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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, 

15.08.2007 Maddalena - Villanova

The concentrated feed didn't work out and our two whites left the hay lying around. It's interesting. The woman throws the whole restaurant, but can't give me permission to get a bale of hay from the barn 50 meters away. I have to wait until the patron arrives. Different countries, different customs. But the bed was good and if I hadn't been dreaming of colic and a continuous whistling sound woke us up shortly after midnight, I could say I slept well. But I unplugged all the electrical appliances, maltreated the fan under the window, pressed all the doorbells, and in the end it was the receiver of the house phone. Sch...... Technology. In the morning, Pat realizes that she has a pulled muscle in her right shoulder and a few other injuries. But this has nothing to do with last night. Flash had kicked her when she tried to kill a brake, and Domingo was responsible for the rest. We trot back along the lake to Castello and then climb up to Paso Gastaldi, very close to the now snow-covered Monte Viso. The descent was tough, we used the gaiters we had brought with us. And on the valley floor, still at an altitude of 2400 m, we let the horses graze and enjoy the peace and quiet. Pat dozes while I sit here over the blog. The flies are the only sound far and wide. We have Monte Viso behind us and the Rif du Viso is visible towards the valley. Behind the Rif, we climb again to 2800 meters. Domingo pulls us back up through a herd of sheep. Although the hut warden describes the descent as not as difficult as the last one, it is a tough one and at first Flash refuses to tackle it, then he gets a scratch and we put on our gaiters again. Before a one-meter-high rocky descent and a necessary detour over scree, Domingo suddenly makes it clear that he's had enough and won't be going back down. So I take the lead again, we bypass the rock and Pat and Domingo fight it out. Pat is too tired and Domingo wins for this time. When nothing else works, Pat comes down to me and leaves Domingo standing above the rock. He stays there until I have finally climbed up. Pat continues downhill with Flash while I suggest the two alternatives to Domingo again. He doesn't like either of them. So I decide and lead him into the scree descent, from where we come back onto the path just below the rock. My pressure and the fading flash helped him. The descent into the valley is a descent into the unknown, as the fog completely envelops us, we can only just see the path in front of us, only catching a brief glimpse of the surroundings from time to time. Finally, after a lake, we reach the Rif, where we get information about the way ahead. Flash and Domingo are duly marveled at, bitless, plastic Zoggoli, everything seems strange. Ivan the landlord recommends an agritourism on the alp below. We descend further in the fog and reach the alp, where we think we hear squeaky organ music. Later we come to a few huts. A large plastic sheet is stretched across the path and a colorful group is sitting there, eating and drinking and making music. The saints of the shepherds are being celebrated today, a sow has been slaughtered and everyone from the surrounding area has joined in the celebrations. We linger for a while, a British woman, who has been in Piedmont for 30 years, talks and asks questions while her nephew is allowed to sit on Domingo. Meanwhile, Flash goes into the marquee and grazes between two beer benches, where Pat maneuvers him back out again under the astonished eyes of the guests. A little later, I force the pace a little, leading the horses, when unexpectedly the Agritourismo sign appears and we are instructed in English by Maria Angela, who is perhaps 20 years old, and led to our accommodation. Afterwards, chicken with carrots, cheese, dessert and coffee, which we declined with thanks, just like the cheese. We organized more concentrated feed for the horses' breakfast, coffee for ourselves and went to bed, full to the brim and dead tired.

Labels: Vallone di Vallanta, Pso di Gastaldi, Color del Porco, Ref. M.Viso C. Seilliere, Ref. Jervis al Pra, Agritourismo Pra


16.08.2007 Villanova - Didiero - La Miando

It's clear in the morning, so we can see the whole beauty of the valley and also see where we've climbed down. For breakfast we have Thermos coffee with too little milk, as Pat finds. We tend to Flash's wound and saddle up. During the night, someone sawed up a whole forest near us. We only realized that he was staying in the neighbouring stable when he rather grumpily opened the door in front of which our two heroes were standing and being saddled as he fled in the direction of the toilet. Sorry neighbor. We head north down the valley on a highway with four lanes for our requirements and simply enjoy being able to put one foot in front of the other. We bypass Villanova on the ridgeway as the sky becomes increasingly cloudy. We ride up the road, which would actually take us up to the pass, our first pass we've ridden, but it's not meant to be, the road is so steep that we dismount and lead the horses. It's drizzling and every now and then a cold wind blows clouds of mist up from the valley. As soon as we cross the Faure Pass, the weather seems to change for the better. And in front of us is a new road that takes us up to a deserted mountain village. Another 400 meters in altitude and we are at the top of the second pass, Col Giulian, where we meet an Italian couple. They stayed behind us when I warned them about loose stones. The descent was along well-trodden cow paths. After a rest where there was grass, we reached the tarred road that led us to Ghigo and Prali Villa. From Roderetto, we ride up another 300 m to the C. de Fontane and then descend another 300 m in endless serpentines. At Agritourismo La Miando we are given hay, a clover-covered pasture, rooms and a Piedmontese-style dinner. Appetizer, stuffed tomato, then. Fleure de crouchette (gratinated zucchini flowers), then salad, cheese, greens and mushrooms, followed by rice and mushroom croquettes and liver and lamb shanks with roast potatoes. We finish with cheese, fruit and a fern liqueur. A long day comes to an end. Labels: Cta della Faure, C. Giulian. Ghigo, Tapa Square La Miando

