The Amazement of Autumn

I absolutely love autumn and the sheer variety it brings, the colours, the harvest and the changing weather patterns.  Photographically it is a very productive period given the sheer variety of landscapes here in our bit of Liguria.

Thunderous swells at Maranola in the Cinque Terre

Camogli remains subtle & sublime even in a rampaging storm

The beauty of the wave

Small storm over Imperia

Nestled between its cousins of Provence to the west and Tuscany to the east. It is wilder here, less developed and I increasingly think the region has greater depths than either of these as you find yourself in the midst of the incredible Maritime Alps where bare limestone peaks and crags plunge from 2700m through steep wooded valleys, olive groves and vineyards into the azure seas of the Mediterranean over just a few kilometres in distance. It leaves me humbled and feeling very fortunate.

Alassio pier by dawn & by night

Thee bright lights of Alassio

This season has been truly spectacular with sun baked days giving way to deluge, floods and 6 metre waves, with everything in between.  We really could not have asked for more from a photographic perspective. And amongst all this the medieval hilltop and valley villages glowed in their semi abandoned glory and we simply couldn’t find enough hours in the day to go exploring.

 

Autumnal stirrings

Some autumnal colour

Crystal spring waters

Ruined beauty

The chilly pews & the “hanging” chapel – another story (see my Instagram for a hint)

This post is to share with you some of the simple delights I have been fortunate enough to witness over the past few weeks.  On this occasion I very specifically focus on the sheer variety of the imagery and places we have been, both as ourselves and with the wonderful guests who joined us on our workshops, as it just seems so fitting to do so with all things autumn.   

Where I dropped my beloved Sony a7r2 in the river 😦

I am sure I will find a few more as I continue my review but I hope you enjoy these for now.

Getting to Grips with Vertigo (part 10, Monviso)

For someone who spends most of my life in the mountains for both work and fun, vertigo is a seriously tricky affliction, affecting both walking and driving in annoying and often completely illogical  attacks. For example – a 3000ft drop posing no problem as long as there are trees, whereas a 30ft drop down a steep grassy bank or scree slope cut into a hill can be paralysing and walk-ending.  I’ve struggled with this for years and while I’m making inroads into overcoming it, it’s excruciatingly slow and I’d love to hear any ideas or success stories anyone has to share before my endlessly patient husband finally loses the plot with me altogether.

For our wedding anniversary this year we decided to continue with the age-old tradition (started last year) of popping up to the higher hills to see off some of August’s more intense heat and gain a bit of altitude. I’d got it into my head for some reason  that I’d like to hike up to 3000m and Viso Mozzo in the Monviso Natural Parc seemed like a reasonable bet.

Scaredy cat that I am, I actually googled the road up to the Rifugio Pian Re where I’d booked us in for a couple of nights and finding it on the  DangerousRoads.org site did absolutely nothing to reassure me – “The road is difficult and it’s a nightmare in the wet or dark (or both). The road still remains an adrenaline-pumping journey and is definitely not for the faint of lungs, heart, or legs”.  Lucky for me the road was pretty fogbound, and I wasn’t driving, so didn’t have to worry much on the way up.

Our destination was so utterly spectacular that our little legs carried us straight off on a mini-hike to see what was round the corner.  What you get in the alps more than Liguria is a lot more water, reminiscent of the Scottish highlands and you immediately notice the difference that a river makes as a companion on a hike – the ever present rush and burble.  What you also get, in this part of the Cottian Alps is the Salamandra Linzai – a very funky looking shiny black salamander that constantly gets under your feet when you’re not looking – one even walked along under my camera bag when I stopped to grab a shot.

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We turned in early after delicious food, some vino and a round of cards,  ready for a bright start the next day – we’d calculated something like a seven hour walk. At the crack of 8.15 we were off, striking out from the car park and soon encountering the source of the River Po, sparking some musings on it’s length and destination (the Adriatic, apparently).  The path climbed steeply upwards, magnificent crags on both sides and we’re on the shores of Loch (ok Lago) Fiorenzaan impressive lake, it’s blue hue reflecting the mighty Monviso. A bit more climbing follows, all on very friendly, non challenging terrain – apart from one tiny section but I push through it without too much worry.  Around the next corner and the delicate Lago Chiaretto reveals itself, named after its startling turquoise waters.

