I woke up around 6am and peeked out of the small window of my room at Rifugio Vajolet. The sun was already illuminating the majestic Vajolet towers (only partly visible from where I was though), tinting them in a glowing warm orange while everything else was still in the shade. I did not really sleep too well (the unusual altitude, the physical exercise and all that…) but that sight sure made me get out of bed soon.
After a hearty breakfast (which is included in the rate for an overnight stay at the hostel) I was out on the trail again. I didn’t really have any precise plans for the day – knowing that there are plenty of other huts and hostels around, all within half a day’s or at most a day’s hike distance, it’s easy to just play it by ear and go into whichever direction looks most interesting.
In hindsight, I do have to say that I should have hiked up towards Gartlhütte (Rifugio Re Alberto) and Santnerpasshütte – I guess I’ll have to do that another time. :) Instead, I continued up the Vajolet valley towards Grasleitenpass (Passo Principe, 2599m), and then to Antermoia Pass (2770m) because I was curious about Lago d’Antermoia, an alpine tarn with a nearby hut/hostel, Rifugio Antermoia.
As I hiked up towards Grasleitenpass and then into the Antermoia Valley, the world became reduced to stone. Rocks and their debris, rough boulders, scree. It’s something like the alpine equivalent to a desert perhaps, equally bare and sparse, reducing everything to the essence and heightening the senses. There are no distractions here. A most interesting experience that purifies the mind and cleanses the soul (sorry if that sounds a bit esoteric, but I guess if you’ve hiked higher alpine regions and/or the desert, you know what I mean).
The hike to Rifugio Antermoia was much shorter than I had anticipated. Further out of the valley and away from the tarn the views open up and vegetation returned. I spent a lot of time exploring these nearby areas, lounging in the grass of high alpine meadows with astonishing views, before paying a visit to the Rifugio for lunch.
Lunch itself was absolutely fantastic – one has to admire the people who run these huts and hostels: Rifugio Antermoia sits at an elevation of 2497m in a barren, rocky landscape. All supplies are transported up there with a simple freight cable car, and from there to the hut with a small crawler that is operated by a person who has to walk along (think of a caterpillar shopping cart). And yet they have fresh ingredients and cook wonderful meals every day.
A small generator (usually placed somewhere out of sight so that it doesn’t disturb the immediate vicinity of the place) provides electricity, and that electricity is used, among other things of course, to power a giant, classic Italian espresso machine. You can get such great coffee and cappuccino at an elevation of 2497m (8200ft.) there, it makes you wish you’d get coffee that good at home. Or maybe it’s just the setting, or the elevation, or the whole experience. :)
In the afternoon, I hiked back to Rifugio Vajolet. Since I was back there early I took a nap in my little chamber, then had cake and another coffee before wandering around a little bit. Later on for dinner, I had great company at the table. More of that below the gallery:
As I already mentioned in my Day 1 post, one of the greatest things about hiking in the alps and using these hostels is the people from all over the world that you get to meet. Dinnertime is particularly great for that because no one has a goal for the day anymore other than the bed or dormitory.
Our table was joined by an elderly Englishman from Wales nicknamed Kat. He was hiking with his friend Pete. Pete was nowhere to be seen though. It turned out that Pete had forgotten to pick up his passport (remember Day 1… it is used as a security deposit by the hostels) from the Tierser Alpl hostel when they left – and they only found out when they wanted to check in at Rifugio Vajolet, half a day’s hike away. Because they had to catch a plane in Verona the next day, the poor guy had to hike back and get his passport.
He went as lightweight as possible and made the whole trip back to Tierser Alpl and then out to Rifugio Vajolet again in about 5 hours. When he joined us (late) at the dinner table he wolfed down a giant portion of spaghetti and immediately went to bed afterwards. Kat remained at the table a little longer – some Germans and some people from Switzerland where at the table too, and we ordered small carafes of red wine to share interchangingly while sharing stories. It was great.
At some point Kat reached into his pocket and produced a small flask, pouring it’s golden contents into one of the empty and clean glasses on the table – a single malt whiskey! “I won’t take it home!” he said and we shared the whiskey. It was an incredibly smoky type of whiskey, unlike anything I had ever tasted before – and I loved it! The best thing was that most of the other folks at the table did not like it, so it was only Kat and me drinking his whiskey. And that was how I got introduced to Laphroaig. It has been a staple in my home ever since. :)
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