Am I getting too old for this? The guidebook said that today’s trail was supposed to be 22km with a climb of about 400m early in the day. That sounded doable. It just didn’t work out that way though.
The first 2.5km were along a small road past the fort, through the gorgeous village of Exilles with its tunnels under the main street houses to the houses behind them. Once we crossed the river at Champbons, we were on a delightful dirt road that had so many switchbacks as it climbed, we called it the SSSSSSSSS Road. For the next 5.5km, it was just back and forth, 350m up the side of the mountain but on an excellent walking trail in the cool morning shade. The scenery never changed, other than being further away but it was a good section even if we were at a slow pace of about 3km/hr. If the descent from that height was longer than the 1.5km on the same type trail, we could have improved that average considerably. We could almost run down it with our backpacks on.
At the trail’s 9.5km mark, that is where we traded the excellent dirt road for a rough, rocky, steep mountain trail. The next 4.5km were very hard to navigate with almost every step needing careful footing. During most of that section, we were barely walking at 2km/hr. That was definitely a hard slog and we we happy to do the next 2km into Oulx on the road as directed. That made it about 4.5km of road walking on the first 16km, if you are keeping count. We were. We were also tired.
In Oulx, we stopped in a few cafes and bars before we found a good one (Il Sorriso) for lunch. After some croissant sandwiches, a couple of drinks, a biscotti (for Melanie), a toilet break, refilling our water bottles and a chat with the owner about Singapore, we made an executive decision. It was almost 2pm and my GPS said we still had 12km more to go (not 6km more, as advertised), most of it on some type of mountain trail. We were already so late because of the slow going on hilly mountain trails. We could easily see ourselves arriving at Cesana after 6pm or even 8pm. That wasn’t going to happen. We decided to walk straight up the main road from Oulx to Cesana, a brutally hot and sunny 10km walk with a steady climb up 300m. At least the road had a very good shoulder for walking. It certainly wasn’t dangerous.
That put our total elevation gain for the day at 941m and a loss of 465m. That and the surprising 26km day was enough for us. We are happy with how it turned out but we are also rethinking tomorrow’s trail. Let’s see what happens.