It’s here that I get my first taste of the collywobbles – I can see a traversing path along what looks like a steep scree slope and I start to get myself worked up – I’m feeling pretty strong and determined though so we agree to get on up to it and see how it feels.  Which turns out to be OK, huge relief that I’m not calling the walk off after less than an hour.  It’s a short-lived reprieve though, as in no time at all we reach a rockfall with alarming – “very dangerous, fallen rocks” painted on the boulders which sets me a-jittering again, just in time to get onto the narrow and steep traverse around the edge of the hill.  I’m not liking this much, even though the exposure is only genuinely lethal in about one place – question here for other vertigo sufferers, is anyone else really bad when there’s a blind corner combined with a drop? Because I’m still feeling determined I manage to round the corner and can see the path gets a bit less tricky up ahead, with solid ground on both sides again.  It’s all very rocky, there was a big glacial collapse here in 1989 and it’s not long before we encounter another couple of scary bits, with a fallaway path which Ted coaxes me over – I don’t enjoy it but the drop isn’t the worst I’ve seen and soon we’re onto the boulder field proper which makes me very happy – although it’s not ideal for the dog with lots of big gaps to potentially lose a leg in.  This goes on for a while and with another one or two tricky* sections we finally pop out onto the Colle di Viso and it only takes one look at Viso Mozzo for Ted to firmly declare there’s absolutely NO WAY he’s taking me up there (we reflected later that we should have just started up there and seen what is was like, as a lot of the paths look worse from a distance).  Given that I’m wobbling on a fairly flat wide path that slopes steeply down to the lake, he’s probably right and so we carry on the few hundred metres to the dramatically located (and reachable only on foot or in a helicopter) Rifugio Quintina Sella for a brief refreshment.  The clouds are coming and going on the face of the mountain and I set up a little time lapse while Ted is photographing stills – there’s background sounds from almost constant rockfalls and I think of the climbers up there and hope they’re all safe.

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As we’re not going up the ‘big hill’ we decide to carry on for another hour or so in the direction of a different pass and we stay on splendidly friendly terrain for the duration, giving us time to admire the waterways and the magnificent mountain flowers, omnipresent in both this area of the Alps and Liguria where we are based – every mountain seems to have it’s own unique variety – I swear I see a new flower on every walk.  Today’s special is a rich purple delphinium.  Given that the clouds are swirling and we haven’t seen a weather forecast since yesterday – deliciously wi-fi and cellular signal free up here – we decide that we should turn around, it’s no place to be in a thunderstorm.

The return walk is almost strife free – despite the fact that I’d spent the last two hours dreading the scary bits on the way back with my mind conjuring up all sorts of hideous unwanted scenarios (one of which was disembowelment on a sharp rock!!).  I was only properly scared on one bit but by keeping an eye on the path and putting one foot in front of the other, thanking the universe for the wonderful cloak of fog it had again provided, I make it over the gnarly bit and can breathe easy again for another day.

