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2007 07 GTA Grande Traversate delle Alpi


Why are you going on a trip like this?

Isn't it far too strenuous?

Is this still a vacation?  

We rode, or rather mostly hiked, over 40 km per day in rough and sometimes deserted terrain. We climbed over 35 passes and climbed around 1400 meters of altitude every day. We spent 20 nights outdoors and pushed ourselves to our physical and mental limits. It was hot and snowed and rained and in the end we walked over 765 km in these 4 weeks and we are a little proud to have brought our horses home safely despite all the difficulties.

We have learned a lot.  

About us and our horses, who are at home in nature,

in contrast to us, who are softened by the abundance of civilization. We have

learned that we can, indeed must, trust our horses in situations, and that they are

that they are much more capable than we ever dreamed. We have learned to

to recognize when they are tired and when they just don't feel like it anymore. We have

that horses hardly know any stress in nature and have learned to cope with our stress.

to cope with our stress. No path, trail or climb will shock us any more.

We have also learned that shorter legs are no obstacle. (There are not

many who could have done it like Patricia, my companion. A big compliment at

at this point).  

We have lived, because we have experienced. Every day, an unpredictable adventure

adventure, animals, people and situations that were unpredictable. We have

many great and a few not so great people and our horses have learned to trust us.

have learned to trust us. Life on a trip like this is so simple, there are only

only four or five very basic things matter. But it is full to the brim with

impressions and experiences that will stay with us for a lifetime.

We have pushed the boundaries. Not just along the Italian-French border

French border, but also to the limits of what was physically and mentally possible for us.

physically and mentally feasible, and we learned that it is possible to push these limits far beyond.

push these limits. We pushed ourselves to the limits of what the horses could do

and it is unbelievably much more than we could ever have imagined. We have

learned to be responsible with their and our resources. We have

seen how willing and trusting our horses are time and time again.

They are true friends.

That's why we'll be out and about with them again next year.

Although my feet wish I could ride them more.



After six months of preparation, the time has come. We made new panniers, tailored feed bags and gaiters and put together the equipment for the requirements of this region. Above all, we had to think about the supply situation for the horses and also design our first aid kit so that we were equipped for the long distances in deserted areas. Domingo was allowed to carry 18 kg of extra concentrated feed and Pat had practiced cooking polenta. Both horses were used to maize and we planned to supplement the concentrate supply with Mangime di Vacce (concentrate for cows) and polenta. We had fitted the horses with tried and tested Duplo plastic horseshoes and sent two complete sets to Pragelato, our halfway station. For weight reasons, we did without a tent, and our ponchos would also have to serve as rain protection during the night.

3.8.2007 Approach Schleitheim

We set off at 6 o'clock. Before that, we muck out the sand arena and the stalls. But we are in good spirits to be at Pete's in Morschach by 8 o'clock. The only obstacle is the traffic circle before Eglisau. We are over 30 minutes late. But Pete takes it in his stride. It's rainy and gloomy until we enter Ticino in bright sunshine. Chiasso, the border takes some time, as the fairy godmother at Italian customs insists that I enter the registration number of my vehicle correctly. In the end she is satisfied with PKW SH. We arrive in Mulino Martin at 3 pm.

We hose down the horses, put them in the sandy area and move into our quarters. Then we drive to the beach. Later, Arnulf picks us up for the BarBQ. It's going to be a wonderful evening. We finally hit the hay late. Tag is awake at 5am.


4.8.2007 Ventimiglia - Rif Muratone

Mulino Martin near Dolcedo, north of Imperia, is a first-class address for trekking in Italy. Arnulf is a great guy and his people are really nice. We sleep above the kitchen and despite the open window and running fan, it's only bearable without sheets. The night is far too short, which is not the only reason why our appetite is limited. But Pat's espresso provides the necessary drive.

At 8.20 a.m. we are just north of Ventimiglia, saddled up and ready to go.

Let the show begin, let the GTA begin.

