock of several hundred chirruping choughs all failed to disturb a fat old chamois lazing nearby.

The Malatrà valley was home to clumps of yellow mountain saxifrage, which soon gave way to meadows full of purple gentians.

Then it was the relaxed and friendly environment of Rifugio W Bonatti, where we have enjoyed another excellent meal, in the company of new friends.

Here's a message I sent earlier from here.

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A Mountain Hotel

This is Rifugio Walter Bonatti - 2025 metres, only 10 years old.

What a contrast with manic Deffeyes.

The lady guardian here speaks little English but is most welcoming.

The veranda is sunny and warm.

The tea and chocolate truffle biscuits here are delicious.

There are no screaming children.

We were immediately given shower tokens.

We have a room for two.

Sue has been issued with very comfy red felt slippers.

Dinner is at 7.15, and there will be space for us!

The binoculars are useful here. We look up to Mont Blanc and across Val Ferret to the Grandes Jorasses.

Avalanches boom from that direction.

This must be one of the best places anywhere to enjoy a night in the mountains.

Where would you prefer to be tonight?

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Traditional slate roofs

For virtually our entire journey we have enjoyed the sight of these skilfully crafted traditional roofs.

The old skills have been retained, there being a significant amount of refurbishment and replacement of old roofs along the course of our route, by skilled craftsmen.

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Thursday, 7 August 2008

Thursday 7 August 2008 - An Italian Border Route (IBR) - Day 44 - An Epicurian Adventure

Courmayeur

Plan: (Day 45) Rest Day based at http://www.hotelaigle.it/

Actual: Usual rest day stuff, plus our first internet café.
6 km, 80 metres ascent, 1 hour (linking Courmayeur centre with the Hotel Aigle in Entrèves).

Best bit: Will be tonight's meal. And I had the pleasure of posting a message showing some of our favourite flowers - houseleeks - it's here.

Cumulative to date (planned in brackets):
653 km (620), 46200 metres ascent (46100), 236 hours (roughly!) walking (249).
No of summits visited: 10
No of cols or passes visited: 74
Highest point: Rocciamelone - 3528 metres
Hours waterproofs worn: 2.5
No of English encountered whilst walking: 0

Logging into our comments on the blog today brought us great pleasure and surprise. We are chuffed that Gillian Price has 'found us' and very disappointed to have missed her by two days at Terme di Valdieri. We have a lot to thank Gillian for - not to mention her kind comments. We would not be here on this wonderful route had she not written her GTA book, and we would also like to thank her for the route ideas she has supplied in the past for our numerous trips to the Dolomites.

Gillian - it would be great if you could contact us through the 'topwalks' website (see below) so that when we get home we can provide any further information that may be helpful. It's interesting how little things can affect places, eg:
Campo Base - you rate it highly, but this year a disinterested junior assistant has blighted the place.
In contrast, the enthusiasm of a junior assistant at Malinvern has rubbed off on the guardian.
Obviously these places change from year to year and no guide book can keep up - these were the two most striking changes we noticed. Please do maintain this 'human (and goat!) element' in your guide books - it adds a dimension that we and the Germans we encountered very much enjoyed.
Incidentally, we haven't used any other guide book, just what I could glean from Kev Reynolds' 'Walking in the Alps' tome. It's not clear from that whether some routes need an ice axe, and we still aren't sure whether our original plan - Chivasso to Benevolo to Bezzi - would have worked without axes. Certainly an axe each would have turned the tricky Passo di Planaval crossing into a doddle!
Maybe we'll have to buy your Gran Paradiso book to find out.

I'm not sure what epicurian (or is it epicurean?) actually means. Perhaps Alan will explain. He's usually correct, so I assume we are having such an adventure. On the basis that it either involves choosing pleasures of the mind over pleasures of the body, or the pleasure of consuming good food, I think that both criteria will be met today. We are currently salivating over the following menu for tonight's meal. There's no choice - you have to eat it all.

Giovedì 7 Agosto - menù del giorno:

Trancio di pizza
Zuppa montanara di legumi
Coniglio alla cacciatora con purè di patate
Insalata mista
Strudel di mele

Plus a drop or two of vino, I suspect...

