Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas in the Fideriser Heuberge: Day 3

Today when we woke up we could actually see the mountains on the other side of the valley, crazy! After breakfast we decide to head up to the Glattwang and then from there down to Janaz.

The way up starts with the same crappy visibility we have been enjoying for the past couple of days, the only real difference is that we actually have a bit of a view in the distance. After some light climbing in the cold (-11C!) we get tired of not being able to see our feet and decide to cancel the last bit of climb and to just head down. Some very nice navigation work by Andrea gets us on the summer trail, which we're able to follow until we hit a trail made by ski touring folks heading up the mountain. This takes us the rest of the way down into Jenaz without problems.
Along the way Greg spots a least weasel (hermelin?) poking its head out of a hole in the snow. We end a few entertaining minutes watching the little guy pop up from one hole or another to check us out. Eventually he gets bored and stops coming up, so we head on.
Our arrival in Jenaz is perfectly timed to miss the train by ten minutes, so we pop into a gasthaus for hot beverages and to wait.

At times less than 100% pleasant conditions because of the cold and visibility but overall a nice day of snowshoeing.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas in the Fideriser Heuberge: Day 2

Awoke to weather that was no substantial improvement over the day before: Clouds and snow and not much in the way of visibility. After breakfast we opt for a rest and nap in the hopes that the afternoon will have better weather.

Plenty of rest later, we do lunch and then head out into the snow and clouds and low visibility for some fresh air. A bit of wandering around in the deep snow, a bit of here, a bit of there, some hither and yon and then we head back to the hotel for another well-earned (smirk) rest before heading down for drinks, games, and dinner.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas in the Fideriser Heuberge: Day 1

The original plan was to hike from the valley up to the hotel; unfortunately the weather made that unappealing: freezing rain in the valley and very low clouds... Yeachs!

No panic though, we called the hotel and asked them to pick us up with their bus and bring us up... Easy easy. After the adventurous bus ride up we check in and then put on the snowshoes and head out for a bit of exercise. The clouds are still super low and there's nothing to see, but at least it is snowing instead of raining. We head past the ski slopes and up hill a bit towards the Arflinafurgga before deciding that it's kind of pointless to be hiking towards a high point when there's nothing to see. The visibility is at that interesting, almost white-out stage where one can see the feet, but not really where you are putting them.
Fun for a while, kind of tiring after it's been going on for a bit. Fun part for Greg when he takes a step over an unseen edge and ends up sliding a good meter into a ditch.

On the way back we do a nice lunch break near a sheep hut and then make our way back to the hotel for a good rest before heading down to the restaurant for games and, eventually fondue. Very nice fondue chinoise, salad, fries, and dessert... Good eating in a really nice christmasy atmosphere. :-)

After the meal, to recover a bit, we did a nice night walk through the dark up the slopes a bit. Good to have the fresh air, but not really much to see... That's a theme of sorts.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

First snowshoeing of the year: Passwang -> Waldenburg

A really nice first day out on the snowshoes.

We shouldn't forget that there's a really nice alp view from this hike, particularly from the Hinteri Egg... good for visitors.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Up to the Niesen

With the forecast calling for a beautiful warm day and Fön winds from the South, the only real question for us was where to go. The Jura, with a panoramic view of the Alps, were a big pull, but we decided to do the Niesen instead. It's been on our list of must-do's for quite a while and this seemed like a good day for it.

We start the Andrea special in Reichenbach, following the road up out of town until it turns into a path under the trees. Up, up we go, really enjoying being out walking again, up, up to the end of the trees and then further up, steeply at times, through a meadow until we get to Underniese. Here we have a quick sandwich break and enjoy the sun and the panoramic view across the Berner Oberland (Bluemlisalp massif all the way to the Wetterhorn). From there it's further up, now starting to see some other people, past the houses at Oberniese, to the saddle.