17.08.2007 Didiero - La Miando - Pragelato

The landlord stocks us up with food and eats a real banana in front of me, something that is one of my favorite dishes and that I haven't seen for two weeks. Afterwards, he presents us with a bill that is a little too salty. Mais ce la vie. We ride down to Masello and then mount up to ride up to Basiglia. At the Posto Tapa we are told that the Col de Piz 2610 m is easy to do and we ride and lead our horses up the 1100 m up the mule track. A wide valley opens up to us at an altitude of 2500 m and on the back wall of the basin, sheep move from right to left like pearls on a string just below the ridge. We mount up again and let the horses cross the pasture until we let Domingo pull us up the last 150 meters of the wall. Two shepherd dogs came to see us and were whistled back by the shepherd sitting on top of the ridge. There are fewer well-behaved dogs than these. At the top of the ridge, there was an exhilarating view deep into the French Alps and across the Val Susa. Pragelato glistens in the sun below us. We descend and follow the road, taking a shortcut here and there following the course of the ski slope, but in the end we have to hike back down the hairpin bends until we reach the valley floor. We are in the Parco di Bosco di Salbertrand, and the path leads through beautiful Swiss stone pine forests. On a shortcut, we come across a cow that has just calved with her still wet calf and later Domingo and Flash have nothing better to do than roll around in the waist-high grass. We ride out of the valley, surrounded by green mountains, and reach Pragelato, where we want to take our half-time break. We look after the horses, both get a wash at the stream, Domingo and Flash have some girth pressure, which we treat and both get 4 shovels of concentrated feed after the hay. We take a dip in the swimming pool, Pat washes socks and laundry and replenishes our stocks from the care package sent to this address. Anything superfluous goes back home the same way. Dinner is a discretion, plentiful and very good.

Labels: Massello, Balsiglia, Berg del Lauson, Col del Pis, Clot della Somma


18.08.2007 Pragelato - Villa Kinka

Today is a break. The horses are standing in the paddock of a riding stable and are being pumped full of concentrated feed and hay. After a few misunderstandings, it's clear that we'll have to wait until tomorrow for the farrier to come. We take the horseshoes off and go shopping. After a picnic by the river, we lie down and pack up our things. We have covered 455 km, averaged 47.64 kilometers per day and climbed over 21227 meters in altitude. The descents were generally more strenuous and time-consuming than the ascents. We were running at an average speed of 5.0 km/h 90% of the time. The horses are healthy. Apart from small scratches, cuts and other injuries, everything is fine, the girth pressure worries us a little. Domingo has now learned to stand with Flash head to tail for the first time in 18 years. Pat is flat. We are sitting here on the terrace of the restaurant, after another sumptuous dinner, enjoying the coolness of the evening. Although Pat, wrapped up in her windbreaker, might see it differently. We've now taken over 1000 pictures and will turn them into a show. We probably won't make it to Schaffhausen, our goal is to reach the Swiss border. It's now 9.30 in the evening and it's time to go to bed. Tomorrow we will ride to Susa after the blacksmith appointment and then climb the Roccamelone at 3000 m on Monday. Maybe we can manage more



19.08.2007 Pragelato - Frais - Valle Susa.

We go to feed the horses at 7am and pack our stuff over to the stables. At 8 o'clock we have a hearty breakfast in the log cabin atmosphere of the Villa Kinka restaurant, where we spend the night. And then we wait for the Maniscalco (farrier) who wants to be there at 9.30 at the latest. He arrived punctually at 10.30 and we were finally ready to ride off at 12 noon. Another group photo with Christine and Tito, the two horse people who really looked after us, and we were on our way again. We head up the other side of the valley to Col Laussan and from there we follow the Via Balkone, a mountain path that played a tragic role in the Italian/French war of 1744. Over 5000 people lost their lives in this war. From the ridgeway you can see into both valleys. To Pragelato and to Salbertrand. The whole mountain lies within the Bosco di Salbertrand National Park with its typical Swiss stone pine forests.

Flash isn't trotting cleanly with his new shoe, so we walk. Later, we lead the horses down from Susa to Frais in the fog, where we meet a Rosserer at the Bar Stephano who looks after our horses. We let the horses graze in a large fence, the landlord has cooked up polenta for the horses and after an excellent pizza and feeding the horses we go to sleep in the pasture. We had planned to climb the Roccamelone tomorrow, which at 3000 m is the highest mountain in the region that can be climbed by horse. But I'm afraid that's not going to happen because we're about three hours late. Let's see what happens.

