Epic views of cliffs and alpine lakes, in the heart of the GR20
Refuge de Manganu to Refuge de Pietra Piana (Stage 7)
Distance 10km, 830m elevation gain, 539m elevation loss.
Woke up very cold. Humidity caused a lot of condensation within the tent.
We headed up the valley, a couple easy days making us a little fresher and stronger. Up a rocky path in a bowl, passed some cows, over a step, and into another massive bowl. Scraggly peaks all around. We were up early enough to do the entire climb to the bocca in the shade.
The last push to the bocca was very steep, no switchbacks, straight up, but then we came through the narrow gap between rocky spires with brilliant views down to two lakes in what looked like craters. Lots of people at the bocca, and we had a pantomime Frenglish conversation with an older French man, good fun.
Traversed the ridge, involving a few scrambles and a lot of short up and downs, weaving among spires on the ridgeline. Had a snack in the shadows and then continue, feeling great. One last climb up to the gap at the base of Mt Ritondu (spelling varies depending on the map you consult). Growing cloud cover provided shade for the descent.
On the other side of the gap we could see the long line of the ridge in the distance, which we will be following tomorrow. We descended alongside Ritondu, sometimes rock hopping, sometimes enjoying the luxury of a trail. Sometimes (often) the blazes would lead up onto a rocky scramble, only to find a minute later that it returned to the perfectly good path twenty feet below. Last bit was a knee-pounding rocky descent down an eroded creek. Reached the lovely campsite Refuge de Petra Piana and setup camp, barely even noon. We tried to get a warm snack from the Refuge, but the restaurant was not open, so bread and cheese and some very strong coffee. Ate our lunch on a balcony with an amazing view of the valley.
The forecasted thunderstorm hit a couple hours later, and we retreated to the tent while it absolutely poured for about an hour. The group above us actually had their site flooded to the point they felt like their tent was floating, they got out of their tent and moved it in the middle of the storm. We learned from their experience, and it became important to ensure that where we pitched our tent had good drainage, as the threat of rain was always with us.
Chatted with a group of younger French people for a bit, who we would then see repeated along the trip, trail buddies,and enjoyed evening views of l’Ordu in the distance, as well as briefly explored our projected route up Mt. Ritondu for tomorrow.