At the saddle the wind starts: it's a warm wind (ah... Fön), but it's a serious wind. Since it had snowed earlier in the week, this is like spring hiking: warm sun, melting snow, mud. And plenty of people coming down from the top. At the bump before the madness around the restaurant, we stop for another quick sandwich break to enjoy views some more. Not only is the air really clear, but the clouds provide some nice structure to the sky to complement the mountains below. Really nice.
After heading past the restaurant to the (packed!) viewing platform at the top, we try unsuccessfully to find a seat in the restaurant and then take the funicular back down to Mülenen.

A very nice day out in the mountains. This was probably the last "summer" hiking of the year and it was a great way to close the season.

From the track: 8km, 1690m up

Sunday, October 31, 2010

27 Oct - 30 Oct: Berlin

A few days in Berlin to finish up the vacation.

Some highlights:
  • We did a couple of tours with the Berliner Unterwelten group (Tours 2 and M) that were excellent. Tour 2, which we did with only four other people since it was a weekeday morning, was particularly good. Now we're going to have to figure out how to get tickets for Tour E and head back for that.
  • Eating! Eating! Eating!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

22 Oct - 25 Oct: Schwarzwald

A long weekend with friends in the Schwarzwald (in Lembach) as a pre-celebration of Greg's birthday this year.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Dolomites Day 6: in the Geislergruppe

What we saw of the Geislergruppe on Day Three made us really want to go back. Since the klettersteig to the top of Sas Rigais seemed to be above our level (i.e. it's a real klettersteig and not just a path with ladders and cables), we opted for a walking tour.
The day starts by repeating the end of Day Three backwards and climbing out of town past the Regensburgerhütte and into the valley at the foot of the Geisler peaks. The morning is cool (2-3 deg C) and the skies are cloudless and blue, hard to believe that a low pressure region is supposed to move in tomorrow and bring snow. At the fork we head left, up the Val da la Roa and through increasingly alpine terrain. Before leaving the last of the grass, we find a nice spot with a view in the sun for the day's first sandwich break. It's quiet and peaceful.

At the end of the valley the path lead us steeply up the last bit to the saddle (the Roascharte) where we meet the first hiker we've seen since we went by a couple of guys at the Juachütte. A quick break to appreciate the the views in both directions and then we head down the other side. Here on this north-facing slope the going isn't nearly as nice: the path down through the frozen scree is quite steep and narrow and the footing isn't everything one would hope for. We take things slowly and eventually get into something of a (slow) rhythm. Good thing Andrea talked Greg out of turning around after it became clear what the path was like. After 100m or so of descent, the path takes us to the left wall and around a corner a bit and becomes much more normal. At the corner we meet our second hiker of the day: she's getting ready to head up the slope we just came down.
After a bit more traversing the scree in shadow we reach the sun and, shortly after, turn left to head back up to the Wasserscharte. The path initially leads through rocks and some grass, so we do a sandwich break in the last of the sun and grass (a shortened break since the sun moves behind the wall while we're sitting there and leaves us in cold shadows) before continuing up, up, up. This trail is clearly not as heavily used and is in noticably worse condition: the markers are older and places where rock slides or erosion have taken out the path have often not been repaired. Still, our route is clear and it's no problem to proceed. The last bit of climbing to the Wasserscharte is somewhat scrambly, very steep with loose footing, and I'm pretty sure it wouldn't be at all fun to go down, but going up is doable.
As expected, the views are great in the saddle, but it's in shadow and windy, so we don't spend too much time up there before continuing on our way down into the high valley below (the Wassertal) and then down to the broad, grassy Plan Ciautier. It's our last day and we've still got some energy left in our legs, so rather than head straight back, we take the long way home: we continue on around the foot of the massif towards the Rif. Seceda, take a last sandwich break just past the Piera Longia, then head down past the Col Raiserhütte and the Sangonhütte before closing the loop at the Juachütte and the last stretch down to Wolkenstein.

