Martin on the TGO Challenge 2017

Martin on the TGO Challenge 2017

Saturday, 21 July 2012

E5 in reverse - On Holiday in Sölden (Day 2)

Sue is devastated. Her date with an Austrian pin-up was cancelled. Due to bad weather. Not that it has been particularly bad, but with the cloud base still at around 2000 metres the promised 'airy traverse' would have been more like a 'hairy traverse'. So it was pulled from the itinerary.

Instead - after so much fuel from Erica's breakfast - we felt obliged to take some exercise, but at a lower level. It was drizzling and the cloud base was below 2000 metres. So we jumped onto a bus so crowded that the driver had to 'phone for back up, and headed about 20km down the valley to Umhausen.

English voices were heard as we disembarked. "Hello's" were
exchanged. We had bumped into 008. "My name's Bond" joked Bernie, who apparently quite often gets pulled to one side when travelling. This Master Plumber from Ingleton kept us entertained all day with his stories from life as a 'domestique' cyclist to Alan Ramsbottom, to days spent with Fred Dibnah photographing the mine shaft he dug in his Bolton garden. "Who the *** was Alan Ramsbottom?" we asked. Well, "he was Tommy Simpson's 'domestique'" came the reply.

We'd planned to start the day by visiting a waterfall, the Stuibenfall. It finished up taking all day. It's quite a high waterfall that comprises a series of cascades beside which five viewing platforms have been erected, and for the adventurous there's a Via Ferrata route with thick cables and very solid looking stemples.

We took one look at the height we'd have to climb - part of it anyway - the top was in the cloud, and adjourned for coffees.

Then Sue insisted on having her photo taken with 008 and his lovely wife Janet (top picture), before we set off up the path. It turned out to be a 450 metre ascent (rather pleasant without a rucksack) with frequent pauses to view the various sections of the waterfall, which in a number of places has worn away the rock to create bridges that not even 008 would deign to cross.

One viewing platform in particular was designed to give the viewer a good shower, even if it wasn't raining. Bernie insisted on capturing the moment! We got soaked...

Anyway, when we got to the top it was lunch time. So we nipped into a nearby mountain restaurant and enjoyed a slap-up lunch (we are on holiday after all) before ambling back down to Umhausen for the 3.55pm bus back to Sölden.

[I should mention that when registering in accommodation in these parts you get a receipt that works as a 'Guest Card' and gives certain concessions, like half price bus fares. That would have saved us €10 today if we hadn't lost the card.]

That left plenty of time to shop for provisions for a hearty meal at Haus Wiesenblick, and replace my map number 43 (Ötztaler Alpen) which had decided to become a map of many parts. The new map, whilst still being only 1:50,000, is so different that it looks as if it has twice the detail. On closer inspection, it does have twice the detail! Such as 40 metre instead of 100 metre contour lines.

So my 30+ year old map number 24 - Lechtaler Alpen - will also be replaced on Monday if I get the chance. Unfortunately these new maps come with weighty booklets that I'm loathe to discard, so the heavy map bag will get even heavier. It seems weird that we are still on the same map that we used when setting off from Verona over three weeks ago - trusty old 121, but today's purchase has effectively seen that off.

We've enjoyed our break in Sölden, but will be happy to move on tomorrow. It's a pleasant place with vast opportunities for days out of all sorts, but it does have the air of a winter resort that just ticks over in the summer. Apparently, of the 90,000 or so bed nights sold to tourists each year here, some 80% are in the winter season, when this quiet, relaxed guest house no doubt vibrates with energetic skiers eager for the pistes.

And we never did get around to using the sauna!

Comments:

Gibson - welcome home, if you have had as much rain as Manchester appears to have had, your hedge cutting could take a while! We dread to think what our lawn looks like.

Data:
21 July 2012
2km yesterday, 6km today in 4 hours with 450m ascent
Hours to date spent walking in rain on E5: 3
Other English encountered to date: 3
Flowers of the Day
- Small White Orchid (yesterday)
- Twin Flower (today)

Itinerary - http://www.topwalks.com/E5%20Route.html

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Friday, 20 July 2012

E5 in reverse - On Holiday in Sölden (Day 1)

A rest day.

