This is definitely nothing like North Yorkshire!
Gillian Price, in her Cicerone guide 'Walking in the Central Italian Alps', reckons 'Walk 9' in her book is 'a brilliant way to start a walking holiday in the area'. It involves getting a bus up the 48 hairpins of the Stelvio Pass (Stilfser Joch), then walking back to Trafoi, initially along #20 to Furkelhütte, then down #17 to complete the 1300 metre descent.
We knew the bus times. We thought we could catch the 9.12 at the road junction leading to the campsite.
"The bus stop is in the village" said the campsite man, so we rushed to the village. Five minutes to spare, but where was the bus stop? Sue enquired as to the location of the stop, in her best Italian, of a couple lurking as if in a bus catching stance.
"Inglese!" they responded, not understanding a word. That was how we met Peter and Vanessa, who assured us that Gillian's walk number 9 was excellent, and that when they last did it two years ago the bus stopped here. It didn't. The driver, obviously not an Italian (who would surely have stopped), drove past the large stopping area, pointing back down the street to where the bus stop must be.
After much cursing, a plan was hatched. Instead of waiting for the 11.12 bus, the four of us would go to the top of the pass in Vanessa and Peter's car, walk down the planned route, then return in our car later.
It worked. Peter donned his Stirling Moss helmet and we beat the bus to the 2757 metre pass, with only an occasional whimper from Vanessa. Nice driving, Peter, I think you always wanted to do that!
Gillian will be pleased to know that her route description has stood the test of time pretty well.
After passing Rifugio Garibaldi, shortly after starting the walk, there was a tempting path up to the 3026 metre summit of Rötlspitze, but the consensus was to give that a miss, despite the good weather, though it was a bit cloudy and cool at the time, with rain visible to the north.
So we continued on amiably, in the company of 'heard but not seen' marmots and a sprinkling of tourists, along #20. There was just a little snow to contend with - probably a lot less than a week ago! Vanessa was not impressed, but in the event she skipped happily across the soggy obstacles in her brand new PINK Karrimor boots. What would Mike P think of that, I wondered?
Some fine views back to the pass (pictured) were marred only by a little cloud on the tops and overhead.
Furklehütte was reached, conveniently, at about 1pm, after three hours of gentle downhill traversing past a wide range of high mountain flora, dominated in the upper reaches by Glacier Crowfoot and descending past a range of Gentians, Orchids and Houseleeks, to name but a few.
After lunch at the hütte we entered woodland and ski pistes for the final steep descent to Trafoi and a welcome brew at the campsite, before returning up 46 'tournantes' from the campsite to rescue Vanessa's car.
Our new friends then deserted us in favour of their sumptuous hotel in Solda with never ending supplies of food, leaving us to purchase supper from the campsite store. We spent €6; it was delicious.
It's cooler and clearer tonight after another fine, warm day. 'Warm' rather than 'Hot' up here at 1500 metres. We are being entertained by Nutcrackers in the fir trees.
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