The road can be ridden, but it's always up and down, so we decide to lead. Domingo has obviously gotten wind of what awaits him. In any case, he lets himself be driven and pulled all day. Flash also seems a little tired from the long ride yesterday. But when we stop for a rest so that the men can regain their strength, Domingo spontaneously decides that he has had enough rest after 10 minutes and marches on. Flash follows him on his tail and Pat sprints after him. At 2 o'clock in the afternoon we realize that we are simply not making any progress. The path is very well marked, but it drags on endlessly. It is hot. The grass is very dry and water is scarce. Finally a restaurant at 16.00 in the evening. We take a break at the Gola di Gouta, wash the blood off the horses' bellies (we're talking about dead horseflies here) and decide that we've had enough for today. We ask about the rest of the route and the very helpful innkeepers suggest that we spend the night at Rif Muratone. On the way there, we find a fenced pasture and Luigi, the owner, agrees to make it available to our horses. I ride back to the pasture with the owner of the Muratone and stretch the fence to close off the far end of the pasture, while Pat clears our luggage at the Rifugio and then trots the 5 km back to the pasture bareback on Domingo, with Flash in tow. The Bremen almost eat our gray horses, but the two of them have figured out the trick of staying close to Pat, who beats the beasts to death. Pat feels a bit harassed. We hitch a ride back to Muratone and enjoy the sandwiches provided by the innkeeper with a view of the Ligurian mountains. The supposed sea shimmers in the distance.

Labels: Mulino Martin, Camporosso, Gola di Gouta, , Rif Muratone


5.8. Rif. Muratone - Tanarello - Passo Basera

Yesterday we covered 37 km and 1300 m of altitude. We eat breakfast by the flickering candlelight of red death lights. It doesn't get light until half past 5. Going to the toilet in this light is also different. There is no light, but there is a scent from the can. At 6 a.m. the hut warden arrives and drives us with our saddles to Luigi, where our horses are stabled. The brakes were already in full use again, as if there were two blood donors, let's go. We ride back to Muratone without our luggage and load up.

We trot up to the Torraggio. Pat thinks I leave behind a special scent. I check the wetness of my T-shirt under my armpits. It can't be that. It's still bearable. Pat also thinks something else. Namely the lavender scent that my boots give off when I walk through the bushes. I am reassured. The view is stunning and the path is narrow, but well marked and a little adventurous in places. We descend again on the back of the Torraggio and follow the path past Monte Pietraveccia. The air is buzzing with flies and the horseflies are not resting either. Past the Rif Grai, which is closed like the other 4 out of 5, we come to a cave at the end of which there is a small underground lake where we water the horses. That means Flash drinks, only Pat doesn't get anything except dirty shoes, because Domingo doesn't drink from underground springs. The path invites us to trot and soon the Saccarello and Tanarello are done. We descend followed by two free-running horses and decide to spend the night in the open, as it is still over 20 km to the next Rif. The only thing that bothers us are the annoying motocrossers and 4-wheelers that constantly overtake or cross us. We are beginning to fit the image of the dusty cowboy. We find a pasture off the beaten track and build a fence for the horses. Later, when the goatherds arrive, who seem to own the land, they don't mind. We eat from our supplies and are slowly surrounded by sheep descending from the heights, obviously wanting to share our camp for the night. One by one, the sheep lie down in the hollow below us, while Flash and Domingo slowly go off to doze. Even as I lie here in the grass writing this, the sheep leave, bleating as if on command. Peace finally returns. Only the odd kamikaze fly buzzes past us. We water the horses again and go to sleep under the stars. Too bad, I would have liked to count some real sheep.

Labels: Monte Grai, Pietravecchia, Saccarello, Tanarello, Toraggio

6.8. Passo Baseral (Monte Tanarello) - Limonetto

As I write this, two days later we are sitting on the Crete des Col Arpiole in deepest Piedmont. The paths here only know two directions, up or down. Today it was mainly up. We take a break and let the horses graze on the fragrant Alpine hay. But back to the beginning. The night under the stars was fresh and damp. So it was no problem to pack up at 5 a.m. and head down to the well. The pastore (shepherd) was waiting for us there. He himself had just returned from a fiesta early in the morning and only discovered us at dawn. He offered us coffee and breakfast and ran up to the barn to fetch some milk, which was wonderful: really good Italian coffee.

