Tuesday, 6 September 2016
Tuesday 6 September 2016 - GEA - Prato Spilla to Lago Santo Parmense
13 km (Martin 21.5 km)
860 metres ascent (Martin 1460m)
7 hours 30 mins
Last night's meal was ok, and we enjoyed the company of the Belgians for the final time. Yves apparently has an occasional assignment - as a clown. He would make a good one. We dissipated after our pasta and main courses (which included good salads), after waiting a while for the dolce that never arrived. Never mind.
Today dawned sunny and warm again. The wind has changed. A cool NE breeze helped us today. We aren't as hot and sweaty as on previous days. There was no threat of an electrical storm.
Fuelled by fresh croissants, we started steeply up the ski piste behind the hotel. At the first opportunity for a break I took my sunglasses off and sat chatting to Michel for a while. Then the five of us set off in Graham's long laid footsteps to rejoin the Apennine backbone at Passo del Giovarello. Here we took a few final photos and said goodbye to Yves and Michel - they were having a very short, leisurely day, staying at Rifugio di Lago Scuro.
Continuing along the splendid ridge (pictured), we pottered along slowly, admiring views to snow clad Alpine ranges in the distance. These were becoming a little clearer to see, having first been discernable from Passo Pietra Tagliata yesterday morning.
Passing over Monte Sillara, with its elaborate summit shrine, we dropped steeply to a massive cairn. It was near here that Sue asked why I wasn't wearing my sunglasses.
"Perhaps because I've left them somewhere!"
Examination of pictures taken revealed no sunglasses at the first pass, so I decided I must have left them at the earlier stop when I was chatting to Michel. They were new, and quite expensive, so as we'd only covered 6.3 km up to this point I decided to go back to look for them. A 9 km round trip involving about 600 metres ascent. But a lovely ridge walk that I didn't mind doing three times.
I passed the Belgians by the shrine and then took a short cut that led me down the wrong ridge, necessitating a yomp through bilberry strewn crags to regain the safety of the correct ridge route. The specs were where I thought I'd left them.
So I was nearly back at Prato Spilla. The ridge walk to the large cairn was as scenic as it had been earlier. I stopped for lunch before traversing Monte Sillaro. The rocky crest wasn't a place to rush. There was nobody around and a fall could have been awkward.
Continuing over mixed ground in spectacular countryside, I met three people struggling over a bouldery section, before ascending to the rocky summit of Monte Matto (1837 metres) from where I could see the others in the distance. We were separated by a long, exposed ridge along which care was needed.
After a final summit, and a sharp descent to a pass, I said goodbye to the wheatears, hawks and ravens, and enjoyed a lovely contouring path leading into woodland and past some sandstone slabs to reach Lago Santo Parmense. Across the water I could see Sue, Cary and Graham lounging outside Rifugio Mariotti, presumably enjoying a pot of tea. A few minutes later I'd joined them on the bench outside the rifugio. But there was no tea, they had only just arrived when I saw them. There soon was tea - a good half litre each thanks to the guardian's generous servings.
This is a superb little rifugio. We have a room to ourselves and there are maybe eight others staying here. Basic but classy, with a lovely meal featuring soup or pasta, then our choice was ham, egg and potatoes, and lots of tomatoes. Then more tomatoes and a selection of cheeses, and a selection of cakes for dolce.