Messages:

Gayle - I know only the few words of Italian that Sue taught me during the TGO Challenge - I got some rather blank looks when greeting people 'buongiorno'! Sue bought a BBC 'teach yourself' CD and has managed fine. Go on, buy Gillian's book!
The Asolo boots are so, so comfy. I'm annoyed with myself for not bringing sealskinz socks. The boots have exactly the same defect as Mick's though, so I'll take them back when we get home. Watch this space!
My Tilley is already a replacement - it has lasted about 3 years. Good job for Tilley's sake that I'm getting old and decrepit!
(Hope we can meet you and Mick for a stroll in South Cheshire or Staffs when we get back.)

Nick - the pot cosy is indeed a clever piece of kit for this sort of trip. It saves a lot of laborious stirring, as well as gas. Our gas cylinders are lasting over a week.

Notchy - thanks for the News. Enjoy the beach volleyball.

We are soon back to the pleasures of camping, and the ever helpful Tourist Information staff - in this case Daniela at Courmayeur - have established that we don't need to book the next two camp sites. The people in the guides café were also very helpful - the café houses the only internet computer available to the public in Courmayeur, and that took some considerable time to 'fire up'. Spam has now been deleted - difficult from this phone - so there is space for many more blog comments - copies of which go to the webmail.

Today we walked to and fro from Courmayeur, 3 km away, which compensates for us not carrying our rucksacks and allows us to continue our journey from here tomorrow.

That's it. We have the rest of our 'rest day' and a fine meal to enjoy.

A beer awaits.

Ciao.

Anyone wishing to view our summary and detailed itineraries, or our kit lists, should use the link to the Phreerunner blog - An Italian Border Route (GTA) from the home page of http://www.topwalks.com/

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Sempervivum montanum

Houseleeks have accompanied us for most of our journey.

They are our friends.

They come in different colours and sizes. The picture above is of Mountain Houseleek (with a very appropriate scientific name) and was the image sent by phone on 7 August. We also saw much Common Houseleek (Sempervivum tectorum) - they grow side by side - and the yellow Large-flowered Houseleek (Sempervivum grandiflorum).

Here they are:

Wednesday 6 August 2008 - An Italian Border Route (IBR) - Day 43 - To The Fleshpots of Courmayeur (Or Not)

Looking across to the Mont Blanc massif

Plan: Day 44 - Rif A Deffeyes to Courmayeur - 23 km, 1200 metres ascent, 7.5 hours.

Actual: Exactly as planned to Courmayeur (1200 metres), then by bus to the Hotel Aigle in Entrèves:
24 km, 1200 metres ascent, 9.5 hours including 1.8 hours breaks.

Best bit: Superb early morning 'oil painting' views of Mont Blanc. Here's the message I sent.

Last night's meal was fine, and really piping hot. Sergio, the guardian at Deffeyes, is hampered by having 72 beds but only 40 chairs downstairs. So I suppose it was fair enough to eat later, and the food was good. But it was an impersonal place last night, with everyone tending to their own affairs.

Wandering around outside the rifugio on the warm evening, I noticed a small chapel a few hundred metres away. Some older children were outside, being addressed by a priest in long flowing white robes. After the service they ran noisily back along the frog laden path for their meal.

Outside the rifugio was the usual array of yellow signposts, plus a large one in four languages that we hadn't seen before:

'WARNING
It is Impossible to get through the Planaval Pass without using Ice-axe Crampons and Rope'

We had apparently achieved the impossible, but nobody was interested.
(More likely, the sign was erected by a gang of Italian health and safety people running amok!)

There was a lovely sunset, with alpenglow.

Today we were up and away, full of stale bread with jam, and poorly constructed coffee, before the main rush for breakfast. This rifugio would be the high point for most of the it's occupants, who would have all day to return to the valley. We met many day walkers as we came down.

The clear morning brought superb views of Mont Blanc before it clouded over as we approached la Thuile. Here, after our pleasant walk down the AV2 path, we found a good café and a shop for lunch provisions before heading off up path 13, past a big adder, towards Col d'Arp.

The long ascent was gentle and well graded, but obviously not in many walks books. We saw just two walkers, not on our path, and a few farmers.

Willow-leaved gentians with bright blue flowers made a first appearance for us, and small yellow foxgloves reappeared in profusion. The view back to la Thuile was marred for a while by huge power cables.

Moths, butterflies and grasshoppers flapped and hopped along with us as we gently ascended a deserted tarmac lane edged by a plethora of colourful meadow flowers.

After leaving the tarmac we continued up easily to a good lunch spot which afforded us fine views back to the Rutor Glacier beside which we had walked yesterday. The valley seemed grey and it had spotted with rain that had strayed from a shower in France. We weren't fooled this time - no waterproofs were needed and soon the sun tan cream was back in demand.

