I lay awake early this morning listening to water running outside, trying to convince myself it wasn't raining. Of course it was and the weather forecast for the next four days is bad. Depressing, but neither of us formulated the obvious conclusion and suggested heading for home. Somehow we assumed there was no choice but to go on.
Only a six hour walk today and we decided to hang around as long as possible just in case the weather improved. The notes on the Via Alpina website suggested catching the lift up the side of the valley, advice we were more than happy to accept although Paul preferred the challenge of a the steep walk up.
At 12 o'clock we met up in the Helm Restaurant at the top of the funicular but the weather, misty and drizzling, didn't provide much encouragement. There was however a great picture of the Drei Zinnen on the wall which showed us what we missed yesterday.
The best thing you can say about the first hour was that it didn't rain hard. Actually the weather was weird with sharp temperature changes when the sun, occasionally breaking through, suddenly warmed things up.
|Climbing up to Sillianer|
Climbing up to the Sillianer Hutte we started to see the little markers for the border, square stones with I for Italy on one side and O for Oostereich on the other and a line down the middle for the border. The other significant feature was the date, 1920, two years after the hostilities that effectively settled the border had finished.
|Mad people |
Shortly after the Sillianer Hutte we started to see signs of the hostilities themselves. I say we, Paul and Christine had challenged each other to a swim in a lake which at 2,500 metres was a predictably short lived challenge, and totally missed the strange shapes running along the line of the ridge.
|An old dug out|
To be fair, at first sight the remains are not as obvious as in the limestone of Dolomites where tunnelling was easier. Here things were shallower with a more temporary feel but perhaps more pitiful for all that. Once you got your eye in you could see them everywhere. On the southern side of the ridge, the side facing the Italians there was a thin trench where I guess the Austrians must have poured fire on any Italians mad enough to try and climb the mountains and assault the Austrian positions. On the the northern side were the remains of more substantial buildings where Austrian soldiers were probably fed and watered. Holes were hacked out of the mountainside and rotting timber and asphalt bore witness to what these holes had been used for nearly a hundred a years ago. We could also see what we concluded were bread ovens - red clay bricks with bits a asbestos, the remains perhaps of the oven's insulation.
|Remains of a mess room|
It must have been miserable here. Today at 2,500 metres in early September it was cold enough but in January, with both the weather and the Italians trying to kill you it must have unimaginably hard.
It was the little human touches amongst the debris that really bought everything home. I found a bit of twisted metal, the remains of a tin of bully beef, then a little brass button and finally a small leather sole, the remains of a boot. More ominously Christine found a bullet cartridge case.
It was so interesting that it was hard to make progress despite the fact that the weather had now improved. Even without the ruins it was a great walk, a classic ridge with a bit of up and down but staying high all the time.
It took us by surprise to discover that we were within 30 minutes of the hutte. Turning away from the ridge and the front line, walking into an alpine meadow on the approach to the hutte we were treated to some late afternoon sun.
So what started out looking like the worst of days turned to be one of the best.
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