From the track: 18.2 km, 1540m height change.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Dolomites Day 5: up to the Piz Boe

Another perfect-weather day. We start with the drive over the Sellajoch and down towards the next valley then back up to the Pordoijoch where we park in the mostly empty parking lot of the hotel and gondola station. We don't manage to find any signage for the trail at the parking lot, but there is a trail and the way to go is clear: up!

The path leads up and across the grass flanks of the Sella massif (no trees here, we're above the tree line) until reaching the scree, where the going get steeper and the day's climbing begins for real. Most people take the gondola up here, so aside from a few people in front of us in the last steep bit up to the col, we're pretty much alone. After the first 400m of climb, we turn off the main path to take the panorama path around the massif towards the Franz Kostner Hütte. This is a really nice path in the sun with panoramic views out over the Marmolata, the Fanes-Sennes Gruppe, etc. The path runs mostly right under the walls (except for one small diversion where we manage to lose the path and end up having to climb back to the wall) and is good going.
Past the start point for the Klettersteig up towards the Piz Boe (the beginning of which, at least, looks more serious than most of the other Klettersteigs we have seen), and further along. Around a corner we see the hut in front of us and enter a north facing bit of the trail; here in the shadow there is some old snow around, but the path is still no problem. Back in the sun we reach a fork that takes us either up through a steep chute or around to the hut. We're going, after a sandwich break, up through the chute. This is steep and at times scrambly, but no problem to get up through. The guy we see coming down looks like he's having a bit less fun, but it's always that way. On reaching the plateau we start a long gradual climb the last couple hundred meters to the Piz Boe. Above 2900m there is plenty of snow (some days old: it's had time to thaw and re-freeze a few times, so it's quite hard and sometimes icy). The last 100m or so are quite steep, so there's less snow and the going is easier.
The top of the Piz Boe has a hut (closed), a large billboard-looking structure that partially obstructs the view to the North, and lots of people. It's an easy >3000m peak with panoramic views that can be reached with ~300m of climb from a gondola station, so this is no surprise. It's hard to imagine what a zoo it must be in high season. We hang out for a while to rest, eat a sandwich, and appreciate the amazing views before continuing on towards the Bambergerhütte. This isn't the standard route down, so we're the only ones doing it. This is nice but it does mean that there's still plenty of snow/ice on the north-facing trail, so the footing at times leaves something to be desired. It's no problem until the hut comes into view below and we reach a sign pointing the way through a chute that is clearly all ice. That's not going to happen. Fortunately there's another option that leads around the corner a bit later. This one is also has a stretch that is quite narrow and covered with hard-packed snow and a bit of ice, but it's more or less level and secured with a cable, so though the footing is a bit dodgy, it's no problem to cross. We head down the rest of the way to the (closed) hut and wander around a bit to admire the canyon running to the southwest and the narrow valley towards the north (Val de Mesdi). That one provides a nice route down to the Grödnerjoch but it is at the moment full of snow and ice, so even with the cables it would be an adventure.
Our path leads us back towards the gondola station. Along the way we decide to avoid the crowds at the gondola and just walk down, so at the Forcella del Pordoi we enjoy a sandwich in the sun in front of the (closed) hut and then head steeply down to meet the path we came up in the morning.

From the track: 11.5 km, 1210m height change.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Dolomites Day 3: up to the Col de la Pieres

We had seen this peak at the end of the Puez massif quite nicely on both of our previous days of hiking. A hike promising great views that we could start directly from our flat was too good to pass up.

We get a late start (9:45) since we have to head to the grocery store first to get lunch supplies. The path starts pretty steeply out of town, through the woods for a while, and then turns to head up the Palota, the "Express" route up to the Steviahütte. This heads steeply up through the trees to the face of the Steviola, and then snakes its way up the face. The views are great, the temperature is good, we make excellent time: after an hour we're 600m up on the plateau. The path leads us across the plateau, around the end of the impressively narrow gorge down from the St. Silvesterscharte, and then up the other side to the Steviahütte. The hut is open, but it looks like they're closing up for the season, so we continue on (it's too early for a beer anyway).

