Sue and Martin in Mallorca 2019

Sue and Martin in Mallorca 2019
On the Archduke's Path in Mallorca

Saturday 27 February 2021

TGO Challenge - Wild Camps (No 51: 10 May 2014)

After the rough route to Glendessarry, I enjoyed a chat with 91 year old Jim Taylor, before heading over Sgurr Mhurlagain to set up camp on its southern flank at NN 021 945 (690 metres) in view of Loch Arkaig, just before the rain started.

My contemporaneous posting is here.

Friday 26 February 2021

Summer in the Alps - 2005 - Sunday 4 September to Tuesday 6 September - Going Home

Sunday 4 September - Lago di Braies to Annweiler 

Early breakfast, then an easy drive to Munich via Vomp's excellent services. Failed to buy felt hat and wallet; reminisced about Heidi's songs, huge pipes, and girls with short skirts last night, even Jenn's Gin. 

Dropped off  Richard, Jenny and Sue for easy journeys back to Manchester

Andrew and I continued to Annweiler (430 miles) and found a nice campsite. Lovely warm evening and nice steaks. Excellent stop off.

Monday 5 September - Annweiler to Montreuil 

On to Montreuil (390 miles). Not quite as nice as Annweiler. Arrived about 2:30 after a 7 am departure. Cloudy later. Crap pizza in main square. 

Tuesday 6 September - Montreuil to Cheshire 

7:30 departure - slow drive to Carrefour at Calais - chunne - nice day in the UK - back in Cheshire (340 miles) by 3 pm. Easy driving in the Espace.

Here's a short summary I produced at the time:

Backpacking for Beginners - Alta Via 1 in the Dolomites

A warm glow of satisfaction lingered in the highly charged air above Rifugio Passo Staulanza as the five travellers relaxed with their second round of beers under the canopy.  The light show that had started moments after their arrival slowly faded into distant cracks and flashes, before the jolly group retired to its excellent room to carry out the necessary, albeit brief, daily ablutions. 

Today’s classic walk had been the fifth day of our ‘Backpacking for Beginners’ journey along Alta Via 1 from its start at Hotel Pragser Wildsee, by Lago di Braies.  We had started the day from our high perch at Rifugio Nuvolau – 2575 metres high on a spectacular rocky Dolomitic crest.  Our day had begun at 6 am when Notchy threw back the curtains to reveal piercing shafts of light from the lazy sun tying to break out from the peaks to the east.  Cag Angel and I both turned over whilst Notchy escaped from our three-berth cell to enjoy a sunrise as stunning as last night’s Brocken Spectre treat, with a group of mountain bikers.  (What were they doing up here!)  I had slept well in the top bunk, with no need to go far, though there was a touch of vertigo, and disorientation from staring up at what appeared to be a planked floor with skirting boards.  Birthday Boy appeared in shiny clean blue apparel, the red version having been ‘treated’ last night in an attempt to stem its overwhelming will to gain the persona of a Chinese wrestler’s jock strap cooked in chip fat on a greasy day.  Then Night Bird arrived, bleary from a room shared with Birthday Boy and the German World Snoring Champions. 

The blear in our eyes was soon dispelled as we set off at 8.30 in blazing sunshine along Alta Via 1’s magnificent route.  Here, just metres from the Nuvolau  refuge, we were guided by a metal wire on the crest of the mountain as the path trips down a rocky scramble where the abrupt start to the day ends with a short ladder.  After Cag Angel had ferried rucksacks for the nervous among us, and with this minor technical hurdle behind us we gently eased our way down path 438 to a cliff edge from where a narrow wired groove led down to easier ground.  This was the easiest grade of Via Ferrata.  These are artificially aided paths originating from before WW1 and extensively developed during that conflict, and further renovated and extended since the 1970s.  No special kit had been needed, even for the beginners among us, though others at Nuvolau had decided to take the easier path 452 to Passo Giau.  Here we enjoyed refreshments in the bright sunshine with Roberto and Nicole, the fat Americans who had eschewed the mild scrambling.  The Hotel here has excellent if idiosyncratic toilets, featuring two halves of a goat.  Fabulous rock scenery helped to make the rest of the day a memorable one – a wonderful day’s walk.  “Great Walks of the World contender” beamed well traveled Notchy.  Nobody contested his view.

