WE WERE UP about 6:30, but as usual breakfast was not served until 7:30. DIt didn't matter, as we couldn't leave anyway before 8:30, when the closest thing to a grocery store would be open — the local-products gift corner in a rival gîte, which by the way looks like a wonderful place to spend a day or two. There we bought a few slices of ham, and a good slice of tomme to go with the bread we'd salvaged from the breakfast basket.
Then we went out for a half-hour warmup on flat trail, not the one we should have taken; and then, about 9:30, we started the real thing. This took us up a steep gravel/dirt road that ultimately developed a number of switchbacks. At one of them, a solitary ewe, looking completely out of place — fairly recently shorn, but where had she escaped from?
The day's traject was a fairly arduous one: a long steep climb; a long steeper one; two cols, close together; a gew patches of smow to walk across; then a quite long and usually quite steep descent, into Montgenevre, a town I haven't liked since it changed drastcally (into a ski station) about twenty years ago.
The first part of the climb took us on a former military road, graveled, rocky, or dirt, its only wheeled traffic now the jeep-like cars hunters and, I suppose, shepherds use these days. Now and then there's a hardy family in a small car, toiling up to a summer cabin. Along the way I noticed the culvert Henry had explored five years ago, and of course the curious guardhouses protecting the narrow valley, an important pass between Italy and France.
At the Chalets des Acles, nearly 1900 meters high, 400 meters higher than Plampinet, the GR5 makes a ninety-degree bend to head south, climbing along the Opon torrent toward the Col de Dormillouse, at 2450 meters. I misjudged the location of this col, finding it nearer than it actually is, and we picnicked at a comfortable spot and rested a bit before crossing snow to the col itself.
From there, though, you only climb higher, easily at first, then more steeply, to the Col de la Lauze, today's high point at 2530 meters (8300 feet). We'd climbed 3400 feet in about four hours. Again, the trail had been covered with snow for perhaps fifty feet at times, and it was somewhat windy, but not at all cold.
The descent was fun — through alpage, at first by a few switchbacks, then down a delightful trail worn into the clay soil as smoothly as if it had been etched by a bowling ball. It would have been fun, if a little irresponsible, to roll a bowling ball down that trail; it would have sped along a couple of miles, I'm sure.
Then we came to what can only be called parkland, ski slopes interlaced with a number of hiking trails, and we found the main road over the Monginevro pass, and before long entered the town of Montgénèvre, fairly dead at this season, and our hotel. We'd been perhaps six hours on the trail, climbed a thousand meters, dropped seven hundred — in, oh, maybe or fourteen miles, hard to say.