It was genuinely satisfying to know that I’d stuck with it and managed to do a bit of fear conquering and we decide to celebrate by adding another night on to our trip and do some more walking the following day.  Unfortunately for me, exposure to The Fear has a sensitising rather than alleviating affect and on day three (with hardly any sleep the night before) the chimp part of my brain has got up early and is banging on in my ear from the first sight of steeply traversing path which I’m praying isn’t our route.  I’ve got a whole different level of wobble going on today, I feel dizzy, shaky and almost physically sick on the first few metres of said path and have to beat a very hasty retreat (anyone else do the dangerous drunken run/stagger thing when faced with exposure?) leading to an instant change in destination for the day.  Luckily we’re in another very beautiful valley and it’s no hardship to divert up the other side of the hill.  Until about 100 meters from the top that is, when I find myself completely incapacitated again. Dang and blast.  Ted goes on ahead and comes back saying I’ll hate it (!) and won’t gain anything by carrying on up – but in spite of the fear I’m also seriously pissed off about being beaten, so we decide to stop and have lunch and give it some thought.  There’s another path higher up which I think looks much friendlier and so after a very pleasant hour spent lunching and lazing we go off piste and upwards (following the ibex we’d been watching ascend the hill earlier), clambering up a bit of scree/grass and onto a path that’s pretty much identical to the one we were on, just a bit higher.  For some bizarre reason it’s less frightening than the other one, yet I still grind to a halt (another bend) and Ted has to spend another 10 minutes coaxing me round and up and over with admonishments to ‘really dig my poles in’ and ‘stay upright’.  Embarrassingly there’s actually people up there having lunch who must wonder what this weirdo woman is scared of, but knowing I’ve got to clamber back down again the same way I can only allow myself about 45 seconds of admiring the view on the other side of the Col before I have to go immediately back down before I freak myself right out again.  Ted makes me take the scarier of the two paths on the way back – maintaining that it’s actually the least dangerous of the two and I reluctantly but firmly join him and arrive back where we’d left our packs – because life is always less scary without a pack, right?

Anyway, to cut a very long story short, we had a few really lovely walks in the Monviso park, finished off with a delightful hour sat on a large rock watching the light roll across to us down the valley on Saturday morning.  I’d be fascinated to hear anyone else’s vertigo/fear of heights stories, especially coping strategies or ways to overcome it entirely, please feel free to message me privately or share your experiences in the comments section.

 

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*only for me, it seems

 

 

 

Pizzo Di Ormea

16km 1100m ascent

Climbing out of Chionea and Tetti Soprani we are almost immediately stopped in our tracks by an outstanding flower meadow, progress is halted for a while as we attempt to get some shots but mindful of the weather that might come in later and wanting to avoid any possible storms on the high open tops we tear ourselves away, vowing to return and do it justice on another occasion.

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Flower Meadow 1
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Flower Meadow 2

The track turns up and along a ridge, and is quite rocky in places, the sun and gradient making for sweaty work. Before long we catch sight of a porcini patch in our peripheral vision, some makeshift bags are prepared from coats and waterproof camera covers and we’re back on our hike with an few extra pounds of weight in the bag (Ted’s not mine by some stroke of luck).

After following a track for a while we realised the path we’d been trying to join was now above us, we must have been so excited by the ‘shrooms that we lost concentration, nothing a quick cut up the hill couldn’t fix so we traverse across the vegetation until we’re back up on the ridge. It’s here I spot the first wild clematis I’ve seen in the mountains, a real treat and I wish I’d stopped to photograph but thinking there would be more ahead of us, and with the cloud coming down we kept moving.   Not for long it turned out: not a hundred metres further along we looked down to our right and saw a sweeping expanse of wild azaleas – bright pink and impressively puncturing the mist swirling in the valley.

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A Gentian and Three Violas to make up for the missed Clematis

After a happy interlude with the flowers we stopped for a snack lunch, jackets on now the sun had disappeared for good. A quick review of the path forward and we opted not to go to the highest summit with visibility being less than ideal.

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Traversing around the hill we came across the Rifugio Valcaira (an unmanned site) and immediately decide we need to go and stay there for a week, we could only guess at the view but it was bound to spectacular. From here the route started to follow a track and flattened out across a plateau before we came to a crossroads where we began our descent in the direction of Quarzina.

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Rifugio Valcaira
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Ted and Zed disappearing into

Zed had the first of two run-ins with a husky here, luckily it’s owners were on the case and they called him back before any swords were drawn. All of this while we’ve stopped to photograph two old enamel baths up on the hillside, presumably at one time there as water troughs, although their current placement – one wedged end on in an impossibly small gap in the rocks and the other upside down suggested those days were past. More spectacular azaleas up here amongst a boulder strewn Tolkienesque landscape before we round another small peak – Monte Castello di Quarzina – and turn east again to head back to Chionea along the lower track.