After another bit of climbing we enjoy a sandwich break in the sun, with views out over most of Day one's hike as well as the Sella and Langkofel massifs. Up a bit more to the Pizascharte with its steep path down to the Regensburgerhütte and then around the bowl under the grass slopes of the Muntijela to the scree slope at the end. We have some fun during the stretch trying to pick out the path that leads up to our peak. The way through the scree slope is clear, but beyond that it's tough to really see. The path ends up being quite fun: steep but not particularly scrambly, secured by cables (not really necessary) in a couple of spots. They've clearly put a lot of effort into the trail.
The view from the top is spectacular. It's also not particularly windy... crazy! We head to the cross to have another sandwich break and enjoy the views before heading up a few meters higher to the true peak, where we have an amazing 360 degree panorama. There definitely are bonuses for going to the tops of things. ;-)
The path leads us steeply down, including a bit of scrambling, towards the Forces de Sieles saddle. From there it's down the scree slope (mostly frozen since this area won't see the sun again until next summer) into the valley below. On the valley floor we decide, with regrets, that it's really too late in the day to do the loop through the Roascharte and Wasserscharte, so we just head down the valley. Along the way, the sun on the grass ridge above is too much to resist, so we scramble up and enjoy our last sandwich in the sun, goggling at the teeth at the end of the Geislergruppe and wondering how difficult the klettersteig to the top of the Sas Rigais really is... the views from there must also be really nice. Ah well, that's for another day.
The path leads us down the rest of the valley to the nicely situated Regensburgerhütte (also still open), and then further down to Wolkenstein. We get back to the flat with our legs nicely tired and our eyes quite full. :-)

From the track: 15.1 km, 1345m height change.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Dolomites Day 2: around the Langkofel

Today starts completely cloudless; the views from the flat are amazing. :-)

We drive to the Sella Joch and park in the empty parking lot at the hotel before setting off along the path towards the Rifugio E. Comici. We've got great views across to the Sella massif, towards the Langental and Puezspitz (from day one), and, of course, up to the Langkofel massif over our heads. We follow the path in the sun along the foot of the massif, sometimes through woods, sometimes in the open around to the bergstation at Rif. E. Comici. Along the way we see a few deer and, later, what looks like a couple chamoix together with a sheep, though that seems unlikely.
From the bergstation we head down a bit through scrub forest before turning off to the left and following the path across the scree and into the shadow of the Langkofel. The path is wide and easy and the views are panoramic and wonderful. At the end of the scree slope we ascend a bit to a ridge and follow the path towards the next bergstation to get a good 270 degree view out over the Grödnertal, Langental, etc. This would be a great spot for a break, but not without sun: the temperature is around 6 degrees in the shade and there's still frost on the ground. Back on the path we follow the scree again for a while and descend a bit before taking a path that leads us up into the massif, to the Langkofelhütte. The hut is closed and we're still in the shadows, so we do a quick food break before the call of the sunny areas we can see below gets too strong and pulls us onwards. Down we go to pick up the path around the massif again, passing a few people along the way, finally getting into the sun again (ah... sun!). Down a bit more and then back up to another ridge and the Piz da Uridl, where we enjoy a food break in the sun with fantastic views.
Now we follow the gently rising path in the sun, with nice views, above the Murmeltierhütte, until the path joins the dirt road coming up from a parking lot at a bergstation. There are plenty of people around now. Upon arriving at the Plattkofelhütte we consider doing the 1.5 hour trip to the peak, but since the hut is still open we reject the peak in favor of liquid refreshment and enjoyment of the views of the Marmolata while sitting. ;-)

From here it's an easy walk without much in the way of height change around the massif. Just before reaching the bergstation over the Sella Joch parking lot we enjoy our last sandwich while watching masses of paragliders. During the last bit down we have an excellent panoramic view to distract us from the ski-slope-in-summer ugliness all around us. The parking lot itself is now mostly full, it's hard to imagine what this place must be like in high season.