Keywords: Grand Puy, Clé Lauson, Pte del Grand Serin, Alpe Darguel Frais  


20.08.2007 Frais - Trueck - Usseglio

For sleeping we found one of those foam mattresses that are attached to the poles on ski slopes so that they don't hurt themselves when skiers crash into them. It saves my hip bones a little. In the middle of the night, Pat rolls on the 15 cm thick mattress and thrashes around wildly. I wake up with sore lips and witness Pat crawling back onto the mat. The horses seem to only want to bite off grass next to my ear, even though they have almost half an acre. It starts to rain, we pull the tarpaulin over us and still try to get some air. Of course, it rains right on our noses as we try to get some fresh air. A few hours later I wake up and realize that Domingo's neck is almost 2 m long. He is desperately trying to get under the taut cord to reach the bucket containing the polenta he has cooked for breakfast. I pull the bucket over to me and fall asleep again. It gets light at 6am and we have breakfast with Thermos coffee and Twix bars. The descent to Susa and Giaglione is easy, only the horses still seem a bit lazy. Finally, at around 10 a.m., we have crossed the Al and we get back on the GTA in one of the three San Giuseppe in the valley and head up towards Roccamelone. The ascent begins with a few steps up between the narrow houses of the village and a steep mule track. 2 hours later we are almost 800 m higher in front of a monastery chapel. Soon we should reach the road where we can continue on horseback. We reach the road, the horses are dripping wet and we are completely exhausted. We ride a little further and then mount up. The GTA actually continues in exactly the same way as a shortcut, but the road is much more comfortable, albeit a lot longer. The weather is getting worse and it's thundering all around us. During the ascent, Flash got on Pat's foot and I kicked a wasp nest with Domingo, whose inhabitants then pounced on Flash and Pat with vehemence. Domingo and I got away unscathed. After two more hours, Pat explains that she needs a coffee or a bed, and we soon arrive at the Posto Tapa Il Truek. We have a coffee, discuss the situation with the landlord and decide to spend the night here in view of the onset of rain, as the next such possibility would only be 7 hours' walk and 2 passes further on. We fence the horses in a good pasture and the landlady cooks polenta for the horses and coffee for Pat and me. Hopefully the weather will be better tomorrow.

Labesl: Frais, Chiomonte, S. Giuseppe, Giaglione, S. Giuseppe Ref. Il Trucco


121.08.2007 S. Giuseppe - Usseglio

The weather is holding up. It's really great. No horseflies, no flies, no tourists standing around in the way, the occasional brightening. And the rain and snow are hardly a problem. It's just a shame that you can't see anything, because we are climbing up to 2600 m after all. But my feet are being rinsed with a gentle rinse, and as my right boot has a hole, the water can run off faster there than on the left. We get up at 5am and try to be quiet because of the other guests. We eat our breakfast with Nescafé, as the landlady has collected all the missing milk from the last 14 days in this Thermos. We feed the horses, unload our stuff from the landlord's pickup and fetch the horses. While we saddle up, it pours heavily and we are really excited about today. We lead a trail, the horses seem to have been starving all night in the good pasture, because they are yawing for every little piece of grass. We climb up and ride to the end of the road in thick fog and drizzle. We reach Alp Alcella, where the shepherd offers us a warm meal, coffee and cookies as well as concentrated feed for our horses. He even starts up the diesel generator so that I can charge my cell phone. We gratefully accept and warm up. A little later it brightens up and we climb the last 600 m up the Crocce di Ferro pass. On the last 200 m, the rain turns to snow and it gets really cold. We pass the mountain hut and reach the pass, which we cross quickly. We have to get down here before the snow makes the rock slabs too slippery. Thanks to the plastic shoes, it goes quite well and by 1 p.m. we have reached Alp Vulpo, unfortunately we haven't seen much apart from fog and are actually just soaking wet. We let the horses graze and treat ourselves to a plate of spaghetti, coffee and hot chocolate. We take the road to Usseglio and arrive in the first suburb. There, a herd of goats finds our horses so exciting that they chase us, which is rewarded by our two heroes with an "attempt to escape to the front". We turn into a driveway so as not to block the road any longer and are lucky that the goats are probably at home here. In any case, someone comes calling and the herd disappears in his direction. We reach the Posto Tapa and a lady of advanced age is extremely friendly and helpful, but hopelessly overwhelmed by my French and my wishes regarding the horses. I have to wait until the brother arrives, in 1 to 2 hours. Pat sits down by the fireplace for the second time today and dries pants, jackets and shoes. Meanwhile, I try to let the horses graze under the canopy of the ski hut. The horses grazing in the adjacent pasture are being fed. I go over and Henrich, the owner of the horses, offers to bring hay. I drive with him to his barn, which is in the next village, and bring back 2 bales of hay. Pat and I put up a fence integrating the canopy and are barely finished when the Friesian-Haflinger foal simply breaks through the fence, tears down our fence and seeks Domingo's company, whereupon Flash decides he has to chase the little one away. Meanwhile, all 4 of Heinrich's horses are in our paddock, dancing around on the power cables while I run to turn off the power and Pat tries to hold Domingo and Flash. I get hold of the two torn ribbons and try to tie one of them to a post. At some point, I at least manage to shoo the 3 adult horses back to their pasture. Only the foal is determined to get to Domingo, who in turn is defended by Flash. Pat finally manages to tie our two horses up and keep the foal at a distance. We put our fence back up and in the small square I finally get hold of the foal and send it back under the raised fence to its whinnying mum. Now I reconnect the pasture fence to the power supply and switch the device back on. Result of this action: it is better to triple the fence when a Friesian-Haflinger foal is nearby. Now even our dry clothes and shoes are soaking wet, because of course it has been pouring the whole time. Finally we can head over to the Grand Hotel, where dinner is already waiting for us. No time for a shower. I take off my wet, squeaky shoes and hope that my partially wet shirt will simply be seen as two-tone. While we feel a little out of place and probably give off at least one interesting scent, I soon feel more at ease, while Pat can hardly get the food down. At the next table, there's smacking and burping like in the old scouting days. It must be an 80-year-old white-haired lady. The food is simpler than usual, but the price is moderate. We would like to store our things in a garage, but the landlord refuses. Somewhat stunned, I ask and the misunderstanding is cleared up. It's not us who want to sleep in the garage, just our luggage.