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Azaleas and Boulders
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Bath Number 1

Not far along and we happen across a bizarre boulder and barbed wire combo – it wouldn’t have looked out of place in the Tate and we could only ponder it’s reason for existence as there were no old fences around suggesting it was abandoned materials from an old field boundary. We took some photos anyway, it was an interesting juxtaposition, especially surrounded by wildflowers.

 

The signposts were soon promising a lake, which was getting me quite excited, it was easily warm enough for a dip. We arrived to find it very small by Scottish standards but it was tempting enough for me to strip off and dip the feet in, before deciding to beat a retreat having found it occupied by hundreds of very fierce looking newts (or were they baby crocodiles?).

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A Brief View of our Path
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Baby Crocs?

The husky owners had also advised us to steer clear of the pastoral dog further down the hill (at least I think that’s what they said, my Italian not being quite what it could be).   On hearing the jangle of cow bells lower down we decide to make a detour to avoid their pasture, missing out on a church en route, but it’s always good to leave something for another day.

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Lofty stuff for a vertigo sufferer
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A few more flowers, because why not…

More mushrooms and an set of abandoned farm buildings peaked up out of the mist, grabbing Ted’s attention for a while, Zed and I pondered where the twenty or so horse riders had arrived from, their ranks being swelled by a steady trickle coming up the track to meet them, at a canter.

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A Lesser Spotted Ted

We were well out of high mountain territory by now and seeing more signs of civilisation, the path lit up by dozens of laburnum trees in flower. There were also some gigantic chestnut trees, they must have been hundreds of years old and very impressive.

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A handful of laburnums
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Two chestnut trees, can you tell we’d moved onto iphone pics by now?

Passing through another couple of remote villages with little or no car access and in various states of abandonment, and our weary legs were glad to see the rooftops of Chionea come back into view. We were both buzzing from the day, agreeing wholeheartedly it was one of the finest walks yet.

 

Stopping off to verify the mushrooms with Antonio who runs our local bar (Bar Centro in Borghetto D’Arroscia – highly recommended by the way) meant we were easily lured into staying for a primo – gnocchi with trombette and pancetta washed down with some delicious rosé. A fitting end to a truly grand day out.

If you would like to see an animation of the walk on a map, click on this link:

Trekking the Alta Ia Dei Monti Liguri – Afterthoughts…

Sometimes I sit and think. Other times I just sit. Mostly the latter in the last day or so as my body begins to recover. I pick mulberries, cherries and strawberries from our garden – eating half as I go. That’s when I’m not in the hammock. I have an awesome welcome back evening with some 25-30 friends at the amazing Bar Centro. Slowly I ponder and reflect on the past few weeks and wonder if I’ve achieved what I set out to do.

FIRST A FEW STATS

Total days – 21 (of which 3 were either rest days or storm bound)

Distance – 447.3km

Ascent – 19,762m (v approx as Strava did not record for 2 days- felt like you could add a “0”)

My weight at beginning – 71.7kg

My weight at end – 67.5kg (hope I can stay at this weight!)

Kit weight – 17.5-19kg (added extra water, bigger battery, walking poles during trip)

Days off – one to rest and 2 to avoid storms

Most expensive item – blister pads (over €100 – Compeed not cheap in Italy!)

Nights camping – 9

Nights under Shelter (barn or similar) – 4

Nights under a roof – 7 (inc 2 on day off and 3 when storm bound)

Other people met walking the Alta Via in its entirety – 2!!! Yes, really.

Other people met whilst walking – but a few hands full plus a posse of mountain bikers or 2

What I will miss most – just being out there. The adventure. Intoxicating.

What I will miss least – instant noodles. Sore feet and shoulders. Packing and unpacking a wet tent. Sweaty, damp clothes.

Most essential item – Compeed blister patches, lavender & Olbas oil – all for my feet! Oh, and tweezers on Swiss Army knife to remove ticks! Above all Mog on resupply.

