The Italian word for blizzard is bufera, it is a good word for the storm that day which carried more wind than snow, as i definitely wanted to buffer myself against the wind which was laughably strong, so much so that at points I had to anchor myself and with trekking poles planted firmly in the snow to keep from being knocked over. ( added and less considered benefit of poles when walking) While snowing heavily the wind made it white-out conditions at time so that it was not possibly to see the person in front of you until I walked into them. The temperature at the start of the walk, at the bottom without was a refreshing -15C ( 5F). though before the wind set in and as we started walking up hill on snowshoes, it was not so bad. I don't know what the wind was blowing so I can't say the windchill but it would have been satisfying to know that and take pride in our short but intense time in the wind and cold. There are bragging and/or whining rights when telling the tale of the day after safely warmed up post "weather".
The Refuge of the Rifugio
I like the variety of days like these, the cold and wind add to the feeling of reward and adventure. However on cold days I don't like to stop, because my hands freeze instantly ( note to techies, if you can replicate this instant freeze mechanism, it could be useful to chill room temperature beverages for impatient drinkers). and today my hands remained consistent with their ability to freeze instantly during a pause. As we climbed higher there was grumbling in the group, and the goal of reaching the original lakes seemed to be unlikely especially as not much could be seen anyway, We trudged up heads down and snow forcefully piercing the foam at the top of my goggles and hitting my eyes ( at least the trail was wide so really didn't have to see. Our guide and accompagnatore recognize the general level of unpleasantness was perhaps higher than it should have been and word from descending ski tourers and snowshoers as that a rifugio in the was a welcome refuge and fortunately way open and just about 15 minutes walk further. So we altered our route and headed for the rifugio Maria Luisa. A welcome respite where the group was able to thaw out though not sure of over the course of the not rushed meal I dried out fully. Yes I ate what else, polenta, though the menu offered a bit more choices than the typical rifugio fare. It may have been the only time I have ever finished an entire plate pf polenta, but fighting that wind took a lot of energy.
Eventually we had to leave behind the polenta and wood stove an venture out and back down again. Nobody was moving particularly quickly, but fortunately the wind had died down and there were even pockets of blue sky. There were some nice short cuts through some fresh accumulation, fluffy but due to the lack of snow everywhere we still bottomed-out on roots and rocks. Still the descent was decidedly more fun than the way up and the poles were used for balance more than anchors.
The sun and the group wind down
The group stopped at the Ristorante Albergo Aalts Dorf for a final warm up before returning to our homes. By now the light was soft and blue and the tea was warm. As the valley darkened the warmth and softness seemed all the sweeter after the wind and cold earlier. It was a good day.
English Language Links for Val Formazza
Val Formazza is a is the very northern tip of Piemonte that juts up into Switzerland, surrounded on three sides by the Swiss. Riale is the town at the literal end of the road. Especially popular for cross country skiing, the valley offers choices of trails and rental centers. English language info is lacking, but here are a few Italian links.
Formazza Ski ( this one is in English, the others no)
Val Formazza Official Tourist Site
Italian Lakes District Site ( Riale)
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