Friday, September 7, 2012

Haut Asco - U Vallone

Distance: 9km, altitude at start: 1422m, altitude at end: 1440m, highest point: 2218m.

I'm up early, quite excited to see what the weather is like. There's already one headlamp outside in the dark on its way to the solitude. This is the day that many dread, but for me it's a day I've been looking forward to for a long time, in several ways. Most of all because today I will do the dreaded Cirque de la Solitude, but also because I finally will continue on the GR20. The weather is great; I stifle a small shout of joy.

A lovely sunrise on my way up towards Col Perdu from Haut Asco. I'm finally on my way again on the GR20.

A little lake above where the former Refuge d'Altore was. Pic von Cube and Punta Minuta towers above and behind me, between the spires lies Col Perdu.

To a background painted red by the sunrise I finally leave Haut Asco and starts walking towards Col Perdu or Bocca Tumasginesca. Monte Cinto is following me with eagle eyes; from here it looks even steeper up to the summit than it was. It feels great to be on my way again, 'never stop walking'. It's a beautiful light over the valley when I'm passing where the old route joins the trail.

Coming up where the Refuge d'Altore was located, the rocks have taken over for the vegetation. Nothing left to indicate there was a cabin here, only a sign in the mountainside. The mountains around Monte Cinto are hiding the sun. A cold wind makes it sour and gusty the last climb up towards Col Perdu. A little lake lies quiet beneath Pic von Cube. I'm getting closer to the Cirque. The view gets gradually better and better, more and more mountains are visible beyond the ridge behind me.

The Cirque de la Solitude. View from Bocca Tumasginesca, also known as Col Perdu. From here I can look down into the abyss that awaits me. My body is itching; I'm looking forward to start the traverse.

On the way down into the Cirque de la Solitude. Over me the trail goes very steep down the mountainside.

Then I'm up at Col Perdu and can gaze down into the abyss. People are already on their way through the Cirque de la Solitude, far down below and on both sides of the passage. It's really steep down. I take a short break at the pass and enjoy the view of the cleft I'm going to pass. Then I descend into the abyss, going almost 300 meters straight down at the start. There are chains available on the most exposed places. A part of the path looks like a natural stairway that is made of stones.

The descent is fun, but you have to keep your concentration up. There is a formidable view towards the valley below at the bottom of the passage, but the view back up from where you came from is almost just as impressive. Over me many hikers are moving downwards following the chains and the red and white markers. I look up at the other side and the climb up towards Bocca Minuta is no less steep than the climb down from Bocca Tumasginesca. It goes 300 meters straight up that way to.

Halfway through the Cirque. The view from the deep and out towards the valley below is fantastic.

You start the climb up by climbing up an iron ladder, and then there are more parts with chains up steep sides of bare rock. I'm having a great time doing the Cirque. Yet, there is no arguing that in rain and bad weather this will be a complete different experience. At a time I meet a group of walkers on their way down from Bocca Minuta, who gets a little panicky when I comes climbing quite fast upwards. Two of the members of the group need to be led down by the guide; they don't look comfortably going down the Cirque at all. I have to jump up to a little ledge to let them pass, so not to make them even more uncomfortable.

The climb up towards Bocca Minuta starts by climbing an iron ladder.

Bocca Minuta. View back towards Col Perdu after completed the Cirque de la Solitude. Up from the deep and into the warmth in the sun. People are still descending into the passage on the other side, and still others are down in the cleft.

At Bocca Minuta I emerge from the shade and into the light from the sun. I've been walking in shade through the passage. Here at the pass it's warm and I can gaze back towards the other side of the passage and down into it. People are still on their way down into the passage from Col Perdu. To the south I look down at the valley below and can see Paglia Orba towering to the southwest. I had a great time doing the Cirque.

I dare the claim that 'the Cirque de la Solitude is an urban legend'. But by that I don't mean that it's not dangerous, or that it's not hard. But people fear it so much because they've read so much about it that they make up such great thoughts about how difficult it is. And then it just got worse and worse the more who hear the same story. The fear of it makes it harder than it really is. If you take it easy, is concentrated and is careful where you walk, you'll have no problem doing it. That being said, you should of course be careful. In rainy weather you should be extra careful.

Lunch at Refuge de Tighjettu. Bread, a plate with good Corsican meat and an ice cold Pietra.

Refuge de Tighjettu. A curious building balanced on wooden pillars.

With the Cirque de la Solitude behind me I look towards the sunny valley below me. At Refuge de Tighjettu I buy myself a plate with good Corsican meat and a Pietra for lunch, which I eat outside in the hot weather. I really like the posting in the cabin stating that it's a disco and a piano bar there. It's a nice place, but my plan is to go further to the Bergeries de Vallone. The path down is a nice walk pass little pools along the Ruisseau de Stranciacone. Trees are now rising up on both sides of the trail. Behind me Bocca Minuta is now seen high above.

View from the valley beneath Tighjettu. High up lies Bocca Minuta, Refuge de Tighjettu below.

There are few people at Bergeries de Vallone when I arrive; it looks like most of the hikers choose to spend the night at Tighjettu, so I can choose at will the best place for my tent. It's a great place, with nice places to sit inside and a nice terrace on the outside. They even got a shot shower here, but I don't use it. Instead it's more tempting with a bath in the pools in the river that runs pass the auberge. Cold, but it's nice to sit and warm myself in the sun on the rocks.

View down the valley below Bergeries de Vallone, a great place.

The rest of the afternoon and evening is something of a fairy tale up in the mountains, with good food and drink. Someone will probably say that I should be proud of doing the Cirque de la Solitude, I look back towards it because I had a great time doing it. The sky is crystal clear; it will be a cold night.

Bergeries de Vallone.

<- Monte CintoCiottulu di I Mori ->

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