Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Maritime Alps Tour Day 18: Sentiero Roberto Cavallero (partial) + Sentiero Dino Icardi (partial)

Another cloudless start... we could really get used to this! :-)

Rather than repeat a km or two of road, we drive down to the parking lot for the path to the Stroppia falls and set out from there. We immediately start climbing (another type 2 Andrea special) along the road. Past the construction site, then up, up, as the road starts to look more and more like a hiking path, until the road from the other side joins in and the hiking path turns off to head straight up the valley. Past an alp we climb (here we see a couple rock climbers assembling their gear by their car), past yesterday's cows, up the Valle de Maurin. Soon we hit the sun and can enjoy a sunny uphill walk through the lovely green valley with the steep stone sides. No breeze today, so it's a bit warmer than yesterday, but nothing crazy. After more climbing and walking and marmots and lakes and streams we reach the Col de Maurin (2633m), our first named pass of the day. We enjoy a short break and try, unsuccessfully, to catch sight of the lakes under the pass on the French side. Then it's climbing further along the somewhat muddy Sentiero Roberto Cavallo to the Col de Marinet (2784m). This path is a bit muddier and has some more climbing. From here we've got great views into France and up to the next pass on the agenda with its steep snow field.

The snowy ascent to the Colle Chiaslaras, Mt. Chiaslaras to the left

The path leads us off to the left across some gravel and block and snow patches towards the foot of the steep snow field with its visible switchbacks. There are footprints in the snow here, so we know that we aren't the only crazies to do this. Once at the snow field it's easy: follow the footprints up the zig zags. The footing in the snow is good and we make the Colle Chiaslaras (2973m) with much less trouble than it looked it it might be from below. After a very brief pause to take the "pass picture", we head up the left side to find the unmarked path up to the Monte Chiaslaras (3005m). This is easy enough to find and we make our way up without too much trouble. Once up top we enjoy fantastic views all around and have a very nice lunch break int he sun. The pans from up there are also going to require some quality time in Google Earth to label.
View from the Mt. Chiaslaras
After our lunch break we head back down to the pass and then begin the descent of the other side. Again, we have the other prints to follow, so this is really no big deal. About halfway to the bottom the SRC heads off to follow a contour to the next pass, we follow this. The footprints we have been following do not. Woo hoo! virgin territory! We contour around a bit and then start climbing steeply up the valley side. Quite steeply. On muddy, slatey gravel. There's not much path here, but the way is very well marked so it's no problem to know where to go. The trick is not sliding backward and (for Greg), not kicking rocks loose onto Andrea.
Steeply up
After a good bit of climbing, the markings stop, but there's a chain (a chain?!?!?) visible above. We head towards the chain.

A bit of an aside: We know that there is some sort of path to the pass here, but we don't really know anything about it. We had a description of the SRC in Italian, but Andrea didn't really read it, we just picked out the pass names and set out, so we don't really know what to expect. So the chain was a bit of a surprise.

We work out a technique for getting the 20-30m up the first stretch of chain without killing each other and then hit a sharp left turn to start a traverse, also on the chain. Andrea, seeing the expression on Greg's face, volunteers to go first. Greg agrees with this. Andrea starts the traverse with the words "Step back, I'm going to swing out on the chain". Greg is too dumbfounded to react sensibly, so before he can muster any objections the "swing out" is finished and Andrea is once again in a sensible position. The traverse with the chain is somewhat hairy, but it's only about 30m long so it's over quickly.
A bit with the chain
The last bit is a 2m scramble with another chain to help and then we're in the Passo Terre Nero (3048m). Another short break to appreciate the views and what we just did (and to laugh a bit about the swing out) and then we start down the other side.

View from the Passo Terre Nero
 This isn't anywhere close to being as dramatic as the way up: it's a descending traverse to the left with a fun mixture of block, gravel, and snow. We're descending towards the lovely lake and trying to figure out the logic (or lack thereof) of the path until we reach the Col de Gipierra (2930m).

It's getting late-ish and we've already done a  lot, so we opt not to climb up to the Tete de la Freme (plus it looks crowded up there). We're now back in an area with plenty of other people around at the crossroads of a couple of heavily used paths. Down from the pass and along the bowl to the Biv. Barenghi (from Monday, but this time the weather and conditions are dramatically different). From the bivac we head along the valley side again, through several unnamed saddles, around a few bowls, until we reach the Colle del Infernetta (2783m). There's an other couple here who have arrived from the other route up from the valley. They don't really seem properly outfitted for the descent (she: light hiking boots, stylish city sunglasses, and a terrycloth skirt). The difficult decision about whether to go before them (and risk having them kick rocks down on us) or go behind them (and have to wait for them) is made for us as they head out before us. We wind up having to overtake since they are moving so incredibly slowly, then we try to go as quickly as possible to minimize the risk of stones from above. Anyway, we reach the valley bottom and then walk the rest of the way out of the beautiful Valle de Infernette. Back on the road, downwards, deoutr to cut some corners, past a patch of Edelweiss (wow!), and ever downward until we hit the car and drive back to Campo Base.

It was a long, but very varied and interesting day.

The six passes
Dinner was more crowded than it has been (18 people) and we end up at a table with four other Germans. There's plenty of conversation and food.

Approximate stats: 18.9 km loop, 1710m up.

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