Labels: Croce di Ferro Margone Usseglio


22.08.2007 Usseglio - Balme

At the Grandhotel Usseglio we had rusk for breakfast, big name small service. We saddle up and climb up the GTA path. But after a short time it becomes clear that the path is too steep (molto brutto) and we consult the map. 10 km further down the valley, a path leads up the mountain to a mountain pasture very close to the pass we have to cross. We decide to take it and turn back. On the way we meet Henrich, who follows us to the forgotten watch of Pat in the Grandhotel. We ride up the road and after about 1100 meters we reach the mountain pasture. This is where the path to the pass begins. The path markings are limited to a green brushstroke every 500m, the others have probably been covered over with cow dung. Fortunately, the shepherds have built cairns, as the dense fog leaves us with a visibility of just 10 m in places. So we climb to the cairn and then look out for the next one, etc. After another hour of climbing, we reach the pass with a wonderful view of the white nothingness. We take a few photos and climb down the pass as the fog lifts and we can see at least 100 m around us. It would be really nice up here. We climb over boulders and rocks and have to let the horses find their way more often than we would like. The stones are wet and the horses often slip. Despite gaiters, Flash tears his wound open again. I think about whether we really want to carry on like this tomorrow. We meet a group and get 10 different answers to one question at the same time. The result: nobody has a clue about anything. We decide to leave the GTA and take the drovers' path down into the valley, as the cows haven't come up the GTA either. The path is freshly cut and clearly visible. We climb down, the horses right behind us, as the stones are wet and slippery. We come to an alp and the Öhi (who must be 80 plus) is clearly delighted to have visitors. He comes back from his stone hut with a large bottle of wine after seeing us. He seems to be looking for glasses when Pat asks me to fetch the mug from the thermos flask. The wine isn't bad and he eagerly pours us more and talks and talks and we nod and laugh and don't understand a word. However, I can imagine that after a few more glasses I would have suddenly become fluent in Italian. We walked the last part of the way and reached Balme. While Pat went shopping in the Alimentari, I looked for and found the Posto Tapa and the landlord (English-speaking) immediately found solutions to all our horse problems. On the way down to the valley to get hay, we meet Pat and I go back to the Tapa. The food is excellent, as is the whole place. We dry our clothes in the boiler room and the horses eat their hay on the football pitch.

Labels: Lemie, A.dOvarda Pso Paschiet

23.08.2007 Balme - Locana

In the morning, with the help of the innkeeper, we decide not to do the Col de Trione but to take a shortcut due to the weather, which should save us a day's stage. It had snowed down to 2000 m and we had to climb up to over 2800 m. The forecast was also for southerly weather. More clouds, rain showers and fog. It wasn't supposed to get better until Friday. We rode down to Lamie and raided the ATM in Ceres in cowboy style. Unfortunately, the loot was small. 2 x 250 EUR. The cards didn't give us any more. We left Ceres and crossed the river. The horses were allowed to graze. Pat waited desperately until a granny with a child had passed us, she urgently needed to get into the bushes. The horses took us trotting up the mountain road to about 1300 m, when we followed another hiking trail up a steep path and Pat was once again stung by wasps. We crossed the pass, left the hiking trail to follow the road and then rode over the Forchetta Pass up to Alp Coasiolo in thick fog again. There we asked the farmer's wife about the duration of the trail, the signposting and which route we should take. Another 5-7 hours and there are no signposts, but we should go that way to the Perascritta pass. Nevertheless, we set off into the thick fog. The road led up to 20 m below the pass, but it took us a while to find the entrance. The fog lifted and just as we were crossing the pass, we were met by a muleteer who explained the descent over the first 500 m of rocky terrain and instructed us to follow the cattle trail. Cattle don't tend to follow each other like pearls on a string, so the descent turned out to be somewhat exciting. Fortunately, the fog had largely cleared so that we could see where we were going. However, there were no path markings. After a few descents over scree slopes and meadow slopes, we happily reached the cattle drive path, which we then followed downwards. These paths consist of scree, swamp and stone slabs and always lead sideways along the mountainside, either because the stream in the valley is so surrounded by trees that there is no way through, or because the cattle are grazing down there. Pat has had enough of climbing over slippery rocks and we set up our night quarters in the meadow 10 minutes above the village. Pat said she felt like she was back in the pioneering days of the wild west, only without the Indians. Labels: Ceres, Fe, S.Giacomo di Moia, Pso Forchetta, Kle von Perascrive, Piatour


