Martin on the TGO Challenge 2017

Martin on the TGO Challenge 2017

Saturday, 11 July 2009

The view back to Palanfré on another sunny day

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"Skis are for Puffs" Richard lives to fight another day

Richard puzzles over Alan's last comment whilst practising his gurgling technique.


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Friday, 10 July 2009

Friday 10 July 2009 - Day 6 - Edelweiss guesthouse, Limonetto to Locanda del Parco, Palanfré (1379 metres) [pictured]

Stats: 12km, 1000 metres ascent, 7 hrs including 1.5 hours stops.

Another great day out, albeit in cloudier weather.

The forgoing postcards give an overview of the day, and a web page covering the whole trip will be posted in due course.

This posto tappa is, as ever, very friendly and has fed us well. We are the 11 Inglese - nobody else is here. It's strange not to have encountered any Germans on the GTA, as we saw quite a few of them last year, but absolutely no English.

The summit book at Monte Ciotto Mieu (2378 metres - high point of the trip - visited by Sue, Jenny and me) was empty, as last year, and the scrap of paper we put in it last year was the freshest on view. So we updated it....

.....boring English .... the only people who can be bothered to visit this god-forsaken place. Together with a rare specimen of Tyrolean Fritillary - what a thrill!

The descent to Palanfré was quite fun as well.

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Richard gets caught out on the Ciotto Mieu Icefall

"I want some crampons" he was heard to whimper.

Were those his last words?

Will he be seen again?

Or will there be another 'Headstone Incident'?

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Alpine Rockrose - Helianthemum oelandicum

Another of our favourites.

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On the Piste

Cramponless Sue descends the Mieu Icefall with poise and speed.


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Descending to Palanfré

The sunshine returns.


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Passo Ciotto del Mieu - 2274 metres

Andrew had to wait here as Jenny was carrying his lunch!

We dallied whilst partaking another 'light snack'.


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Day 6 Brew Stop

Possibly our last brew stop of this short trip, en route to Passo di Ciotto Mieu (2274 metres), putting us at the rear of the 11 strong trail of Ingleses heading for Palanfré.

After a clear start, the cloud has arrived early today. But it's very warm and Richard appears to be dribbling....

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The Edelweiss Guesthouse and Thursday 9 July 2009 - Day 5 - Rifugio Don Barbera to Edelweiss guesthouse, Limonetto (1200 metres)

Here are some of us, fully refreshed and refuelled, outside our excellent little guesthouse, ready for the day's action.

The following entry failed to transmit at the time and was added later:
Thursday 9 July 2009 - Day 5 - Rifugio Don Barbera to Edelweiss guesthouse, Limonetto (1200 metres)


Stats: 17km, 800 metres ascent, 8.5 hrs including 1.5 hours stops.

Today's entry will be brief due to an excess of socialising, if that's possible.

Most of the day was spent in splendid Karst scenery - limestone riddled with caves and strewn with green meadowy bits amongst the late to thaw snowfields.

Splendid scenery indeed.

We were on the border, consistently above 2000 metres until the descent to Limonetto.

Marmots were sunbathing and anxious wheatears tracked our progress along the well graded paths.

Our magnificent brew stop at 2200 metres was marred only by the discovery that one of my pan handles had been lost. This means that great care and technique is required to dispense tea and avoid bringing the first aid kit into action!

The diversion up Cima di Pepin was a delight, a botanist's paradise. Fort Pepin, pictured, lies just below the summit, overlooking France. This C19th fort is surrounded by a 'ditch' so without much effort it is impregnable to tourists like us. It has a commanding position over the Tende area of France, which may once have been in Italy, but these splendid forts date back further than any 20th Century boundary adjustments.

We made our way back to the main ridge, and enjoyed the sharp descent to the huge Fort Central where Andrew was waiting. The path down to Limonetto past some World War barracks was easy enough, if waymarked rather poorly for the final section.

The search for the Edelweiss guesthouse - "down the Roman Road" according to its website - nearly saw Andrew's demise. He wasn't expecting to have to carry on a further 2km from Limonetto, from where we followed the old Roman road to where it meets the new road at bend number 6. Not a building in sight; which way shall we turn? Andrew slumped into a heap beside the road after we were innocently misdirected by two passing ladies. Eventually a "we are lost at turn 6" call to the guesthouse saw us pointed in the correct direction (uphill to the right), and a few minutes later (quite a few in Andrew's case) we were cheerfully knocking back some beers in celebration of locating these luxurious quarters.