Sue is pictured outside our hotel before we went into 'town', and the second picture was taken from our balcony when we got back a couple of hours later, looking up the valley towards Zwieselstein and Obergurgl.

What was the most interesting thing we did today? We visited a bank. The ATM worked first time after another bank had failed to accept my Visa card. As we were leaving we noticed an inner sanctum, devoted to an exhibition about the Ötztal people, the development of tourism in the area, and studies on the recession of a nearby glacier which are some of the most thorough ever undertaken. These days they are trying to combat the recession using snow making machines, shovelling snow from nearby rocks, and even by covering the glacier with a sort of carpet. They haven't implemented a solar powered refrigeration system - yet!

We woke to cloud cover, down to around 2000 metres. It slowly cleared and the sun appeared for a few hours. Rain forecast to start at noon came and went with a whimper just as Cavendish was showing off in the Tour de France somewhere else in the Alps.

Comments:

Nick - thanks for that bit of education on the equality of 'oe = ö'.

Jules - there's loads to do around here, of all different sorts. There's a Dutch lad staying in our hotel for a week, doing day walks - there are many to choose from.

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E5 in reverse - Day 17 - Zwieselstein (1450m) to Sölden (1500m)

We were happy to pay an extra €3 last night for our private room (€15 each instead of €12) when we got back from exploring the poorly waymarked ongoing E5 route to find a 20 strong group of indeterminate nationality in the hütte. They clearly knew the system better than us and had a mountain of dehydrated food (we don't seem to touch the stuff these days) with them. We took to our beds half an hour into their elderly leader's keynote speech.

The phone wasn't working last night. I drafted a sentence denigrating the service in Austria, then turned it off. This morning I turned it back on to find out the time and was bombarded by all manner of bleeps, mainly from Orange, about the wonderful Austrian phone service. I must remember to turn the thing off and on in future when changing countries...

Tea and chocolate wasn't the ideal preparation for a hot 500 metre ascent, but at the end of the steep climb up to Gaislach Alm we had no issue with lashing out for 'Warmer apfelstrudel mit vanillesauce' to accompany our customary Latte Macchiatos.

Before we left Talhütte we had scoured the hut book for English visitors. They just don't come here. An Australian came a couple of years ago, but even he had an East European name.

Today's start caught us out. We should have followed our instinct, but we followed the only E5 sign we could find. That resulted in an unnecessary 20 minute walk along the Obergurgl road, from where the top image was taken. Judging by the traffic, not much happens in Obergurgl! But the river was much lower than last night, presumably because the glacial supply of water freezes overnight.

In that 20 minutes we learnt two things:

1. The E5 in Austria doesn't necessarily follow the most scenic or off-road route, and

2. Whilst the Italian signposting was equally easy to follow in both directions, the Austrian waymarking sometimes assumes that the route is only walked in a north to south direction. So map, compass and educated guesswork are now close to hand at all times, though it would be pretty difficult to veer far off course.

Slow progress on the thrutchy ascent gave us plenty of chance to admire the colourful array of flowers beside the path, including lots of Grass of Parnassus, Nottingham Catchfly, Eyebrights and Cow Wheat, Willowherbs and Wintergreens, and in places whole banks of bright purple orchids.

Having refuelled at Gaislach Alm (a similar 'alm' which we passed a few minutes later is pictured), we found the rest of this short day very easy and amenable. A lovely belvedere path rose gently over some distance, passing through open woodland and hillside meadows, all with fine views, before running a few metres near the road to the Rettenbach glacier and reaching Rettenbachalm in good time for a luxurious lunch of toasted cheese sandwiches and salad. I am pictured just below Rettenbachalm on the path that leads to the glacier.

The easily accessible path was being well used, with day walkers, many with children, in the ascendancy compared with E5ers. There were excellent views back to yesterday's route, where the 2509 metre Timmelsjoch pass appeared for a while to be in cloud. Sölden (spelt in various ways, but I'll now try to be consistent with the Kompass maps and the tourist office) appeared far below us - a rather spread out sort of place in the Ötztal valley.

The belvedere route hosted a number of information boards, some of which may have been quite interesting, but sadly only in German, so we can't read them, whereas their Italian counterparts were very helpfully mainly in Italian, German and English.