24.8.2007 Canavese - Bosco

We set off early and walk down to the village of Locana. An alimentari supplies us with food, I find Duc tape in a hardware shop and we stock up on bandages in the pharmacy. Flash's injury is festering and we have to make sure it stays clean. In a bar we get cappuccino and croissants and information about the nearest fattoria (farmer) who might sell us Mangime di Vacche. The horses are tethered to the window bars of the church. We find him and the old farmer makes a killing. He wants 20 euros for 10 kg of concentrated feed. No matter. We stop and ride down the valley on dirt tracks. Riding on the plain is fun, we realize, because so far we have either climbed up or led. The weather is good and it promises to stay good. We ride up the tarred road in Parone to the Santuario di Trascondu and then it's another 700 meters up to the Coll der Crest. As usual, the path up is barely suitable for mules, but at the top there are only sheep and goats. The horses' hooves are wider than the path, which leads up a grassy slope at 2000m above sea level. The adrenaline rush for today. There are a few rocks along the way that have to be negotiated, and both do this with aplomb by trying to climb over the rock, sliding down (it's only about 100 m down) and then galloping back up onto the little horse below the rock. We climb further up and reach the ridge with just 2 horse lengths of space and marvel at the view that opens up before us. We can see the entire Po Valley in front of us with more mountains in the background. Unfortunately, we can't linger, as the course descends steeply in three directions. I'm shivering on the descent and am glad when we have cow dung under our feet again. The path down into the valley is well marked this time, we are back on the GTA after all and so it is no problem that we descend until 7pm before we stop in a village above Bosco and ask the inhabitants if we can let the horses graze. The owners of the houses are hesitant, only when we explain that we will be leaving again tomorrow at 6 a.m. do they let us, and even show us old bales of hay that the landowner has forgotten in a barn. We give the horses a bale of it and fence them in. We even sleep in the barn on a mattress we found there. Dinner is poor, the bread we bought can no longer be found. But we can toast Christine with port wine, which the owner of one of the houses gives us when I ask him for electricity for my cell phone. It was a long day, we were on the road for over 12 hours. But it was worth it. We have now covered almost 700 km and climbed over 30,000 meters. Our knees and thighs are still there and the horses are also doing well.

Labels: Sparone, Ribordone. Talosius hill coat of arms Cma Rosta, Costa


25.08.2007 Ronco Canavese - Piamprato - Rif Dondena

The internal clock wakes us up early and after breakfast, consisting of pastries and apricot juice, we saddle up, pick up my charged cell phone from the neighbor and march down the road to Bosco and Ronco Canavese. On the way, we meet up again with the woman who had organized the cell phone charge and the port the night before. We reach Ronco at store opening time and treat ourselves to a cappuccino and four croissants. Then we park the horses in the village parking lot and while Pat shops in the Alimentari, I try to write the blog and answer the countless questions from passers-by at the same time. Where we're from, where we're going, why no bit, why no ferro (iron shoes), why plastico, nationality, name of the horses, age, why are they so well-behaved, etc.? Quite simply, they are happy not to have to move. We are walking up the street past the Saturday market when Flash apples just behind the stall with socks, where Pat wanted to buy socks. The owner makes such a fuss that we decide to let socks be socks and move on. We take the road to Piamprato at a trot. The valleys seem to widen and instead of the yellow of the withered grasses we find lush green. The sky is clear and we follow the map through the village to find the GTA. Except that the map is wrong again and we turn back at the end of the village to look for the path at the lower end. As we are now passing the bar for the second time, we treat ourselves to a coffee and get talking to the locals, who strongly advise us not to do the Passo di Ocre because neither cows nor mules can get up there. There is a point in the path where you have to pass between two rock faces and it is too narrow for cows or donkeys. What do we do now? We unpack the maps and order another lime juice and together with the locals we work out an alternative route that takes us further north back to the GTA. So we head up the village for the third time and ride the first three kilometers up the path. Then comes the "much easier" way up and we realize we've made the right decision. If this is easy, I don't want to see the other one. It goes uphill on not very well marked paths and as the map is 50% wrong, we puzzle a few times as to where the path might continue. Halfway up, a pool in the stream invites us to take a cool dip. Refreshed, we continue on and it finally becomes clear which crossing it will be this time. We take a break on a plateau and a few crossings later we are standing on the Colle de Larissa pass, marveling at the magnificent mountain panorama with Monte Rosa in the background. Laaange Paaauuuuse!!! We find the road and follow it down past alpine huts to the Rif Dondena. The landlord has horses himself and is already waiting for us. A wonderful pasture for the horses, concentrated feed, a shower and dinner followed by a bed. We even have breakfast here.

