Friday, August 2, 2013

Walking in the Italian Alps

We’re going where?
A fortnight ago, Melanie and I joined in a 2 day walk with our friends from CAI (Club Alpino Italiano) in the province of Cuneo.  This meant a 6am departure and a 5 hour drive, as our location was less than 10km from the French border. Of course, en route we stopped for coffee - twice - which is the only way to travel!


I believe that’s France in the distance

We began walking around lunchtime.  In theory, today was the 'easy' day of only 5 hours walking, due to the lunctime start. However, it turned out to be a long hard day, as we climbed for almost the entire way.  And the warm weather meant it ended up taking us 6 hours to finish.  One plus from the climbing was the mountain views, which were superb!

Alpine wild flowers ranged from weird ….

….. to wonderful!

Another lecture on Italian politics!
We stopped for a few rests here and there, to have a bite to eat, and discuss Italian political failings.....hmmmm, maybe that's why we ran an hour late arriving at the refuge!


Cute ….. and a sight for sore feet!

Finally in the distance we could see our refuge where we were staying the night.  It was situated on a small outcrop, in the flat of the valley, with two nearby lakes.

It turned out to have been built out of local stone as a hotel in the 1930s during fascist rule - no idea if Mussolini ever stayed here!
Today, it's a CAI refuge, with rooms sleeping 4 in bunk beds.

Yay we made it!

A room with a view!

We ate simply but well that night, a hearty minestrone followed by beef stew with potatoes.  One of the local guides then offered everyone a taste of a local herbal elixir, then a limoncello, then an infused grappa; another lively refuge evening.

The 6am alarm was not a pleasant sound, but the early morning views as we setout after brekky made up for it.

Don’t look down!
There was some trepidation on Sunday morning, as we walked on, always uphill, soon reaching an area where the walking track was so steep, it was supported by a chain embedded into the rockface.  We donned gloves for grip, and helmets in case someone above dislodged a rock onto someone below, and continued.  Really, it was rocklimbing, and lasted about 30 minutes, and both Melanie and I enjoyed the experience immensely.

After the climb, we continued uphill, and reached the mountain pass at 2536 metres.  Shortly afterwards, reaching the summit of Mt Costabella del Piz at 2760 metres, the highpoint of our walk.  The views of the surrounding snowcapped mountains were excellent, surprisingly there was still alot of snow around.

Snow in July???

Never lost with CAI

Paola – always happy!

 The rest of the walk was along a 'balcony' at this height, before we slowly descended back down to the carpark where we'd began the day before.  It seemed to take hours to descend the 1500 vertical metres, and our knees were jelly like well before we finished.  Later, we agreed that 8 hours of advanced walking is about our limit. A few final photos to round off a much enjoyed trip in the Italian Alps.

Walking the Ischiator balcony

A million dollar view

The local brew – well earned!

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