A path through the Maritime Alps

Having just turned 60 (gasp) I suddenly realise I can’t delay doing things I’ve been wanting to do.  For instance, two years ago, when walking in the Maritime Alps I discovered a particular path that made my heart go pitter-patter: partly because I was told I couldn’t do it that day (snow still lying in mid-June, length of time needed to get across) and partly because the look of it scared the pants off me.  The path took off over stepping stones across the top of a waterfall from a lake full of snow-melt water called Lago Soprano della Sella

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and then led round a mountain or two, across a col and over some passes and would take at least 7 hours, though a rougher detour could make it 5 perhaps. (Believe me, I am not the sort who enjoys extreme danger …. for instance, anywhere with an iron rope chained to the wall is a no-go: my knees buckle in panic and my whole body becomes a boneless jelly. That is my limit, though some people think nothing of such adventures. It’s all a matter of what kind of courage you have.)  Looking back, I had the feeling that maybe there was a story up there that I could find a thread to…the path would lead me to it perhaps.  I know there is potential as it runs beside the border between France and Italy: frontier, flight, fugitives, resistance, refuge, hide-outs!

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Having researched it, my hubby and I decided this year would be the year to try it. We have planned everything …what we need to take to spend 3+ nights in mountain refuges; the routes along the old salt road, along mule tracks and along a military road built by the Alpini regiment and along others that may have been under heavy snow over the winter; we have done ‘training’ walks on coast paths and on Dartmoor so we are more or less fit (though mountain walking is far more demanding); booked the refuges among peaks called Mother of God, Point of the Star, Pass of the Precipice, and a series of lakes called Dead Woman.

Only a fortnight ago, Livio, the guardian at the Rifugio Dante Livio Bianco said there was still too much snow this year and maybe we shouldn’t consider it. Flavio, the guardian at Rifugio Questa (translates as ‘This’ but does it?) said he advised against it. Last weekend, a more optimistic email arrived from Livio saying it was “do-able” but he didn’t say by whom!  I asked him if this was a young “alpinisto”.  Further reply comes there none: maddeningly, but sensibly, leaving it up to us.  Rifugio Remondino is another goal to reach!

That higher path at nearly 2,900 metres across Colle Est della Paur (of Fear) keeps beckoning.  We won’t know if we can do it till we get nearer at the end of this week and look up at the ridges between summits to see how much snow still lies about.  And once up there, IF we get there, will I ask myself why I ever thought of this quest?  And will the story have been smothered in some avalanche?

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About Rebecca Gethin

Rebecca Gethin is a poet and a novelist. Cinnamon Press published her third collection, All the Time in the World in 2017. Another pamphlet is forthcoming with Three Drops Press. Her second novel, What the horses heard, was published by Cinnamon Press in May 2014. Her second poetry collection - A Handful of Water - was published by Cinnamon in 2013. Her first - River is the Plural of Rain - was published by Oversteps Books in 2009. Her novel Liar Dice won the Cinnamon Press Novel Writing Award in 2010 and was published in 2011. She lives on Dartmoor and writes occasional pieces about wildlife and nature. Her poems appear in a variety of poetry magazines and in several anthologies.
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2 Responses to A path through the Maritime Alps

  1. Valerie Morton says:

    Wow! what an adventure and I do hope you make it. When I was 60 I felt as if I could conquer anything – it’s the time to do it but obviously depending on the weather. Those photographs are stunning and inviting – however far you get I do hope you both enjoy the journey and return invigorated. I envy you x

  2. E.E. Nobbs says:

    My thoughts are with you and Chris. All the very best to you both on your adventure. Yes, lots of story potential, but there’s already a story going on – so thanks for sharing it with us.

    Take care,
    E x

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