Above the snowline on the way to Colle Lauson

We were now quite high, probably about 3000 metres, and Ann was feeling the altitude. Clouds were filling the valleys beneath us - a typical start to the day before they got burned away by the hot Italian sun.

It's easy for someone used to the mountains of the UK to be unaware just how high are those in the Alps and the effects of altitude on the human body. Even those who visit the Alps for downhill skiing are unlikely to be fully aware of the effects - chairlifts make the need for the exertion of the walk up unnecessary.

The highest mountain in the UK, Ben Nevis, has an altitude of 4406 feet (about 1340 metres), but many towns and villages in the Alps are at this altitude. Even our starting point that morning at the Refugio Vittorio Sella was almost twice as high as Ben Nevis. Until one has become acclimatised to the altitude, climbing any mountain in the Alps over 3000 metres can be testing.

The Mountains