BB0930 : BOOTboys International Autumnal Expedition

Wednesday 23rd to Sunday 27th September 2009


Alligator In The Bath!

Wednesday 23rd September

“Don, you’d better come and look at this,” called Stan in an agitated tone.

“There’s an alligator in the bath.”

I strolled in, expecting that someone had left behind some sort of bath toy; but not so.  

This was for real.

A live creature.

A real, live alligator baby.  

Well, it looked like one.  

Actually it was a pretty little gecko.  

Alligator in the bath?

But how it had got into the apartment, never mind into the bath remained a puzzle.  

How it remained in the bath, was more obvious.  The poor little thing was quite unable to climb out up the steep slippery bath sides.  

So the gecko was rescued, Stan was able to freshen up after our arrival from England and off we went to Il Vesuvio in Menton’s Place du Cap for an enormous pizza and a carafe of disappointing house wine whilst we planned the first phase of the BOOTboys international autumnal expedition.

We had some unfinished business to conclude.  On BB0836 we had passed by a sign to Le Grand Mont or Gramondo as it is known on the Italian side of the border, which is where its summit lies. All 4,521 feet of it.  It had seemed too much last year whilst on our way from Sospel to Menton via Roc de l'Ormea  This time, it would be our major objective.


Blood, Sweat and Tears

Thursday 24th September

We planned to start the walk from the Col de Castillion  The Rother Guide book said to catch the Sospel bus to the Chemin de la Grotta so that is exactly what we asked for on the bus.  The driver looked at us as if we were daft.  So I presented him with the bus timetable where it was clearly shown as a stop.  He muttered something which could be translated loosely as “I ‘ave been driving zis bus for seventeen years and in all zat time I ‘ave never  ‘erd of zis Chemin dela Grotta”.  

I explained where it was and asked to be told when we arrived.

We passed through the tunnel at the Col de Castillion and, sure enough, just as predicted by both the Rother Guide and the bus timetable, there was a bus stop called “Chemin de la Grotta”.  I could see it quite plainly as the bus hurtled past and down the hill.

"Monsieur, arretez s’il vous plait, nous sommes arrivés au Chemin de la Grotta." I pleaded to the driver.  To be fair, he did halt the bus but denied there was any such stop. Nevertheless he opened the door for these crazee English guys to alight whilst he muttered the equivalent of "I ‘ave been driving zis bus for seventeen years and in all zat time I ‘ave never  ‘ad anyone get off zis bus at zis place."

Then he said "Bah!!" whilst slapping his forehead with the palm of his hand and shot off down the hill.

Although we were at the right place, we had a further problem to sort out before we could set off with confidence.  The Rother guide referred to a narrow road at the north entrance of the tunnel.  The trouble was that the tunnel ran from east to west! What it meant was the track that went south as the road bent north where it emerged at the west end of the tunnel.  Obvious, really!

From then on, we relied on the French map and, with a minor exception, had no more problems.  At least, not whilst we were in France.  Italy was another matter but more of that later.

The path was well way-marked and climbed steadily, mostly through lightly wooded slopes of deciduous trees with regular long distance views.  There were signs of wildlife- frequent poos a bit like hedgehog’s but larger,  We concluded it must be wild boar although we never saw any.

The path to Mont Razet (right of centre)

Do not pass ----- on bikes!

Eventually we reached a choice point but we had already decided to take in a bonus peak- Mont Razet at a not insignificant 4,219 feet.  It was a bit off-putting to find a path closed sign but on closer examination it became clear it meant to two wheelers.  Quite right, far too steep for comfort riding or pushing a bike.

Comitibus: Mont Razet

Sospel and beyond from Mont Razet

From the open summit we could see, to the north, Sospel and patches of snow on the big hill beyond.  Our main objective across the valley to the east and, south, in the distance, was the Menton / Cap Martin coast line.

Gramondo to the left, coast ahead

In the near ground we noticed some buildings.  Checking the Rother book confirmed that they were Maginot Line bunkers.

Maginot line bunkers .....

..... and troop passage way

Had I read the book more carefully we would have saved twenty minutes or so but instead I misread the map.

As a result, we wasted time going further down the increasingly hairy south ridge before retracing our steps and finding the substantial path that led east to the Col du Razet, where on BB0836 we had met the Hungaro-Canadian guy who trod on Tony's glasses.  

We followed the same GR52 trail as far as Colla Bassa and there found the path to Gramondo

Gramondo from near Mont Razet summit

The way-marker said one hour to the top.  It looked hard work so we set off slowly.  And then it got steep and quite rocky- almost a scramble.  Conditions in which Stan excels whereas it is just beyond my aerobic efficiency.  I don’t think I could have gone up any slower.  It was therefore a surprise to emerge at the top a full twenty-five minutes inside the target time.


