14.7km 1245m ascent 4h 16mins
Who could resist the thought of a lunch date with a wild clematis? Not me, that’s for sure.
Zed and I got packed up and headed up the road through Nava and Ormea before climbing up to Chionea to start the walk. The first section unravelled pretty much the same as last time we were in these parts, a steep burst through the top village, flower meadows and vegetable gardens. The path forms a kind of small gully between two walls here, which seemed like the designated meet up spot for all the butterflies in the area.
We turn up onto the rocky and tree covered ridge and see the vibrant orange lilies are out in force. I’m sure this is where they belong but it’s still startling to see such a showy flower out in the high mountains.
A little further up as we come across the first pasture I’m chuffed to bits to find some arnica, for someone who manages to hurt themselves as much as I do it’s a brilliant ally. I leave this in the ground though as it’s not abundant.
The roses are just starting to appear too, in numbers, although they are no match for the azaleas (yet).
(A lizard has just scampered up to the window to watch me while I write, tapped his foot a few times and then buggered off. No, me neither).
Legs are a bit tired today and its slow going, the top of the hill looks ominously cloudy though, although it’s a bit brighter when I take my shades off so we push on.
This time we manage to find the ridge top path straight away which leads along a spectacular rocky stretch and I’m immediately on the look out for more clematis patches. I’m certain I’ll find the one I saw last time (how difficult can it be to find one particular plant on a whole mountain top?) but I’m curious to know if there will be more. Also I’ve decided I’m having lunch with the first clematis I find, and I’m bloody starving.
A flash of blueish purple catches my eye from under a rock and we’ve stumbled upon our first clematis of the day. Not having learned any lessons from the last time, I take a crappy iphone picture of it, knowing that I’ll find the larger specimen further up the track. Or not, as it turns out.
We stop for a clematis-less lunch with fine views over Liguria, we can even see down to Albenga which is our nearest coastal town. With the cloud lifting we decide to push on up to the mountain lake, it’s a steep grassy path with an impressive drop off to the right. As is often the way, as we reach the signpost to stop climbing and turn to the right, the cloud makes a swift and fulsome descent. I decide it’s best not to tangle with the next phase of the path and we turn and retrace our steps.
We’re overtaken by a mountain biker not long after and Zedboy gets his hopes up that he’s still a trail dog, we both miss our biking days.
We make a brief stop at the unmanned rifugio, which is open today as there’s a family with a couple of kids staying there – what a wonderful way to spend the weekend. We fill up with water and have a general nosy inside – no dogs allowed inside unfortunately, so Zedboy frowns at me from the porch while I inspect the accommodation.
The views from here are spectacular, last time we passed the visibility was about 10 metres and we could only guess at the surroundings.
Striking out along the high track we extend the walk by another 5km or so, returning by way of the lower track.
(At this point Ted phones me and says he’s about to take off from Milan and I’m truly boggled to receive a text from him as I arrive back at the car saying he’s landed – the time passed for me so differently than had I been on that flight.)
There are a couple of interesting abandoned buildings, one of which has a stream running right out of the front door, I’m assuming it won’t be standing for too much longer. We linger for a while to enjoy the birdsong.
We’re also very taken with a couple of little grotto type spaces that have formed around the banks of a burn by the track.
Heading down at what can only be described as a dawdle, stopping to photograph flowers and insects on the way we descend towards Chionea and a promise of a gig (The Fantastic Blue) and unlimited pizza for 8 euros at the Bar Centro in Borghetto D’Arroscia.