What didn’t I use? – sewing kit. Camp mat repair kit. The onion. First aid kit other than blisters. That’s it. (Quite proud of my packing efficiency).

What I didn’t miss – seeing a wild boar (though heard one or two), snakes or scorpions.

So what of my various objectives for the trip….

LEARNING ITALIAN

I have failed miserably. Pathetic even. Didn’t even make it to the end of the beginners course. Does that mean I have to go start again??? (Someone please say yes 😉

LEARNING THE LANDSCAPE OF LIGURIA

What a fascinating, varied and utterly stunning region this is. From Mediterranean to mountain border (mostly 1000-2200m high) with either Piemonte or France always less than 20km away. If the weather had been clear I would actually have seen one or other most of the way, though the magnificent forests of beech, pines, chestnuts, hazel and many others I am yet to name cloak you for significant stretches, particularly to the east and on lower slopes.

Wild flowers in abundant spring growth everywhere. Birds, butterflies, the odd lizard & salamander. A snake (dead), deer and free roaming cows and horses.

I have been part of the landscape. Within it not just passing through. It has spoken to me as I have never experienced. For that I am ever grateful. Hopefully some of this I can retain and now take forward as I go out. But many of its charms remain hidden to be discovered on future adventures – I like that. I lifetime of exploring on our doorstep.

But in addition to the abundance of nature has been the signs of man’s interactions with it. Abandoned houses, Napoleonic forts, hostelries and official buildings. Villages perched precariously on hilltops and valley sides, towns industry and the odd road seen from high as remote playthings far distant in the valley floor and on the coast. Pastures and terraces reverting back to their natural state. Medieval and Roman roads literally crumbling underfoot. Or not with some.

This was of equal fascination. I experienced a profound sense of loss and change from “the old ways” as consumerism and urbanisation have led to depopulation of this hinterland. As the Mayan and Inca engineering masterpieces reverted to nature I sense the same happening here. I find it sad that traditional ways of life are being lost so quickly as we forge ahead with our modern convenience lives. Sure, it was never an easy life up here, but I met a schoolteacher and a class of kids out from Imperia to “experience” the hills, something she said they never do. And yet it is their backyard, their culture, their history. They are foreign and yet such a short time ago that was not so. They remain closer to it than we in the UK but you can see the same direction of travel. (This theme will be explored once again in future blogs and portfolios of work, watch this space.)

The best bits? Not to diminish any element or section, if I had to choose I would have to say that the amazing beech forests in eastern third were truly spectacular shrouded in the clouds and mist. Of equal stature though so very different were the towering peaks valleys and crags of the western end. I am so glad I left them til last. It was culmination of the trip to walk into these cathedrals of rock. These hills are our back garden and I cannot believe we live somewhere so uttering stunning. Had I seen the geological formations around Genova I fear these too would have been breathtaking had it not been for whiteout conditions.

PHOTOGRAPHY

Photographically its not been as expected. My preconception was that I would be spending every night on a ridge top, shooting the spectacular dawn and dusk light. This only happened on the first and last nights. Every other day pretty much I was hunkered down in the lower passes seeking any form of shelter I could from the inclement weather. But this does not mean I was disappointed in the photographic experience, it was simply different from that which I expected. It required me to think and adjust. Instead the low contrast light was perfect amongst the trees.

This, and the trek itself, meant I could not adopt my “normal” style of shooting. My preferred approach is to spend several hours (or days) exploring a single venue and developing a creative bond with the location. That simply was not possible, as I was always aware of the need to keep moving if ever to reach the end. As such my strategy quickly morphed to being more responsive to the moment, handheld and reactive. I will discuss this further in a future blog but won’t bore non photographers for now. Safe to say I have learned so much from the experience.