Stan examines the trig point on Gramondo's lesser top

Gramondo's summit

After an exploration of the goat-poo strewn summit area we decided to take the Italian route home.  We could see the trail clearly running along the eastern flank of the mountain.  Getting down to it was a minor challenge but it proved to be a sound trail obviously used by mountain bikes and also by motorised trail bikes.  At the Pas de la Corne the trail headed back over to France and to the GR52 but our map showed a good path continuing south to the coast so we thought that would make an interesting change.

Big Mistake.

Blood, Sweat and Tears.

That’s tears as in rips rather than tears as in sobs but it could just as easily turned to weeping.

The path suddenly disappeared.  We searched high and low for its continuation but it had vanished.  We even got the gps out and confirmed our location but the path was nowhere to be seen.  The hills side was increasingly overgrown with vegetation, including some vicious bramble bushes attacking us from every angle.

We could, however see a good looking path heading off south east along a side ridge. How to get to it was the issue.  We tried various approaches before eventually battling our way through, blooded, perspiring in the heat and in need of a new Lowe Alpine sale to replace damaged clothing.

Fortunately, that path proved good and led, in time, to civilisation, although we declined what might have been a short cut- Stan arguing that we should not now go down any path on which we were not sure of its exit.  Consequently we took a longer than necessary road route before arriving at Mortola.

Mortola Superiori church

Looking over Mortola inferiori to Ventimiglia

Rather weary and desperately short of water by now, we trudged back along the road to France in search of a bar.  

The first was actually at the border and we lost no time in rehydrating with beer.

Once back on the coast, we passed “Tony’s bar” where on BB0836 we had boosted the profits so much that they reinvested the proceeds in an extension.  

We didn’t add to their empire this time but pressed on back to base.

In the apartment I found an Italian map that showed a quite different line for the vanishing footpath.  

Grimaldi with France beyond

However, I don’t believe that existed either!

That evening we chose La Capoule.  Mainly because it was only a ten yard walk.  The plat du jour was cous cous- not as good as those of Le Taureg but not bad. Much cheaper and a damn sight closer!  Plus a bottle of a three quarters decent Bandol red.


Rest Day?? !!

Friday 25th September

Rest day?  

Would you call a 9 mile road slog in the midday sun a rest day?

Menton from the Italian border

I had this idea of a gentle stroll along the cost to Ventimiglia to show Stan its huge street market.  All went to plan as far as the lovely little bay with the erstwhile fisherman’s huts below Grimaldi but that is as far as I had been before.  

Stan at the fisherman's bay

The fisherman's bay at Grimaldi

The rest of the route lay on the road up above the railway.

Some views were good .....

..... and some not so good!

It provided some good views but isn’t an exercise I would want to repeat in a hurry.  It was hot with quite a lot of traffic and too many tunnels. I just slipped my mind and body into automatic. Striding along, I had this strange feeling of being a sort of miniature Jack Reacher, heading for a new town.  Fortunately (or otherwise!) the sort of adventures that inevitably find him, completely passed us by.  Or we passed them by.  For example, I discovered later that we passed by a nudist beach about which I was totally unaware.

Near Latte there was a near derelict fine old villa with a Hanbury connection.  Also, some nice old farm buldings that must have been very peaceful 100 years ago!

A Hanbury connected villa

Gramondo on the skyline

A no longer rural scene!

Ventimiglia old town and beaches

There was a mystery at the river.  Not the masses of large black fish.  I had already heard about them and how, at the right time, the Italians in droves take chairs to sit in the river and pull out the fish.  On the bridge was a whole bundle of padlocks.  Why?  Is it a piece of urban art?  Or do they serve a purpose?

Masses of large black fish

Ventimiglia bridge padlock art?

We toured the market but bought nothing then found an old fashioned restaurant called, I think, La Pergola, or something like that where the service was slow but the Ravioli tasty.

Ventigmiglia market

Ventimiglia beach art

Did we walk back?  Come on, it’s a rest day!  We joined the hundreds of other visitors at the station and caught the train back for an afternoon snooze.

Dinner at the unpretentious Bouquet de Garni.  Simple menu. Escalope of veal with good chips and decent house wine.


Cimed A Good Idea

Saturday 26th September

Another challenging climb, the Cime de Baudon, started with another challenging bus journey.  No problem with destination, this time.  It was just that the bus to St Agnes is small and there was a large group ahead of us in the queue. Consequently we had to stand all the way on this roller coaster ride to the highest coastal village in the land.