With another holiday beckoning, and with a few clouds rolling gently in, we foresook the E5 and headed on along the fine belvedere path to Gampealm, before heading down to Sölden on a mixture of gently descending roads and steep paths (the roads were easier on the knees) to our welcoming host at Haus Wiesenblick, situated near a free 'shuttle' cable-car about 150 metres above the main town.

Arriving soon after 3pm gave us plenty of 'chilling out' time (catching up on the Tour de France - Bradley Wiggins looks very happy) before washing everything, putting some of it back on again, and heading off for a barbecue and salad supper at nearby Pfandl restaurant.

Comments:

Gayle - good to hear from you. You are to blame for this late transmission. With WiFi for the first time since leaving home, I clicked on 'M & G' and got hooked. What a contrast there is between our respective trips, though in some ways they could be considered similar. Ours is much, much easier, and very much a holiday. A holiday from what, though? Is it more a way of life? The pension still rolls in. And, of little comfort, I can still kid myself that I'm carrying nearly as much weight as you, and at times the temperatures are in the 30's...
As for the photos (snapshots) - even if we take 3000, it'll be a struggle to find more than 72 of any real quality. Brace yourselves for a few flowers!

Stay at Home Hazel (aka Anonymous) - it must be really bad if even you are complaining about the weather in Manchester! We hope you find somewhere sunnier for your holidays. If it's any comfort, our friends from western Austria (where we are heading) say their weather has been terrible as well. We hope that we will bring them a change in fortune. We'll enlighten you as to the ice man and the tropical fish when we get home - we think you'd like Bolzano.

Data:
19 July 2012
13km in 6.5 hours with 850m ascent
Cumulative on E5; 316km with 17,250m ascent
Other walkers - lots, it's holiday time
Flower of the Day - Nodding Wintergreen

Itinerary - http://www.topwalks.com/E5%20Route.html

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Thursday, 19 July 2012

E5 in reverse - The End of Phase Three

We are here at Haus Wiesenblick in Soëlden, where we received the friendliest of greetings and some pear schnapps.

The sun is shining, all is well, and we are well and truly on holiday.

Beer is to follow, but a pot of tea after today's exertions is our initial choice of rehydration fluid.

Sue is pictured on our balcony with a view up towards Zwieselstein and the route we have recently travelled.

Today's entry will follow 'at leisure'.

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E5 in reverse - Day 16 - Moos in Passeier (1007m) to Zwieselstein (1450m)

We enjoyed another great mountain day in perfect weather.

Christian provided the last of the breakfasts we have got used to in Italy - fruit juice, lots of coffee, and a copious plate of cooked meats and cheese, to go with the bread rolls and jams and butter, etc. He speaks German, Italian and English, often in the same sentence, so had no problem in chatting Sue into the above picture outside Pension Maria before the sun hit it this morning.

We were on our way soon after 8.30, heading through shady woods on a lovely path after starting on an ugly quarry road, up to the village of Rabenstein, with its small but dominating church. On the way we passed more legend stories and much evidence of the landslides that frequently alter the shape of this valley. A huge lake was created by one of these landslides in 1401, and it wasn't until 1774 that the waters were dramatically released, leaving the valley roughly as it looks today.

There are also mines up here, claimed to be the highest in Europe, where over 60 different minerals were extracted during the workings that were active from the 13th century until 1967. They also featured a 27km conveyor-belt system - the longest of its type in the world.

After our last Italian coffees for a while, on the warm balcony of Gasthof Trausberg, we headed up above the tree line on the long ascent to Timmelsjoch, on the Austrian border. It was a magnificent walk up to that 2509 metre vantage point with what may have been our last view of the Dolomites for a while. We made just one error - we followed the cycle track by mistake for one km - we didn't meet any cyclists as they had reciprocated the error and were pushing their bikes awkwardly down the steep, rocky path that we should have been on.

On the way up we encountered the two German lads who are walking part of E5 in the same direction as us, and we met the thirty or so folk who were going in the 'correct' direction - mostly couples, plus a group of 17.

A large herd of goats (hundreds) approached seemingly menacingly as we tucked into our herrings in tomato sauce luncheon - in a lovely spot beside a babbling stream, next to a sign (pictured) that purported to claim that we were at the Austrian border (we weren't, unless Austria has recently recovered some ground). The residents didn't seem to care - they just crossed into Italy, hardly pausing to read the sign between munches.