Having had enough of the previous day's dusty road, we decided to head back up to the ridge. The ascent just behind our rest area seemed feasible, so we simply climbed up the grassy path. Once the horses realized where we were going, they climbed up largely on their own, I used Domingo partly as a draft animal and to give Flash the direction. Pat climbed up after them. Flash got a scratch from a falling stone, but apart from that we could be really proud of our two Arabians. About 300 meters higher up, we followed the ridge path that Napoleon's soldiers had built. The path was about 2m wide and allowed a view into both valleys. At Passo Rosso we went back to the dust road, as after the Rosso a rock avalanche seemed to prevent the passage. However, a local farmer showed us how to continue. The gravel road led us to the Rif Barbera, the second of 6 Rifs that was actually open. Pat ordered a tomato salad and the landlord laughed and waved us off.

We explained to him what a Radler was and ordered a ham sandwich, which came with a thick slice of tomato. It tasted wonderful, such fresh tomatoes. Just after the Rif on the way to Monte Signori is a wonderful grazing area for horses. The path turned out to be a challenge, especially as the heat was getting to both me and the horses. They urgently need mineral feed and we also need to make sure we stock up on concentrates. Finally we are back on the track, but the terrain is not really suitable for trotting as the surface is made up of rough gravel stones. We go around ridge after ridge, only to tackle the next valley. Limonetto seems to be hiding behind the next bend. We buy some mountain cheese at Alpe Lago Perla and enquire about the surrounding area and shopping opportunities in Limonetto at Bar Marmotte. Pat has lost her phone and goes back to look for it. Unfortunately without success. Your text messages and emails no longer reach Pat. We descend to Limonetto and go shopping at the Alimentari. Peaches are eaten immediately, delicious, polenta is bought in 5 kg containers. In the meantime, I chat to the locals, ask about accommodation and shower facilities, everyone asks everyone else, but no one says yes. The ball is kept rolling until it hits someone who has either died or been out of the country for 5 years. Finally I am told how to get to a stable that has running water and where we can spend the night. To be on the safe side, we get confirmation from the neighbor that we can spend the night there. No problem, he says. So we prepare our polenta and wash ourselves at the well. Shortly before nightfall, the supposed owner of the stable turns up and expels us, threatening to call the police. He doesn't accept any argument, we have to be gone in 30 minutes. So we saddle up the horses again and decide to spend the night on the property of this nice fellow's neighbor. Before we reach his property, however, we find a patch of grass on this farmer's land and decide to fence the two geldings in. We eat our evening meal in the dark and set up camp for the night. The third night without a hot meal. But you have to be tough.

Labels: Cme Missoun, Colla Rossa, M. Bertrand, Rif Barbera, Col dei Signori, Col della Boraria, Col del la Perla, Col di Tenda, Isola 2000.

07.08.207 Limonetto - Pallanfre

It rains during the night and our primitive bivouac is used for the first time. We stay reasonably dry. Pat has no trouble packing her things in the moonlight today, she doesn't want to run into the farmer in his meadow again. We ride past him later, he doesn't even give us a glance. We climb up to Coll Mien at an altitude of 2378m. Domingo leads our train up the narrow path. Pat on his tail with Flash's reins in his hand. I hang on to Flash's hindquarters. It gets a bit rocky and I admire Pat's courage to trust Domingo here. At the top, the platform is about 4 square meters before it drops off steeply on both sides. I take a look at the descent on the other side and ask Pat to take a look. The way Pat climbs down on his hands and feet makes me doubt it. Pat climbs back up and says: no chance. So we turn around and climb the 400 m back down to where we spent the night. From there, we choose a different route to get to Palanfre. I slowly realize two things. The maps are not CHTopo maps, and there are hardly any trail markings off the GTA. This is going to be exciting. We reach Palanfre and are delighted to see a really big new farm. As soon as we arrive, we are greeted warmly by the farmer and he solves all our problems in one fell swoop. No, there is no Posto Tapa, the restaurant is closed and there is no Alimentari either. Any other questions? Yes, he has hay, a pasture, concentrated feed for cows, yes, we can sleep in his hay, we also get water, electricity and milk and there are washing facilities and a toilet. He shows us where we can store the saddles, takes us to the pasture and shows us where we can wash the horses. Dreamland Palanfre. We buy yoghurt and cheese from the farm dairy and as a bonus, the future owner of the closed Posto Tapa gives us 4 canned drinks and drives us to the restaurant 9 km away. There we eat a hot meal for the first time in 4 days and at 10 pm the landlady drives us back to Palanfre. We sleep in the fresh-smelling hay and the horses eat their fill of hay and cow feed. All is right with the world.

