A race into the clouds.
Refuge de Verdi to Refuge d’Usciolu (Stage 12)
Distance 16km, 1290m elevation gain, 830m elevation loss
Before we got on the trail this day we met an American couple, Gabriel and Lena, who live in France and have almost the same tent as us! We followed them up the hill, chatting about hiking all the way up the first ridge. They set a good pace, just a touch faster than we would normally go, towing us upwards.
At the top we could see a distant view of the ocean, though it was very hazy.
We stopped for a snack and said goodbye as the other two continued on. Once we were recovered, we continued the last smooth trek to the Refuge de Prati. This was not our final destination. A signpost said that we were 5hr 45min from Refuge d’Usciolu, due to a couple of factors, we made it in 4hrs 25min.
From Prati we climbed to a spiny ridge line where we had to do some minor scrambles up and down for an enjoyable couple hours. The lizards on the Southern half are much larger than the North! (Or at least the ones we saw were)
Though there was some scrambling, it was still nothing like the Northern half.
We traversed over to a bocca where many people were resting for lunch. We pressed on, spurred by growing clouds. We settled into a climbing rhythm, hauling ass up the hill. Dripping with sweat.
Our only consolation was the shade from the clouds. We passed another group at a small gap but continued uphill, zigzagging out of the trees into the Danger Zone (what we called the thunderstorm risk zone.)
We crested the ridge, still putting in a good pace but the high point kept moving farther away. We traversed along the ridge line, doing one small scramble to finally reach a sign for the peak. Clouds stretched over our heads.
We hustled down the ridge, laughing at how dark it was on the peaks and how bright the valleys were in comparison. Finally, we turned down the hill and make the final jumbly, braided descent to the refuge, which sat in a steep bowl. I figure we would have made any coach proud, as we basically did maximum effort for about 90 minutes, but we beat the rain, so the effort was worth, or was it?
After buying chocolate and chips, we descended down the bowl to find a tent spot. We encountered the young group we met at Petra Piana. The fog rolled up the hill into the campsite, and we bought a whole pile of snacks from the unreasonably well stocked shop (they had boots! And there was no vehicle access to this location) and settled into the spend the afternoon waiting for a rainstorm that never happened. The afternoon stretched long and hot, we actually had to go and find some shade, after we had raced to beat the storm, but we were feeling pretty ambitious about the next day.
Due to the persistent threats of rain, many people where planning on getting up early the next day. Our target was 4:45am,and we knew of people planning to get up at 4:30am. The last thing that happened in the evening, was that Gabriel came to our campsite to tell us the forecast had changed, and that there was no threat of rain. They had decided to sleep in the next day. After a quick discussion, we decided to keep with our early morning wake up time. Only time would tell if we had made the right decision.