Sue and Martin in Mallorca 2019

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

Saturday 13 May 2023

Saturday = Isabella Afternoon (48)

We won't see Isabella for a while, so we took the opportunity to visit her on a sunny Saturday afternoon.

Spike the dinosaur was in a fiery mood.

"Mum, Dad, I think we need a new kitchen!"

New kitchen may be needed, but the garden is in fine shape.

Then we went through Fletcher Moss to the playground.

Three-cornered Garlic

Rock Crane's-bill

If there's anything jumpable, Isabella will find it.

Dad arrived to help

Then 'Purple Rabbit' got pushed all the way home.

With a significant diversion to deal with hundreds of dandelion clocks...

It was lovely to spend the afternoon with you Isabella. We do love your company.

Saturday 13 May 2023 - Wythenshawe parkrun #522

On a lovely sunny morning, I forgot to take my camera, so thanks go to Jeanette for providing the above picture of  some of us enjoying our post run coffees at the pony cafe.

Sue was absent, bellringing, and I chose to help Paul Tomlinson to a PB of 34:49.

All very jolly. Full results are here. It was perfect weather for running.

Sadly, I learnt later that Michael Dunne, my old 'sparring partner' on these runs, has passed away following his recent diagnosis of a tumour. Thoughts are with his many friends (he was a stalwart of Sale Harriers and a sub 2:30 marathon runner) and family. It was his illness that triggered my recent fundraising activities for St Anne's Hospice. Rest in peace, Michael.

Friday 12 May 2023

Wednesday 10 May 2023 - Marple with SWOG

Whilst Sue stayed dry at home, I braved the elements for an hour and a half of drizzle that was sandwiched between heavy bursts of rain that ended as we started and started as we ended.

Before the start, virtually all 25 of the walkers sported brollies. "Welcome to my Brolly Walk" said Jack. That stopped the rain, though one person didn't notice!

Easy walking along the Middlewood Way, apart from an encounter with an aggressively rapid mountain bike, led to single file through a damp field.

Tree trimming was very neat.

This old tractor looked to be in fine condition.

The plan was to cross the Macclesfield Canal, but an executive decision was made to shorten the walk (good decision as at the moment we finished the heavens opened) and walk along the towpath before crossing the golf course back to the Middlewood Way.

Here's our 6km route. A nice bit of fresh air, but hardly compensation for failing to be at Torridon preparing to walk across Scotland. Good luck to those who are there, or making their way there, and are elsewhere at the west coast starting points.

Wednesday 10 May 2023


I learnt a new word yesterday.


Latte in the rain at Walton Perk, when I should be in Torridon getting ready to start the TGO Challenge

Monday 8 May 2023

17 to 25 July 1999 - The Brenta Dolomites

Recently, during a 'Zoom' meeting with Susan and Roy in Connecticut, it became apparent that they are visiting the Dolomites this summer on an itinerary not dissimilar to the one that Sue, Alan, Chris, Nikki and myself followed in 1999. I then decided to copy the 'scrapbook' of our trip to this blog - just one long entry, so exit now if you aren't interested. There aren't many photos, and all I can put my hands on just now are the dubious quality prints in the scrapbook, although given that we had a 'lantern show' at our reunion there must be some slides - maybe I'll add them later. Click on any image for access to a slideshow. The names of the diarists are given next to the date. I've not included some general information and a kit list as I can't locate those old 'Word' documents. In contrast to 21st Century habits, all that was pre-booked on this trip was the flights; nothing else was booked more than a day ahead of arrival. 

Saturday 17 July 1999 (Martin) 

Assembled at 27 South Drive by 10pm on 16 July after the usual hard week’s work.  Alan and Chris had been delayed in Chinley and we were all hungry. The roast chicken went down well.  By the time two cars had been taken to Sue’s, butties made, fruit salad scoffed, and washing up done, it was past 12.30am. Some hasty packing and repacking had filled any spare moments.

Olympic produced the habitual rickety transport, promptly at 6am, and big enough for all five of us.  We assembled at Terminal 3 for the 7.45 BA flight to Milan, which was delayed by only half an hour.  The waiting time seemed short – Nikki needed lire, the rest of us read Chris’s newly acquired translation of a German party’s 1996 itinerary I had found on the Internet.  We concluded that their long days were misleading and that we may be able to achieve more than they did in the week.

It is a clear day, with good views over the Alps following an adequate breakfast.

The toilet on the plane is incredibly smelly.  Fortunately our seats are at the front.

We had picked up a bit of time in the air, but the hour’s bus ride (we just missed a bus despite Sue’s planned ticket acquisition success – she only had hand luggage so got tickets whilst the rest waited) was longer than expected and very slow – we even followed bicycles in the slow lane!  We therefore missed the 13.10 train to Verona and had to rush for a slower one at 13.15 – very poor booking system at Milan station, where one lazy woman was the only person selling tickets. So we missed our connection in Verona and then we misread the timetable and stood and watched as the next train left from another platform.

We forlornly sought succour from Chris’s Jaffa cakes, but they must have been old stock or suffered in the air. We are sure they are not supposed to taste like cardboard!

That train would have given us 15 minutes to connect with a 5pm bus to Madonna.  We eventually got out of Verona at 16.21 and arrived in Trento around 5.30.  This section of the journey was very pleasant, passing increasingly mountainous scenery, scrubby trees adorning the steep hillsides.  Occasional fortified buildings high on the hillside, and villages hanging high above the valley.  Mountain streams merrily cascaded down.  Once in Trento, a short foray found the bus station and established that there was a 7pm bus to Madonna di Campiglio.  This gave us time in Trento, a pleasant town with pedestrianised streets.  We stopped for a beer and foraged for food for lunches, and other items.  A suitable shop was found, and gaz, muesli bars and carabiners were duly acquired.