An information tunnel at the summit told all about the building of the Timmelsjoch road, opened in 1968. But the pass is believed to have been used as a trade route for many centuries, long before there is any record of the better known Brenner Pass being so used.

We spent some time at the Timmelsjoch café, but finally gave up on any chance of being served, so relied on some fine Austrian spring water as rehydration fluid.

The scar of the road somewhat marred the fine Ostalalp backdrop as we descended towards Zwieselstein on a fine alpine path.

Once there, past some frantic hay making (the weather must be due to change), the DAV Talhütte was easily located, but we hadn't noticed Gillian's description as 'self-catering' until the guardian pointed to the kitchen and charged us just €30 for our room. So we finally used one of our box of carefully preserved tea bags, and found a nearby restaurant. It looks like being tea and chocolate for breakfast.

Comments:

Alan R - no, it wasn't you, just a generic two stone overweight person dreamt up by Sue. Some of our friends would be pleased to be two stone overweight on your analysis. I can however think of one person who fits the description perfectly. He'll never realise, as these pages fall outside his literary criteria.
Alan, you do seem to attract some weather, but if it's any comfort we lose the daylight by 9.30 in these parts, and sunset in Zwieselstein was at 5.30 today!

Gillian - Christian, at Pension Maria, was a very friendly chap as mentioned above.

Jules - I may do a kit list when I get back. We do need to do one for those joining us on GR54 in September. Our spare clothes are minimal, we just wash things out most nights and let it dry overnight.

Data:
18 July 2012
19km in 8.5 hours with 1600m ascent
Other E5 walkers - 2 going our way, 30 coming from Zwieselstein
Flower of the Day - Sticky Primrose (on the Timmelsjoch summit)
Photos taken to date: Sue - 505; Martin - 985 (approximately the equivalent of 35 slide films!)

Itinerary - http://www.topwalks.com/E5%20Route.html

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Wednesday, 18 July 2012

E5 in reverse - Day 15 - Pfandleralm (1350m) to Moos in Passeier (1007m)

This was our last full day in Italy, albeit German speaking Italy. Tonight's host, Christian at Pension Maria, tells us we will notice the difference when we cross into Austria, not because of that particular relatively recent border, but because of what he perceives as an innate difference between the people of the South Tyrol and the more commercially minded citizens of the North Tyrol. We shall see, as this theory is not supported by the pricing of our hotel in Soëlden.

Our room mates at Pfandleralm got a bit of a surprise after breakfast to find that we had dismantled our bed. This had proved necessary to recover Sue's Kindle from behind some seemingly impenetrable panelling. Ikea would have been proud of us. The Germans eventually understood.

Whilst everyone else, including a couple with two young children, set off purposefully up the hill that we had found quite lengthy and steep in descent last night, we meandered on down the same hill towards the vibrant metropolis of San Leonardo in Passiria (aka St Leonhard in Passeier). The full story behind the last days of Andreas Hofer were revealed bit by bit as we descended past information points that related the story, from his untimely execution to the day when he was forced at gunpoint to continue his resistance to Napoleon's forces.

It was another lovely day, fairly cool in the shady woods after our 8.30 start, with lots of gaps in the woodland offering wide-ranging panoramic mountain views.

With frequent stops to read about Hofer (and when he was finished with a nature trail started), and to photograph flowers, gawp at the plunging waters and irrigation channels of the Cascata delle valle Pfeifer, and generally admire a third dead mole and the views, we managed to take rather longer than expected to reach elevenses at St Leonhard. A pleasant little town with an upstanding church sporting normal tiles (as opposed to the multicoloured ones we've been admiring recently) and a finely honed spire.

From there we spent another couple of hours, bizarrely going faster up than we had down, as now there were horse flies vying to rip chunks off our finely honed muscles, tootling through more mixed woodland above farmland with plenty of open sections with fine views.

Stuls was reached at 1.30pm, precisely the time at which the Stullerhof restaurant stops serving lunch. But unlike some of his UK counterparts, the chef didn't refuse to cook for us, instead offering 'toast or soup'. I'm sure his 'toast' would have been different from our normal fare at home, but the alphabet noodle soup was certainly a bit different, and very filling.

