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Sunday 3 September

Alf could barely conceal his excitement. "The sun is shining!" He didn't look as if he was joking, but it seemed so implausible a suggestion that we all went out to check. He was right. Clear blue sky. Vertical red mountains. Naked red rock, with the occasional tree growing out of it at an improbable angle halfway up, like the solitary hair on an adolescent chest. And hey! We could see it!

After much debate about whether Claudia should continue, we set out. What a difference! The sun was out, other people were on the trail (and we could see them) and Claudia was in completely different spirits. The dalles, the flat slabs of inclining rock which we were all so worried about turned out to be some of the simplest walking we were likely to encounter. Gentle slopes, solid rock, open space. Clearly they would, as warned, be a very different story in the wet, when their open, slippery surface would have provided no purchase and no hand-holds whatsoever, but today's sunshine made it a trivial, and delightful, climb up through the steep valley. No way should you attempt this route in the wet, but the sun dries out the rocky surfaces in minutes, so provided the sun is shining, no problem.

We made it to our lunch-time rendezvous at the Lac de la Murvella (1860 m), in the allotted time—something of a record for us. This little sun trap was a popular spot. Practically everybody seemed to be there. We sat and basked in the first good lunch-time weather we'd had, and watched the early starters pick their way up the last little (but almost vertical) climb to the col.

Figure 8: Claudia tries not to get bounced into the river.


 

Claudia and I packed up first and set off for the col. We got to the top in time to turn and wave to Alf and Martha as they prepared for take-off. After that the going got a little hairy, shuffling round ledges to gain access to the simple climb up to the second, Bocca di Stagnu (2015 m). But to us veterans of the first two days' haul, this was simple fare indeed.

The six hundred meter descent from the second col was much harder than it looked, and consequently took longer than we'd anticipated. It was aggravating, as usual, to be able to see the refuge for several hours before making it through its doors, and we were discovering that descents were not Claudia's forte.

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