Thursday, 7 July 2011
Wednesday 6 July 2011 - An Alpi Marittime Trek, Day 5, Rifugio Soria-Ellena (1840m) to Rifugio Pagari (2650m) via San Giacomo (1210m)
18km, 1500m ascent, 7.3 hours.
Yesterday's picture, if it wasn't obvious, was taken whilst we were enjoying a pot of tea outside Rifugio Soria-Ellena shortly after arriving last night.
From the window of our private room (still only €37 for half board) the morning sky was deep blue in hue. Marmots were whistling (perhaps Clever was out chasing them) and birds were chatting - there are small red breasted birds here, linnets I think.
It was with regret that we turned down the valley when we set off at 8.40, but with ice axe and crampons still being needed for the high route to Pagari, we knew it would be crazy to try with just walking poles and Yaktrax.
So we pottered down the stony 4WD track to San Giacomo. The flora was again superb, and now at the end of the day there is much discussion as to what we have seen. One definite ID is Spiked Bellflower, seen above under the spell of Sue's camera.
There were numerous people coming up the path towards Rifugio Soria-Ellena, which must do a good elevenses and lunchtime trade.
Shortly before reaching the beech woods that herald the arrival of San Giacomo, we came upon a vehicle containing a tank full of large trout. These were transferred into buckets and released into the river by the fisheries team. We weren't sure whether this re-stocking was for fishing purposes or for breeding, or both.
San Giacomo sports an excellent café that provided coffees, packed lunches and the booking of a taxi for when we return tomorrow.
The five hour, 1500 metre ascent to Rifugio Pagari could have been quite a slog. It wasn't. A most pleasant ascent in the company of myriads of butterflies, including the apollo, small blue, large blue, swallowtail, black-veined white, fritillary, small tortoiseshell, ringlet, comma, large copper, skipper, orange tip, painted lady, brown argus, brimstone, cleopatra, small fritillary, plus several unidentified. Thanks go to James for identifying most of these, and to Sue for capturing images of some of them. Butterfly afficionados may spot some rarities here.
Amongst all this butterfly spotting we couldn't help but be distracted by herds of chamois and ibex, the latter being particularly curious as to our passing, especially two young males who broke off their juvenile sparring to come and investigate.
Sadly, whilst the flowers are too numerous to record here, our bird count reflects the historic oppression of many species hereabouts. We've seen dippers and a heron, and there are plenty of redstarts and wheatears, but not much else other than the occasional alpine choughs and a bearded vulture. Absent from this list are the raven, ptarmigan, black grouse, peregrine, snow finches, and no doubt many more unprotected species.
After a couple of generous breaks, we arrived at Pagari at 4pm, taking just five hours for the well graded ascent. It's a small, friendly establishment. Already installed were two Germans who busily tested a litre of wine, and ten French walkers from Arle who were testing the beer. Our own testing has now started, after the ritual of afternoon tea on arrival at our resting place for day. The rifugio only has capacity for 24, so it's pretty full tonight.
We are high up here (2650 metres) and despite the afternoon cloud (mountain weather) we have great views of nearby peaks and of distant Alpine ranges to our north.
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