Labels: Piamprato, Cle Larissa, Rif Dondena

26.08.2007 Rif Dondena - Isollaz

The landlord puts the dogs to rest so that we can clear out our stuff and saddle the horses without waking the whole house. Breakfast is plentiful and we lead the horses down the dirt road through the Avic National Park, which reminds me of the Scottish countryside. Scattered, once stately homes and rolling green hills. We reach the path that takes us over the Col de Croix. Passing green lakes, we climb up the pass path, Domingo finally in the lead again, and soon reach the Rifugio Barbustel. There, the host gives us valuable tips on the way ahead and we follow a beautiful mountain path past lakes and moorland into the valley, where the endlessly serpentine road to Champdepraz in the Aosta Valley awaits us. On the way, the smell of grilled meat fills our nostrils and our mouths water. Images of grilled steaks on fresh rolls rise up in our mind's eye. We find the source and try to get our hands on a piece of meat like this. But this is Italy, the meat is only available as the secondo plati of a 5-course menu at 32 euros per person. A discretion including wine and digestive and coffee of course. We give up a little frustrated and decide to have a piece of meat for dinner today. After 2 hours of tarmac beating we are finally in the Aosta Valley and at the first fountain we cool our burning feet and treat ourselves to a panache and an ice cream in Verres, after a farmer's horses have reduced the clover population a little. We ride up to the castle in the direction of Villa and find a farmer in Isollaz who gives us pasture, hay and concentrated feed. After washing our feet and upper bodies, we walk another 500 m to order our 3-course meal in the bistro. We give the horses the extra hay in the pasture and lie down on our saddle pads a little above the pasture. The full moon rises over the mountain ridge above and bathes our night quarters and the pasture in its soft light. Can someone put out the light, Pat murmurs before she falls asleep.

Labels: Strada Reale, La Cort, Col Lago Bianco, Rif Barbustel, Völla, Gettaz, Champdepraz, Fabbrica Verres, Isollaz (villa)


27.8.07 Isollaz Issime -

We brought the horses down to the well, cleaned and saddled up and rode up the road to the Dondoil Pass. At the top there is a super well-kept mountain pasture with very nice farmers who were delighted to see us and the son led us up the cattle track to the pass. Once again, we've covered 1200 m and lead the horses down into our first Valdenser valley. It is unbelievable at what heights and on what paths the Walser farmers keep their cattle here. The people have achieved tremendous feats in building houses at these heights, creating paths and trails and building churches. There are stone houses with 4 storeys and 100 square meters of floor space at an altitude of 1600 m and a mule track leads up to them. We walk through sparse forests along the mountainside and reach an alpine farm from the 15th century, which is still inhabited and farmed. Pure high mountain culture, the Almöhi from Spirig's Heidi could have lived here. The horse also standing in the pasture turned out to be a peaceful gelding and we went on our way. We soon reached the church, which was built as a meeting place and communication center for the Walser mountain people and from where information could be exchanged via signals down to the village. Here the tarred road picked us up again and we knocked our way down to Isime. There we did some shopping and treated ourselves to some chilled lemonade and potato chips. We rode along the right side of the river towards Gaby and found a great pasture for the horses at the campsite and the boss had food brought in for us. Shower, eat and then into our sleeping bags, the horses enjoy the clover.

Keywords: Cle Dondeuil, Issime, Campieggio Zendalabaz


28.8. Issime - Rassa

The campsite was great. The horses were standing in a meadow with some conifers, which was well overgrown with grass and partly fenced in with wood. We had fenced off the meadow again and settled down under a group of trees. We set off early and ride up to Gaby. Shortly after Gaby, an off-road vehicle overtakes us and one of the people who gave us directions in Dondena gets out and is delighted to see us again. We find the way into Val Loo and the path, graded E (easy), leads steeply uphill. When we reach the top, a wide valley opens up, divided into different pastures by low stone walls. In the middle of the valley, the path leads uphill between the walls. Every now and then you can see individual stone houses made of rough stone in various stages of decay. When we reach the first hill, a dog barks and a woman comes from above to calm it down. We have a chat with her and climb further up, i.e. Pat is riding, and see a mother and child standing in the upper house. She waves to us. Further up towards the pass, we meet what we assume is the man of the family, who is grazing his cows, horse and donkey up here. Flash seems to have something against the pony and is acting up. We reach the GTA and are about to climb up to del Macagno. It's not exactly inviting, especially as the horses and we are tired. But it would be the shortest way to Riva Valdobia and towards Domodossola. In the meantime, the shepherd has also come over the hill with his cows and while the horses graze, I go back to him to find out more about the crossing. He shows me the problems of the ascent through binoculars and explains categorically that he wouldn't go up there with a horse. After studying the maps in detail, we decide to give it a try and climb up. 50 m below the pass, Pat takes over both horses while I climb all the way up. The ascent itself on the barely foot-wide path is very strenuous, but 6 m below the top of the pass is the final straw, at least for the horses. From there, a narrow rocky gully leads up the 6 m, on which the horses would have no grip if they had to gallop up there. So we descend again and consult the maps once more. At last I have CH maps that show the terrain again. Unfortunately only for the planned route. We only have one alternative, we take the other pass and instead of heading north we go east, down the Sorba valley to Rassa. As beautiful as the ascent in Vall Loo was, the descent into the valley is just as arduous. There are a few cairns and the occasional marker, but otherwise you follow the sheep tracks, over 1000 of which spend the summer up here. Over scree slopes and along riverbeds, we finally reach a slightly better path, which we follow down into the valley. We and the horses are tired and Flash refuses to go on a few times. It rains again and the path becomes slippery. We are now 11 hours on the road and it will be dark in 3 hours. An hour later we are still on our way down into the valley and although the path is better, there seems to be no end to it. We pass historical exhibits, charcoal burners' huts with piles of wood for charcoal production and ore mills, etc. It can't be far now when a little house called "Heidi's Bar" appears. I can hardly believe it, Pat has just been talking about a bag of potato chips, a beer and a bed flying back and forth in front of her. And here it is: Heidi's bar and restaurant. We get hay, a pasture, a first-class dinner and polenta for the horses. We spend the night under the roof of the landlady's mini-tractor on a bed of hay. As we lead Domino out to pasture, he goes lame at the back left. What will happen tomorrow?