Off we then rushed, just in time to catch the Madonna bus – 2 hours of twisty roads, stopping at many small villages on the way.

9pm and after our arduous 14 hour journey (we had lost an hour) we were soon booked into nice rooms at Albergo Villa Emma.  After welcome showers, we adjourned to the town centre for a beer, and caught the last few bars of a brass band concert.

Back to the hotel by 11pm for a most excellent night’s sleep.

Our route (in yellow)

Sunday 18 July (Sue) 

The alarm went at 7.30 and my eyes opened very reluctantly.  An excellent night’s sleep.  Had a good continental breakfast – croissants, fruit, bread, jam etc.  Left Albergo Villa Emma at 8.45.  Some cloud around but pleasantly warm.  We disturbed a long row of anglers with rods flicking into the lake.  The path was closed but by the time we worked out what the sign meant, it was too late.  It was a good way on to the main street.  Looked around, in vain, for a new pair of sandals – the Superglue had failed and the sole was flapping.

So, chairlift next, which was a 15-20 minute walk up the hill on the main road.  The lift took all of us right to the top – at Passo del Groste.  The viewing platform provided a sheltered spot for a lovely cappuccino in the sun.  After applying sun cream, donning hats and sunspecs, we moved off downhill to book into the Rif. G. Graffer al Groste.  This was easy and soon we were installed in a room for five at a cost of L63,000 each for half board. (2900 lire = £)

We were keen to get walking as our German guide from the Internet described our planned walk as taking nine and a half hours.  We left the hut at 11.30, following a contouring path around the Pietro Grande.  Quite soon, it moved steeply upwards and then continued on the level.  Views were wide and flowers varied.  Had breaks for water, then lunch, when it looked as though the cloud would come down, and it became quite chilly.  This was partially counteracted by Martin passing round a freshly brewed pint of tea!

It was a short climb to Bocc. de tre Sassi (three jagged teeth), where a decision had to be made.  It was decided to just recce the next uphill section and perhaps return to descend.

As the sun reappeared, spirits rose and an extension was proposed, which included several sections of Via Ferrata.  After putting climbing harnesses on, we descended over some old snow, followed by more rocks to the top of our first section of via Ferrata.  A short descent on wires was followed by a short but steep scree run, then a long glissade down snow.

The next section of Via Ferrata descended a gully steeply, partially on rock and partially on soil.  Nikki took a few moments to free one of her carabiners. It was a good example of a hanging valley.  The jangle of sheep/goat bells accompanied a short slog (very sweaty) up some scree to another col. A chocolate biscuit/apple break preceded an excellent section of Via Ferrata.  The descent was steep and exposed – down ladders for parts.  Eventually we emerged on a lovely contouring path, gently ascending for some time, back to the Passo del Groste.  A marmot was spotted amongst the boulders on the final ascent to the Passo del Groste. 

Descending from Bocchetta dei Tre Sassi

By now, it was around 6pm.  Nikki and Chris were suffering, Martin was dehydrated as a result of carrying rather a heavy sack, which Alan now had, so it was a relief to return about 6.15-6.30.

Dinner was excellent – pasta, then stews of various sorts and a large bowl of fruit salad.  Water was consumed in greater quantities than wine.

Spent the rest of the evening diary writing, showering and chatting over beers.  Outside, no view due to thick clouds.

A great day, with enough cloud to prevent sunburn, but only about 10 drops of rain.  More of the same or better will be ideal.

Pigs:  Martin 2 vs Chris 1

Monday 19 July (Alan)

After some difficulty rising and breakfasting (Martin wanted to get going, Alan and Nikki had difficulty rising, having slept next to the down-pipe at the Graffer Refuge) we were ready for the off.  Having climbed the small rise from the refuge to the chairlift station, a brief council of war was held.  Nikki was looking for an easy day’s walking due to Achilles Tendon problems; Chris was whinging on about his blisters.  Finally it was agreed that N and C would take the cripples route to our next stop at the Tuckett Refuge (route #316) and that M, A and S would take the more taxing route #305 to the east of Cima Groste. (Chris adds comments on #316 below)  The bulk of the height gain for 305 we achieved in the first two kilometres.  We were accompanied along the way by approx 20 fellow walkers from the Graffer Refuge.  After a long slog up, we found a more interesting Via Ferrata route which took us to our lunch spot, just past the high point of the route at Cima Falkner.  This was Sentiero Alfredo Benini – grade d – “Absolute sure-footedness and freedom from vertigo necessary”.  

The ladder descent on Sentiero Benini

The views were stunning in a virtually unbroken panoply of vistas to the east and with little wind, plenty of sun, and no monotonous drone from Chris about his blisters, we soaked up the atmosphere at our lunch stop at Bocca di Val Perse.  Sue readjusted her knee supports in a halfhearted attempt at equalising the tanning effect of the sun; Martin ate some tinned aquatic product (smoked oysters – delicious!), and I lamented the weight of my rucksack and its asymmetric loading in the side pocket.  This latter point caused not a little concern since, when deftly passing along a Via Ferrata section with the side pocket on the outside, I had a little trouble keeping close to the wall, whereas, turning a corner, I would find myself obversely challenged, and consequently pushed away from the wall in to the void.  But no matter.  Onwards and we began our descent to the west, heading for the Tuckett Refuge.  We now passed through a series of remarkable, challenging and intricate Via Ferrata sections comprising ladders and fixed wires.  We had drunk the vistas and open spaces of the ascent; now we plunged down through labyrinthine pathways, across snowfields in the Vedretta Di Brenta Inferiore.  The last kilometre to the Tuckett Refuge was covered in snow and slush and culminated in meeting Chris who bore the good news that we had a roof for the night.  We had had the best of the day’s weather and a wonderful walk.  But back to reality – how were Chris’s feet doing?……