The Fox's and the 'Yorkshires' are also here, having made it from Rif Garelli today.

They have their own stories to tell!

So 11 happy 'Inglese' are holed up here, much to the delight of the staff, who have fed us up with a selection of antipasta, then crêpes with spinach or pasta with tomato and sausage, followed by pork or trout with courgettes and sauté potatoes, finishing with a choice of 4 tasty desserts. The wine went down well and everyone is happy.

Even Andrew, who seems to have cloned himself - maybe as a result of his earlier snacking - into three for this evening's merriment.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Edelweiss - Leontopodium alpinum

We haven't seen many edelweiss this year, but the summit of Cima de Pepin is positively awash with them.


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Cima de Pepin - 2344 metres

After lunch Andrew shot off, revitalised, towards Fort Central, at Col di Tenda.

(Honest, we didn't push him.)

Meanwhile the intrepid quartet pushed on up to Cima de Pepin, slightly off route, but the highest point we have reached so far.

This narrow summit has a small cairn but no visitor's book. Instead, this tin cat nods sagely at its visitors. It's well secured but does nod in the breeze.

Both novel and cute!

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Lunch Time

Andrew, theories of whose demise were exaggerated and premature, has finally been tracked down tucking into a light snack beside the trail.

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Time for a high level ****?

Pass the loo roll, please...


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Another Sunny Day in Karst Country

Actually, we are temporarily in France, but today's stroll (GTA stage 2) is basically along the French/Italian border ridge.


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A Backpackers Dinner

Dinner at Rif Don Barbera - 8/7/09

1. Salad
2. Pasta
3. Soup
4. Pork and Peas (pictured)
5. Creme Caramel
6. Coffee, etc

Washed down with Cantina Clavesana's Barbera d'Alba - and very nice it was too.

We hope yours was as good, John. Sorry we couldn't join you.

We were too busy backpacking!

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Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Wednesday 8 July 2009 - Day 4 - Rifugio Mongioie to Rifugio Don Barbera (2070 metres)

Stats: 10km, 800 metres ascent, 6.5 hrs including 2.5 hours stops.

After settling our pleasantly modest bill - €195 for half board plus drinks and all other extras - we ambled back along the flowerful path towards the destroyed bridge. All bar Andrew visited the Grotta delle Vene. We were followed in by the quartet from Yorkshire. Two of them were met at the point at which we turned round - a junction where there was a big puddle. These Yorkshire husbands disappeared with an ominous splash, and were not seen again.

Outside the cave, one of some 700 in this area, martins were nesting and the cloud was already beginning to build.

Our route led past the oncoming curious German couple who seem to have got a day behind, and away from the GTA route that the Yorkshires were following (NB Gillian Price's GTA book is abundant around here at present, she may be pleased to hear!).

We descended gently to the 'Inferior' and the 'Superior' hamlets of Carnino, where some reconstruction work is in progress. We saw nobody, but we gather that ancient architectural features are preserved here in the stone houses built in the 'enclosed roof' (tetti racchiusi) style.

Our long brew stop in the sunshine soon followed. The increasing cloud on these alpine days doesn't really block the sun for long as it comes and goes, and the absence of any significant wind ensures a warm passage for the intrepid hiker.

Higher up the valley the woods gave way first to ungrazed meadows inundated with yellow rattle, then to a buttercup meadow beside a babbling brook. Here, four of us lunched in luxury (Andrew being on his upward dash) and discovered England's poor start in the first Ashes test. We are bemused by the fact that it seems to be taking place in Wales!

The final stretch to Rif Don Barbera was over the gently rising ground of the rock and turf of the Karst limestone of this area. Half a dozen hikers were descending in high spirits, and mountain and trail bikers could be seen above us on the 4WD tracks that adorn the French/Italian border around here.

There's plenty of room for everyone.

The five Italians we met in Rif Garelli are here (we also saw them last night), and we have the company of a few mountain bikers.

The chef is busy and the prospect of a tasty meal looks high.