Lunchtime had also featured some news bulletins from Notchy, who it seems is marooned at home with only beach volleyball for entertainment until his dentist returns from holiday.

Col d'Arp was a fine viewpoint. We had our own private patch of blue sky, cloud having infiltrated elsewhere. We lingered amongst the alpine fleabane and snow gentians whilst a golden eagle soared above us. The shrieking marmots went very quiet! Views towards the Mont Blanc massif, and our ongoing route close to the Swiss border, were excellent despite the cloud cover.

After a while on the well graded descent on path 1a we got our first sight of the metropolis of Courmayeur, the biggest town we will pass through on our entire trip. It looked Big. Great yellow gentians and then succulent strawberries and enticing looking mushrooms distracted us as we wound our way slowly down through pleasant woods. We recalled our descent on the Tour of Mont Blanc (TMB) in 2000. That was an unpleasant affair, partly down a ski piste. This deserted path was much better.

The pretty village of Dolonne was reached at 4.40 but it took more than a further hour to get to this nice hotel in Entrèves that Nick had so cleverly located for us.

Alessandro greeted us warmly and generously provided large pieces of chocolate cake to go with my large Moretti and Sue's English Breakfast tea.

We enjoyed dinner next to two English couples who had spotted the menu whilst out for a walk. 'The best meal we've had in ten days in the area', they enthused.

It was indeed an excellent way to conclude another fine day in the mountains.

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Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Tuesday 5 August 2008 - An Italian Border Route (IBR) - Day 42 - Another 'Red Dot' Adventure

The Rutor Glacier at dusk from Rif A Deffeyes

Plan: Day 43 - Planaval to Rif A Deffeyes - 14 km, 1600 metres ascent, 6 hours.

Actual: Exactly as planned to Rif Deffeyes (2494 metres):
14 km, 1500 metres ascent, 7.6 hours including 1.7 hours breaks.

Best bit: Reaching Passo di Planaval - 3016 metres, and enjoying the views and a mug of tea.

'You should be ok' said Pascale, the mountain guide, 'but I didn't tell you that', he had added, ominously, not being willing to accept any blame if things went wrong.

He was talking about the route over Passo di Planaval, the shorter but trickier of our two options for today. The path was indicated by small red dots on our map, but with both Kev Reynolds and Pascale backing this shorter option we felt confident.

Ada and Nadira at the Hotel Paramont had done us proud, providing us with a very comfortable day's rest and some excellent meals, so we were raring to start up our 1500 metre ascent.

A lady from Pascale's group, abandoned here with a poorly knee, looked a sorry sight. But she should surely be enjoying her stay at the nice hotel!

The warmth of the morning was tempered by a welcome cool breeze, but it was still a sweaty ascent up to 2000 metres, by which time we had curved around above Planaval.

A man had flown past early on, descending quickly. Where did he come from?

We passed two ladies with a pot of yellow paint, meticulously painting AV2 signs and arrows. So the wardens who had told Nicholas the signs that he had failed to find would be 'painted tomorrow' had probably been correct!
The ladies were very tanned - I hope they enjoy their work!

We entered a 'purple gentian' zone - the flowers were prolific in a fairly small area. It was the first time we had noticed them on this trip.

A helicopter landed nearby, whilst I tried to dispatch a blog picture on this sunny morning. Here it is. The entire contents of a cabin full of gear and workmen were being moved to the valley. Last to go (bar the workmen) was the cabin - an amusing sight as it flew through the air down the valley.

Newly constructed wooden bridges across the busy streams full of glacier melt provided evidence of the travails of these workmen.

Four French descended past us. A family anxious to get home. A reluctant 'bonjour'. They own the path. We were brushed aside. I'm afraid one of them has a walking pole imprint on his shoe.

They were the last people we saw today until this busy rifugio.

We soon left the main AV2 route to follow the alternative 'path 21' over the one hard high pass, as opposed to the two easier passes adopted by the main route.

Frequent yellow arrows and an occasional AV2 sign directed us up towards a steep snow filled coire. Creamy water from a nearby glacier lubricated our boots. (Sue is back in her boots today, emergency repairs having employed gaffer tape and a surplus pan scourer.)

Wide views down the Aosta valley led to the snow clad bulks of The Matterhorn and Monte Rosa, both wearing cloudy hats today.

Soon our concentration turned to our own route. After meandering up an increasingly rocky valley, with crevices filled by adenostyles, leopardsbane, birdsfoot trefoil and moon daisies, etc, the going steepened.