Route 316 (Chris) 

Route 316 affords a gentle stroll for those seeking an easy route to the Tuckett hut.  A relatively level walk with little ascent or descent making for an easy stroll which could probably be done in less than an hour at a push.  The path is rocky but well marked and allows good views down the Vallesinella.  The rock escarpment to the left of the path (east) rather irritatingly obscures an early view of the hut so that you first see it with about 200m to walk.  The approach to the hut takes you past a small RC chapel, rather like half a garden shed, with a liberal sprinkling of icons.  The escarpments of the Vallesinella provide protection from the sun in the morning.  We reached the hut comfortably by 10.30am and enjoyed a couple of hours in the sun, before the weather turned with cloud rolling in from the east in the early afternoon.  Watching for the others to return gave a brief insight into what it must be like at Everest base camp looking for signs of a successful summit ascent, all we needed was a spotter scope! Ultimately it proved difficult to miss Alan’s vast bulk looming into view.  I strolled up to meet them.

Bocca di Tuckett from Tuckett Refuge

Sunset from the Tuckett Refuge

Tuesday 20 July (Nikki) 

Route: Sentiero delle Bocchette Alte, from Bocca di Tuckett to the Bocca degli Armi – Group E Via Ferrata (as well as ‘absolute freedom from vertigo required’, this grade requires “additional mountain experience and climbing ability”).

Alarm set for 6.25, everyone up and ready to take a steady walk up the Inferiore Vendretta di Brenta by 7.45 (route 303).  The snowy section of the pass was slightly tricky, but enough eager walkers had left good-sized footprints to follow, to ensure our safety to the first false summit of the day.

Looking back to the Tuckett Refuge from Bocca di Tuckett

After we had dressed into the appropriate climbing gear, we then ventured up the first stage of ferrata, taking us along route 305 to the well known Garbari ledge.  This ledge cuts along the east wall of the Cima Brenta at an altitude of 3000 big ones.  Due to poor visibility it was hard to imagine the sheer drop, and in some ways this did take away some of the exposure of the ledge walk.

Shortly after reaching an exposed ledge, Cengia Alta, we all experienced the crux of this route, a more problematic and exposed steeply sloping snow couloir, which was traversed with extreme care (even when you get your ski poles caught and have to go into reverse mode for a short time!).

After the excitement of the snow traverse, we arrived shortly at the highest point (3020m) on our route.  The view of the mountains from the ledge was beautiful and atmospheric.  The whispering clouds licked the mountain tops, then retreated, like a fire searching for oxygen. 

A lunch and brew stop was on the agenda at this point, which gave the opportunity to take many photographs.

The next part of route 305 was impressive due to a series of chimneys, and short descents via ladder and wire, thus taking us to a rather knee trembling 67 rung ladder based at 2950m – this ladder is called ‘ladder of friends’ and took us to a pleasant summit of 2998m.

The 'ladder of friends'

On descent we had a choice of two routes back to the Alimonta hut.  After a short discussion we agreed on taking part of route 323 – Sentiero Umberto Quintavalle.  The ascent took us to the scree covered north shoulder of Cima Molveno at 2890m, before descending finally down more ropes and ladders to the foot of the wall.

From here we had the Rif Alimonta in sight and promptly made our ways down, the ‘boys’ taking the more daring scree run, whilst the ‘girls’ had a good gossip meandering down across the innocuous Sfulmini glacier towards their destination. 

Meanwhile, back at the hut - some mountain goats were already tucking into some good food as we strolled in for another night of relaxation, conversation and lest I forget, a few carafes of red wine.

                                                   The Alimonta Refuge

Wednesday 21 July (Martin) 

Alimonta hut (to Pedrotti hut) on the Sentiero delle Bochette Centrale (grade d), but we diverted to Brentei hut shortly before the end of the route.

A genius (unknown) opened the window.  This meant our claustrophobic attic spot together with 6 others remained habitable overnight.  We even slept, even if sleeping bags proved a little superfluous.

Alarms went off at 6.15, 6.20, 6.16 and various other times.  The shattered bodies (not ours!) which had lain in some of the bunks since 8.30 last night appeared oblivious to these sounds, and had still not risen when we dragged our sacs from this dark attic around 7.15.  Meanwhile we enjoyed another good breakfast.  Today chocolate jam reappeared on the menu, as did the ‘rubbish jug’.

We set off up to Bocca degli Armi (2749m) at 7.45 (again) just behind the noisy Germans from whom we wish to escape today.  The route is fully described in route 78 of the Via Ferrata guide.  It is relatively easy but very exposed.  Just over half an hour up the glacier took us to the ladders which led us quickly up to today’s high point – an exposed ledge blasted out of the rock.  Even on this first bit both Alan and I had to crawl, whilst clipped on to the metal wire, to avoid our various ski poles bashing the rocks. 

Despite his vast bulk and heavy load, Alan led quickly and Chris and Nikki remained in tow.  But I was very slow today.  Sue waited and we caught the others, cooling, before a steep shaley unaided section down which I had trouble maintaining a good pace due to the extreme consequences of a slip.  The others continued onward whilst Sue and I struggled to make speedy progress.

