Tuesday, 9 October 2012

I went up my twelfth Ultra and came down the long way

A sign on Monte Grappa - no sign of Dodici though, because of the clouds

For many of these hills, part of the ascent is driving several kilometres up narrow roads with 20-30 'tornantes'. When the Italians say 'tornante' they do not mean just any old bend in the road, they mean a tight turning of the steering wheel all the way round. As I drove up Val Formica there was a temporary sign that I did not understand and I carried on regardless. Eventually I came to a stretch where they were felling trees and then round the next tornante the road was blocked by several large trees.

Damn - but just a minute, I can see cars on the other side waiting too. A few minutes later the forestry workers cleared the road and let us all through. Magic.
Maybe if I had studied the map more carefully I might have made a shorter walking journey than I did today. However, no matter, it was a grand walk throughout.

I set off on track 825 from Rifugio Malga Cima Larici (1658m)on what was little more than a steep cow meadow. Very soon I was on the ridge at Bocchetta Larici (1876m) - a right turn on track 826 meant I reached the first top Cima Larici (2033m P84) soon after.
The day ahead
Cima Larici

Val Renzola from Bocchetta Lanzoletta
Over another minor top, Monte Erbe, and then a drop down to Bochetta Lanzoletta (1949m) - where a path came up from a much nearer possible starting point. Then there was a steeper and steady pull up to the rocky summit of Cima Portule, complete with a cross (2308m P164). And what goes up, must come down so there was a drop down to Porta Kempel (2144m). Remember this place - it will be mentioned again.
Cima Portule
Cima Dodici from Cima Portule
For some reason the marked trail misses out the next top along the ridge - Monte Trentin Cima Val Della Sbetta - maybe because it is exhausting enough saying out loud its full name. The track makes a long traverse and at times has to go round large sink holes and channels until it joins another track near Portello di Galmarara. Somehow I failed to spot this junction and carried on to meet track 211 near La Forzelleta. Not that it mattered much as that took me up to the top of the Ultra Cima Dodici (2336m P1874) with its two crosses and now familiar signs of military use in WW1.
Two crosses on Cima Dodici
Cima Dodici
I came down track 835 and still did not identify where it met the track I had used earlier. I realised I was back on that track but could not recall where I had joined it again. I then went back to Porta Kempel. The marked track takes you back over the top of Cima Portule. However, the map shows an unmarked path that traverses the length of C. Portule and that path is very clear on the ground. So, I followed it didn't I. All the way I had this slight worry that it would end up disappearing into a sink-hole or a large impenetrable patch of dwarf pines - but my worry was unfounded. It was clearly a maintained track that had been engineered in places. Towards the end there were even the occasional splash of red paint. And then right at the end it disappeared - as I had feared. It did not take much effort to keep going and find the main 826 track that comes off the end of C. Portule and then follows an unpaved road built by the Austrians in 1916 - the Prinz Eugan Strasse.
Prinz Eugen Strasse
Entrance to Bocchetta Portule
This road has a number of military cemeteries along it and at Bocchetta Portule there is a large crag that has been hollowed out and used by the Austrians (and the Italians) as a look-out and for firing cannons from. As I walked along, I was imagining a convoy of military vehicles being attacked by a small group of the enemy hiding in the trees under the leadership of a maverick Frank Sinatra or Dirk Bogarde. Don't worry, I gave myself a slap around the face and soon recovered.

Bocchetta Portule
It was dark by the time I got back to the starting point - good job that Prinz Eugan Strasse was built so well and easy to follow. And that there was no-one trying to ambush me. But it would have been quicker to come back over C. Portule.
The next morning, when I set off down the hill I hoped that there would be no forestry work trapping me up there. No, there wasn't and they seemed to have cleared up almost all the traces of it very efficiently. Phew. On the other hand what is that noise I can hear ahead of me? Around the next tornante I could see a small line of cars travelling very slowly in front of me and then I realised that in front of them were probably 200+ cows being herded down the hill, presumably for the winter. And the noise? Each cow had its own bell.
It took a while to get off this particular mountain.

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