Despite the many alternatives for accommodation, different groups of walkers on AV1 are likely to encounter each other from time to time during their trek.  On this day we passed some slumbering Germans beyond Forcella Giau, shortly before our idyllic lunch spot in a meadow full of edelweiss below Forcella Ambrizzola.  Suddenly a familiar rakishly poised felt hat appeared from the German group and sidled over to us before surreptitiously snapping Cag Angel as she posed with an open mackerel sandwich! 

The col, with a stunning view towards Cortina d’Ampezzo and beyond to the Cristallo and Sorapiss ranges, was soon gained.  Beyond this we rambled on with the sheer face of Mount Pelmo looming ever closer.  And so past Refugio Citta di Fiume – a refuge closed at the time for rebuilding work, to our excellent hotel at Staulanza by 4 pm, just beating the first drops of rain. 

That was a day typical of those on this sociable and leisurely seven day trek covering two thirds of the AV1 high level trail.  From the welcoming if eccentric Hotel Pragser Wildsee on a gentle but uphill morning’s walk to the rather basic Rifugio Biella.  From there it was a nice afternoon stroll for three of us up 2810 metre Croda del Becco for views of Tre Cima, Pelmo,Tofane and other lofty peaks.  Meanwhile a search party tried in vain to locate a missing, brand new, unused Berghaus Paclite waterproof jacket.  Much gnashing of teeth, and muttering of “How will I stay dry for the next week?” from Birthday Boy.  So early next morning Cag Angel set off back to Lago di Braies to pick up a spare, rather less lightweight, garment to replace the lost item.  Meanwhile the rest of the team proceeded gently to Rifugio La Varella, reaching our objective in warm sunshine before 3 pm, with Cag Angel, having by now covered Day 1’s ground no less than three times, bounding into the bar an hour later.  [The replacement anorak was never used, as the closest encounter with rain was at Staulanza as recorded above.]  Meanwhile Memory Man’s sunglasses had sadly parted company with the rest of his sparse luggage, but this time there was no ‘Sunglasses Angel’. 

The next two days took us first up to Rifugio Lagazuoi, perched at 2759 metres above Passo Falzarego, with its history of WW1 conflicts and narrow tunnels to explore.  We just lazed in the lovely weather on the expansive balcony, Cag Angel only briefly being distracted by Felt Hat Man’s chat up lines.  During our evening meal, served as always in these mountain refuges at 7 pm precisely, after the cable car had been put to bed and all the day-trippers had long since departed, the entire occupants of the refuge regrouped on the balcony to admire the wonderful sunset while their risottos cooled.

Then on to Nuvolau, another brilliantly situated refuge perched on the very summit of a mountain, for more fantastic views and good food. 

The next day took us on along that Great Walk of the World to Staulanza.  Then our route took us up to Rifugio Coldai, where we enjoyed the best hot chocolate of the trip, then on to our final high level destination, Rifugio Tissi, again perched high above a cliff, this time above Alleghe, and with the dark, high walls of the Civetta to the east, this was another magnificent setting.  Here we tried to book a taxi for the following day back to Lago di Braies but Cag Angel’s command of Italian deserted her and the guardian of the refuge was enrolled to assist.  These guardians are generally very helpful if you catch them in a quieter moment, and it is standard practice for them to phone ahead to book the next nights accommodation.  

The following morning it was a steep final descent, now off the main AV1 route, involving some dodgy, slippery cable.  But Alleghe was in a jolly mood and we enjoyed a slap up lunch before the arrival of our taxi and our consequent leisurely return to the pleasures of Hotel Pragser at Lago di Braies, where the manager kindly withdrew us from the vagaries of the ‘group eating session’ where commercial groups appeared to be assembling to start the walk (we had seen no strong evidence of these groups until now).  And so the trip ended in the ballroom where Heidi, the hotel owner, was hosting her 70th birthday party to which all the great and good of the South Tyrol appeared to have been invited, groups of dancing girls and all!

Thursday 25 February 2021

Summer in the Alps - 2005 - Saturday 3 September - Rifugio Attilio Tissi to Alleghe, then Lago di Braies

Saturday 3 September - Rifugio Tissi to Alleghe, then Lago di Braies (by Martin)
AV1 Backpack - Day 7 

We left Tissi in good spirits at 8:05 after rising early (my bed was shaped like a bath - very difficult to sleep). Not a fantastic breakfast - this wasn't the best Rifugio despite Geoff raving about it. 