Labels: Passo di Ciotto Mieu (not feasible) St. Anna Colle Arpiola 


08.08.2007 Palanfre - Trinita - San Giacomo.

We have covered 150 km and 6000 m of altitude. The horses get the polenta concentrate mixture and we sleep in. Until 6 o'clock. Breakfast is cream cheese and yoghurt and iced coffee. Cold milk with coffee powder. We climb up to Montel Garbella and back down to Trinita via Costa Pianard. At the top of the ridge, we are shrouded in thick fog. Later, when it becomes clearer again, the descent turns out to be not so easy. Several times we have to let the horses decide how they want to get down or over the dry glacier-stone ravine. After a point of no return, we come to a ledge where the horses have to jump down a meter. The only problem is that there is no stopping on the plank polished rock and the horses would slide into the river. I have to let him decide how to get down there. Flash decides to jump into the bushes from above. Domingo follows him without hesitation. A few more adrenaline rushes and we reach the paved path. Above the village, we want to let the horses graze. But the horses don't want to. It starts to rain, a thunderstorm is approaching. We put on rain gear and get to Trinita. While we have lunch and the horses snooze under the roof of the coach stop by the church, the heavens open their floodgates.

We buy bread and a really good 25,000 map. A distinguished gentleman asks where we are from. Monte Garbella: He just means "Molto Brutto". We agree. We then trot to Entraque to withdraw some money from the ATM and do some shopping before continuing on to San Giacomo. We are allowed to fence the horses in the picnic area and the boss of the campsite gets us some hay and we have dinner with him and his girlfriend and a group of Dutch people. It's getting late. As we crawl into the tent provided, I see a mouse. I tell Pat, who just thinks I've had too much wine, until the cute little animal crawls over her feet. After successfully chasing the rodent away, we have a good, long sleep

Labels: Cle de Garbella, Entraque, Valle Gesso della Barra, Camping Casa di Caccia



09.08.2007 San Giacomo - Terme di Valdieri

After the experiences of the previous days, I decide to take the road today, as the descent from Passo Fenestrele looks more difficult than would be good for the horses. After a few discussions with the park ranger and some well-meaning Italians, we cross a tunnel at an altitude of 2000 m and after a short rest at the Rif Genua - it is beautifully situated on a reservoir - we climb up to the Passo de Porco. It probably got its name because the path is simply piggish.

We climb for 5 hours through red scree and then have the serpentine path to Termi ahead of us. On the way, we meet up again with the two Frenchmen we have met several times before. In Termi, after a quarter of an hour's wait, the information master tells us: yes, we can spend the night above the helipad. He had clarified this with his boss and the park ranger. We quickly reserve a table in the bar opposite the information desk and make our way up the valley. In the meantime, it starts to rain again and we look for a possible spot to offer our two heroes food, shelter and a fence. We set up our bivouac, stow our gear and arrive back at the restaurant just in time for dinner. There we meet our French friends and discover that the rest of the restaurant speaks German. After a good Italian dinner, we go back to the bivouac with a thermos flask of coffee and treat my sore left foot before going to bed in the pouring rain.