Back at the car we maneuver our way past the tour busses and then head back down to Wolkenstein. The plan to pick up some groceries for dinner is thwarted by a festival in some other nearby town which has seemingly attracted all the residents of Wolkenstein: everything is closed. Doh! Ah well, we had a great day of hiking and improvising something for dinner won't be that hard.

From the track: 17.1 km, 905m height change.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Dolomites Day 1: to the Puez Hütte

We wake up to a mostly cloudless blue sky, which was a great relief after driving up through clouds to get to Wolkenstein on Saturday. Today we can actually see something and appreciate the views from the flat.

We start by walking a bit along the road to get out of town, past the ruins of the Wolkenstein fort, to a big parking lot (still almost empty except for a couple of RVs) at the end of the road. From here we follow a couple of people along the well-trod path across a meadow until our route leads on a less-used path across a stream and up through the woods. Now we climb and climb through the woods. We're under mostly evergreens with some larches mixed in that have already changed color. We climb out of the woods and the Chedultal opens in front of us: steep cliffs to either side with scree at the bottom and a bit of green valley between, typical Dolomite valley. The path leads us along the valley floor and climbs to the Crespeinajoch at the end. We see a couple of groups of chamoix up in the screes. We also start seeing more people here: there's a path coming through the right-hand wall (the Cirjoch) that seems to be more popular than ours, on that side you can do the vertical meters with a gondola. :-)

From the Crespeinajoch we have great views to both sides, including the Langental and the Puez Hütte, which we enjoy for a bit while having a quick snack before continuing with a bit of descent to the Crespeinasee (pretty dry and sad at this time of year). There are clouds threatening a bit, coming over the mountains to the right... no good for the views! The path leads us around the end of the valley, in and out of cloud, to the Ciampei Joch, a thin bit of land that serves as the end of the Langental and the valley leading down to Corvara. Then up again a bit to the plateau and along to the Puezhütte. The hut itself is closed, but it's still a popular stopping point and the sun is shining at this point.
We do another quick food break while soaking up the amazing views and then head off in search of the Col de Montijela, which should have another great set of views. There's no signage, so we had off on a path that goes in the right general direction for a bit before heading off across country for a rise that is topped with a bunch of stonemen. Our route leads across a landscape of crazily eroded rocks to the rise, which gives us nice views to the North down into the XXX tal. Theoretically we could see much more, but the clouds prevent that today. We head back towards the Puezhütte and then continue along the side of the valley, in and out of clouds, before descending steeply to the floor of the Langental. This is clearly a very popular daytrip destination: we're definitely not lonely as we follow the broad path out to the parking lot (now full) and then the road back into town.

From the track: 19.0 km, 1300m height change.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Hiking in the Glarner alps

Text to come.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Two days from Innertkirchen->Engelberg

Day one starts pretty late, we leave Basel on a train at 8:01 instead of the more usual 6:01 or 7:01... Ah what a luxuriously slow start. The train takes us to Interlaken and then from there on to Meiringen where we change for the (full... Boy are things full this late) bus to Innertkirchen. Now we're on foot an a path that more or less follows the road (the Sustenpass road... Not an empty one) for the first bit before heading up a bit and then paralleling it. It is not greg's favorite kind of walking to be sure, but that's just the way it goes sometimes, onwards for a while until we hit Nessental where we make a sharp turn and head up the side of the valley. At first the way is road, but then it eventually becomes a nice path through the woods. Nice bit of climbing and climbing, a bit slower than normal because Andrea's legs are heavy, and then we make it to the Tällihütte, our destination for the day. Nice rest with a cool beverage on the terrace and then a quick nap before dinner. Good eating here... It's a bit more expensive than an SAC hut, but there are some bonuses for the hotel experience.

