Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Maritime Alps Tour Day 3: Gias de Peirefique -> Refuge des Merveilles

Morning brings us cloudless blue skies and cool temperatures. As the sun hits it warms right up though. We're underway by 9 after the usual oatmeal breakfast. We start along a farm road to the pass where we see the first people of the day. Yesterday we saw no one, today there's no chance of being lonely. ;-) Onwards a bit and then we descend on an old mule road to Casterino. We're mostly in the woods and the going is good, even with the packs. Since it was there, we stop at the hotel and have tea and coffee on the terrace before heading on. On the way out we hear, to our horror, that a group of 30 4x4 enthusiasts are expected for lunch. Yikes! Hope they don't come our way!

The path from Casterino takes us up, up the hill, past some motorcyclists coming the other way, ever upwards on the farm road, frequently under trees, easy walking. Then we hit the group of 30 coming down for lunch. Probably 20 vehicles go by. Fortunately they have to go very slowly because of the rough road, so the dust isn't too bad. That's over soon enough and we continue up, up, past an alp selling cheese (don't buy any... we're still well supplied and don't need the extra weight) then into the national park. After a quick energy bar break we continue ever upwards. Past the Rif. Fontanalba (resisting the temptation to stop for a cool beverage), up, up, past the bridge and into the archaeological reserve. At the fork to our pass, we head the other way for a bit to find a good lunch spot with a view and enjoy the rest.
Lunch with a view out over the Valauretta
Up to the pass, down the other side, down, down, through the meadow, past the alp, past the cows, down, down, now under trees next to a burbling river, down, down, to the fork that points us to the valley of wonders. Onwards we go, now slightly up again, until we hit a nice spring where we have a quick rest and wash break. Well maybe not so quick since Greg enjoys the cool water too much to not take full advantage. Onwards and up and up, through the valley, up, up passing plenty of people coming the other way, past the occasional raspberry, up, up, up. Eventually we get to the "top" where it evens out some and we see a couple of chamoix grazing and running about. Onwards to the Rif. de Merveilles. The place is a bit of a hole (and crowded), so we keep the refreshment break short then go find a tent spot above the hut. Most of the bivac spots are open, so we manage to find something decent and at least somewhat wind sheltered with a bit of a view.
Tent site and kitchen.
Dinner: Soup: vegetable with dumpling powder enrichment. Main: Soy "bolognese" soaked with dried ancho and chipotle, then mixed with fine polenta and tomato soup mix to make something we dub "chile non carne with cornbread". It tastes considerably better than it sounds.

Approximate stats: 17.8 km, 1335m up, 1179m down. For our future reference: this day was too long for this early in the trip; we weren't yet sufficiently adjusted to the packs, so we were more tired at the end of the day than we should have been.

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