Keywords: Valle d. Ruine, Passo del Porco, Chiapous hill,


10.08.2007 Thermal baths of Valdieri - Santa Anna di Vinadio

Today should have been a rest day. But we would have been the only ones to really enjoy it. Termi di Valdieri is a tourist resort, better than Limonetto, but not suitable for horses. There is only rocky scrubland and hardly any grass. Flash obviously bites off a piece of his lip trying to bite off some grass instead of stones. We set off early and ride up an old military trail. The path is still very rocky and difficult for the horses. We soon arrive at a military site with good grass all around, where we let them catch up on what they missed during the night. I change back into my cowboy boots and my feet slowly recover. Last year's shoes are too soft for the terrain. My feet are sore and aching. We climb up the Paso di Drues past military installations from the First World War. We look down on Isola, where part of the Winter Olympics took place in 2000. At the top station of the ski lifts, I see three horses standing in the valley. We climb down, the only visible path leads straight across the pasture and through a marshy meadow: At some point it dawns on me that I'm not dealing with peaceful equine contemporaries here, but with full-grown cold-blooded stallions, against whom my Flash looked like a dainty little doll. Snorting and neighing, the bay ran towards us while we made a break for it across the marshy meadow, jumping over streams. When the stallion was almost on top of Flash, his 50-meter-long rope finally pulled him back. The other two stallions had been watching the spectacle, snorting and neighing, and were tugging at their ropes to get a piece of the action. Fortunately, they were both out of reach. Meanwhile, Pat had been dumped in the swamp by Domingo and while ch was finally out of reach of both stallions, the bay turned and ran after Domingo and Pat, who fled up the hill until she too was out of reach. When I tried to give her instructions from a safe distance on how best to get past the stallion, she declared categorically: "It's all swamp here, I can't go down there. At a moment like that, all sorts of things pop into your head, often not much that is useful. I decided to tie Flash up safely, take my rope and tie the stallion up briefly so that Pat could get past him safely. To the constant neighing of three stallions and two geldings, I pull the cold-blooded stallion's rope towards me, wrap it around the tree stump to which he is tied, knot it and bring my fingers to safety before the stallion is pulled back from the taut rope. The game is repeated a few more times before he is tied short enough for Pat to get past. Now it's just a matter of crossing the swamp over the stream and up to Flash, out of reach of the second stallion. She calms the two horses while I give the stallion some lead again. We look for the GTA markings, which must have been lost in 2000, and are once again annoyed by the lousy maps. We find the scree again, which is marked as a path, and climb along the mountain until we reach the paved road at Paso Lombardia. There is a kiosk promising food and chilled liquids. As usual, our horses are inspected and it turns out that we have the owner of the three stallions in front of us. He thinks our story is funny and buys us a round of white wine. He explains where we might be able to stay and shows us the way. We try to find accommodation at the farm mentioned, but the good woman has hair on her teeth. We move on to the pilgrimage site of Santa Anna di Valdieri, where the sisters find us a pasture with friends of the house for the horses and a shower + dinner. The owners of the pasture treat us to a liqueur, which we drink two hours late to Christine and the day we have survived. We sleep next to the horses in the pasture under a crystal-clear starry sky. The guardian angels had their hands full today.

Labels:, Lago del Claus, Bsa Druos, Isola 2000, Colle del Lombarda, V.dOrgials


11.08.2007 Santa Anna di Vinadio - Pontebernardo

The night is fresh and clear. I'm awake at 5am and wait until it gets light. The horses have been restless all night, they were probably cold too. At 7 a.m. the owner serves us a hello awake coffee. We saddle up and Domingo gets stuck on the gatepost. After repairing the saddlebags, we set off along the side of the mountain towards Passo Bravaria. After an hour, Domingo suddenly wants to lie down. He is dripping wet. Pat immediately suspects colic and together we unsaddle Domingo and give him some of Pat's famous pellets. Pat leads him up and down the mountain path. After 10 minutes he gets another portion and things slowly calm down. His breathing is calmer, his nostrils are no longer distended and he is slowly drying off. We load the saddlebags onto Flash and lead Domingo the last few hundred meters up the pass. At 11.30 we are in Bagni di Vinadio and Pat does some shopping while I look for concentrated feed. Just 5 minutes above the store, a farmer sells us concentrated feed for cows. To spare Domingo, we don't go over a pass again, but follow the road to Pontebernardo. There we receive a friendly welcome from the boss of Posto Tapa. He organizes a pasture for the horses, hay, water and we get our laundry washed and a delicious Piedmontese dinner served. A Frenchman sits at our table and assures us that the roads will certainly get better. Tired and full, we fall into the mattresses in our shared room. They are somehow not straight, but in any case we are both struggling on our mattresses not to fall out of bed.