Sunday starts with good weather and a good breakfast, then we head out around 7:40 and up to the Sätteli. Original plan was to do the klettersteig, but Andrea's heavy legs plus the hoards of people we see heading that way (the first gondola arrives at around 7:30 and dispatches a group of 8 who head to the 'steig... this is how it starts) change our minds, we will just do a normal hike. So... steeply up to the Sätteli where we have great views towards the Trift glacier, parts of the Berner Oberland (including the Raenfenhorn and Dossen), Titlis, the Sustenhorn, etc. Very nice.

After a bit of enjoying the views, down the other side towards Engstlenalp. Great path round the side of the valley, descending gently, takes us there. A short break above the "kiosk" and then it's up, up again through the Schaftal towards the Jochpass. Good ascent beside a really nice looking climbing wall (plenty of routes visible, but only being climbed in one place). After a while we start hearing alphorns playing, which provide a very cool soundtrack for the climb. Unfortunately they stop playing just as we get close and decide to do our lunch break, so we do not have a lunch time serenade... damn. After lunch down a bit to the pass and the thick of the people (the Jochpass is served by chair lifts from both sides). Nice views down to Engelberg and across to the Walenstöcke, Ruchstock, and the Engelberger Rotstock. We also start to hear a really good cow concert from up here; behind is quiet but in front is a very musical herd.

Down the other side we go, heading inevitably towards Engelberg. At the Trüebsee we do a refreshment break (mmmmmmm beer and french fries) before continuing on our way down, down, down. At Untertrüebsee the signs for an alpkäserei are too much for Greg to resist. A quick detour is made to get some cheese. This turns out to be doubly rewarding because not only do we end up with a couple of nice pieces of cheese, but they are selling the cheese from the room in which it's made, so while we are waiting to buy we can gawk at all the cool cheese making stuff and the cheeses in various stages of completion.

Further down and we hit Engelberg, where a train awaits that will take us back towards home.

Things didn't quite go according to plan on this trip, but it was still a nice bit of walking, particularly on Sunday.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Gruben -> St. Luc

We do an early breakfast and get a pretty early start for a hiking day: underway by 7:30. The route leads us up, up the side of the valley under the trees, very nice. As we go higher the view out towards the end of the valley and the Bishorn/Weisshorn pair opens up... fun to see those two again. After some good climbing we leave the trees and come out into the sun at the buildings of Meide. Ah what a beautiful day! Blue skies! Warm! Sun! Along deeper into the valley beside the Meidhorn, climbing gently, enjoying the views and the warmth. Then the wind starts... It's coming from in front of us and it's chill and pretty strong. On with the gore tex shells and continue. Sooner than either of us expect, we are at the Meidsee and the Meidpass is clearly in view and close. The path, as expected, isn't exactly empty. ;-)
Shortly before the last bit of ascent to the Meidpass begins, we turn off to the right on a poorly marked path that will lead us to the Pas du Boeuf. Now we're in empty territory, the path is clearly not one of the popular ones, but it's really great. We do some climbing and come to the Borterpass, from which we have very nice views back towards Weisshorn and forwards to Bella Tola. From here the path finding becomes mainly a matter of knowing which direction is the right one and looking for stone men. Fun! Nice section on blocks partially covered by snow. That's a very different experience: one can't make good time since there is way too much thinking about traction and weight transfer. It makes block walking even more of a puzzle-solving exercise than normal.