The rifugio is just on the Italian side of the border with France - the image is taken from Colle Lago dei Signori - on the border.

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Hot Chocolate

By 3.30 today we had reached Rifugio Don Barbera.

Jenny was soon to be found spooning into a cup of rather viscous hot chocolate.


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Brew Stop with a View

Here's another picture from the same place as the last one.

It's just a little noisy, with no 'phone signal, but a fine place for four of us to linger.

Andrew has already set off, he's like a greyhound out of its blocks chasing a rabbit to his next place of rest. That's why we appear sometimes to be short on numbers!

John - no, we are afraid we won't make the dinner tonight! Say hello to everyone! Cheers...

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Ritual Mid Morning Brew Stop

This one's really for Darren and the Stove Men, but Alan may be relieved to hear that we are still brewing up for five.

Paul scores 5/5 for observation.

Happy Days!

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Grotta delle Vene

The ladder to FUN (in the background).

The 'phone wasn't up to taking pictures inside. But take it from us - we could have spent all day in here!

Andrew, however, isn't trogloglitic, so we have returned to join him in the sunshine.

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Tuesday 7 July 2009 - Day 3 - Rifugio Garelli to Rifugio Mongioie (1560 metres)

Stats: 15km, 800 metres ascent, 8.5 hrs including 2.5 hours stops. This was GTA Stage 1 in reverse.

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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Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Mountain Houseleek - Sempervivum montanum

Or something similar - one of our favourites.

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Cima delle Saline (2174 metres) - A Fine Spot for Lunch

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A Sunny Morning at Rifugio Garelli

All five of us, ready for the off...

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Monday, 6 July 2009

Monday 6 July 2009 - Day 2 - Pian delle Gorre to Rifugio Garelli (1965 metres) - A Short Day

Day 1 Stats: 11km, 1000 metres ascent, 8 hrs including 2 hours stops.

Day 2 Stats: 7km, 1000 metres ascent, 4.5 hours including 45 min stops.

Another cloudless morning saw us breakfasting at 7.30 and away by 8.40.

More mixed woodland kept us shaded from the sun most of the way up to Gias Madonna (1653 metres), where we lingered in the shade with binoculars for a long brew stop in view of chamois (we now think, not ibex) and marmots.

Then we dropped down a little before contouring on a gently rising path up to Rifugio Garelli via Gias Soprano di Sestrera. ('Gias' means shepherd's hut.)

The ground was fairly moist from snow melt and numerous small streams in this limestone area. The building, pictured above, was in a 5 metre snowdrift back in March, according to the guardian.

The rifugio was rebuilt around 1990, following its destruction by fire in 1987. It's a very hospitable place.

I was travelling even lighter today, having left my torch under my pillow at Rif Pian delle Gorre. What will be next to go, I wonder? My loose memory chip?

We enjoyed a lunch of spaghetti with garlic and chilli, washed down with cans of Moretti beer. Then, should we carry on to Rif Mondovi, some two hours away, or should we stay here?

A mixture of lack of inertia and low cloud building up nearby led us to opt to stay for the night, leaving a whole afternoon for R + R.

A nearby alpine botanical garden kept us occupied for a while, plus various mini excursions to nearby beauty spots with fine views towards the Marguareis summits when the boiling cloud allowed.

It's a lovely spot, we have a dormitory to ourselves, the beer is flowing, and we have enjoyed another four course work of culinary genius (by rifugio standards)....

There are 12 of us staying tonight. The five of us, five Italians based in Turin, and last night's two quizzical Germans. It turns out that Sue and I met them last year on our IBR walk - hence their curiosity - they had recognised us.

It really is a small world!

We've enjoyed a lovely sunset - the clouds having partly cleared. We are happy and replete.

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Enjoying a brew at Gias Madonna

Brew stops are lengthy affairs due to the single slow stove for all five of us.

We can idle the time away watching ibex and marmots, and listening to the cuckoos in the woods, etc etc.

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Ascending to Gias Madonna - 1653 metres

Richard and Jenny are happy in the sunshine this morning.

Where better to spend a Monday morning?

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Sunday 5 July 2009 - Day 1 - Limone to Pian delle Gorre

First - congratulations 'Anonymous', your observations about last night's restaurant are spot on - confirmed by its 'Coach and Horses' logo.

