Martin in Gatineau Park

Martin in Gatineau Park

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Monte Cavallo

This morning the chairlifts from Pedraces took Sue and me painlessly up 700 metres to Rifugio San Croce, from where path number 7 led us for nearly two hours across the face of the Fanes cliffs. The top image shows Sue, about half way up, with Marmolada in the distance behind. This section was along a narrow ledge with a horrific drop. A bit later on, some wires appeared, thus qualifying the route as a Via Ferrata (Grade 1B), though no equipment is required.

Once on the Fanes plateau, we enjoyed the rock scenery and looked ahead to Monte Cavallo's 2907 metre summit. See lower image.

After another hour we were up there. Lunch was taken in front of our panoramic map that disclosed the nature of the far ranging views. From Austrian summits to the peaks of the southern Dolomites.

Friendly German and Italian voices surrounded us. As did Pink Cinquefoil, Moss Campion, Spring Gentians, Mountain Sainfoin, Rockroses and Mountain Thrift - to name just a few.

After resisting the temptation to continue on to climb Cima Dieci, we returned to Passo di San Croce, before picking up a variant of Path 12 which led us by the shortest walkable route (our grippy trail shoes were helpful on the 'sloping' limestone) to the Forcella de Mesdesc, at around 2500 metres.

It was clear that a trail bike had managed to ascend the path from La Villa. It was also clear that somebody had managed to run down the scree. The descent to La Villa, all 1200 metres of it, was steep, especially the first scree section. Walking poles were needed. They were in the boot of the car. Not much use there! Bum was deployed.

We made it down 500 metres of scree, from the Rhaetian Poppy zone into the Harebell zone, fairly quickly, even if odd stances were employed to avoid big slides. The path looked as if it had been recently renewed from here on, with trail bikers having taken advantage of a ready made race track. But it was a pleasant enough route down #12 to La Villa and on beside the river to Pedraces.

All in all, it had been a fine mountain day, especially along path 7, in superb weather yet again. Looking up to the summit, 1600 metres above us, made us realise that apart from the 16km walk with 1000 metres of ascent, in a little under 7 hours, we'd done quite a bit of descent as well.

As a result of having decided not to climb the second, 3026 metre peak of Cima Dieci, we were back at base in plenty of time for a sauna and a beer before indulging in Alice's home cooking at Chalet Angelo, and a most sociable evening.

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Friday, 16 July 2010

The Esoteric World of Alpine Flora Identification

Today we joined Graham and Jackie and an assortment of Collett's guests (Maggie and Ada) for a rummage in the sunny meadows and rock fields above Arabba on the Porta Vescovo Ridge.

For their two week slot at Collett's, Graham and Jackie are the 'flower people', two of a series of enthusiasts who turn up every year to accompany guests on 'flower walks'. We'd not been on one before, but this seemed an ideal opportunity to confront some of the gaping holes in our knowledge of the flora that surrounds us whilst walking in these parts.

The picture shows some of these hardened characters in action under the backdrop of Marmolada, the 'Queen of the Dolomites'.

Sandworts, Hawksbeards, Wormwoods, Rock Jasmines, Cresses, Saxifraga depressa and many more. It all became a tiny bit clearer, but readers of these pages will be pleased to hear that our new found knowledge will be imparted in piecemeal portions, if at all.

Whilst the others returned to Arabba by cablecar, Sue and I extended the 2 km that had taken us all morning to cover, by walking back down to Arabba. We managed a total of around 6 km, with less than 100 metres ascent, taking, well... all day.

On the way down we spotted, amongst much more, a gem - Bear's-ear Primrose (Primula auricula). Graham and Jackie were very jealous when we showed them the pictures (to follow) later at Haus Valentin in Pedraces, where they presented an excellent slideshow on the final evening of their trip.

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Thursday, 15 July 2010

Piz da Lech and an Italian Sandwich

This was my first Via Ferrata route for some time. Sue went for a walk to the Nuvolau with Chris, Helen and Simon, and various others from Collett's Dolomitic empire. One of our reasons for staying with Collett's is that we can split up like this and still have company. Whilst Sue would dearly love a Via Ferrata day, her injury prevents it, and I'm reluctant to do them alone.