On an overcast morning we went down path 563, after thirty minutes passing a 'No Path' sign above a likely looking descent route. 


It must have been precipitous, because after another few minutes of scrubby forest trail we suddenly dropped over the edge onto a very steep path. Walking poles and concentration were needed, and there were wired sections as hard as the Nuvolau via ferrata route. It was a little damp and one of the lower wires was very thin.

We had a break - a final brew stop - at Casera Casamatta (1655m) from 9:45 to 10:25, before carrying on down to Masare by 11:35 and Alleghe (11:55).

Nobody was seen today before Casamatta, and after that only one runner / mushroom picker, until we got very low down - not a popular route - very steep, but we did notice a couple who were at Tissi, in Alleghe later. 

First, a chemist for more Cipro, then beers, then lunch, then outside Tourist Information. 

The 'team' relaxes over lunch in Alleghe, at the end of the journey:

Here's our route to Alleghe - just 6 km, with 50 metres ascent (and 1300 metres descent) Click on any image for a better version

The taxi arrived on time and it took less than 2 hours to get back to Lago di Braies. €170 charged despite having done a deal for €150, but well worth it.

Pipers outside Hotel Pragser Wildee

Nice evening at Braies (Hotel Pragser Wildsee) despite no Uno (vetoed by Notchy). An excellent buffet was shared with a big party for Heidi's 70th birthday. Heidi is the owner. There were one or two guided parties eating separately, but this buffet was memorably excellent. However, no sign sadly of Richard's missing waterproof. 

Lots of cards done by Martin and Sue. Interesting quirky bath plugs. Nice manager. Rain later. End of a brilliant week's weather.

Another AV1 trip - in 2014 - click on 'Next Day' at the foot of each entry, to flow through the days. There are lots of excellent 'slideshow' photos.

Wednesday 24 February 2021

Summer in the Alps - 2005 - Friday 2 September - Rifugio Passo Staulanza to Rifugio Attilio Tissi

Friday 2 September - Rifugio Passo Staulanza to Rifugio Tissi (by Jenny)
AV1 Backpack - Day 6 

(Written with the assistance of Richard and Notchy) Relaxed start to the day. Good breakfast with very fresh croissants. Another hot day as we left the refuge (or rather the 'hotel') at 8:45, Memory Man almost abandoning his rucksack and walking poles. 

Walked down along the road, crossing over the crash barrier briefly to avoid the rush hour traffic (of one car). Took path up the valley through ski pistes until we began to climb up. 

Steep ascent up, up, up, zigzagging across an open slope along to a broad gully.

Autumn Crocus

Spring Gentian

Saw view of Zoldo Alto village below, then more zigzagging up, up, up, up ... to Rifugio Coldai for what Jenny and Sue voted was the best hot chocolate of the week (you had to eat some of it with a spoon).

Rifugio Coldai's goods lift

Brief passport worry (Sue thought it had been left at 'Rif' Staulanza and seemed strangely disappointed that she didn't have to skip back down for it).

Left Rifugio Coldai, another short but steep ascent to a little col (Forcella Coldai) with a lake below. Romantic photos taken here - but sadly Notchy was not included due to lack of deodorant.

Walked down to the lake and then up to what we thought was the last ascent to the next hut. However, on reaching the col we realised the guidebook had mislead us, as the hut was on top of another up, up, up ascent.

Plodded up, up, up to Rifugio Tissi - actually Richard made a speedy ascent due to lack of bush coverage and the need to eject about 3 lbs very quickly. The rest of us arrived with bowels intact and we all sat in the sun and enjoyed a lunch overlooking the Civetta group and listening to the tinkling of cow bells below.

After lunch we walked up to the cross at the summit (Cima di Col Rean - 2281m). After the exhausting 10 metre ascent (we were heavily weighed down by beer from lunch) we sat looking over the lovely views down to Alleghe. Some of us fell asleep.

Retired to hut for washing, relaxing, and a stupendous effort by Martin and Sue to book our taxi from Alleghe to Lago di Braies (hurrah!).

Met a few friends at the hut - the German group, the two Americans, and the snoring duo. No felt hat man (sadly for Sue). 

Played head to head Uno with Richard gaining revenge over Martin...