We stopped for a sandwich at 2750 metres. Then, as predicted by Pascale, the yellow markers expired. We had to pick our way through loose rock, then over steep snow where old prints could be seen. The final 250 metres took an hour - the other side of the snow was also loose and steep, and a hairy scree gully was crossed. Much care was required.

Eventually we reached the pass and enjoyed a brew and a cheese sandwich at 3016 metres, with wide ranging views and only the distant peaks in cloud. Rockfall could be heard to our left. It was 1.50 pm.

Grey glaciers lay ahead, but fortunately the descent was much easier, being at a gentler gradient despite more loose rocks. The yellow arrows made a welcome reappearance. We had excellent views of the Mont Blanc massif, despite the summit being in cloud.

Our path was narrow, following the ridges of the huge Rutor glacier's lateral moraine. Chains aided us past a protruding band of rock. Below, the snout of the glacier had formed a cave where large pieces had broken off. Higher up, grey crevasses crossed the ice, and below us were grey glacial lakes with icebergs floating in them.

This area is dotted with lakes. We passed a pretty one just before reaching the refuge at 4 pm.

Lots of people were sitting outside in the sun up here at 2494 metres. Unusually for a refuge, rucksacks are left in an outhouse and boxes are used for items required overnight in the dormitories. There is a 'no torsos' rule in the wash rooms! We have beds in a smallish room, to which we've been banished whilst tables are laid for the 'first sitting' for dinner. Because we did a full day's walk and arrived here late (4 pm), we have to wait (in our dorm, or outside) until 8.15 for our meal.

We are hungry.

Perhaps we should have gone shopping yesterday and wild camped today!

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Ye Olde Blogger

Here I am this morning, with our route ahead behind me. It's a 1500 metre ascent.

I'm glad our mobile home is being carried by my chef!

That's all for now, a helicopter has landed just in front of us!

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Monday, 4 August 2008

Monday 4 August 2008 - An Italian Border Route (IBR) - Day 41 - The Lazy English

A 'fountain' in Planaval - we encountered these throughout the IBR route

Plan: (Day 42) Rest Day

Actual: Nothing.

Best bit: Doing nothing.

Cumulative to date (planned in brackets):
609 km (583), 43400 metres ascent (43300), 221 hours (roughly!) walking (235).
No of summits visited: 10
No of cols or passes visited: 72
Highest point: Rocciamelone - 3528 metres
Hours waterproofs worn: 2.5

Messages:

Nick - Thanks for doing a fine job as our booking agent over the past week. Very helpful indeed. And we hope the interview went well.

Grandad Mark - Congratulations!

Gayle - Go buy it, you won't regret it.

Notchy with the cricked neck - Sorry about that, and thanks for the News. BTW, how about some 8 am rendezvous in September, ending with pub lunches?

Alan - No shops here. Just a bar. You would love it.
Hic!

Roman - Your request is noted. Actually I think I was in one of the recent photos. More may follow if I can persuade my chef to extend her role!

This morning we waved goodbye to Nicholas, who was heading east on AV2. He will find it much quieter than the Tour of Mont Blanc (TMB), the line of people from which he has just escaped. In fact he found yesterday just a bit too quiet, having lost the AV2 path with nobody else around. Sensibly, he retraced his steps, got a lift with some mountain wardens, and bussed it to Planaval. We will try to do the reverse of his 'failed' route tomorrow, or (after chatting to Pascale, the helpful French guide) we may take a shorter route referred to by Kev Reynolds.

The TMB sounds a dire place to be in August.

There is no alimentari in the bijou village of Planaval, so restocking would involve a bus trip up the valley. Easier, for The Lazy English, to go full board for today and order a packed lunch for tomorrow.

The Paramont Hotel is excellent. Lunch was delightful (it triggered the BTW to Notchy), and it's a good day to spend an afternoon slumbering in a deck chair in the Alps, outside a well stocked bar.

French language note:
I was critical yesterday of the greetings in French in this part of Italy. I was unaware then of the Special Statute of 26 February 1948, granting (inter alia) equal importance to the French and Italian languages in the Aosta Valley. Please accept my apologies if I offended anyone.

Kit News:

Failures:
Sue's boots - she's now mainly in trainers.
Sue's Leki Ultralight walking poles - a handle came unstuck - gaffer tape now secures it.
FreeLoader - one of the solar panels has a mind of its own and works only intermittently.
Asolo Fugitive boots (new for the trip) - leak like sieves and the laces will need replacing.
Coleman gas cylinders - increasingly unreliable - they can exhibit great reluctance in releasing their contents.
Tilley hat - should just about last the trip but is trying hard to separate into two pieces.
Toilet paper - it ran out.