12.08.2007 Pontebernardo - C. Ciarbonet (Acceglio)

After a hearty breakfast by our standards, we lead and ride up the tarred road. To avoid the tunnel, we leave the road and balance on a large water pipe along the tunnel. Soon we are on our way up to the Passo di Rocco Brancia. We have to climb 1200 meters and after about 2 hours, I notice that Flash has exactly the same symptoms as Domingo yesterday. Leading, unsaddling, pellets, leading, after 10 minutes it's all over and Flash sleeps standing up. What or why is a mystery to us. We lead the horses up the pass. Domingo in front, then Pat with Flash and finally me. Once again, the map is a figment of our imagination and we ask an Italian hiker for directions. He readily provides information and 10 minutes later we are on the pass. The view of the valley basin is fantastic and an old military road leads down the pass. We reach the Gardetta Pass, where we stop for lunch for over an hour. Enjoying the magnificent view, we eat our salami and bell pepper bread. A really beautiful path leads down into the valley. On the way we see 3 groups of horses, unfortunately the woman has no room for the horses' well-deserved rest. She tries to help by giving us a place further down the valley, but there is not enough grass. So we mount up and climb the next pass. On the Col de Ciarbonet at an altitude of 2200 m, we find a mountain pasture where we fence in the horses and set up camp for the night. It's draughty in the bivouac, which actually only consists of two rain ponchos buttoned together and tied to two fiberglass poles with tent cords. Soon it's dark and we can marvel at the pictures of the day.

Keywords: Pso di Rocca Brancia, Pso di Gardetta, C. Ciarbonet gworte: Paso di Bravaria, Bagni di Vinadio,

13.08.2007 Acceglio - Val Maira - Chiappera.

Finally, after 10 exhausting days, we can give the horses a break. The Campeggio senza Frontera campsite has a stream, plenty of pastureland, a store nearby and a restaurant. There is an office, but no one is there and no one answers the phone. So we assume that it's okay to let the horses graze in a suitable place, unsaddle and put the two of them in the stream. They sleep standing up and enjoy the coolness of the water. Some flies crawl into the horses' anuses, but otherwise there are no bruises or major injuries to be seen. There are a few small scratches and a fingernail-sized piece is missing from Flashe's upper lip. We put up our fence and tent. The washing is hung up to dry and then we take a siesta. The peace and quiet is good for us too. We have covered 320 km and 14500 meters of altitude. It is now just after 6 pm. We have slept and hiked back to Chiappera. The Posto Tapa in the Base Campeggio claims to have an Alimentari, but this only consists of a wine store, some ice cream and drinks, which are sold for 2 euros per aluminum can. The employee is not very friendly. So, although the kitchen smells great, we move on to Bar Mario, where a party is being held tonight, there are sandwiches and sandwiches at a buffet and as we see a horse standing on the opposite side, we ask for concentrated feed and are given 15 kg of cattle feed. Perfect. We are at the entrance to the valley. It has cleared up again and the night promises to be fresh. We take some extra sandwiches with us as we haven't found an Alimentari and only have a few crackers and two pieces of salami left. While something is being hammered down in the neighboring house, the landlords set up 5 loudspeakers. I can't wait to see what this will turn out to be.

Labels: Chiaperra, Campeggio senza frontiera

14.08.2007 Chiappera - Castelfino - Maddalena

We were given two courses from the buffet, extra sandwiches for the next day and thermos filled with coffee. The day promises to be beautiful, so we tackle the ascent to the 2800 m high pass refreshed and well rested. The horses pull us up the mountain in their usual manner, like mobile ski lifts, where a magnificent view of Monte Viso awaits us. Today, for once, Pat has colic and is not feeling as well as usual. She drinks a liqueur, talks about hot milk with honey and hikers suddenly appear and offer us tea. God is good. I put the horses' colic down to autumn crocuses, which had not yet blossomed and were eaten by the horses. Because later we found the meadows full of flowering autumn crocus. The whole Val Maira area is beautiful, and as I write this, we are taking our lunch break at an altitude of 2000 meters. The horses graze freely on 2 hectares of pasture and we enjoy the view and our prosciutto, pomodoro, fromaggio sandwich. We lead the horses back down to 1000 m on a well-maintained hiking trail and reach Bellino just as it starts to get cloudy again and the fog envelops the mountains. We reach Castelfino and do some shopping. Packed with food for the next few days, we ride up along the reservoir to Maddalena, where the lady at the Posta Tapa is more concerned about the cleanliness of her driveway than giving us accommodation. She refers us to her neighbor, who also has horses. The somewhat reserved landlady thaws when she sees our horses and gives us pasture, electricity, water and hay. I'll ask her husband about concentrated feed after the shower. He might be a little less stressed.

Labels: Col del Bellino, Celle, Castelfino,