At the Pas du Boeuf we do a quick break and then head steeply up the side of the Bella Tola. Twisting and winding and climbing and climbing. Towards the top we see a couple of people up there and Greg thinks sadly that we won't be alone up top. Then we get there and... horrors... it's crazy full of people. We hadn't realized that the path up the other side was a super popular one (not really suprising... An easy 3000m mountain with great views on a day with good weather). Ah well... Quick change of expectations and then a bit of enjoying the 360 degree view and trying to find a reasonably wind-sheltered spot (without success) before heading down the other side, against the stream of people still coming up. Down a bit to a small hut where we get a good place in the sun and out of the wind for lunch. Man oh man are the people streaming up this mountain!
After lunch we head down to the bowl where we did sone really nice snowshoeing a couple of years ago (highlight along the way: a woman heading up wearing a skirt and Tevas; guess she doesn't realize that there's snow on the ground up there) , and head over to the Cab. Bella Tola. A break there to have a refreshing drink and enjoy the last of the views out towards the Weisshorn (now cloud covered) and the Matterhorn (still clear of clouds). Finally we head down, down, down to St. Luc where we catch the bus that takes us to the train that takes us to the train that take us to Basel.

Another nice day of very varied mountain hiking.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

St. Niklaus -> Gruben

We were originally supposed to do a hochtour this weekend, but fresh snow on Thursday and Friday as well as a somewhat questionable forecast for Saturday put a stop to that. Andrea pulled this tour out of her bag of tricks instead.

An early start from Basel with a train to Visp, from there changing to the train up into the mattertal, whic we take as far as st. Niklaus. Now the Andrea special begins: we're heading up, up, up. The path starts uncharacteristically hard to find, but we manage to keep on track and eventually the markers start getting nicely regular. The path is lovely, under the trees, with occasional views out over the valley, soft footing... A dream. A dream with plenty of vertical meters. :-) We climb and climb, and eventually hit Jungu, 800m above our start. 800m that we could have done with a gondola, but we're too tough for that. Heh

From Jungu we continue upwards, through some cows, and then pick up an educational path with lots of information about flowers. Here the weather starts to play games with us: intermittently sunny then overcast then windy then lightly raining (Andrea points out that it wasn't really rain... kind of a mix of hail and snow with a bit of rain mixed in... something in between). The fresh snow above is clearly visible (it had snowed down to 2400m on Friday). After more climbing, the wind-blown drizzle wins the battle and we put on jackets and pack covers. Eventually we round a corner and both the wind and the precipitation let us loose. Deep below in the valley is a rainbow - don't remember being above a rainbow before - and in front there isn't too much to see... the clouds are pretty low. Shortly we end up back in the wind and rain-snow-hail drizzle, where we will stay for much of the rest of the day. Some nice block walking, not quite as carefree as last weekend, but definitely still fun.
We do lunch under an overhanging rock which keeps us dry and out of the wind. There are plenty of people out and about, most coming against us. Funny encounter with a group of Amis who all look pretty shell shocked and warn us about how slippery it is in the pass. Further on, into the fresh snow, always climbing until we hit the pass. Not good conditions for the planned detour to the Schwarzhorn, plus it's windy as hell, so we just go ahead and descend. Again, the fantastic views at we would have over the Turtmanntal are mostly wiped out by the low clouds... Tja.
From the pass we descend and descend and descend and descend and eventually we end up in Gruben, where a comfy hotel and refreshing beverages await.

Despite the unstable weather it was a really good day in the mountains. We did enough up and down that we went from lush green under trees to green with flowers above the tree line to the grays of the high alpine environment and then back down again to the lush green and trees. Plus, the constant changes in conditions and views made it so that the day absolutely flew by. Great!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Backpacking in Tessin: Lago Nero->Ossasca

Woke up to another clear day with mostly cloudless skies above and a bit of cloud coming Into the valley below. Once again a couple early people show up at 6:00; unlike yesterday though, today it is clear why they have come : fishing the lake. After breakfast and packing everything up we are underway by 8:30 again.