My day started with a stroll down to the Boe Gondola, where over twenty folk from various Collett's locations slowly assembled for today's Via Ferrata experience. Eventually we actually caught the gondola, and then the Vallon chairlift, from where it was a short stroll to the start of the VF.

I could tell it would be a slow ascent by the time it took a large group ahead of us to 'kit up' (install newly hired climbing harnesses and VF kit, etc). But our own group (pictured) wasn't much quicker.

"Let's go" I suggested to Pete at about 11am, as the way ahead cleared. So we set off. After about 5 metres of easy wire the three Old Faffing Italians ahead of us engaged in a hugely slow faff on a vertical section, during which one of them paused for some time, hanging precariously off the wire, to deal with a telephone call.

Italians love to talk!

'No matter', I thought - the rest of the 'coachload of Italians' up ahead looked even slower!

Eventually Pete and I were afforded the space to tackle the wall of rock. 'Huff puff' - we soon realised why the Italians had been so faffy. The Pic da Lech route, graded 3B - a mid grade VF - had plenty of good resting places in between thrutchy ascents and airy traverses. We spent a lot of time at such resting places due to the slowness of the group ahead.

After making sedate (I'm being polite here) progress for over an hour, Pete and I found ourselves sitting next to the three Elderly Italians, looking up at the rest of their party making very heavy weather of ascending a couple of ladders. We watched, bemused that anyone could make anything so simple look so hard. English voices floated down.

So it was not an Italian coach load, just three old boys irretrievably sandwiched between two parties of English incompetents.

Mutterings under the breath..."Shoot ze Inglese fools".
With an echo..."Shoot ze incompetent Inglese fools" - I blame Pete for that!

Anyway, the English Incompetents huffed and puffed their was up the ladders whilst we gazed up, directly into the sun, in bafflement. The colour of my face tonight is testament to the aeons it spent in that position.

With the ladders clear, the Aged Italians strolled on up them (if indeed it's possible to stroll up a ladder). Then it was our turn.

I knew it was easy. I'd been here before. I'd waited at the foot of the second ladder for many minutes whilst Sue had tried to coax a small Italian boy upwards, finally resorting to impaling said child on a stemple and hurling the whole lot at the little blighter's idiot father.

I had explained all this to Pete. "So that's the reason for all the loose stemples" he observed.

Pete was next up. "I can't reach" he pleaded. "Stand on the top rung" I suggested. He made some rather rude gurgling noises before emerging triumphant at the top of the VF with knees oozing copious bodily fluids by way of proof of passage.

Next up was Nicola. She's shorter than Pete and her "I can't reach" plea was a little more justified than his. By some psychological miracle I overcame my usual state of terrified vertigo and helped her up, leaving Kev (next up) to look after himself and the following person.

Pete and I strolled up to the summit, said hello to the three Italian Elders and confronted the Incompetent English. It turned out that Collett's had dispatched them as an advance party from Chalet Barbara in Arabba, clearly for the purpose of laying siege to the mountain. There must have been over 30 Collett's guests on this route today.

And we complain about coachloads of Italians!?

The views from the 2910 metre summit of Piz da Lech, to numerous Dolomitic peaks and valleys, are stunning. We savoured them together with our lunch for an hour (1pm to 2pm), during which about half our party, in various states of bruisedness arrived on the broad summit.

I have yet to discover what happened to the rest of them, as Pete and I, being the only members of the group mean enough to buy one-way lift tickets, decided to commence our 1350 metre descent to Corvara. It was a most pleasurable two and a half hours, punctuated by a welcome coke at the Boe gondola station and culminating in a long, slow beer near Chalet Bracun.

An excellent day out - 8km with 400 metres ascent, in about 6 hours. Thanks for your company, Pete, I really enjoyed our day together.