The weather was lovely again, with hot sun greeting us on the first col just above the hut (the exercise of getting to which was likened to an aerobics ‘step’ session).  However, by mid morning the ‘Molveno mist’ had appeared again to obscure the south side of the mountain.  Sue and I just got photos of the impressive Campanile Basso, up which various climbing groups were ascending.  We got good views of them going up a slanting chimney to an exposed ledge.  The rock looked good to climb on.

We continued slowly on along narrow ledges with occasional wires for support.  We negotiated the Guglia gap – “a somewhat ticklish spot” without incident, with good views of climbers on C. Basso.  On again, and after a ‘lunch’ break (mackerel today) we caught a sight of the trio in the vanguard far below just above the snow slope.  Here, Sue and I encountered some planks suspended 300ft in mid air, attached to the rocks by rusty iron.  Crawling over these was not too bad, the wood being softer and smoother than the adjacent rock.  These bits were a bit exposed so we ‘clipped on’.

A final short ladder and traverse led us to the top of the snowfield.  Despite my slowness very few people had overtaken and there was no congestion on this route.  Even the noisy Germans failed to appear, though we did meet some pushy ones coming the other way, who insisted on forcing past me in no space rather than taking a step back to allow me through!  “Bloody Germans”.  There are too many of them here.  No English encountered yet.

Ski poles out, we snowploughed through the snow in the steps of the others.  Here, apparently, Alan had nearly come to grief, swaying violently out of control – probably blamed on his ungainly burden with its protruding side pod, and Chris had apparently fallen flat on his face when his leg became ‘hole bound’

We proceeded uneventfully as far as a slab of rock, partly aided, on which I was unable to get down the unaided bottom section.  Sue kindly returned to guide me and we were soon down on a good track heading towards the Brentei hut, which all day had been standing proudly in the sun, which we had seen only briefly due to the Molveno mist.  We arrived around 1.30 - 5 hours for the ‘4 hour’ route.

There followed an afternoon of washing, shaving (not N and S), hair washing, flower identification (lovely green site with lots of Alpine flowers), reading, strolling, etc.  This preceded an evening of pigs, good food, wine, beer, tired conversation, postcard writing, etc, at the well-equipped Brentei hut where we had a room for 5 but no hot water.

By 8pm thick mist had enveloped the hut, but the pressure is high, so hopefully the run of good weather will continue!

Removal to bed…..9pm!!

Alan and Martin on the 'Bocchette Way'

Climbing the ladders from Bocca degli Armi

On the Sentiero delle Bocchette Centrale

Thursday 22 July (Chris) 

Rose at 6.15 to the familiar chorus of alarm clocks.  All slept well I think despite it being rather hot in the room, this being most obvious on exit, the temperature gradient to the corridor being about 10 degrees C!  The shutters were quite clearly too good a fit.

Usual hut breakfast and a leisurely preparation for what is to be an easy day, just a short trek from Brentei to Aposteli XII.

Settle up and ready ourselves for the off.  Martin makes a quick excursion to photograph the view from beyond the hut (much to Sue’s disgust “he could have taken my camera as well”, she says).

Despite looking an easy stroll, route 327 presents the now familiar 45-minute post breakfast workout, except this time it lasts twice as long!  Rounding the end of the Crozzon di Brenta, we turn south and face a steady hour up the snow clad Vedretta dei Camosci.  Progress is made tricky by the fact that the red route markers are hard to spot, and few and far between.  I suspect that a good many have been flushed down by the meltwater.

Halfway up we are presented with an interesting dilemma, continue to the left of the scree (which is where the path seems to be indicated) or traverse right and plod up through the snow.  True to form, Alan, having elected to stay to the left, doggedly trudges on when clearly the scree is far too loose.  In true intrepid fashion, reminiscent of past British explorers (all now dead) Alan perseveres until the thixotropic nature of the scree renders forward progress impossible, his ‘treading water’ sending cascades of rocks in Martin’s direction forcing a strategic retreat on his part.

We finally make the top after the best part of 3 hours.  The terrain not being much to my liking, with so much meltwater flooding under the snow I was fearful of falling through.  When finally back on terra firma, Alan demonstrated that it was a little less than firm by dislodging a very substantial rock whilst posing for photographs.  Manfully (and rather foolishly) he attempted to deflect it with his shin, but to no avail.  Fortunately there was nobody following up behind.

By this time the weather had started to show signs of turning.  We had seen little of the sun and now we heard the distant grumble of thunder.  With the Aposteli hut now in view we set off on a brief scramble along route 304 before descending to the hut.  The path provided a final flourish with a stony downhill scamper.  Alan and I like excited schoolboys set off at a canter, barely negotiating the twists and turns of the path as our stride lengths increased and control decreased in inverse proportion.  Spurred on by the onset of rain we managed to race on up the final few yards to the hut, closely followed by Martin.  

The journey is variously described as “an excellent walk” by Sue, and a “treacherous slog” by myself, the others views I suspect falling between.  Either way we were spared a thorough drenching as shortly after our arrival the heavens opened.  Unfortunately so did the doors to hordes of damp school children who occupied literally every square inch of the ground floor.

The Aposteli XII hut is new, built last year on the site of the old hut.  It is nicely built and has a shower!  What luxury!  Better still, the girl (woman) at reception speaks English.  However, disaster, they don’t have hot chocolate!  The screaming hoards depart after lunch, the resulting loss of thermal input causing the inside temperature to plummet and the fire to be lit, very cosy.