After the excitement of trying to make words out of our soup, we made the obvious errer of failing to follow the E5 signs out of Stuls. Our mistake was soon remedied by a bout of eye engagement, and before we knew it we were on our way towards the final destination of the day.

Once down at Moos, having dodged a few places where landslides had taken out the path, we had to decide which part of the rambling village held our accommodation, Pension Maria. The tourist information office seemed a good point from which to start. There was no map outside the door, probably because most of the village can be seen from that point.

We made our way down to this fine establishment, where we were soon installed in a room next to a group of 17 teachers and children. "Just as well you booked in advance" commented Christian, before turning away a couple of mountain bikers.

It remains a puzzle to Christian as to how 'Café' (Pension) Maria happens to be mentioned in Gillian's guide book, to the exclusion of all the other places there are to stay in the village, and that he only found out about it when Bob the All Black passed through last year!

'Comfortable and inexpensive' - Gillian's description is accurate.

Today's pictures were taken coming down from Pfandleralm, with St Leonhard at the bottom right (top) and from near Stuls, with St Leonhard in the valley bottom and some of the morning's route in view.

You'll notice Sue's pictures with men are becoming a rarity. This is because she doesn't have any German chat up lines. In fact she doesn't have many German lines at all. So you'll have to wait for us to enter Austria for the next in that series of images - Sue reckons it should be a doddle to pick up an English speaking Austrian. I wonder if he'll have a felt hat - apparently that's a sign of virility, I had to drag her away from one such person yesterday.

Comments:

Alan R - haha, luckily we had no tent nor any dehydrated food to offer the Haflinger horses, who made do with a furtive and unproductive nibble at Sue's camera case. You're right though, it's a hard life!

Jules - welcome back. We hope you enjoyed your break - I'll probably be commenting on your postings in a few weeks' time. In answer to your question, 15kg is probably my maximum 'carry', whilst Sue's is approaching 4kg. That includes water and lunches, though we don't carry much food as there are usually hostelries en route for lunch. My bag includes a number of maps for the second half of the trip, a file with a page for each day re accommodation bookings and other info (probably 40 sheets of A4 at the start, being discarded as we go), first aid kit, camera, a bag of electrical items such as phone/camera chargers (2) and spare batteries (lots), razor, Kindle, torch, etc. Then there are the down jackets that Gillian was quite sceptical about - mine hasn't been worn (yet?) but Sue's new holofill jacket (bought as a present for this trip) was brought into use for a concert at Levico Terme - quite over the top, but nice to see it used. Sue's trail shoes are on board as her boots may not last the trip. We have a weighty Alpine flower book, and a diary and Gillian's guide book, loads of sun tan lotion, and various other kit, including heavy wallets. I didn't do a list for this trip, I just threw it all in. Shame I forgot to empty the bag first, as I found various items from my last backpacking trip when we arrived in Verona. The windshield has been discarded as we have no stove, but the chopping board came in useful during an al fresco meal in Bolzano. So we are probably carrying about 19kg absolute max between us, usually quite a bit less, and my 15kg or so share of that seems to get lighter as the weather gets less humid. We are still in shorts and t-shirts, so all our other clothes are being carried. My rucksack is a similar size to that of many E5 walkers, but we don't get recognised as such because Sue just ponces around with her bum bag. As on the TGO Challenge, this is regarded as being a little unusual!

So, since I don't actually have much of a problem carrying the rucksack (except in extreme heat, etc, when carrying anything would be a bind) I don't really care how much it weighs. I suppose I'm a bit like someone who is two stone overweight but can't be bothered to get in trim because he seems to get around ok anyway! Having said that, it does sometimes feel a bit on the heavier than desirable side...

Nightbird - we did see a glacier today, but the risk of being caught in an avalanche was rather less than the risk of seeing a naked German fraulein playing table football in an aquarium. We did hear about the Chamonix avalanche and we do hope that none of our friends were involved.

Data:
17 July 2012
16km in 7 hours with 850m ascent
Other English - none
Flower of the Day - Cobweb Houseleek (on the way up to Moos)
Itinerary - http://www.topwalks.com/E5%20Route.html

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Monday, 16 July 2012

Day 14 - The Missing Pictures

Oops!