Back at Chalet Angelo, Sue was luxuriating in the sauna after her own sociable day out, and the atmosphere was delightfully convivial, everyone having enjoyed another fine day under the bright yellow orb that just now remains a constant feature of the Dolomitic skyscape.

[Hello Paul, hello Helen. Wish you were here? Surely not, it's a bit hot!]

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Wednesday, 14 July 2010

A Short Walk up Sas Ciampac

Wednesday is a day off for Collett's staff. There were no organised activities for us to be sociable on, and others felt our own plans would be too easy/hard for them.

So Sue and I set off on our own from the chalet at 9am down the steep path/road to Corvara village.

Sassongher (pictured from near our chalet) looms high above Corvara, but it wasn't our objective today. We were heading for the highest of the summits to the north east of Passo Gardena, Sas Ciampac, which at 2672 metres towers over neighbouring Sassongher by all of 7 metres. It's pictured in the posting from two days ago, just after our arrival here.

Having previously approached Col Pradat by a brutally steep path from Colfosco, #4A from Pescosta was pleasurable in comparison. It wound gently up through shady woods, past Fragrant Orchids and vibrant Moon Daisies (pictured).

At 1820 metres, about the height of the nearby Edelweiss Hut, we spotted our first flowers of that name on this trip.

After joining #4 at Col Pradat, we contoured amiably towards Forcella Ciampei on what proved to be a very busy section of path. The crossroads at the Forcella seemed like Piccadilly Circus, so it was with relief that we turned off Alta Via 2 onto path 2A shortly afterwards.

The ascent of Sas Ciampac from the sparsely vegetated limestone plateau then became a pleasure. We summited around 1pm and enjoyed lunch in our own company, having narrowly missed a coach load of Japanese!

It became busier after we rejoined AV2 at Passo Crespeina, but the route to Passo Cir and on to Jimmy's Hut was nevertheless a pure delight, firstly above a narrow valley of lush meadows bordered by steep cliffs, then winding between rocky pinnacles that remind me of the Trotternish area of Skye.

We were thirsty, so two schiewassers went down well. But the cost! Nearly €8 for two glasses of cordial! Ouch.

Flower (identification) stops punctuated our stroll down the easy #650 then #28 to Corvara. Lovely woods with open views, then a call into the supermarket before the final 150 metre climb up to Chalet Angelo to conclude an excellent day. We had walked about 16km, with 1300 metres ascent, in about 9 hours.

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Tuesday, 13 July 2010

The Azalea Walk

The 30 minute chairlift ride from Pedraces got 15 of us up from 1350 to 2045 metres, a satisfactory way to start the gently descending path 15 that links Ospizio La Crusc Hospiz with the village of San Cassiano.

We were a sociable lot, as is the norm with clients of Collett's, with Anna, who's based at their Haus Valentin chalet in Pedraces, 'carrying the umbrella'.

The path wound gently through woods, with frequent vistas across to the Sella and Puez massifs, and the Fanes behind us. The pace was gentle. Lunch was taken (pictured) at a fine spot by the edge of the woods, with a view to the distinctive peak of Sassongher (2665 metres) above the conglomeration of settlements that calls itself La Villa.

Early rain ('for the heat') had been expected, but it failed to materialise as we continued on down to San Cassiano, returning to Pedraces by the riverside path via La Villa.

Anna was so engrossed with the views (the second picture shows the Fanes escarpment from this scenic path) that she failed to notice two of her charges slip away on their own agenda.

The rest of us continued merrily on to Pedraces for a welcome beer after this easy 12km stroll with around 100 metres ascent, in a very leisurely four hours or so.

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Monday, 12 July 2010

A New Home in Corvara

The previous posting may be deceptive - it's just a small sliver of a wide panoramic view of hazy rock peaks for as far as the eye can see.

Yesterday's walk was based on walk 15 in Gillian's previously mentioned book. The detailed route description is somewhat superfluous - as Gillian points out. There are any number of permutations of paths that anyone equipped with map number 72 or its larger scale equivalent can devise without difficulty....