Martin, Sue and Nikki elect to take a further walk now that the weather has lifted.  Alan and I sit beside the fire and are serenaded by a group of fellow walkers.  Shortly after this we plan to visit the chapel.

View from the Brentei Refuge to Bocca di Brenta

Ascending scree


Chris and I spent the afternoon most productively.  The weather had (temporarily) cleared and we went outside, walking up the path, across the helicopter landing area, to the chapel hewn out of the rock of the Croz dei Dodici Apostoli.  We spent some time looking out of the fenestrations formed by the rock cross which formed the west wall of the chapel.  Very impressive.  The rock tunnel entrance to the chapel, coupled with the open west wall, caused Chris and myself to note the similarities with ‘The Guns of Navarone’.  Soon, booming from an approaching storm’s thunder strengthened this analogy. 

Leaving the chapel, we moved down to the 12 Apostles hut again, stopping to inspect the cable car supply station.  To our joy and delight, the remnants of the old 12 Apostles hut were piled up, partially cut up for winter firewood.  Starting to rummage in the wood pile, we soon came across the remains of old signposts for the Via Ferrata routes in these parts.  These would clearly make excellent souvenirs and, after some extensive rooting, we managed to find two identical signs for the “XII Apostiles”.  These will be returned to England, there to adorn our respective homes, wives permitting.  The storm, which had been threatening to engulf us, then did so.  We retreated, at approximately 3.30pm, to the veranda of the refuge, to watch the spectacular lightening, hail, thunder and rain.  The rain kept up, with thunder, until the evening.  Whilst waiting for the bedraggled return of M, S and N, we had each other in stitches, reminiscing over old times of childhood.  Also I built a six story cardhouse. 

Chris and I have clearly regressed, over the past few days, into our earlier years.  This is a familiar pattern that our respective wives are sadly used to but which may have come as something of a surprise to N, M and S.  I can only hope that they understand; or at least sympathise. 


At around 2pm, Martin proposed a walk.  To set the scene we had arrived at the 12 Apostles hut around 11am and sat in a very crowded room – lots of noisy Italian school children.  After hot soup at 1pm we were all feeling relaxed.  Outside, it was distinctly cooler, cloudy, but not raining.  Nikki, Martin and I set off, going in slightly the wrong direction, but ending up at the chapel built into the hillside.  Facing out, there is a huge rock cross.  A sad place, with lots of memorial plaques, some with photos, particularly of young people in climbing gear.

The path we had chosen descended steeply on scree after first rising to a col.  After some way, green vegetation was reached, which became shrubby and continued steeply down.  About then the sky became very dark and the rumbles of thunder started again.  Time for full waterproofs.  The heavens opened and lightening flashed.  Rain turned to hail for a brief while.  At the low point of the walk (1800m) was a small building in the Val di Sacco, providing a bit of shelter, but we continued as the rain was lighter.  The path contoured round the hill, giving views into the valley.  A herd of cattle was given away by the loud ringing of bells.  The path undulated through trees, again with views into the valley.  It was quite a shock to lethargic legs (thank goodness for the few dried apricots) to see the hut sitting on an outcrop, about 2,000ft above the valley!  Martin went ahead and Nikki and I plodded steadily upwards on path 307.  A few steep sections required extra effort, especially as the rock was wet.  It remained threatening, with rolls of thunder, but the cloud stayed high and views opened up across the valley, with lighter skies behind.  At last, the hut appeared.  It was nearly 6.30pm!  We were starving.  Thirst was quenched with beers and we ate soup or spaghetti, then veal, mash and pepperonata, washed down with red wine.  It was a most civilised hut, with an extremely friendly girl, who spoke good English and was pleased to oblige.

More wine (another litre!), and a game of yatze for five, and it was bedtime (9.45pm).

Strong scent memories of this hut - I lay next to a German (we were both on top bunks) who leant over me rather too far in his interest that I was reading about Julie Tullis.  How much aftershave?!

Martin, Alan, Nikki, Chris and Sue outside the 12 Apostles Refuge

Sunset from 12 Apostles Refuge

Early morning view from 12 Apostles Refuge

Friday 23 July (Sue)

Alarms at 6.15 again.  Off around 7.45, but only managed a few yards before we stopped for several photos.  The sky was nearly clear but the wind on top of a temperature of 3 degrees C made it feel just like a winter skiing day, not like a summer walking day.  At last we made progress with the hut diminishing in size behind us and the views opening as we climbed higher up path 321 towards the Bocchette dei Due Denti.  The ground was frozen hard, with patches of hailstones at frequent intervals.  The yellow flowers (Rhaetian Poppies) abundant in this area of limestone pavement were looking much the worse for wear after the hail.  We climbed up the side of a snow slope, aiming to cross towards the top.  Alan and Chris had crossed, but Martin and I were reticent to follow, the reason being that, even though the path across was level, a slip would have meant a long slide down ice, with no axe to arrest a fall.  Nikki, meanwhile, was trying to squeeze behind the bergschrund!  While Alan and Chris came back to the far side of the snow slope, a strategy to enable us to cross was beginning to form.  Three Germans (they were too friendly to be German – I think they were French – M) were coming in the opposite direction and two had crampons.  The elaborate plan involved the following steps:

1.      All Germans came across to us, two with crampons.

2.      Chris set up a belay at the far side and Alan came over roped up.

3.      Martin and crampons successfully crossed.

4.      Nikki and crampons did the same (congratulations! First time with crampons!)

5.      I went across with poles, roped up.

6.      Alan returned.

7.      The 3rd German took both pairs of crampons back to their owners.  (Why was he strolling back and forth whilst others needed aids?  Mad Frenchman? – M)

There were lots of thank yous – it would have meant a long detour to avoid this obstacle.