ZEROFOOTPRINT

The fact the trip has been completed on foot (aside from a lift either end which will be offset) makes it a latest “Zero Footprint” project (see our WEBSITE for more) which makes me very happy. I will be thinking on the next one in due course. The experience, as has the move to Italy, has already got me (and Morag) thinking of our carbon footprint. We are already using less and reusing far more than ever back home where the convenience world and more intense work schedules has such a grip. Less is more we are learning and it feels good.

PLEASE REMEMBER THE REASON

If you have enjoyed this blog please remember the entire walk was also done to raise awareness of our initiative Zero Footprints and to directly raise money for my chosen charity Solaraid. If you have enjoyed what you have read please go and have a look at the website and any donation will go directly to lighting up peoples lives as well as helping to offset carbon emissions. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE give just a little if you can afford to, you can see the good it does below.

To those who have already donated what can I say but thank you. We have achieved so much. I am, as will many people in Africa, be ever grateful.

SIGNING OFF…

The reality is that it is the experience combined that makes it whole. I’ve been scared, wet, miserable, deliriously happy, cold, excited, utterly fatigued (as I am currently as I wind down), unbelieving, humbled and lucky. I have seen through different eyes. I have been intoxicatingly alone. I have been alive. Truly alive, with all it’s emotions. The high peaks and the troughs that naturally accompany them. I feel privileged, though am sure many might think otherwise. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Would I start all over again tomorrow. In truth no. But I said that last time…

More blogs will follow on things like photography, kit, the region and others as Morag and I continue our wandering so please keep tuning in!

Trekking the Alta Via Dei Monti Liguri – Day 21

Feeling good. By good read knackered/elated/unbelieving/knackered (again).

My camp spot dawn showing the day ahead

Woke for dawn (0530) and headed out early with very mixed and odd feelings. Was a jumble in truth. But the fact I still had a days hike to complete soon kicked in. I’m heading down down down. I can see the sea. And the sun is out. Easy.

Then came the last section. JEEZ. I think the idea behind this section is simple if just starting out. Basically it goes like this…

…if you don’t like this section head back to your hotel, rent a towel, and go lie in the beach for your holidays! Or maybe it’s just the sun, the fact I am exhausted and I can see the finish but it seems to keep receding into the distance.

Last view back to my hills

I drop down out of the big forests and different senses kick in. The smells and vegetation. Heavy pollen fills one sense. Intense and delicious. The sounds. Bees. Dogs. Traffic. The sights. Houses. Vineyards. Olive groves. Butterflies play. Fields of spring flowers. Brambles and thorns scratch. I’m back in a Mediterranean climate.

BIG dandelions

Madonna Del Neve (though I don’t think she sees much snow at this altitude!

Sign of civilisation – Dolce Aqua below

The sun pours down and my factor 30 is like moisturiser. I redden to rouge brunette! I don’t see a drop of water (save the Med) all morning and ration supplies. This is baking compared to my hills. I am in a different world.

signs of civilisation

Mog and I try to meet up en route but now I am down and she is up! How did that go so wrong. I finish and have to do a selfie as she and Zed walk back down. We meet. Zed ignores me. Mog gives me a hug.

Ventimiglia, Med & sky

The cellubrious views that greet the finisher

We’re done here. Let’s go swim the Med to relieve aching limbs. A beer. Shop and home for prosecco food and bed. Job done.

Elated? For now relieved is just fine. The rest can wait for tomorrow.

Trekking the Alta Via Dei Monti Liguri – Day 20

Exquisitiamous!!! The only word I can think of to describe today.

Ascent 600m – Distance – 17.2km

it’s also my brother”s birthday. Happy Birthday bro!

Early morning ascent

What a truly epic section. Maybe it’s the weather. Yes, blue skies. Maybe the fact I have The Crux behind me. Or maybe just the jaw dropping splendour of the place I am in.

Interesting little traverse!!!

Eagles circle above as the panorama unfolds into the forever. I am above it all on a monstrous crag, traversing a momentous track cut into a near sheer rock face. I sit, not wanting it to ever end.

This is trekking!

Ventimiglia appears for the first time. A distant haze with many miles (and descent) still to go. It will be later tomorrow before I arrive.

