Martin on Cnicht

Martin on Cnicht

Sunday, 6 September 2015

The Alps - Day 18 - Alta Via di Valmalenco - Day 6 - Rifugio Marinelli Bombardieri (2813 metres) to Rifugio Bignami (2401 metres)

Saturday 5 September 2015

8.5 km, 300* metres ascent, in 4.8 hours including breaks.

Weather: overcast.

We awoke to a Christmas card scene. Four inches of snow had fallen overnight. The wolf was delighted. He managed to escape. The goats weren't impressed, but the feisty beasts held their own.

We didn't meet the guardian (Sue thinks he was away), but we did chat briefly last night with his assistant, a social anthropologist who had done research at Cambridge on the effect of oxygen levels on high altitude mountaineering, or something of that ilk.

She left a sub-assistant to sort out our 8 am breakfast; this girl was the only member of staff we saw this morning. Breakfast was a meagre affair - a cup of coffee, muesli and cornflakes, and a couple of packets of dried bread with butter and jam. We had agreed with the assistant guardian that she would phone ahead to let Bignami know we would be staying there, and we confirmed with her assistant that the call would be made.

Soon after 9 we set off into the snow. It was 2C outside, with no wind, so didn't feel cold. Care was needed on the slippery rocks as we made our way back along yesterday's route from Rifugio Carate Brianza. The flowers had all but disappeared, the long stalked Spiniest thistles and some tired looking thrift being the sole reminders of yesterday's finds.

Whilst the day was overcast, there were some fine looking snow scenes, so frequent snapshot stops, together with the slithery rocks, made progress slow. It took an hour and a half to cover the 3 km to Rifugio Carate Brianza, where Amanzio greeted us like long lost friends.

After a long coffee break, and Amanzio's assurance that the high route over Forcella di Fellaria (2819 metres) would be fine if we were careful, we set off along the mainly contouring route through the snow.

It was easy enough apart from a short section of giant boulders through which we wended our way with great care. The Forcella proved to be one of false summits, but we got there in the end despite the paucity of path signs - they were mostly covered in snow.

A steep descent then deposited us below the snow line in a lovely valley. Views were limited as the weather was closing in as a prelude to a rainy afternoon. Eventually we arrived at Alpe di Fellaria, where the 'active summer dairy farm' had returned to the valley after locking up for the winter.

A few metres further on, Rifugio Bignami was reached by 1.30 pm, shortly before the rain started in earnest. We received the usual friendly greeting from Luca and were soon tucking into Taroz dell'alpe (a potato, beans and cheese version of pizzocheri) and chocolate cake.

We were expected, but only because Amanzio had taken the trouble, unprompted, to let them know that an English couple were coming over the pass with the intention of staying the night. The staff at Rifugio Marinelli Bombardieri hadn't bothered to call. "She may be a social anthropologist but she doesn't like humans" was an unattributed comment.

So, we settled down to a leisurely afternoon of R&R. Mainly light reading - I'm back on the Jessica Daniel stories by Kerry Wilkinson, and chatting with Luca and Skye.

Wet snow fell outside.

* I'm now relying on Gillian's estimates as my Suunto Altimax died today. A shame - it was a leaving present from my colleagues at Grant Thornton in 2004, so it has had a good innings. I have a feeling the sealing washer wasn't put back properly in Sallent in the Pyrenees when the man in the outdoors shop changed the battery for me at the end of June. Anyway, it survived quite happily until getting drenched on the morning we left Rifugio Ventina. I should have had it checked when I got back from the Pyrenees, but the battery housing is jammed on and the gadget looks very battered and is probably best replaced. Hans had a nice watch that performed the same functions - Tissot - 800 Swiss Francs! (£600).

Today's pictures:
The view from our room
On the descent from Rifugio Marinelli Bombardieri
A view towards the Bernina summits
Looking down to Rifugio Carate Brianza (compare with yesterday's similar picture)
Inside Rifugio Carate Brianza
Approaching Rifugio Bignami

Later:
Another nice meal without being excessive, including (by special request) a selection of local cheeses.

4 comments:

Gill&Nick said...

Well done on those slippery rocks. Goodness, hope the weather perks up for you. Still wish I was with you - Gillian

Phreerunner said...

Thanks Gillian, brilliant weather today. We would have enjoyed your company. Another time, perhaps.

Nightbird said...

Wow, just looked at the blog and amazed to see the snow! Or is that common at this time of year? It's warm and sunny at home so hope snow keeps away from us for a while yet!

Phreerunner said...

The snow was above 2000 metres Jenny. As we are not quite that high in Manchester I think we will avoid it for a while. But you never know, we are a lot further north ...