Being on the north side, there was no sun, and waiting around made some of us very cold.  It was with relief that we were able to continue scrambling towards the sunny col, the Bocchette dei Due Denti.

Once at the col, we had to wait for a party to come past in the other direction.  This was the start of Sentiero Ettore Castiglioni, a grade d Via Ferrata involving a 200m descent using ladders (over 300 rungs) and wires.  The route was sheltered from the cool wind and caught the sun.  Down and down, all the while aiming for the red roof of the Agostini hut, which resembled Lego.

At the bottom, Martin brewed tea and decisions were made as to the route to the next hut.  Alan and Chris zoomed off up path 358, and the three of us sat outside the hut.  (M – Agostini hut – excellent quiet spot – even the 3 noisy Germans – alone, inside, eating, were quiet!)  The hot chocolate was exceptional – so thick, and the strudel was pretty good too.  We knew the ‘boys’ would be envious! 

Our path, Sentiero Palmieri, contoured from the hut, giving views down the valley, with a river snaking through trees far below.  It rose to cross a col, where the view and scenery changed.  The path weaved about amongst limestone boulders and meadows.  The sun shone.

Rounding a further corner, the Pedrotti hut came into view on the opposite side of the valley.  Our route along the 320b path contoured around the valley, using natural ledges in the limestone, and through boulderfields with house-sized lumps of rock.  A few wires aided parts of the route.

Arrived at the hut at about 2.30pm to find that our room for five is on the 3rd floor – more climbing!  Washed some smelly socks and sat in the warmth.  The hut has splendid views.

On the 300 rung descent of the Castiglioni ferrata

Friday 23 July (Alan) 

Chris and I agreed with the others that we would leave them at the foot of the Castiglioni Via Ferrata, with us taking the high level route to the Pedrotti Refuge (Tosa) via route 358 near Cima Tosa.  This suited us well since C and I were keen to meet more challenging Via Ferrata conditions and, whilst snow conditions were anticipated underfoot, we felt equal to the task of this Grade E route, Sentiero Brentari.  Proceeding along route 321 for a short distance we turned north, into the mouth of the Vedretta d’Ambiez, following route 358.  The initial ascent of the valley went due north for perhaps half a kilometre, picking a trail up through moraine debris and passing a huge, circular block of limestone, as if pushed up like a volcanic plug in the middle of the valley, looking for all the world like an abandoned gasometer (see fig 1.)

Progressing onwards and upwards, we shortly met the snowfield that fills the D’Ambiez valley.  A well-marked path with flags (red) in the snow indicated our route, traversing the ice and leading to vertiginous ladders.  The traverse was interesting.  Part way through the snowfield was split by a crevasse some 100m long.  Although only 0.5m wide, the jump across revealed the gaping void below.  The conditions underfoot were better than the smaller snow fields that we had encountered earlier in the morning in the Vedretta Prato fiorito and we passed across without incident.

We were now faced with a series of ladders leading up the east wall of the valley to a col which would take us in to the Vedretta della  Tosa (route 304).  The series of ladders twisted ever upwards, as though designed to be a demonic funicular railway.  However, the ascent was rapid and we reached the upper terraces of Via Ferrata by 12.30pm.  We were both experiencing the initial pangs of malnutrition and would have liked nothing better than a spot of lunch.  Unfortunately, our current location was cold, drafty and cloudy.  We pressed on and up to the high point of the route at 3020m.  The path / terrace looped along the west wall of the Tosa valley and, as if an answer to a prayer, the clouds lifted to reveal the full expanse of the Brenta range, eastwards down to Lake Molveno

We found a sizeable ledge on which to have lunch.  (See fig 2)

This proved amazingly nutritious and boosted sagging morale.  We mixed up two one-man one-pan meals ( Chinese chicken, and lamb and vegetable hotpot) to produce a substance with a consistency between toothpaste and cement.  The view was simply breath-taking from our lonely eerie (sic) and we chatted, as often this holiday, of times past, plans for the future and simply the present excellent week’s adventures.

We were then joined by a father and son pair whom we had passed earlier in the ascent.  The father had some English and suggested we take pictures of the magnificent panoramas.  We had no film and so he insisted on taking our pictures with his camera and forwarding them to my address.  Most kind.  After a leisurely lunch of one hour, we embarked on our post-prandial descent.  The first challenge being a ricketty wooden bridge across a chasm leading to firmer ground.  The technical Via Ferrata ground gave way to a path that descended the terraces of the Tosa valley towards Pedrotti hut.  Part way down, Chris spotted another rock from which to make a souvenir of the week.  I allowed myself to be conned into carrying it and it joined the old wooden sign in my pack, salvaged from our last night’s stay at the XII Apostles Refuge (fig 3).

The descent to Pedrotti was without incident.  Chris and I spent this part of the journey trying to guess where the others were.  We soon spotted Nikki, who arrived at Pedrotti hut with us at 14.30h.

This was a very enjoyable route for us.  The views, the Via Ferrata technical challenge, and the good company ensured this. One for the memories. 

(Sue) Excursions after dinner to the col, with view to the Brentei hut.  Also Pigs and Yatsy championships continued.

Saturday 24 July (Nikki)

Tosa Hut to Molveno: Descent from the dead zone!

The day began early, as usual, with breakfast at 0630.  After we had all fed and watered and taken a various array of painkillers (Nikki and Sue), we began the first stage of the descent, to Rif Tosa.  This descent lasted all of 10 mins before we had to put our thighs through more physical abuse by meandering along route 305, to a spot height of 2625m.

