Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Hiking in Tessin Day 2: Patrolling the Swiss/Italian border, or: playing goat for a day

After a so-so breakfast, we are underway by 8:15. Today we are going to be spending all day on the ridge that defines the Swiss/Italian border. Before starting, we take in the amazing view of the Walliser 4000ers that you have from the hut. Neither of us remembers this from last time. We start by heading up, up, up under perfect blue skies along the easy path to the Gazzirola. The views are awesome, but unfortunately clouds have started to close in around the high Swiss alps, so we can't see quite everything that we would be able to on a perfect day.

From the peak we embark on our "just follow the ridge" route. We're going from border marker stone to border marker stone, up and down, along the very nice ridge. At the Monte Seger we pass the path heading off to the Camaghe. We could theoretically add this to the day, but we decide that the two hours might be a bit much (turns out to be a very good call), so we continue on our way. We roll along, sometimes climbing, sometimes descending, occasionally scrambling a bit, along the ridge. The path isn't really marked, but there are generally traces from others who have done it before. Sometime past the Monte Stabbiello Andrea spots a tiny snake... Very cool, we don't see many of those.

Shortly after the Mottone della Tappa we take a lunch break, take off the boots, and let the legs rest. Then we descend the rest of the way to the saddle before starting up the other side again towards the Monto della Tappa. Up top here we pick up a clearly marked path and follow the Alta Via down to the Botta di Sommafiume. It's confusing to be on a clear path! :-)

The confusion gets somewhat worse at the bottom. We're supposed to pass a small lake, then head to the ridge and scramble up the Cima Pomodoro with help from a cable in the last bit. The small lake is no problem; the first confusion is that the route up to the ridge is not exactly clear, there aren't really any traces to follow, and no cable is visible. After some false starts and a couple of "this can't be the way, this is supposed to be a T4 hike and it's definitely trickier than T4" bits, we eventually end up heading up a steep grass slope with a bit of stone in it and make our way to the foot of the rock step up to the peak. Now it's clear why we didn't see the cable: it's lying at the bottom of the step. Tja... the route up doesn't look so bad, so we climb our way up. We're definitely out of T4 territory now. Up top we run into an older Italian couple who are heading down. Boy is that going to be fun without the cable. Ah well... Onwards we go along the ridge. Up to the next bump, down to the next saddle, always along the ridge. Most of the time there's not much to follow in terms of trail or traces thereof, so we generally stick to the "stay as high as possible" rule. The times we violate that tend to end with us climbing steeply back up to the top anyway. This whole bit is a blast, but it's clear that it's more often used by goats than people.

After hitting the Mottone di Giumello Monte Albano, we head down to the next saddle and the bit that is nominally the most tricky part of the ridge. After the earlier bit at the Cima Pomodoro, this little step with a cable is pretty mundane. Onward and onward we go until we finally get to the last climb and, after that, the pass San Jorio and the path down to the rifugio San Jorio, where we are staying for the night. We get settled in, have a bit of a rest, and then enjoy a good meal before heading to bed.

It was not a short day, but it was a very! very good one.

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