Unsung heroes:
Leki Makalu Classic walking poles - bought 12 years ago as an antidote to a cruciate ligament failure, these are still going strong, albeit on their third tips.
Rucksacks - GoLite Quest - excellent, very comfy, durability not yet proven; Karrimor Jaguar - goes on for ever, despite an annoying squeak.
Pot cosy and windshield - both excellent - our thanks go to Podcast Bob for supplying the materials.

Anyone wishing to view our summary and detailed itineraries, or our kit lists, should use the link to the Phreerunner blog - An Italian Border Route (GTA) from the home page of http://www.topwalks.com/

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Sunday 3 August 2008 - An Italian Border Route (IBR) - Day 40 - In View of Mont Blanc

Planaval, with our hotel in the foreground

Plan: Day 41 - Rif M Bezzi to Planaval - 24 km, 700 metres ascent, 6.5 hours.

Actual: Val di Rhêmes Camping at Rhêmes-Saint-Georges - bus to Rhêmes-Notre-Dame - then AV2 to the Hotel Paramont in Planaval (1625 metres):
20 km, 1300 metres ascent, 8.4 hours including 1.7 hours breaks.

Best bit: Vermillion skies all day.

We nearly had to use our thumbs again after repeating our habit of standing in the wrong place for the bus, and it was after 9 am when we eventually set off in the sunshine from Rhêmes-Notre-Dame.

The sky was as deep a blue as we've seen it. Grasshoppers clicked and whirred as we strolled through alpine meadows, the houses and the bustle of the Sunday market soon looking like a model village far below. I paused to send this message to those enduring the wet English summer.

Putting one foot in front of the other up the steep hillside, I cogitated on Enrico's comments yesterday:
'Italian Border Route - yes, it would be great to continue beyond Macugnaga and Saas Fee.'
Good man, Enrico, though I think your suggestion that we could finish in Trieste 'next year' may be just a little optimistic!

The climb up to Col Fenêtre - 2840 metres - was steep. There was a sprinkling of other folk, mostly French. The French are easily identified - they generally can't say 'buongiorno', replying 'bonjour' to any such greeting, if not remaining silent. But Christian and Maryse were very chatty in their strange accents; we should have asked them where they come from in France. Hello C and M, it was a pleasure to meet you.

Also on the way up we bumped into a Scottish lady - the first person from the UK that we had encountered 'on the hill' in over 200 hours of walking.

This was our steepest ascent yet - a real test for the calf muscles. One of Sue's failed the test.

The reward was a fine view back to Gran Paradiso, where descending summiteers seemed to have made a huge wide groove in the snow, and ahead to the massive white dome of Mont Blanc. We hope Don and Liz have chosen a day like this for their attempt on that summit.

The wide meadows of the Epée valley lay before us, and we easily found a superb lunch spot at 2600 metres beside a busy stream. The air was warm and dry, so we gave the tent a good airing as it won't be used for a while, and it looks to have a few spots of mildew from its hot sweaty days in my porter's rucksack.

From this idyllic lunch spot it was an easy stroll to the bustle of Rifugio Chalet de l'Epée, where about 100 chatty Italians were enjoying their own frenzied lunches.

We loaded up with water and moved rapidly on (here's my porter/chef, steaming along the path towards Valgrisenche), following the yellow triangles with a number 2 that signify the AV2 route. It soon left the line shown on our map and descended in silence through cooler pine woods to the pretty village of Valgrisenche.

Only a buzzing helicopter and huge numbers of Italian children at Summer Camp interfered with our peaceful Sunday afternoon.

It was hot. 30C+. We were tiring, in need of a rest. A range of Ritter Sport yogurt flavoured chocolate was employed to revive my porter.

AV2 signs, some placed in obscure positions, guided us on. The sky remained brilliantly blue. A huge waterfall below the hidden glaciers to the west disappeared into the mountain - stolen for some nefarious purpose - leaving just a trickle to reach the valley.

Hotel Paramont is actually marked on the map, but would it be in the position shown? A reassuring sign showed 600 metres to go, and 'Piatti Tipici' - that was a good sign, and accurate.

So here we are, in the luxurious Hotel Paramont, enjoying 'Piatti Tipici' with Nicholas, a retired linguist from Constance. (Another German who seeks to avoid both Germans and large groups whilst trekking.)