Sheltering briefly from the wind, we then ventured along a high-level ledge walk aided in some places with wire, the route named as ‘Sentiero Osvaldo Orsi’ – to Bocca del Tuckett.  (This is a Grade B Via Ferrata, our easiest of the week – “easy for experienced mountain walkers free of vertigo”.)  After crossing several areas of snow, path 303 visibly split, one path to Rif Tuckett via Bocca del Tuckett, the other, now route 302, to Molveno.  We took the latter.  By now, we had a spectacular view of Lake Molveno as we began descending rapidly down scree to a spot height of 2250m.

Alan and Chris found a magnificent place to have our 11’s and do a spot of sunbathing at the same time.

View to the mountains we'd enjoyed from near the Tosa Refuge

Sue on the 'Orsiweg'

Looking back from below Altissimo to Campanile Basso (Guglia) on the horizon


A varied and welcome repast was enjoyed on the grassy knoll (one of my favourite places in the world– several happy hours have been spent here– M) which afforded amazing views in every direction. (A characteristic that clearly makes grassy knolls popular with hitmen!).  Alan and I enjoyed a mug of hot beefy Bovril; he then endured a pan of rolled oats that tasted strangely of plastic even after the addition of cocoa.  Nikki picked at some dried fruit whilst Martin and Sue remained aloof eating smoked oysters and other roman titbits.  It was agreed before we departed, that we should rendezvous again at Rif Croz. Dell Altissimo for a further lunch.

We set out on the final leg of our descent shortly after 11am, A, N and I setting the pace, S and M taking it steady and exposing obscene quantities of film to samples of local flora.  (What Flora’s mum will have to say about this, I don’t know!).  The descent itself proved to be largely unremarkable, the gradual transition from arid rock to verdant pasture sneaking up on us rather, along with a gradual rise in temperature.  Having picked our way down the winding trail through the roots of some kind of coniferous shrub (Alpenrose you peasant), we reached the last section of Via Ferrata, a brief flight of steps and a short ladder.  We reflect at this point that the ascending traffic would get all excited and gear up for the real thing and then trudge up for at least another 11 hours before seeing any further evidence of the alpine club’s handiwork.  I think we chose the best route up.  Just before reaching the Altissimo hut we met a party of school children heading for the Tuckett, poor sods!  A typical array of spawny youths with rucksacks (probably full of adolescent problems), they looked constantly burdened down.  As is traditional in such instances, the rear of the party comprised a wheezing and wobbly duo, already several yards adrift and sporting forlorn expressions.  Suitably cheered by this encounter we scurried on to the hut for a welcome drink and breather.

Altissimo heralded our first glimpse of civilisation for the best part of a week (funny but it wasn’t remotely civilised, just crowds of semi-clad natives and a small boy with enormous feet). 

The last section of trail saw us tripping along a winding path through dappled sunlight.  All very pretty but not quite the awe-inspiring vistas of the real thing we had left behind.  The lake below looked gorgeous, aquamarine and inviting, and Molveno, getting larger with every stride, arrivederci Dolomiti!

Suddenly, without warning we had arrived at the ‘cable car’ station.  A, N and I parked ourselves down on a hotel bench just as S and M hove into view.  We decamped to another hotel purely on the quality of view on offer and devoured a round of drinks whilst contemplating the prospect of a ‘bucket lift ride’.  In the end this proved remarkably uneventful with the exception of the occupants of buckets 113, 114 and 115 who insisted on bouncing up and down until eventually the whole lift ground to a halt and had to be restarted.  Alan and I were pleased to see the culprits suitably admonished by the attendant; butter wouldn’t melt in our mouths!

Molveno is a very pretty little town, clean and tidy but clearly very popular.  By luck or good fortune (aren’t these the same? – S) a visit to the Tourist Information office enabled us to secure the last room in town (quite literally), not the Ritz exactly but a good improvement of our hut experience – (sharing a room with a bunch of Germans with no lighting and a window the size of the aperture of a pinhole camera!)

Having checked in we took it in turns to shower and shop, Nikki and I went into town first, our prime objective to obtain a complete pair of trousers/jogging pants to replace the rags we were sporting.  Moderate success on may part.  Clean and stocked up for our journey home we set out to enjoy our final night out.  By consensus this meant pizzas and ice cream, and damned good nosh (burp, pardon).  This being our last night we pushed the boat out and stayed up until 10.30pm!  (Don’t tell mum!).  Thence to bed, in clean, crisp hotel linen, what luxury.

Lake Molveno from Hotel Villanova

Sunday 25 July (Alan) 

The day commenced well. We each had a night’s sleep of variable quality.  I slept long and well, Chris fitfully.  M & S cozily (they had conditions in their favour with the double bed!).  Nikki managed to concuss Chris with her head torch from the top bunk.  Having been the recipient of numerous books and other paraphernalia from on high from Nikki during the past week, I was glad to relinquish the nocturnal target area to Chris (C has previously been the beneficiary of N’s chewing gum nightly deposit and, having myself fallen foul of this, I had every sympathy [unusually] for C’s predicament last night).

So then, up at 0615 hrs.  Breakfast (flask of cold coffee) laid out for us, wash and catch the bus from the nearby bus stop to Trento, at 0720.

The bus from Molveno took us away from the mountains we had come to know and enjoy.  Another clear day was evidently to be enjoyed, but not by us.  The journey to Trento passed uneventfully, with us variously dozing, reading, or simply reflecting into the middle distance on what had been a simply excellent past week.

