Thursday, 3 September 2015
The Alps - Day 15 - Alta Via di Valmalenco - Day 3 - Rifugio Ventina (1965 metres) to Chiareggio (1612 metres)
15 km, 950 metres ascent, in 8.0 hours including breaks.
Weather: intermittent heavy rain all morning followed by an afternoon of vaguely sunny periods.
Oreste and Coline saw that our request for a 7.30 breakfast was met, whilst everyone else enjoyed a lie in on a rainy morning. The Germans had already walked the Via Roma - it sounds excellent - and were winding down on the AVV, so they decided to head for the valley and try to find somewhere less rainy to end their holiday.
So Sue and I were alone on the Alta Via today, the other Germans also having bottled out. We saw no other walkers all day.
After an easy descent to Forbesina we turned sharp left up the Valle Sissone. Whilst easy at first, the going became steadily rougher. We were following the yellow triangles as usual. Today they had a number '3' painted inside, when there was space, so I've now worked out that it's the stage number that's in the triangle.
(As confirmed later by Gillian and page 125 of her book - see yesterday's comments. Duh!)
After a relatively easy 300 metres of ascent the path left the rising valley and headed off to the right, gradually steepening before reaching a lip below a long waterfall. The route ('path' being an optimistic description) then took us up very steeply beside the waterfall before heading over easier ground to a distinctive notch on the horizon.
Just as we reached the notch, a loud rumble of thunder warned us not to remain there for long. Considering the rain the views were quite good, with only the very top of nearby 3678 metre Monte Disgrazia being in cloud. The mountain and its glaciers dominate the views hereabouts. It was first climbed in 1862 by some English tourists.
From the notch, our lunchtime objective, Rifugio Del Grande-Camerini, could be seen on the horizon. We made our way across a steep meadow full of Alpine Willow-herb before climbing sharply up to the Rifugio. There were cold chains to negotiate to get us to a rocky crest leading up to the Rifugio. It was about 5C and snowing just above us.
Oreste had told us the hut may be closed because it's manned by volunteers and the season is virtually over, but we received a friendly welcome from Piero, who set about preparing a risotto lunch for us whilst we wrung out our sodden socks. His friend, Fransisco?, was also there and we spent a happy hour and a half with the pair of them, during which the rain stopped and the sun tried to break through.
The views were magnificent. Piero told us the sunsets could be superb, and they had enjoyed the same wonderful moonrise that we had admired a few days earlier from above Dornbirn.
After an hour and a half we finally moved on down the easy path to Chiareggio, but not before being shown the excellent four bunk winter room where another English couple, Sue and Greg, had recently spent the night in preference to descending to the valley.
We took our time in the better weather, and luckily the forecast heavy rain at four o'clock didn't arrive. I think we got that in the morning,
Piero had recommended a locanda on the outskirts of Chiareggio, but we took a lower track to the centre of the village and missed it. However, the Hotel Chiareggio made us very welcome. I think we are the only people staying here, though they were also catering for a ten strong birthday party.
The food was superb - air dried meats to start, tagliatelle con funghi - we had listened earlier to the pasta being made and we had been shown the basket of mushrooms, a platter of venison, wild boar, chicken, beef and lamb with sauté potatoes, carrots cooked in butter, and salad, followed by a selection of cheeses and fruit salad and ice cream.
We felt a little bloated after all that...
The party of ten were served a banquet of tasty looking dishes, most of which we didn't recognise.
It was good to hear from Gillian (the author of our guide book) and Nick today. We hope they will continue to monitor our progress...
Looking back to Ventina in the rain
At Rifugio Del Grande-Camerini (2)
Cloud above Chiareggio
A typical waterfall - water streamed off the mountains all day - we had numerous easy river crossi
Funghi for dinner