St Agnes is on the col right of centre, Cime de Baudon in the gap, left of centre

On the way I received a telephone call from Jilly of the Menton Daily Photo fame.  We planned to meet her later so she rang to warn us that the hunters were out that day between St Agnes and Gorbio and to take extra care.  No sooner had the call finished than we saw two men with guns and high visibility sashes by the side of the road.

Memorial near St Agnes

We didn’t see any once we started walking but we could hear them banging away, especially around St Agnes.

Again in light deciduous woodland, our path climbed steadily to the Pas de Piastre and then turned into Stan terrain.

Once again he significantly outperformed me on the climb to the Cime de Baudon.

I switched on my mental record player and chose my usual climbing tune- Guide Me O Thou Great Redeemer.  

With body and mind in perfect rhythm, it seldom fails in the UK to get me up the steepest hills.  Not in France.  Then it dawned on me.  This is a Catholic country- such Presbyterian hymns won’t work here.

I retuned to my secret weapon, the latin hymn we used to sing at school.  I never knew what it meant but I could remember the words and it has a very simple meter for very steep metres.

    O  gen-tes  om-nes  un-di-que
    lau-da-te  dom-in-um -mm -mm
    ill-um  lau-da-te  po-pu-li
    per  or-bis  am-bi-tum

    Nam in-gens est et-ce-ter-a
    On and on it goes ………………………………

It didn’t work.  It was just a hard, hard slog.  There was too much negativity in my mind. Why am doing this?  Where’s the fun in it?  I am too old for this game.  The only positive thought I could think of was the prospect of lunch at Jilly’s so I hung on to that vision.

And then, all of a sudden I was at the summit.  And once again I had significantly beaten the way-marked target time.  Remarkable!

At 4,154 feet, the Cime de Baudon is the highest point in the area and has a large “table d’orientation” with lines pointing to all the main features.

Table d'orientation

Comitibus: Cime de Baudon

Like Gramondo, the top had a considerable quantity of sheep or goat poo but similarly, not a beast to be seen anywhere.  Strange.

Looking back up the Cime de Baudon

The steep path down to Gorbio, proved rather longer than I had anticipated.  At the Col de la Madonne there was a quite modern abandoned building looking very sad with an interesting war memorial in front of it.  It looked as if there was a story to be told.

The abaondoned building.....

..... and the war memorial

Nearing Gorbio

Reaching Gorbio

In Gorbio, there was no one filming for Petit Filous or for anything else although there was an artist sat under the old olive tree completing a good Michael Jackson painting.

Gorbio artist

Click for Gorbio video

We pressed on and headed down the shepherd’s path to meet Jilly, who, bless her, had produced a delicious lunch for us.  After a very pleasant couple of hours, we resumed our journey to the coast, rewarding ourselves with a beer once completed.

Don & Stan as seen by Jilly....

.... and with Jilly

That night, I took Stan to La Tavernetta in the Place du Cap, an Italian restaurant with amazingly slow service.  Fortunately the wine came quickly and was a decent Nobbiolo. We though the food was coming quickly too when the waiter came out to apologise that the Chef’s sauce was not available for Stan’s escalope and would he like pizzaiola sauce like me?  I thought they must be must about ready. Bizarrely the waiter went on to eulogise about how good the chef’s sauce was.  Just why it was not available was not clear but we came to the conclusion it was because the chef himself was not available.  It took about another hour before the food arrived.  

Afterwards, we ordered coffee but had to send it back because it was cold.  That was, the waiter explained, because the machine wouldn’t heat the milk.  OK, but it didn’t heat the water either!  No coffee, thanks.  Just the bill.  We only had to ask twice more before it was presented.  Food good but service?  Bah!


Back Home

Sunday 27th September

On leaving the apartment, we discovered a Cinquecento Rally taking place in the gardens outside.  

The Cinquecento rally

A Cinquecento stretch!

After inspecting the tiny vhicles, we took a gentle stroll in the sun along the prom and harbour wall then a light lunch at the restaurant on the front with the turquoise sunshades. I forget its name.

Menton from the harbour wall

By the time we returned, the cars had gone.  It was time, too, for us to go.

BOOTboys international autumnal expedition completed for another year.  

Back home to a cold and damp Kendal.  


Don, 27th September 2009


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Feet climbed:





Feet descended:





Other Key Features:

Mont Razet Gramondo


Cime de Baudon






Don, Stan


If you have Memory Map on your computer, you can follow our route in detail by downloading BB0930a, BB0930b, and BB0930c.

Steve G advises: "For those who like to look at your meanderings but use Tracklogs or other software then your logs can be converted using the freeware utility GPS Babel."

