Today's postcard, Louise, places Sue above a 1000 metre precipice at Gaflaunboden, restrained by just a thin piece of Photoshop, looking up Val Venosta towards Passo di Resia and Austria, with the high summits of the Ötztal Alps in view. It was a breathtaking view. As usual, I was clutching a branch of the nearest tree, breathing deeply.
Peter and Vanessa (P+V) had described a five hour walk organised by their hotel in Solda. It sounded just the job for today, designated by Sue to be 'easier'.
We'd considered moving round to B&B accommodation in Solda, but this campsite is one of the best we've found, high and cool in the heatwave; Sue's neck is coping with the camping; and it's only a 15 minute drive to Solda.
So we tootled round to Rumwaldhof, where we thought P+V had said they started their walk, parking by an ex refreshment stall next to the burnt out ruin of said Rumwaldhof. We just needed to find a link to get us 100 metres up the hill and on to #6. After bumbling around for 30 minutes or so we gave up and headed off towards Solda.
After a few metres 'Waldruhe' was signposted up a road that we thought our map indicated wasn't open to cars. It was. We went up, rounded a few hairpins, and parked in a layby near the left turn down a lane to Gasthof Waldruhe, which must be where P+V started from. It was 11.15. Time for coffee. Luckily Gasthof Waldruhe was open, and the Grumpiness of its owner (Very) was matched by the excellence of his coffee (Very)!
And the lupins.
We were off to a good start on yet another warm, cloudless day.
#6 was a delight - through shady woods with occasional open views. 'Riposa nel Bosco' said the sign. We did just that - 'relax in the woods' - admiring the hundreds of One-flowered Wintergreen that flanked the path.
#6 led all the way to Vellnairalm, by way of woodland paths lined with Twin Flower and May Lilies, with larks flitting in the tree tops practicing their command performances. 1pm - time for lunch in the shade by this unmanned cabin with its cheeky black squirrel. Fine views across to the Ortler summits.
Just ten people had been seen thus far, and that would be about the tally for the day.
After a good break we headed up #3 (marked on our Kompass 1:50000 map no 72 as #3A), towards Gaflaunboden. I don't think we made it. We reached the fabulous viewpoint from where today's picture was taken, shortly after which the path doubled back uphill before descending into woods. I reckoned we were still about 150 metres below Gaflaunboden, so we retraced our steps and headed directly up from some cairns, towards a substantial avalanche fence. There was little sign of any path, but by contouring at the designated height (2330 metres) we reached an obvious but unmarked path leading in the right direction. So we followed it. Very successfully. No waymarks, just a mainly grassy path which occasionally dissolved into lawns of Forget-me-nots or other flowers before being regained at the end of the flower bed. Nor is the path numbered on our map - perhaps that means it's not waymarked.
A trough and spring in a remote spot at 2345 metres, reached at 3pm, made me think that the path was used by more shepherds than tourists.
The undulating belvedere took us all the way, with just a few metres of exposure that led me to conclude that this was not P+V's route, to the shepherd's cabin at Stieralm. On the way we'd seen two fine specimens of Red Deer (Cervo), a stag and a doe - careering down the mountainside.
Here at Stieralm we regained P+V's route, which I reckon probably took a lower traverse, possibly via the woodland path we had rejected.
Kälberhütte was our next target, via a 50 metre ascent and a pleasant grassy lane on #18 or #19 depending on where you look (fab views south and west to the Ortler summits), with a final 400 metre descent through woods on #24 to join a track just above Gasthof Waldruhe.
So much for our 5 hour stroll. It was 5.30, some 7.5 hours since we'd started walking at Rumwaldhof, and our walk from Waldruhe - 13km with 800 metres ascent - had taken a good 6 hours.
But we still had plenty of time to acquire, cook and consume another lovely alfresco meal (it's simply not the weather for eating indoors), whilst watching bits of glacier fall off the mountains that loom high above us, before the remainder turned pink under another lovely sunset.
Our Dutch neighbours are to attempt P+V's walk tomorrow, based on our description. I wonder how they'll get on?
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