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E5 in reverse - Day 14 - Meranerhütte (1930m) to Pfandleralm (1350m)

A magnificent mountain day.

Today had everything you could wish for as a walker high in the Alps.

Overnight rain finally cleared the atmosphere, leaving perfect visibility all day apart from a vague puff of cloud drifting around the summit of Ingleborough.

Belvedere paths (Sue is pictured on one) past swirling swifts, mountain lakes and squealing marmots led to an easy scramble up a high peak - Hirzer (2781m) with an even higher cross (pictured) and 360 degree views.

The steep descent led to a sumptuous lunch of pasta and mushrooms outside a popular farmhouse (Roseggeralm) that appeared to be hosting a yodeling contest.

After that we said goodbye to the crowds in this popular area (imagine you are in the Langdale valley on a summery Monday) and enjoyed remote paths that led eventually to the home of Louis and Steffi, our hosts at Pfandleralm. The beer is cool and the food excellent, enjoyed outside the hütte in the warmth of a perfect alpine evening.

It's full tonight so we are in our first shared dormitory, but I'm sure we'll sleep well.

Sue's knees are tired, but the weight on my back seems less noticeable every day, perhaps because we are making serious inroads into the large box of washing powder.

The meadow in which Pfandleralmhütte is so pleasantly situated is rich with history, as this is where Andreas Hofer, a local hero who led the South Tyrol's resistance against Napoleon in 1809, was captured by French troops in 1810. A memorial tablet was vandalised during the fascist period, but in 1983 a new granite memorial was built by the Passeier company of marksmen. I can see it from where I'm enjoying my beer outside the hütte.

English speaking visitors: so far, Josh is the only English speaking person we have encountered. A perusal of Meranerhütte's visitor's book revealed Adam and Jane's passage towards Bregenz, still a week ahead of us, so they must also have had some rest days. Before that, the only English speakers we could identify were Bob Cyffers and Janet McMenamin, two All Blacks who passed through on 22 July 2011. Curiously, all these English speakers were travelling from south to north, and no doubt, like us, working backwards through Gillian's guide book!

Comments:

Gillian - Trafoi brings back great memories of al fresco dining at the shady camp site during the heatwave of 2010, with nightly walks into the village where we admired the acrobatics of the swifts around the church. We suspect your conditions were somewhat different, but hope you got some good walks in. Did you notice we visited Fabrizio and even got him some business!

Nightbird - my head is too confused with messages from 'The Path of Legends' to devise jokes about naked Germans and football machines, but we find it quite funny that mention of "we are from Manchester, home of Signor Ballotelli" makes them go very quiet. Sue is envious of your shopping trips. She's trying to lose as much as she can in order to be able to go shopping with a purpose, but losing her debit card was a bit of a faux pas in that respect. Btw the apricot croissant is mine - don't give it to Sue, she eats everything else!

Data:
16 July 2012
18km in 9 hours with 1400m ascent
Other E5 walkers - lots - unless we report otherwise, assume we are on the main Oberstdorf to Bolzano route that enjoys the patronage of the German speaking nations of the world
Flower of the Day - Mossy Saxifrage (beside the high mountain paths)

Itinerary - http://www.topwalks.com/E5%20Route.html

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Sunday, 15 July 2012

E5 in reverse - Day 13 - Bolzano (262m) to Meranerhütte (1930m)

After all our recent laziness, the 7am alarm was largely ignored. As the shops weren't open last night, we failed to top up our supplies (I don't mind - less to carry!), so Sue made a special effort at breakfast to tuck into muesli, yoghurt, jam, bread and cheese, with ham, two cured meats and two different salamis, croissants with that chocolate paste stuff, and jam, concluding with a large slice of apfelstrudel, all washed down with a large pot of tea.

We noticed that most other people at breakfast were rather fat. I wonder why?

I enjoyed my caffe latte and an apricot croissant.

That set us up for the short walk to the cable-car up to the village of Jenesien. We rejoined the E5 route at the foot of the cable-car, as the route very sensibly uses this means of descent/ascent to/from the heat of Bolzano. The cable-car runs every half hour, but luckily we arrived a few seconds before the 9am car was due to depart, and ten minutes later we found ourselves in the cool air of Jenesien, after gaining 800 metres with very little effort.

