Alta Via 1 - Day 5
Again, the sun was out when we woke up. This part of the AV1 was much less crowded than prior sections. Nobody passed while we were packing our gear. The next hut was next to a relatively large road, but it wouldn't open until 10:00. That was unfortunate, as we had planned to get water there. We had no choice but to keep going.
As we were at a relatively low elevation, the trail passed through green meadows with many cows. We hardly saw anyone and slowly started climbing again. Koen was again continuously monitoring the weather predictions on his phone while also checking the wound on his leg. The wound was slowly healing, but the weather predictions kept getting worse. A huge thunderstorm was predicted before noon, which is why kept going at a fast pace and don't have photos of this stretch.
Koen tended to be slower uphill than me, except when there were dark clouds in the distance. The entire morning, he raced over the undulating trails from one valley to the next. The dark clouds kept getting closer, but it was still dry around 11 o'clock. We climbed for about half an hour to get over a high pass and then started a long and gradual descent. The trail turned into an endless gravel road, and we were both getting tired. The storm kept growing bigger and kept being an hour away. We hoped we would reach the next hut before all hell broke loose. Fortunately, we did.
It just started to rain when we reached the second cabin of the day. We had walked (ran) almost continuously the entire morning. Many people kept coming into the cabin to take shelter and we were lucky to have one of the last seats. We started talking to an Italian who grew up in the area and was also walking the AV1. He recommended some beer and "polenta" a traditional dish from the area. We decided to try both as it would rain for at least the next few hours. The beer was good, and the polenta with sausage wasn't bad either, although Koen was shocked by how greasy it was. I think it was made from a freshly butchered mountain cow. The Italian guy left after our first beer and some Australians joined. As the weather kept getting worse and worse, we had a second beer.
The weather radar on Koen's phone changed every 10 minutes, and usually for the worse. Then, after three hours of sheltering, the weather predictions suddenly changed, and it got sunny. We had the choice to walk over or around a huge mountain. Two people working at the cabin had independently told us not to climb over the mountain, as some people had recently gotten hurt by falling rocks. When we walked out, one of them came up to us and made us promise we really wouldn't climb it. I had wanted to see the views, but we decided to do the smart thing and go around the mountain.
Going around the mountain put us even more ahead of schedule. Therefore, we decided to detour past an area that supposedly had fossilized dinosaur tracks. The trail passed through forests in the scorching sun but with relatively little elevation gain. After a few hours, it was starting to get late and we were getting close to the trail leading to the dinosaur tracks. The sign only said, "Dinosaur tracks 0.3". We thought that meant 300 meters, which more or less agreed with our map.
We felt well-rested and were looking forward to stopping early for a change. Unfortunately, the climb to the dinosaur tracks was a severe workout. In the scorching heat, we climbed steeply uphill for at least 40 minutes. The tracks were nice, but we probably wouldn't have noticed them otherwise.
The way down was slippery, with many loose rocks. It was getting late and there was no level section to camp. We were forced to walk a long way downhill before finding an area with tall grass to camp in. While pitching our tent, we again heard thunderstorms in the distance and they were coming our way.