Here's our route for the day - 11 km with 900 metres ascent

Tuesday 23 February 2021

Summer in the Alps - 2005 - Thursday 1 September - Rifugio Nuvolau to Rifugio Passo Staulanza

Thursday 1 September - Rifugio Nuvolau to Rifugio Passo Staulanza (by Martin)
AV1 Backpack - Day 5
Richard's 41st birthday 

NB. 'Notchy' = Andrew; 'Cag Angel' = Sue; 'Birthday Boy' = Richard; 'Night Bird' = Jenny; Martin = 'Memory Man' 

Thursday morning in our three bunk room at Nuvolau began soon after 6 am when Notchy drew the curtain to reveal shafts of light from the lazy sun trying to rise above the peaks to the east. The Cag Angel, twitching from dreams about men in felt hats, and I both turned over whilst Notchy got himself out to view a stunning sunrise with the mountain (what are they doing at the top of this mountain?) bikers. 

I had had a good kip in the top bunk with no need for significant movement all night, thanks to my personal portaloo, though there was a touch of vertigo, and it was disorienting to have to stare up at what appeared to be a planked floor and skirting boards.

The Birthday Boy appeared in shiny clean blue apparel, the red version having been treated last night in a forlorn attempt to stem it's overwhelming will to impersonate a Chinese wrestler's jockstrap cooked in chip fat on a greasy day. Meanwhile the Night Bird arrived and consumed breakfast with us all without really noticing. The egg and speck (fried eggs and bacon) was our only cooked breakfast of the trip - excellent.

By 8:30 we were heading off in blazing sunshine. This was a wake up call for Night Bird, who was jolted into life for the day by the sight of the metal wire on the crest of the hill just beyond the rifugio. This route had been rejected by all the other AV1 walkers we had encountered, so we were on our own down the wires and a short ladder. Cag Angel transported gear on request, and everyone managed this 50 metre section without difficulty. Night Bird in particular was choughed (sic) especially as Birthday Boy found it not to his liking.

On the path between the two sections of the Nuvolau via ferrata

For a change, there were no queues on this via ferrata (Nuvolau/Ra Gusela, FALZ 4, grade 1A), of which the second section 20 minutes later was uneventfully negotiated; the only queue we noticed was one of huge ants waiting to cross the path.

Andrew eases himself down the very steep second set of wires

Carline Thistle

Common Monkshood

Ling (Heather)

After a bit of steep scree we rejoined the groccles and ambled down to Passo Giau (10:15 to 10:30) for some welcome refreshments and a chat with Roberto and Nicole, the fat Americans who had come via the western path. The hotel had excellent toilets despite the goat's bottom that protruded from the wall of the staircase leading to them.

The rest of the day was spent in this fabulous rock scenery in perfect weather, with no serious ascents or descents - a wonderful day's walk. "Great Day Walks of the World" contender, suggested Notchy. No one contested his view. 

We soon gained Forcella Giau (11:45 to 11:50).

We then passed some slumbering Germans - one with a distinctive felt hat attached to his sack. Suddenly he jumped up, and whilst we were lunching in a meadow of edelweiss, he surreptitiously photographed the Cag Angel as she posed in front of an open mackerel sandwich. 

This lunch spot below Col Ambrizzola (12:30 to 13:10) was idyllic. 

We rambled on over the col and down to Forcella Roan (14:30) to the sound and sight of marmots, grasshoppers and cowbells, and past sumptuous clumps of field and other gentians, heather, monkshood, etc, etc, with the sheer face of Mount Pelmo looming closer and closer ahead.

Forcella Col Duro

Also wheatears and stonechats and a cuckoo sized brown bird of prey. Lots of bright yellow mushrooms that we think are edible (but we didn't try!). 

The closed Rifugio Citta di Fiume was passed at 15:05.

Mt Pelmo looms high above us

Then a contouring path took us across bright scree (oh for some sunglasses!) to our excellent hotel at Staulanza at 4 pm, just as the first spots of rain fell - a precursor to a later shower - the inevitable result of a humid day. 

Two rounds of beer were soon put away, the shower in our smart room for five was fully utilised, and we settled down to a fine meal accompanied by the usual dehydration agent (1½ litres of red wine) to alleviate nocturnal activities, and I lost to Sue at Uno. Water streamed off Mt Pelmo - a huge waterfall in the rain, and we discovered New Orleans had been devastated by a hurricane.

Here's today's route - 15 km with 550 metres ascent 
(as usual, click on any image for a better version)

[Note the deep blue sky in the Canon S70 digital images, compared with Fujifilm's more subdued blue hue. I think the digital colours are more accurate.]