Gola de Su Gorropu, a very deep gorge

With rain forecast for the afternoon, I decided on a shorter route with hopefully no scrambling which could be tricky on wet limestone. The walk I chose was to the top end of the Gola de Su Gorropu, apparently one of deepest gorges in Europe. It started off through pretty woodland with wild peonies and other flowers,  before heading over steep limestone, past the picturesque local shepherd’s huts and using some of their unlikely pathways built of juniper logs supporting stones. Eventually (after I’d spent quite a while traversing the valley side having lost the path) I headed down towards the dry riverbed in the bottom of the valley, led by a prominent hut on the other side, and managed to locate the route down and up the steep sided canyon.

The shepherd’s path, supported across the steep rock by juniper branches.

From there I carried on on a much clearer track, past a massive old Yew tree and a bronze age passage grave, or Giant’s Tomb as they call them here, before starting to descend into the Gorropu gorge itself. Just before the steep part of the descent a side trail led to Sa Pischina, a pool of water with massive overhangs on two sides and a spout for a waterfall to plunge into it when the river is flowing.

Sa Pischina from under the biggest overhang. Too bad the waterfall wasn’t running!

The descent into the gorge was fantastic, with another pool below and the deepest part of the canyon in the distance, all picked out in horizontal layers of limestone. Remarkably, for such a spectacular walk, at this point I met the only other hiker I would see all day, a German woman who was returning from the canyon floor as I was descending.

Gorropu gorge on the descent.

The track reached the riverbed at the pool, and I stopped for lunch before exploring the canyon. Downstream I got to a vertical drop into a deep pool, with a cable leading around the side. Unfortunately I hadn’t brought a climbing harness so I left that for another day. I then headed up the side canyon that was the end of the valley I’d been walking down earlier. I was hoping to reach a waterfall issuing from a cave entrance high above, but as I was scrambling up to the foot of it, the rain started and I decided the rocks was much to slippery to remain there once it got wet, so beat a hasty retreat.

The pretty pool where the path, and the valley I’d been following, meets the main Gorropu canyon.

The route back was supposed to be the reverse of the way there, but when I got to the point where I needed to cross the valley it was raining pretty hard and, concerned by the possibility of traversing long distances on wet rock I instead opted for a long, boring, and featureless slog along a dirt road back to my car. The only interest on the return was when the now quite heavy rain turned to snow for a while. I arrived back at the car just before the German woman, who told me the other trail had been fine in the rain, so all that boring running on the road was for nothing.

Looking down the side canyon. It’s amazing where the juniper trees manage to grow.

This evening I’ve been invited by the B&B host to a typical Sardinian meal, at which, so he says, there will be enormous amounts of food, so it’s good that I’m currently starving, having been trying to resist the urge to eat since the end of the hike.

Abel Tasman coastal track

We decided to explore the beautiful beaches and rocky coastline of Abel Tasman a little more by walking a section of the coastal track. A number of the track sections are across tidal estuaries and beaches, and so our plans had to fit around the tide times. This proved slightly tricky as low tide was around 9 o’clock (rather unsociable given that the tidal sections were not at the start or end of the walking day). This resulted in us taking the high tide path on at least one section, which was a couple of hours longer than the lower alternative across a bay.

We started at Marahau on the eastern coast of Abel Tasman and headed north towards Totaranui. The coastal path wound up and down over the headlands and was mostly in the bush, but provided pretty views of the coastal scenery at regular intervals. The path itself was extremely well-trod and was about 1.5 m wide at all times! There was certainly no navigational challenge! Such a path was necessary as tourists were frequently dropped off by the water taxis, allowing them to walk a short section of the path, before being collected a little further along the coast. So, frequently one would meet people in flip flops on the path, despite the location being a days walk from civilisation!

Blue sea of Abel Tasman

After about 7 hours, we reached our beach-front campsite at Medland Bay, where there was space for only 10 people. Thankfully the campsite was very quiet, with only one other couple there.

Beach at Medland Bay campsite. Our tent was pitched just above the bay

Over dinner we watched a heron and a kingfisher fishing in the river, and then once it got dark we took advantage of the darkness and stargazed for a while. Once we’d spotted enough satellites, Richard brought out the camera and played with his torch, lighting up the trees on the opposite hillside.

Southern cross over Medland Bay

The next morning, we set off sharpish, so that we could get to the next tidal section of the path (Onetahuti) before too late. We were actually there quite early, so given that the day’s walking was relatively short, we decided to make hot chocolate on the beach!

