GTA – Strange stones

15 August 2019

It was a beautiful alpine hike over a couple of passes, starting at the beginning of the river Po.

I came to a field of stones pointing to the sky. At first I thought it was natural, and some were.

Hundreds were man-made.

Next was a small brown cliff-face that people had inserted grey stones into.

All a mystery to me.

The day ended with fireworks in the village where I stayed


GTA – Rocciamelone, Brocken Spectre

Hands up anyone who has heard of a Brocken Spectre. Nor had I.

An English-speaking man asked if I had seen my Brocken Spectre? See yourself in a rainbow that circles you. The conditions are right, and rare.

I could not understand what he was saying.

So he took me to the top of the cliff, the sun low behind us, clouds rising from the valley.

There was my shadow on the cloud with a rainbow around it.


GTA – Rocciamelone, looking down on the world

Ten minutes into my hike, it started raining and the clouds were dark and low. I went and did something else.

Two days later, 8 August, I was back to hike the 1,700 m ascent in clear weather.

The climb to Rifugio Tazzetti was straight forward; I had lunch.

From there it was a climb up a crest with views to Rocciamelone.

Above the crest it started to get hard. There was climbing, and I was having trouble finding the path.

After a while I stopped counting the grave stones and concentrated on climbing.

Two younger men caught up with me and we started hiking together. It became easier, being with other hikers.

Next we came to the glacier. It is wider than I had been told. My friends had crampons; I did not.

There is no marked path, but we found our way. Getting off it was tricky.

The final ascent is up an exposed crest, buffetted by strong winds.

It was an exciting hike, but there were moments I was scared.

It was worth it.

One of the young men said to me: “Respect. That was a hard hike.”

I was touched.


GTA – Walking in the Clouds

Day 27: 5 August 2019

Leaving Balme was a long climb in mostly clear weather. Over the Colle Costa Fiorita, 2,465 m, the cloud rolled in.

Sometimes, when hiking, a song goes through your mind in repeat. “Walking in the rain”, Grace Jones cover, became walking in the clouds.

The landscape became eery, fading in and out of view.

Someone had recommended staying at the Albergo Rocciamelone in Usseglio.

It has an old-world charm and home made gelato. So I had coffee and gelato as I considered my options.

Staying was tempting, but they were full.

Reading my guide book I learnt I can hike Rocciamelone, the mountain: 3,538 m.

So I headed to Refugio Vulpot for the night. Here they explained my options to get there.

GTA – Piamprato to Talosio

Day 22: 31 July 2019

A long bus ride took us to Ronco. All the hikers and backpacks filled the small bus.

The bus dropped me in front of the post office. My tent and some other kit are now in the post, lightening my backpack a lot.

White cows with black tails watched me pass.

I went through a pass and asked two men the way. They pointed lazily. When I came to a cliff, one came after me and told to come back, then showed me the correct path.

At Colle Crest, the day’s highest point at 2,040 m, the sign was decked with drying clothes of two people sleeping beside it.

At Talosio the Posto Tappa is again an old school.


GTA – Fondo to Piamprato

Day 21: 30 July 2019

The air was clear today.

Walking up a gentle valley beside a pretty stream. The pools were hard to resist for a swim, but I was worried I would lose my momentum.

At a small family farm I asked if I could buy cheese. One of the young sons disappeared into a cellar in the rocks and came back with a small round of cheese; “it is a bit young”. Both sons were shy. I bought half of the cheese. It made a good lunch.

It was a steep climb to Bocchetta delle Oche, 2,417 m.

On the way I met the men clearing the path. It is good to be able to thank those who make this possible and exchange a few words.


GTA – Rifugio Chiaromonte to Fondo

Day 20: 29 July 2019

The air was clearer in the morning giving good views over the busy plain.

Hiking down was straight forward, leading through Succinto, a village which announces when it got electricity and a road.

Fondo is deep at the end of the valley, with a beautiful bridge built in the middle ages.

The next stage is described as long and difficult, so I stay here.


GTA – Trovinasse to Rifugio Chiaromonte

Day 19: 28 July 2019

Much of the walk down was on old mule trails. So much work to build, and now mostly used by hikers.

Closer to the valley bottom are terrassed vinyards. The feet of the vines are planted back against the wall, trained up 2 m and spread on trellaces to get maximum sun.

In the valley all the private gardens were rich with fruit and vegetables.

Quincinetto is tiny with only one bar open. Gelato and coffee were welcome.

Then began the steep climb to La Capanne. The track emerged at a hair-pin bend. Cars coming, I stuck my thumb out and got a ride all the way up.

Sunday, there was a big fiesta, organised the last Sunday of every July.

Happy to have been given a ride, still I wanted to hike more. So I started the next stage.

I arrived later than I expected at a closed refuge, so decided to camp there.