Today we enjoyed a sumptuous breakfast, compared with our camp fayre of the previous week, before settling our modest account and heading for Bolzano.

Good advice from two welcome sources had encouraged us to take the cablecar and narrow gauge railway to the Renon plateau, with its stunning views towards the Dolomites.

Then, onwards through intermittent afternoon rain to our self-catered apartment at Chalet Angelo, one of Collett's (www.colletts.co.uk) bases in Corvara, in the heart of the Dolomites.

We have the only self-catered accommodation in the building - a penthouse apartment with great views to the Puez summits and Val Gardena.

The morning view with the sun on the mountains will be stunning, but since we only arrived at 4pm the above images are from the afternoon and evening, looking west from the window of our new home.

[It's good to hear from you Shirley, no doubt you had a brilliant time in the Pyrenees. We are here for another week.]

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The Dolomites, from Collalbo

It has been said, by one much more familiar with this area than ourselves, that:

"I'm close to saying this place is the best for amazing Dolomite views!"

That could be right, though today's heat haze has produced a rather 'atmospheric' view.

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Val Martello this morning - from our balcony

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Sunday, 11 July 2010

Val Martello

A leisurely striking of camp and a good hour's drive found us enjoying elevenses in the sunshine (I've mentioned the weather - just for you, Louise) outside Albergo Gioveretto in Val Martello, another new destination for us.

So it was midday by the time we set off from 1880 metres past another fine information board (the Stelvio Park is awash with them, I won't mention them again). Along #20A/38 towards Albergo Genziana (Enzianhütte) past Early Purple and Common Spotted Orchids, taking #38 through beautiful woods to a short road section before turning along #8 just before reaching the hut and its many facilities.

#8 was signposted to Malga-Lyfi-Alm at 2165 metres. Shortly after crossing a torrent we turned left up #39, by a picnic bench well suited to a lunch stop for anyone equipped with a gallon of sun tan cream (1.5 hrs to here).

Then right at a junction at 2220 metres, along #35, happy in the knowledge that the bulk of ascent had now been done. We kept left where #20A branches to the right, taking #35 to Lyfi-alm, which was very much open for business on this sunny holiday afternoon.

It was like Piccadilly Circus, with lots of paths from here - we chose to continue along the unnumbered one continuing ENE from below the alm.

Then after a few metres, #8 to Stallwies was our choice.

At 3.30, almost two weeks to the hour after embarking on this trip, the unthinkable happened.

Waterproofs were deployed.

Continuing on through the light rain, we reached a low point on #8 at 1920 metres, where a right turn took us down path 0 (?!) to a junction with #9 - here we turned right to Thial - 1850m.

It was like being in a greenhouse, so waterproofs were discarded before a short but unpleasant section up tarmac zigzags to the vertiginous dam wall at Lago di Gioveretto.

#36 beside the lake after the phobic dam wall was suitable for wheelchairs, we joked.

It proved an easy stroll by the lakeside to finish our circuit at 5.45 pm.

We had passed only one wheelchair.

We'd enjoyed a most scenic 11 km outing, with 500 metres ascent, taking us over 5.5 hours (but the flower ID stops are becoming more difficult and time consuming).

It's a valley to which we hope to return.

We had decided to stay at the hotel outside which we'd parked the car. After all, it did say 'Only For Guests'. Horror of horrors! The hotel was full!

Up the road - 3 nights minimum, and expensive (very posh).

Down the road to 1200 metres - a 15 minute drive during which we struggled to keep ahead of a pair of mountain bikers, the Ortlerhof establishment wasn't so fussy. Half board we are, in one of only three occupied rooms.

It's very comfy, and the house cabernet has successfully washed down the menu:

Insalata del buffet
Mezzalune tirolese con burro lesso
Entrecoté con burro al erbe con crochette di patate e verdura
Gelato di vaniglia con lampone calde

Delicious!

Then I wrote this whilst watching the first half of the World Cup Final. I apologise for not affording you my full attention.

Must go now. The second half has started.

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