The path leads more or less flat away from the lake and around the valley wall. Nice views back over the glacier, Lago Bianco, and the very impressive wall of the dam for Lago Cavagnöö. After a bit of walking and heading slightly downwards we start to encounter folks heading towards the lake, these must be the early risers from the Cap. Cristallina. Onwards we head, past several people walking against us, with a bit of ascent up to a pass, where we have a really nice view down onto the Lago Sfundau and the Cristallinahuette in the distance.

Around the valley wall above the lake and up a bit more and we are at the hut. The plan was to have coffee and cake, but since the staff are all busy cleaning, we end up just doing an energy bar and then, afterwards a coffee. The hut is really nicely situated and quite modern. I guess they must also be pretty busy: half full both Monday and Tuesday nights... That's crazy.

After our nice break we head down the other side of the pass, it is really all downhill from here. The path leads us through a nice mixture of rock and grass and flowers, past people heading up to the hut, down to the floor of the hanging valley, where we follow the stream to the end before descending to the next step. And so on, and so on... Really nice hiking through a beautiful landscape. Lunch under some trees past the Alp Cristallina, then the final bit of descent to Ossasco, the bus down to Airolo, and the train back to Basel.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Backpacking in Tessin: Laghi Boden->Lago Nero

Start the day by greeting a group of hikers who are passing by at shortly before 6 a.m. What are they doing? Where are the going? The weather is initially pretty clear, but then some clouds move in, the view shuts down, and the perceived temperature drops a bit. We do the normal backpacking start with the successful muesli experiment (though the temperature is really ideal for this), pack up the still-damp tent, and are underway by 8:30. Start the day right with a steep climb up 300m to the Bitta di Val Maggia over blocks and some residual snow fields. From the pass good views out over Tessin and back to Italy which we enjoy briefly before starting our way down.
We head around the valley wall for a while over block and rock and dirt and grass and snow (varied hiking it is!) and then head steeply down to the Lago dei Matörgn. While descending a steep patch of snow, Greg is too concentrated on his footing and misses a steinbock running 20m in front of him. We see it again in a couple of minutes, but it's dumb to have not seen the close encounter. Tja... Down to the lake and a nice energy bar break on a rock above it (the energy bars turned out well). Then onwards and onwards and onwards along the valley wall, with plenty of rock and block and a steady descent. Past a group of mostly abandoned stone huts at Arzo, and then steeply down to a stream which we follow to the steep descent to the Lago di Robiei.

The lake and the area around it are insanely crowded. Can't imagine what it must be like here on a weekend. We decided the forego the cool beverage in front of the octagonal hotel in order to avoid the crowds, grab a quick lunch in a shady spot near the dam, and then head onwards across the dam. Up the other side to a road and down to the path by the stream. Some fun finding a spot to cross the stream/river where Andrea didn't require Tevas, but we do make it. From there past Lielp and then it's steeply up (quite steeply sometimes, goat-path steep). The total climb is only about 500m, but since it is the heat of the day the packs do start to feel a bit heavy after a while. We eventually reach our high point and then traverse some very nice patches of block (Greg has an absolute blast) before reaching the lake.

We scout around for a while to find the optimal spot for the tent, then settle down. After setting the tent out to dry, the boots come off and we head down to dip feet in the wonderful lake. The pull of the deep, crystal-clear water eventually becomes too much for Greg, who strips down and dives in. He's in the water (COLD!) for max 15 seconds, but they are a really good and refreshing 15 seconds. Andrea will not be tempted to try... ah well, her loss! :-)

After another batch of yogurt making and some putzing around and view enjoyment, we pump water and make dinner (polenta with ground-meat-textured soy, tomato soup, and plenty of hot paprika) and pitch the tent.

We're a bit higher tonight and the tent is situated such that the sun drops between two mountains on the other side, so we have sun until almost 9... ah what luxury! We get some really cool effects from the low-angle reflection of the sun off the relatively smooth lake: ripples of light on the rocks, and a doubled shadow (once from the sun, a weaker one from the mirrored sun). Nice close to the day. :-)

A longer day than Sunday, and a very, very good one.