For the latest totals of the mileages, heights and Lakeland Fells Books Wainwrights see: Wainwrights.

If anyone wants to claim other peaks, please let me know and I will submit them to the adjudication committee!


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BOOT boys

This page describes an adventure of BOOTboys, a loose group of friends of mature years who enjoy defying the aging process by getting out into the hills as often as possible!

As most live in South Lakeland, it is no surprise that our focus is on the Lakeland fells and the Yorkshire Dales.

As for the name, BOOTboys, it does not primarily derive from an item of footwear, and certainly not from any skin head associations or other
type of social group,
but is in memory of
Big Josie,
the erstwhile landlady
of the erstwhile Burnmoor Inn at Boot in Eskdale,
who enlivened Saint Patrick's Day 1973
and other odd evenings many years ago!

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2009 Outings

  • BB0901 : A Gordon Day Out
    Thursday 8th January
  • BB0902 : Thank You,
    Aunty Ethel!
    Wednesday 14th January 
  • BB0903 : A Wicked Hike???
    Wednesday 21st January
  • BB0904 : Take a Mug With You
    Sunday 25th January
  • BB0905 : Down in the Forest
    Thursday 29th January
  • BB0906 : Not How But Where?
    Thursday 5th February
  • BB0907 : Binsey Can Wait
    (but Uncle Monty Can Not)
    Thursday 12th February
  • BB0908 : Badgers on the Line
    Thursday 5th March
  • BB0909 : It's not a W!
    Thursday 12th March
  • BB0910 : Up on the Roof
    Thursday 26th March
  • BB0911 : Not the Blisco Dashers
    Thursday 2nd April
  • BB0912 : John's Comeback
    Monday 6th April
  • BB0913 : Two Churches, a Pulpit and a Cherry Picker
    Thursday, 23rd April
  • BB0914 : Companions of the BOOT
    Thursday 30th April
  • BB0915 : The Gale Force Choice
    Thursday 7th May
  • BB0916 : The Comeback Continues
    Thursday 21st May
  • BB0917 : BOOTboys Encore !
    28th May - 2nd June
  • BB0918 : Hello Dollywagon
    Thursday 11th June
  • BB0919 : Has Anyone Seen Lily?
    Thursday 18th June
  • BB0920 : Ancient Feet on the Greenburn Horseshoe
    Thursday 25th June
  • BB0921 : The Tebay Fell Race Walk
    Thursday 2nd July
  • BB0922 : For England and St George 
    Thursday 9th July
  • BB0923 : The Coniston Outliers
    Friday 31st July
  • BB0924 : Little To Be Said In Favour?
    Thursday 6th August
  • BB0925 : The Third Night of the Rescue 
    Thursday 13th August
  • BB0926 : Long Wet Windy Monty Bothy Fun?
    Thursday 20th August
  • BB0927 : Dear Mrs Scroggins
    Friday 11th September
  • BB0928 : An Ard Day's Hike
    Thursday 17th September
  • BB0929 : A Canter of Convalescents?
    Thursday 24th September
  • BB0930 : BOOTboys International Autumnal Expedition
    Wednesday 23rd to
    Sunday 27th September
  • BB0931 : A Bit of an Adventure
    Thursday 1st October
  • BB0932 : Paths of Glory?
    Thursday 8th October
  • BB0933 : When Yorkshire Was Welsh
    Wednesday 14th October
  • BB0934 : Unlocking the Whinlatters
    Thursday 22nd October
  • BB0935 : A Tale of Crinkley Bottoms
    hursday 5th November
  • BB0936 : Aye Up What?
    hursday 12th November
  • BB0937 : Where Eagles Wade
    Tuesday 17th November
  • BB0938 : After the Floods
    Thursday 26th November
  • BB0939 : The Mystery of the Missing Glove
    Thursday 10th December
  • BB0940 : A Too Short Walk
    Thursday 17th December
  • BB0941 : One Hundred and Onesfell
    Tuesday 29th December



  • BH0901 : Back to the Beginning 
    Thursday 13th August
  • BSKIB09 : BOOTskiboys in Saalbach
    14th - 21st March
  • BB09XX : Los Chicos y las Chicas de la Bota
    11th - 14th May
  • BB09Bav01 : Peaked Too Soon
    1st September



Click on the photos for an enlargement or related large picture.



To download a log of which Wainwrights have been done by which BOOTboy in the "modern" era, i.e. since the advent of BOOTboys click on Wainwrights

If anyone wants to claim other peaks, please let me know and I will submit them to the adjudication committee!



 BOOT boys