On the next table is a large French guided group. (Nicholas has failed!)

Our clothes are washed and on the line, thanks to the most helpful proprietor of this fine establishment. The beer has been drunk and the wine is on the table.

The sky is blue.

My porter's stomach has been replenished.

As has mine!

All is well with the world.

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Chef and Pantry


Don't leave home without them!

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Sunday, 3 August 2008

Blue Skies

We have had our fair share of Blue Skies.

Today's views, this one up Val Rhêmes, are some of the very best.

Today's weather is immaculate.

Where would you prefer to be!?

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Saturday 2 August 2008 - An Italian Border Route (IBR) - Day 39 - A Stroll in the Park

The tunnel above Pont

Plan: Day 40 - Rif Benevolo to Rif M Bezzi - 10 km, 800 metres ascent, 5 hours.

Actual: Camping Pont Breuil to Rhêmes-Notre-Dame, then by thumb to Val di Rhêmes Camping at Rhêmes-Saint-Georges (1200 metres):
18 km, 1300 metres ascent, 8.5 hours including 2.5 hours breaks.

Best bit: Clear views of Gran Paradiso and its glaciers.

The blue sky returned today to provide us with another wonderful day in the mountains.

We were unsure how to start. Our 1:50000 map showed a faint path to link us with an Alta Via route, but Mark and Richard's 1:25000 map was blank. We had three options - up, down or blank.

Being simple people with limited faculties we chose (you guessed it) the 'blank on the map' route. Anyway, it wasn't blank on OUR map.

The path was deserted apart from an elderly couple. It went through a tunnel that could have accommodated two way traffic. It then contoured up to 2760 metres on a gradient so easy that it was positively lazy.

On the way we enjoyed a rare morning brew with a fine view of climbers descending from their exertions on Gran Paradiso. (Here's the message we sent from the col above here.)

The descent on a brilliant path to a small lake saw our first encounters of the day - a French group, as usual in Gran Paradiso. The French seem to have a monopoly of this Park, and the Germans have all but disappeared.

Today we enjoyed a grand resurgence of flowers and birds. It was a gentian and chough day, and much more.

By the lake we joined the Alta Via della Valle d'Aosta No 2 (AV2) for the first time. It led us easily up to Lac Noir, a very pretty spot full of fish with reddish fins, for lunch.

AV2 then whisked us up to a 3000 metre pass - Col di Entrelor (here's the message we sent with the new view) before depositing us in the Rhêmes valley. On the way down we met two men bombing up the path. The leader appeared to be dressed only in loose underpants, his vitals flapping in the breeze. They soon flew past again, utilising gravity whilst we paused to watch a herd of 30 or so chamois lazing in the valley below. It was a hot day. Alessandro (hello) and his friend were training for a Tour of Mont Blanc race at the end of the month. He hopes to do it in 29 hours. It took us nearly two weeks! Let us know how you get on, Alessandro!

Reaching the valley at 5pm, we secured essential provisions in the nice little village of Rhêmes-Notre-Dame before plodding off to the camp site we had booked from Torre Pellice.

It closed three years ago!

The booking data was retrieved from the depths of my rucksack. It was the Vulpot/Usseglio problem in reverse - we were booked into another camp site about 12 km down the valley.

Next bus - 6.45.

We hadn't thought we'd need our thumbs again, and feared the worst after Silvano had told us 'you have been very lucky, Italians are afraid to stop to give strangers lifts'.

It took a while for the first car to pass us that had any space in it. We jumped eagerly into the back of Enrico's Fiat and chatted to him about our journey as we sped down the valley. Another friendly and considerate Italian, this gent being from near Milan.

Grazie mille, Enrico. And 'hello'.

We like Italians.

The 'Camp Reception' was expecting us and greeted us warmly. We have a nice pitch on the full site, directions to a restaurant, and a bus stop for the morning, hot showers, etc.

The camp site appears to be a distant suburb of Amsterdam. It's noticeable how different nationalities seem to flock together - Germans on the GTA, French in Gran Paradiso, Dutch in Val di Rhêmes Camp Site.

A 'quick turnaround' got us to 'Le Solitaire', just in time to get a table (after a little confusion) and a meal from the small menu. It was fine, but this restaurant has an easy customer base (the camp site) and lacks a competitor, and it shows.

Then we strolled around the pretty village, bumped into Alessandro, now smartly clothed, and went to bed.

Next Day
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