After a further hour of walking we got to the Awaroa Lodge, where we enjoyed an apple strudel :-). This was the end of our coastal trek as the next section of the path to Totaranui was tidal and uncrossable at that time. So, we spent a few hours on the beach, drying our belongings and swimming (for Richard anyway), and then we were picked up by our pre-arranged water taxi. This was great fun. The boat was fast and the pilot was kind enough to stop to show us a passing blue penguin and a seal colony.

Eating apple strudel at the Awaroa Lodge.
The speedy ride back to Marahau

Dolomiti – giorno 4

Trekking to Rosetta

Day 4 of our trek rewarded us with perhaps the best views of the trip, but first we had to retrace our steps, climbing the 840 m back to Passo Canali. From here we hiked over the snow to Forcella Miel, from where the views were stunning. We then followed route 707 all the way across the alto plano (flattish plateau) to Rifugio Rosetta.

Dave and Rachel with Cima Manstorna in the background. The notch on the left is Passo di Canali.
Trekking with M. Agner (2872 m) in the background
Rifugio Rosetta (2581 m)

Dolomiti – giorno 3

A less eventful trek to Rifugio Treviso

We left Rifugio Pradidali on route 709 that led up a snow covered valley past the beautiful Lake Pradidali.

Lake Pradidali
Above Lake Pradidali

After a few hours of walking we came to Passo della Fradusta and soon after we reached the Fradusta glacier and glacial lake. Then, another up and down on route 708 took us to Passo di Canali, from where we followed route 707 down to Rifugio Treviso in Val di Canali. This entailed a descent of 840 m and we discussed at length why they didn’t site the hut higher up the mountain.

The descent was well worth the effort, if only for the warm fire and large quantities of food.

Lake Fradusta at the terminus of the Ghiacciaio della Fradusta glacier
Climbing around the side of Cima Manstorna towards Passo di Canali
Richard and Rachel from Passo di Canali

Dolomiti – giorno 2

A long day to Pradidali

The weather in the morning of day 2 was a great improvement on that of the previous evening, so Richard and I walked up to the start of via ferrata Sentiero Attrezzato Dino Buzzati, to take a look at a route that was only 100 m long – unfortunately our idea of a nice ‘warm-up’ route was cut short due to snow en route – we should have guessed at this point that many of the routes may be affected by snow. Nevertheless, we were rewarded with nice views across the valley.

View from the start of via ferrata Sentiero Attrezzato Dino Buzzati

On returning to the rifugio, we began the trek to Rifugio Pradidali. We chose a route along Via Ferrata del Velo (route 739), which had quite a few fun sections of climbing.

Richard on Via ferrata del velo

This route led onto via ferratta Sentiero Attrezzato Nico Gusella. Just before reaching the start of this route, we met a party coming the other way who said that they had turned back because of snow. However the guidebook was so complimentary, “a pleasant and undemanding route with the most dramatic scenery in Pale”, that we continued anyway. Indeed it did get rather snowy and we crossed a few bits of ground that we didn’t fancy re-crossing should a return be necessary. So, when we reached the near end of the route and were faced with a rather snow-filled gully the decision of whether to go on or turn back was a difficult one. We decided to go on.

Thankfully, Dave had brought a rope and we had a couple of ice axes with us, hence we very carefully descended the snow gully. In normal conditions it would probably have taken about 30 minutes to get to Passo di Ball at the gully base, however on arrival at the pass, we calculated that it had taken 3 hours.

The slow, careful and tedious descent of the snow-filled gully
Before and after: snow-filled gully on via ferrata Sentiero Attrezzato Nico Gusella

Thankfully, the remainder of the route was straightforward and we arrived at the rifugio happy, hungry and slightly cold. We were glad of the huge warm fire.

Rifugio Pradidali (2278 m)

Dolomiti – giorno 1

A stroll to Rifugio Velo della Madonna

Richard and I were joined by Dave (one of Richard’s friends) for our holiday in the Dolomites. We started our adventure from San Martino di Castrozza, a perfect base for exploring the Pale di San Martino mountains. The general aim of the holiday was to spend as much time in the mountains as possible and to climb via ferrata wherever possible.

So, the first day entailed a fairly leisurely plod up to 2358 m to our first night’s accomodation at Rifugio Velo Della Madonna. We finished the hike to the rifugio in slight drizzle, but soon after the weather turned for the worse and the hut was buffetted by wind and rain all evening, followed by thunderstorms through the night. We were glad to be in the warm comfort of the hut!