Tags: Gaby, Loamaten C.del Loo Val Sorba, Crosetti alla Cortura, Bar Heidi


29.8. Rassa - Alagna Valsesa

Domingo has a fat foot. We decide to change the route as we need to take it easy on the horses. Instead of the planned GTA route, we take a military road that leads us to Valle Anzasca and from there directly to Domodossola. Later we take the tarred road and ride up the valley to Alagna Valsesia. On the way, we cool the horses' fetlocks in the river. The weather has changed again and it's raining once more. We put our rain gear to the acid test and it holds up. After about 5 hours of tar, we reach Alagna and try to find a place to spend the night. The campsite is not suitable and we head further up the village, where we catch up with two men, one of whom is gushingly addressed as Bon Giorno Signore Professore by a lady. After a short time, the same man shows interest in the quiet gait of the horses and the lady engages him in a conversation in German. We ask him about overnight accommodation for the horses and he gives us a tip about the Hotel Montagna de la Luce in the next village. We march up and ask about grazing options. After a few phone calls, we get permission to fence the horses in the neighbor's meadow. There is still completely virgin grass on an area of 200 square meters. At 4 p.m. the horses are in the pasture and we go to our room to dry our shoes and socks, which are still wet from the fencing. The 2kw hairdryer is a great help. We go back to the village to do some shopping, as the stores don't open until 4pm. We prepare our polenta for the horses. We bought two bags of polenta at Bar Heidi and brought it with us. This is now mixed with water and concentrated feed pellets in the feed bag and kneaded to form a mushy mass in which the pellets swell. The horses get their portion and we visit the local Valser museum. Pat finds her dress size there and realizes that she was born in the wrong century. Afterwards we have another delicious meal, cheese-filled ravioli with walnut sauce and grilled chicken fillet with chips and salad, accompanied by red wine. Later, an Italian-German couple joins us and we enjoy a digestive together.

Labels: Quare, Campertogno, Mollia, Riva Valdobia, Alagna Valsesia Pedemonte


30.8. Alagna Valsesia - Rifugio Pastore

Today we do an extreme tour at the foot of Monte Rosa. We can just see the moon setting as we feed the horses early in the morning. We lead the horses along the tarred road past mining tunnels and watch as the sky closes in again. We decide to take a break at Rif Pastore and continue the next day. We lead the horses up the well-maintained hiking trails and I go to enquire about the possibilities. A little paradise opens up: a fully fenced pasture, a beautifully situated refuge and a view of Monte Rosa. We unsaddle, put the horses in the pasture and store our stuff in the woodshed. Later, we have lunch and spend the rest of the afternoon catching up on all the breaks we didn't take along the way. After the picnic with a view, it starts to rain again and we lie down for a nap. Our journey comes to an end in 2 days. We will have covered almost 700 km and climbed and descended over 30 passes with an altitude difference of 40,000 meters. The break will do us all good.