The end in sight!

I continue on and become vaguely aware I am swaying rather. Focus lapsing slightly. As I ponder this as if looking at myself from outside for some 10 minutes, it dawns on me my stomach is an empty cavern, I am probably dehydrated and maybe this sun thing has slightly got to me.

I open my bag to retrieve a chocolate bar, it’s contents melted. I devour instantly, licking the wrapper clean. Before I have my rucksack back on I feel totally normal again. Ahhhh for chocolate! My new health food.

Did I mention the view?

all my dondering and it’s farting late. Still 12km to go today so pack and go again. Legs think this a stupid idea.

Went in and out of France today. I love crossing border less borders with no need for a passport.

I power on. Nordic style. Every part of me helping the pace. The peanut butter tortilla. Path earthen. Gradient slackened. Feet say nothing. shoulders only wince occasionally. Even the sun dapples under the trees and behind light cloud to temper reddened forearms.

suddenly I’m in the midst of a herd of wild (?) horses wandering up the track. That’s normal right! But they can’t keep up for long and I press ahead.

Horses!

I will pay this tomorrow probably but for now the pace just feels good.

Oops. Looks like I might have strayed across the border into France. A little off track but the path rejoins. But the AV signs are still here so a bit confused. Maybe the routes changed a little.

But I’m at the top of the last hill save the odd mound here and the. Downhill all the way to Ventimiglia. Can’t be bad

Flies come by as I rest but soon move on there’s not much left to pick on after 21 days

Tent pitched with a view and a sunset for the first time since the first night. Says something of the weather. Spectacular setting looking down to the Med with all it’s people, buildings and infrastructure. Behind me the magnificence of Monte Toraggio where I was just this morning. I think we will quickly head back to our house in the hills.

As the sun dips into the ridge line trees I finish my last instant noodle supper – gourmet oriental it says though I don’t think I will be having them again any time soon.

The moon is high above looking down. The birds sing. There is not a breath of wind. I sit a while then crawl into my tent. All is good.

The gargantuan Monte Toraggio. I was just under that top crag only this morning (see “this is trekking” images above)

Trekking the Alta Via Dei Monti Liguri – Day 19

The crux! We’re back on track. And this is the big one. Monte Sacarello is the biggest hill on the trek at 2,200m

Ascent – Distance – 27.5km

Up at 5:30am as a big day ahead. Headed out with Mog & Zed who joined me for the first pitch which quickly became brutal and relentless. It didn’t take too long to hit snow but managed to avoid. A marmot shrieks at us before diving for his burrow. Crocuses bloom as soon as the snow recedes. Blue skies. Who could complain.

Mog bravely circumvents packed snow on the ridge to the top before turning for home. I watch her disappear into the mist down the exposed ridge then turn to traverse the ridge facing my own direction. And guess what. The mist descends again. Though it breaks frequently today and no rain either. Sacarello takes an age to arrive but a break to sun extends a welcome and I sit a few moments. Stunning views from here to even bigger hills to north.

Then came the crux! Every trip has one. The drop off the back down from the top was phenomenally steep but the path was also covered in 45 degree plus snow drifts in several sections, dropping hundreds of feet. Not favourite! Glad I had the poles with me – right on my limit. Only one set of footprints preceded me this year. Someone else mad!

But got through, including a short but intense scramble (don’t let Mum read this) and then a long walk down, then up, then down again.

Now relief that I’m through and so happy I left this section to last. It is amazing (also, I simply wouldn’t have got over even days earlier!!!)

Sorry folks. Photos will have to follow. Have pressed the wrong button on the camera and only have raw images which phone can’t read 😦

Trekking the Alta Via Dei Monti Liguri – Day 15

Ascent – 151. Distance – 25.1km (felt like double!)

I vaguely hear a bell way down in the valley calling people to mass. It’s 10:30 and I’ve already climbed Monte Galero which I think is my highest peak yet at 1708m. The track quickly gave way to a brutally steep incline for the next 3 hours. I’m back in the mist and a little disappointed to miss what I know must be a magnificent view.

