Thursday, 8 September 2016
Wednesday 7 September 2016 - GEA - Lago Santo Parmense to Passo delle Cisa
960 metres ascent
7 hours 10 mins
What a superb rifugio. Marcello and his smiling assistant looked after us well. Last night's giant pot of tea was 'on the house'; each group had a dormitory of their own (many guardians would have crammed us all into one room); food was tasty, they clearly enjoyed cooking it, and there was no limit on quantities; total cost for all four of us - half board plus beer, wine and paninis for lunch was €180 (net of Alpine Club discounts).
After chatting to Marcello and passing on Gillian's best wishes ("hello Gillian, enjoy AV1", says Marcello), it was well after 9 by the time we got away from Rifugio Mariotti. There was cloud and a strong, cold wind. The rifugio didn't look at its best as we glanced back at it (top picture).
We followed the regular GEA route to the summit of Monte Marmagna, Cary taking a less exposed path. The top was in and out of cloud, giving us brief glimpses of yesterday's ridge, and a fine view down to the sunlit Magra river valley that runs inland from La Spezia.
It was increasingly blowy as we descended awkwardly to the next col, Sella della Braiola, so we decided to avoid the exposed section of ridge over Monte Braiola and Monte Orsaro, dropping to join path 727a which rejoined the main GEA path at Foce del Fosco. Gloves and woolly hats were needed briefly.
Two others from the rifugio were met as we descended. They were taking a higher route.
Monte Fosco's 1680 metre summit was easily reached - any difficulties with the wind were over, though (see lower picture) some wimpier members of our party still needed gloves and woolly hats.
The rest of our day was spent in and out of trees on good paths with occasional undulations. Good progress was made after we had lunched on Marcello's giant butties at Passo di Cirone, where the Romanesque style chapel was securely shut.
The Alps remained coyly unseen today beyond the Po plain, but a motorway became prominent far below. At this moment it's probably in a tunnel far below us.
The motorway disappeared as we fell off our last map and coasted down to Passo della Cisa past munching horses, autumn crocuses and a plethora of other different wild flowers.
We had originally planned to stay at Locanda degli Aceri, 1.5 km to the south, but it's closed. With Gillian's help we had found an alternative, 2 km down the road to the north. The walkers' hostel (Ostello Cisa), a magnificent large stone building, serves walkers who tackle the Via Francigena pilgrimage from Canterbury to Rome. It has four German pilgrims, as well as us tonight, so it's busy. We have a spacious room for four.
There's no wifi or phone signal here, so readers will, I'm afraid, just have to be patient.
Later: after an ordinary meal with the German pilgrims we called it a day.