Our other readers seem to be wisely silent or, like us, away enjoying new adventures and only an occasional signal.

The Touring Hotel was friendly and fine, if a little pricey at €45 pp for B+B, and just a bit noisy at 2-3 am when the nearby Irish bar 'chucked out'.

Luckily the 'Vespa Club of Torino', who had earlier filled the town with 2-stroke fumes, had either left town or gone to bed early.

Today's path took us from Limone to the route of the 'Giro del Marguareis' - a short trek that very few English will have heard of, but one that passes through fine country and will link us with sections of the GTA (Grande Traversata delle Alpi) for the final few days of this biennial 'Famous Five' trip.

We travel light and use Rifugios. It's very relaxing. For the rest of the trip I'll be even lighter, as my walking poles disappeared during the course of the day. A shame, as they were my 14 year old original Leki poles, bought to provide support pending an ACL replacement. They, like my knees, have been through a lot.

So, this morning we headed out of Limone on paths not described in any guidebook and marked only vaguely on our 1:50000 map. We were pleasantly surprised as the good path wound gently up the hillside through lovely old woodland towards Colle Almellina, 500 metres above Limone.

On the way we paused at a bench overlooking Limone, causing a friendly man with a small friendly dog (all Italians and their dogs appear friendly) to have to queue to sit down to read his paper. "That's a long way" he remarked, when we told him where we were heading for.

Above the colle a vague but waymarked path led directly below a floating eagle and past skipping chamois towards Colla del Vaccarile, below which we stopped for a long lunch whilst several of the party, unused to being at an altitude of 2000 metres, were glad of the hour they were allowed, to recover their breath in the oxygen deprived environment (or so they claimed).

We descended past marmosettes into cloud that had been building on this fairly humid day. The path was vague and no longer waymarked. The loss of my poles was discovered. I returned rather energetically to our lunch spot. Some re-ascent was involved. No poles. Hey ho. The others waited patiently in their cloud. I returned. We continued to fumble our way down the hillside, encountering shepherds' huts marked on the map, and paths that were not so well recorded.

The views cleared. The flowers continued to delight (most of) us. We entered more lovely woodland and passed a roaring waterfall before emerging at Rivendell, a lovely grassy area thronged with Sunday picnickers from Cuneo, with this delightful rifugio (pictured) at one end of the meadow.

It came on to rain (it's for the heat - as Showell Styles used to accurately observe) but we didn't mind, we were happy with our beers, and later with an excellent four course meal involving polenta, beef, sausage, chicken, salad, cheese, parma ham and tarte tatin for pudding. There was a fine veggie option for Jenny that arrived on time - the Sport Hotel in Arabba could learn a thing or two from this friendly establishment when it comes to dealing with vegetarians!

Thoroughly satiated in almost every way from the day's activities, we adjourned early but happy to our en-suite room for five people.

There are just 8 people staying here, the 5 of us, 2 Germans who are looking at us very quizzically, and a lone elderly gent. It's all very pleasant, and much quieter than the GR5, our original plan for this trip.

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Sunday, 5 July 2009

St Bernard's Lily

Today's flowers are absolutely wonderful, including Orange Lilies, meadows of Pinks and Campion, lots of orchids (including Frog Orchid), Star of Bethlehem, Red Helleborine, Houseleeks Gentians, etc etc.

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Lunch at 2000 metres

All 4 ofthese people claim to be 'altitude sick' so it's a Long Lunch.

Just as well, as the 30 year old Camping Gaz stove (we knew that only the old style 'piercing' gas cylinders would be available in Limone) is not the fastest stove - it seems to be rationing the suppy to the burner in a way that would even impress the Liverpool airport security staff, who much to our surprise failed to apprehend the stove yesterday.

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The Flower Zone

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Now then, which bath shall I take?

Sue ponders, regretting not having brought any soap!

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Gaining Height

This is the view from 200 metres above Limone. We are gaining height well, through lovely ancient woodland on a gentle path.

Fab...

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Sunday 5 July 2009 - Day 1 from Limone

The trek starts here, after a good rest and a leisurely breakfast, on a lovely cloudless morning.

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