Image – proof I was there, despite no view – again!

But this is not the day to hang about on a summit so I descend immediately to a mote accommodating climate!

The morning assault has Left me bereft of energy. Muscles burn and become stubborn. I stop frequently. Eventually, after coaxing with dubious amounts of sugared treats, they react once more. Good job too as not even half way through the day!

The next few hours are glorious. This is “home turf” and it never disappoints. Even the sun makes an entrance. I love this ridge.

Obviously I have to get some rain / which duly arrives as I watch it dump on Pieve before heading my way. I look across the valley at what is to come. The biggest hill in Liguria – Monte Sacarello. Some big days to come, though a bail needed tomorrow pm for a day as big storm heading our way for Tuesday.

Eventually to Nava for delicious pizza with Mog, Zed, j&j before pitching tent by fort. Lots of height today. Was tough but…

Trekking the Alta Via Dei Monti Liguri – Day 14

Ascent – 1,235m. Distance – 31.3km

And so a whole new phase begins. As I climb steeply to the summit of monte Camro a whole new view expands before me – the next few days of truly mountainous peaks and ridges disappear into a blue haze. To my left the Mediterranean merged into a huge skyline. Behind at least two days of most recent travels in what now seems relatively benign rolling hills. I can even almost see our house save for the 1200m ridge it’s sits behind which itself is dwarfed by higher peaks. I am truly excited and in awe.

Image – a view at last!

Dry rocks and crags now give grip instead of scudding over the slippery terrain of previous days. Leaves crisp under foot instead of oozing over my boots. I dawdle but must get on, though will be back soon. For a sunset and sunrise.

Image – what is this blue stuff in the sky?

As I descend a wall of forest rise up in front of me. Guess where I’m headed next! A zip wire between the peaks would have been a great idea!

I eat an amazing sandwich made by Jas. What a chef. Thank you.

I should never have mentioned the SUN word. Within an hour clouds. Then rain. Now hunkered down as thundered cracks all around.

Emoji time🚰💦⛈🌩

Desperate for shelter I end up at this place – officially the worst place I have ever stayed!!! But prices are reasonable.

In truth I get lucky after a last minute cancellation so move next door for a little more luxury. And same reasonable rates.

Trekking the Alta Via Dei Monti Liguri – Day 13j

Ascent – 1,413m. Distance – 31.4km

I drop down from my peaceful hilltop meadow into a ‘zona industiale’ (which visits of about 3 factories and some fairly average house) but there is a pretty big road here – two lanes – so I scurry on back to my hills.

But I am plagued!!! No mist. No rain. No wet feet. How can my creative juices continue their lament. But wait a minute. Oh yes.

The blistering sun beats down relentlessly on my parched back. Sweat pours from every vein. I wonder if water exists anywhere in these hills or will I have to resort to sucking the sap from trees (I think I saw Bear Grills do this once). I fear if I stop I might never get up again Survival is key now.

Truth is it’s just gorgeous with the light breeze tickling my legs (yes, I’m in shorts for the first time since day 2). For the first time I sea the Med glistening far below, toy boats mulling around The port of Savona.

A mountain biker glides by and I wonder if I’m jealous? I certainly am of the luck of weight he has on his back compared to me. But from my own experience on a bike you travel through the location, rarely absorbed within. So to solve my problem I decide I need a donkey!

The carnage of the winter storm remains, slowing progress drastically as I try to weave a route between the branches. I fear for snakes in the undergrowth but brambles and scratches are more the norm. At least it breaks the monotony of a long climb! I hear a chainsaw far below and begrudgingly wonder why he isn’t up here. I guess clearing the path doesn’t put food on the table.

I Am spat out onto a forest track, a welcome for once after the tangle and wander through a sensitively managed area of commercial beech.

Later in the day – course I want his bloody bike!!! He”ll be in the bar right now and where am I…

Later still – lovely evening with Mog, Jas & Jase. So no photos for now!