Gillian suggests staying in Jenesien rather than in Bolzano - cooler and cheaper, with easy access to Bolzano, and ideal for a visit to Runkelstein. We commend her suggestion.

It was only 15C! We could walk comfortably uphill without boiling over! Overnight rain had cooled things down, and thick cloud still cloaked many of the mountains that surround Bolzano, with just the jagged summits of some of the Dolomite massifs visible.

Gasthof Edelweiss was reached after less than an hour - it was only 10am but we couldn't walk past its enticing refreshments. An early elevenses.

Outside, it was now even cooler, with a little light rain in the air, so we donned our anoraks despite the bluish sky and the generally clearing weather. Progress was slow. The 'Path of Legends' had reappeared. Many photos were taken. I have vowed not to re-tell these legends just now, but readers (victims) may be subjected to them on those wintry days when I have nothing else to write about.

A posse of Haflinger horses cantered past. These horses roam wild hereabouts, but those passing us were well tamed. Apart from the seemingly never ending stream of legends, we passed a Noah's collection of animals - goats, sheep, donkeys, cows, chickens, etc, as we moved through green meadows full of well-spaced fir trees.

Langfenn farm at St Jacob (pictured) was reached at 11.50. Too early for lunch, but not too late for a second elevenses. We sat outside in the sun, the air now being free of moisture - probably the least humid since we started. Jagged Dolomitic peaks struggled to display their profiles above distant clouds.

We drew ourselves away for the easy hike past a three-pronged cross dated 2006, next to a shrine, and up to Möltener Kase, another farm cum restaurant where the cheeky goats taunted a large dog at the next table. Massive bowls of soup filled with frankfurters would guarantee we wouldn't starve this afternoon. I was glad that we'd been unable to take on extra supplies!

After our late lunch we detoured away from E5 to follow Gillian's recommendation of a visit to the three-pronged cross dated 1980 at the summit where there's a proliferation of 'Stoanerne Mandlen' (Stone Men). There are huge numbers of small stone cairns, some of which apparently date back to prehistoric times. They reminded me of some similar (memorial) cairns that litter one of the minor summits near the Berlinerweg trail, high above Mayrhofen.

It was cool. We donned fleeces for an hour or so after lunch, for the first time since leaving Verona. They still smell freshly washed!

Now well and truly above the tree line - quite a novelty after the last few days from Cembra - we romped along the last few undulating miles to Meranerhütte, arriving at 4.30, just before an afternoon shower.

The shower soon moved away, but in the deep valley to our west a storm appeared to be raging all afternoon and evening.

The E5 brigade are here - several groups going north to south. All German speaking, Josh remains the only native English speaker we have seen since leaving Verona. They say that unlike us they have had some rain every day.

It's a smart Rifugio, and we have a spacious room for four to ourselves. The showers are token operated from outside the cubicles, and on entering the washroom for the first time I thought I'd walked into a scene from a third rate sex film, but it was just a confused, stark naked German lady looking for somewhere to put her token. Gillian records the showers as being 'unreliable'. Sue and I found them to be great, but others agree with Gillian. However, the table football machine on the verandah seems to work fine...

Too full for beer, we've made do with red wine tonight, to wash down our salad, pasta bolognese, veal in breadcrumbs with sautéed potatoes, and apfelstrudel with cream. We'll need to walk a long way tomorrow to shed the calories from that lot!

Comments:

Gayle - sorry to hear of your return to a 'mudfest' - it's another three weeks before we get back with the sun, so perhaps you should nip over to Italy for a while...

Dot - we don't think we've ever been to Fondo, so you are one up on us there! It's true that we are eating well, but we are burning it off quite energetically. We actually only have one more full rest day planned. Strangely, the black squirrels are just like the ones that live in Ken and Helen's garden in Ottawa. We've now seen red ones as well.

Data:
15 July 2012
27km in 8 hours with 1350m ascent, plus a 10 minute cable-car from Bolzano to Jenesien (1087m), including a 2km walk to the cable-car from Hotel Post Gries
Other E5 walkers - quite a few coming the other way and lots at Meranerhütte
Flower of the Day - Globe-headed Rampion (rampant around Meranerhütte)

Itinerary - http://www.topwalks.com/E5%20Route.html

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