Changing bus at Trento for the train to Verona, we boarded the 0906.  Another uneventful journey, switching trains at Verona for Milan.

The journey was progressing all too well and we had managed to generate a positive variance of some 3 hours in time between arriving in Milan Central Station, and getting to the airport.  Thus, a picnic lunch was enjoyed on a rectangle of lawn outside the station at 12.30pm (see fig 1). 

I had lunched on the train, so wrote up the day’s log thus far.  Chris exposed his pasty frame to the mockery of passing, bronzed Italianate youth. 

The impressive façade of the station erected in 1931 (“Nell Anno MCMXXXI Dell Era Di Cristo”) spoke of a bygone illusory age of confidence and certainty, very much of its time, much like the doric columned architecture of our own Empirical age in England. 


This has been a holiday for the memories.  The five of us settled down well, broadly accepting each others’ idiosyncrasies with resigned pleasure.  Martin provided a paternal anchor to the group; Sue very much the organising, active motherly figure; myself and Chris as though two rivalling brothers, and Nikki, the younger sister(!) vying with the others determined to meet each challenge equally with the others. Ha ha!  Until next time……

I can only echo Alan’s sentiments, we all wanted it to be a special and memorable holiday and all worked to make it so.  I, for one, am looking forward to the next time.

Nikki’s final word:  The bruises were well worth it!!  I can honestly say I have learnt a lot and furthered my little amount of experience.  I really feel a kind of peacefulness in the mountains – this feeling I will remember each time I think back to my week in the Dolomites.  As Alan said previously….until next time…. 

Martin’s final thoughts: 
An excellent week’s break:-
Company – we all got on well.
Mountains – spectacular rock scenery and wonderful aided routes.
Weather – only one storm.
Favourite places – one of these revisited at lunchtime on the last day.
Accommodation and food – all went very smoothly.
Support – everyone contributed to overcoming the language barrier and making arrangements when needed.
Diary writing – a welcome renaissance.
Pigs and Yatzy – contest to be resumed in due course.
Assignment – Find another week’s route to suit all our (slightly diverse) tastes as effectively as achieved by this year’s itinerary. 

There is nothing I like more in the world than being among mountains.

Being in mountains surrounded by flowers in sunny weather is even better.

Good, easy going company in these circumstances makes a superb combination.  Thanks everyone for providing excellent company and plenty of laughter. 

I am not the only one relishing the thought of the next trip.   Sue.       

Chris, Nikki, Martin, Sue and Alan at 27 South Drive, Chorltonville
Note the hole to the right of Chris, where a fox had tunneled into the lawn in our absence!

And finally, we had a reunion:

Note that Alan and Chris have joined us on a later trip to the Dolomites.

Perhaps of further interest - here's the itinerary for Susan and Roy's trip:

On Top Mountaineering Itinerary

*Your trip is 7 days in total – the first and last days are travel days and the 5 numbered days are guided via ferrata days*

Arrival/ Travel Day 
Arrive in Madonna di Campiglio for lodging in our preferred hotel. We recommend arriving in the afternoon to allow yourself some time to explore the town, buy snacks at the supermarket, finish any last-minute packing for the hut trip and, and have a leisurely dinner before an early start tomorrow.

Please pack a lunch for day 1!

Day 1
Meet our guide after breakfast at the hotel for 8AM. Trip briefing and distribution of rental gear. A short drive and a gondola ride to the Groste Pass. Via Ferrata Benini – Cima Falkner – Tuckett Hut. 850 m up, 900m down. 7 hrs. Good day to warm up with lots of larger ledges to wander along, but also some longer ladders to descend.

Day 2
Hike a steep trail into the Tuckett Saddle (sometimes the use of crampons is necessary). Via Ferrata Bochette Alta to the Alimonta Hut (Showers available). 850 m up, 600 m down, 7 hrs. great day – maybe the best of the trip with lots of exposure, ladders and narrow ledges. In adverse weather or with weaker participants we have the option to reach the Alimonta Hut via the easier and lower-level SOSAT trail.

Day 3
Steep climb into the Bochetta delle Armi (small glacier, sometimes crampons necessary. Giro del Brenta – Via Ferrata Bochette Centrale to the Tosa Hut. 250m up, 370 down, 5-6 hrs. Lots of hand-railing along narrow and exposed ledges and amazing views, including the narrow pinnacle of the Campanile Basso. This is also a good spot to interrupt the trip, should you prefer a shorter trip duration.

Day 4
Via Ferrata Brentari to the Agostini Hut (Showers available, our favorite of the Brenta Huts). 360m up, 440 m down, 4-5 hrs. This day includes some glacier travel on the Ambiez Glacier, which usually requires the use of crampons.

Day 5
Two options: For an easier day: “Via Ferrata Castiglioni to the 12 Apostles Hut for Lunch. Descent to Madonna di Campiglio in the afternoon for lodging and dinner in our hotel or “Sentiero dell’ Ideale” into the Bocca del Ambiez and down the Sentiero Martinazzi with an awesome view of the gigantic rock wall of the Crozzon for lunch at the Brentei Hut. we then descend back to Valesinella and on to Madonna di Campiglio for lodging in our hotel. Arrival time in Madonna is usually around 3PM and departures directly to your next destination can be organized on a custom basis, should you prefer to not spend another night in our hotel in Madonna di Campiglio.

Departure/Travel Day
Final breakfast before hotel checkout. Thank you for joining us on a via ferrata adventure in the Brentas. If you had a great time and are ready for another exciting trip, check out our Haute Route Glacier Trek or Dolomites High Peaks Via Ferrata.