Labels: Rif.F. Pastore

31.8.07 Rif Pastore - Borca - Valle Anzasca - Prequartere

In the morning I set off to feed the horses. We had been given 2 bowls of polenta by the host. In one bowl, there were some sausages with string. When I fished one out, the surprise was on my side. We had drowned a whole generation of mice. I threw them all out and mixed in the concentrated feed. The horses still liked it. They must have been a clean family of mice. After a Rif breakfast and more photos, we set off down the GTA in search of the path we had come up the day before. Only to realize that there is no GTA at all, but a path 7A. Once again on the wrong 50%. We turn back and climb back up the path and follow the path up to the Törl. It is called Colle de Turlo on the map and is 2738 m high. A well-maintained Vals path leads up through the middle alp, past the upper alp and up to the pass. As we climb, we catch glimpses of Monte Rosa, which is now glowing in the sunlight. The decision to take a day's break was the right one. We have a bright blue sky. We overtake all the hikers up the pass and enjoy the fantastic view of the Valle Quaraza. Wonderful up here. Could be addictive. The descent down the stone pentines built by the Valdensians takes a long time and leads past a herd of Haflinger horses. Down in the valley, a lake shimmers emerald green. We take a break at an alp at 1600 m and enjoy our lunch while the horses graze. The path now follows the course of the river and we can once again cool the horses' fetlocks. We soon come to the first houses and the lake that we have already seen from above. A bar invites us to have a shandy and while we're drinking it, Flash tears the carabiner on his reins. I take the reins off the halter and Flash stands still as if he were tied up. I replace the carabiner and we lead the horses down the road to Borca and Macugnaga. On the way we meet a group of riders from Macugnaga and in the riding stable there we are probably given some concentrated feed for the last time. The lady, who is well over 70 years old, insists on giving us the concentrated feed and refuses to accept any money. In exchange, she accepts a Black Forest cherry liqueur and wishes us a good journey. We continue down the tarred road and pass a small village. I am greeted warmly and ask the elderly gentleman if he knows of a pasture for our horses. He calls his wife and I repeat my question. They both nod and soon I'm standing in a 200 square meter pasture. I call Pat, who only reacts when I call her by her full name. She looks up in horror. She hadn't heard me. The woman orders us two pizzas, which the man goes to get, and another neighbor makes us coffee for the thermos. We toast Christine on time and devour our pizzas together with the beer that has been delivered. We break all records and are in our sleeping bags by 8.15pm. It's not that we're particularly tired, but our feet no longer want to serve as a stand.

Keywords: Cole del Turlo, Val Quarazza, Macugnaga, Pestarena,

1.9. Macugnaga - Domodossola

The penultimate day of our journey. We take the valley version and lead the horses down the road into the Anzasca Valley. On the way we treat ourselves to coffee, croissants and nectarines. We are overtaken by a vehicle from Thuringia, the people we met in the Rif Pastore. They wave and drive on. After 4 weeks in the high mountains on game trails, Domingo allows himself to slip on the tar and get three wounds on his right hind leg. So much for taking it easy on the horses. After midday we reach the Val Ossola and ride up the right bank of the river through the villages to Trontano, where we will ride up the Val Vigezzo to the Swiss border tomorrow. We are picked up there. In Trontano we enquire about grazing possibilities for the horses and an Italian who claims to speak German offers his help. He says he knows a place where we can shower and put the horses, it's not far, just a few minutes. We follow his car at a trot until we come out of the forest and he shows us a large manor house where we could stay. We ask him to accompany us to the house and it turns out that he doesn't know the owners. We ask him to at least get in touch with the woman who is looking out of the window on the 3rd floor and shouting something. After some back and forth, she agrees that we can take water from the garden hose, fence the horses in the meadow and lie down next to them to sleep. It's a public festival and we enjoy barbecued pork ribs followed by caprese salad in the bistro, which will also serve us breakfast tomorrow. Hopefully the snails will stay away from Pat tonight, otherwise it will be my fault if one crawls over her face. It's 9 pm, the singer and his electric organ heat up the atmosphere and we go to sleep. Labels: Ceppo Morelli, Pontegrande, Quntai, (Agritourismo)

Castiglione, Piedimulera, Prata, Beura, Cosa, Trontano.

2.9.07 Domodossola Switzerland

We slept outside last night and it was a restless night. Foxes roamed around our camp and people and cars passed near us from the festival. But the snails spared us. Unfortunately, the promised breakfast at the bar is canceled, the lady must have forgotten that it's Sunday. We continue along the tarred road and realize that although it is marked as a tarred road on the map, it has turned into one of the usual hiking trails. We put on our gaiters and carefully walk up and down the steep path to the main road that runs up the valley towards the Swiss border. There are 100s of cars on the road and the first bar beckons with a late breakfast. We stroll up the tarred road and reach St. Maria Maggiore, where a big festival is underway. We do some more shopping and later fight our way through the crowds. After that, the traffic on the roads calms down and we make good progress. We lead the horses downhill, pass a maneggio (horse stable) and hear on the phone that our transport only has a few kilometers to go. In the next village we find a turning area and unsaddle the horses. They enjoy the green grass again before being loaded. Our journey is over. We have completed the GTA from start to finish. We covered 765 km, climbed over 40,000 meters of altitude and descended just as many meters, which was sometimes more strenuous than climbing. 30 passes, some of them over 2800 m high, 40 km a day and 15 performance kilometers demanded a lot from us and our horses. It was an adventure at the limits of what was possible, also in terms of the paths and passes. And again, we learned a lot about ourselves, about our horses, about life in the remoteness of nature and about life in Italy. Bella Italia. Belle Cavalli. A big thank you to all the helpers and companions. Especially to the Möllinger family and to our families for letting us go.

Labels: St. Maria Maggiore Malesco


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