Clouds chasing us up a ridge.
Refuge d’Usciolu – Refuge d’Asinao (Stage 13/14 Variant)
Distance 14.5km, 845m elevation gain, 1065m elevation loss.
The morning started off incredibly exciting, with fireflies shooting up and down the ridge beyond the campsite. We got packed up in record time and trucked it up the ridge in time to watch the red sunrise over the distant sea. (Gabriel may have given us a positive forecast, but “Red sky in the morning, sailor’s warning, ended up holding true.)
We traversed along the ridge for a while before descending into beech forests. We passed a father and son rather ironically camped right next to the “Camping Interdit” sign (camping forbidden). The path was almost soft under the trees. We reached a junction and headed for the high level variant, not the main GR20 Trail. Out of the forest, we headed onto a wide plateau with TONS of lizards. I stepped on one and its tail came off, which horrified Micah, because the tail continued lashing for several seconds after the lizard bolted. (This is apparently what they are supposed to do, in order to keep a predator’s attention on the tail while the lizard escapes, but it is very unsettling to watch.)
As we left the plateau, we could see the final ridge ahead of, the clouds where crowding it from the right, but it was in the clear at the moment.
We crossed a gorgeous little stream oasis blooming with flowers and green grass.
Back into the forest, crossing a bouncy footbridge. The climbing began, zigzagging through the trees. We passed a group of kids on what appeared to be some sort of scout trip, and headed up out of treeline. We could see small thunderclouds growing to our right, while to our left there was still brilliant sunshine. It appeared we weren’t going to get any summits on this trip untainted by bad weather.
A descending hiker told us it would probably take about an hour to the summit. We set off, back on yesterday’s blistering pace. We were nearly at the summit when we first heard thunder, and spotted lightning on the very distant slopes.
We were still in full sunshine.We blasted past the summit and ran down the ridge line, jumping off of rocks with adrenaline fueled agility. Normally that level of impact would hurt our not-so-sturdy knees, but adrenaline kept us moving.
I was considering just diving down a random point on the ridge, but Micah insisted we continue to the junction with the main GR20 trail—we were still in the sun at this point, watching the storm slowly approach. Once we reached the junction under a cover a of dark cloud, we charged down the steep slope back on the main GR20. We passed a large group of young people as we hopped down from rock to rock, eyes on the refuge below. The last bit was the worst, rocks and dirt combining for a slippery and untrustworthy surface, but we reached the refuge. It was only noon.
We found a spot at the edge of the campsite and set up, hunkering down. The rain started soon after and then hail. Sitting in the tent sounded like being in a popcorn pan. Some of the hail was nearly a centimeter in diameter. Thunder echoed through the valley off the cliffs above us. The echo of the was amazing, the valley funneled the sound, amplifying it, very impressive.
Eventually the rain eased and we spent a leisurely afternoon napping, reading, and hanging out with some of our friends from the trail. Several people had ended up on top of the ridge during the storm and were forced to ride it out hunkering down in the rain—glad that wasn’t us!
As evening came, the blue sky returned, we spent time some time talking with our fellow hikers. The young people who had been flooded out in the storm a few days earlier, actually had a Canadian father, living in France, so we Skyped with his father, I was his new best friend from Canada.
We had a tremendous view of the valley. The campground filled up, soon there not was a spot to be found. The spot above us was occupied by a very old couple, about the same age as the rocks around us, which gave me great hope to a long a fruitful hiking future.