We were on our way on another lovely morning at 8.15 after a sparse breakfast, but I think most of us were still full from last night.
Rising to the Porta Sestrera Pass (2225 metres), an icon of the Alps - 3800 metre Monte Viso came into view. Sue flew up to a summit, Andrew pressed on, and the rest of us fell into limbo.
We passed a sparkling lake next to a herd of cows. A chamois trotted along an intervening ridgelet. Round the corner Rifugio Mondovi came into view in the treeless landscape.
A friendly guardian broke off from cooking tasty smelling chicken to serve our elevenses. For the hot chocolate, a spoon was compulsory. It seemed to comprise what could have been taken for a sun affected bar of chocolate.
Onward then to Rif Mongioie, via fast flowing streams sliding over the limestone, and another flower-strewn high pass (towards which the above picture was taken) endowed with an excellent meadow in which to enjoy lunch.
A steep sided gorge then led to the main valley above Viozene. The flowers here were as good as ever, with black vanilla orchids competing with meadow cranesbill and spring gentians for dominance in a cast of hundreds.
A Himalayan bridge across a gorge had been washed away, and the alternative route was confusing. We finished up, more by luck than judgement, at Grotta delle Vene, a huge cave system entered via a ladder and some wire. Sue and I got 40-50 metres into this massive system of passages before turning back to avoid keeping the others waiting. The cave was dry, with a high 'ceiling'. We may return tomorrow..
Shortly before that, we had met the Fox's, an English couple who had found it difficult to locate the path around the broken bridge. We hope they made it to Rif Mondovi.
The final contouring path to our home for the night was a delight, and it was a busy rifugio we reached, including a large school party and even an English foursome, Helen, Francis, Andy and Eamon, just about to tackle some of the GTA. Last year we went for weeks hereabouts without seeing any other English; now we meet two groups in one day!
Then....ablutions, beers, another vast meal, beers, after dinner stroll, beers and socialising....and an early night! All the usual stuff, I'm sure you understand.
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