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Tuesday, July 24
(...continued from previous page)
After quite a few hundred feet of elevation gain, we entered a particularly long dark stretch of tunnel. It rose steeply for quite a while, until finally it intersected another horizontal tunnel in a sort of vertical y-junction, with one fork leading off horizontally back above our heads.
'Galleria Paterno'
There was no easy way to get to this fork other than scramble along one of the walls. Daryl's spelunking instincts, however, were fully activated, and he was keen to have a look down this mysterious passageway. After demonstrating that the short scramble was no big deal, he convinced me to come along (Jenn preferred to stay back at the junction). We carefully picked our way down the side tunnel, noticing that there was much detritus from the old war still lying around (wood, wire, metal, support beams)

It was a spooky place, and with all of the artifacts about, made one think about gloomy state of affairs things must have been in during the mountain war.
courtesy DBoyd
Semi caved-in
Shortly, we came to a slightly collapsed-in section of cave, where some of the support beams had fallen down. Daryl cautiously poked around this area, unsure if we should continue through it.

As we stood there and pondered, a large, reverberating boom echoed through the tunnels and emanated from the very rock around us. Thunder! and a big one, too! The sound had a strange, vibrating echo to it - no doubt an acoustic effect of how it was getting to us, here deep in the heart of a mountain. The effect, though, was to make it sound like some sort of artillery shelling - or at least what we thought artillery shelling to sound like. It made it seem like we were suddenly thrust back into the time of the Great War, with big howizters pounding our peak. It was not hard to imagine that this was real, and I felt an involuntary split-second stab of fear.
A lookout
I think Daryl was similarly spooked. Our zest for off-route exploration immediately evaporated, and we turned around and scurried back to the junction and a waiting Jenn.

With periodic rumbles and booms from the outside, we continued along the now gently-rising tunnel. Every so often there would be a side tunnel leading to a lookout position. From a safe distance, we could see a misty veil of rain outside. A full-blown storm had enveloped the area!
Nasty weather
Although the guidebooks generally frown on cave refuges in storms like this, we are pretty sure that we are ok in this extended and deep network of tunnels. We are dry and quite far away from any possible surface electrical currents. The safest thing to do at this point is stay far away from any exits and just hunker down.

We continued along for a few more minutes, and then came to a junction with a large side-room on the left. On the far side of the room, two vertical doorways led into the stormy weather outside. Ahead, the main tunnel continued, but the two or three boards nailed up across it and the big red arrow pointing to one of the doorways in the room indicated that this was our exit point. Except we weren't about to head out into a maelstrom of rain, lightning and thunder, and then clip onto a thousand- metre long lightning rod! No, sirree!
Jumping Jacks
So, there was nothing for it but to sit in the cold tunnel, away from any dripping water, and wait. We ate and chatted. Daryl explored a short way up past the barricaded portion of the tunnel. Jenn got cold and did jumping-jacks to keep warm. Outside, the storm continued to churn and froth.
After an extended bit of this, we started to think about our game-plan. At what point should we abandon any further climbing and head back down the tunnel? If we headed back, at least we would avoid any actual outside ferrata climbing. On the other hand, if we start heading back and the storm blows over, we'll kick ourselves for having pulled the trigger to soon. The classic alpine 'should-we-stay-or-should-we-go' question!

We gave ourselves a deadline, beyond which we would [reluctantly] head back. And, as we approached our cutoff time, the view out our eastern- facing windows wasn't looking good - gusts of wind still blew thick veils of rain across the landscape, and everything looked dark, dreary and very wet. However, not quite wanting to give up yet, I proposed to run back a ways down the tunnel to a western-facing lookout. Since the storm was moving west-to-east, it made sense to have a look at what was coming, rather than what was going.
Clear skies approaching
Without too much hope, I jogged back to the first junction to the left, and took it to a small lookout perched high up on the western face of the ridge. In the distance, I saw a sharp line, then blue sky! Ooo... we were in luck!
Much buoyed by this information, I ran back to Jenn and Daryl (I was loath to have to turn back) and gave them the good news. We waited for a few minutes to be sure the weather was going in the direction I thought it was, and when the rain stopped and a few shafts of sunlight started shining up the valley below, we knew it was real. We had weathered the entire storm by hiding out deep in the mountain. Cool!

Heading out through the right-hand doorway and onto a ledge, we could see the next stage of the route, which led up immediately and steeply on ferrata wire.
courtesy DBoyd
Departing storm
Climbing a notch
Climbing a notch
In the short time since the storm had passed, the rock had dried significantly, and it was no problem climbing. The route only went up steeply for a short while, then traversed up a series of diagonal gravelly gullies, past reams of old barbed wire and jumbled wood. Soon we were standing in a narrow notch between the summit block of Monte Paterno and an east-trending ridge. This was the forcella Camoscio - the highest point of the ferrata.
Storm aftermath
View from the route
Old wire and wood
A short route to the summit of Monte Paterno led off from here to the summit. If we'd had more time, we probably would have tackled this, but our storm-delay meant we were a little behind schedule, so we skipped it.
Daryl and MISUR 5
Post-Maelstrom Magic
View from Forcella Comoscio
There are excellent views of the surrounding peaks at this spot. Views that were greatly accentuated by the amazing slate-blue backdrop of the departing storm, which created a dramatic backdrop and contrast with the pale dolomitic towers and cliffs in the foreground. Our decision to wait out the storm and continue on the route had paid off fantastically!
Descending the gully
Post-Maelstrom Magic
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