Thursday, September 29, 2016

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Swiss-Italian Border Hike Day 5: Bortelhütten to Rosswald

Text to come


Stats: 7.2km, 125m up, 413m down, 2:16

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Swiss-Italian Border Hike Day 4: Alpe Veglia to Bortelhütten

The theme for the day, perhaps: flexibility.
After a more typical Italian breakfast, we start out under clear skies but towards a clouded-over end of the valley. Across the plain of the Alpe Veglia we go, then we start up the slope at the end of the valley. As soon as we get out of the trees we end up in a very strange weather situation where it's raining (lightly) on us but we are in walking in sun. Up, up we go into steadily worsening weather: soon the sun isn't on us any more, then the rain is no longer light. Eventually the wind picks up, from the front of course, blowing the rain into our faces. By the time we get up to around 2150m, it's clear that the rain above about 2400m is falling as snow and that the clouds are low enough that the pass we aim for (the Furggubäumlicke/Forca d'Aurona) is going to be in clouds. Crap! We have a quick conference and decide that doing the pass in the clouds and rain doesn't make much sense and that having snow on the other side (which is supposed to be trickier) is unpleasant, so we decide to turn back around and head back to the hotel; there are other options available, we just need to figure out what they are. So, down, down we go.
Back at the beginning of the plain of the Alpe Veglia we look back and see that the clouds have all lifted and that a fair amount of the low snow has melted  in the sun. Hmmm. We need to call the hut on the Swiss side to let them know we aren't coming anyway, so Andrea checks what the weather is like over there: sunny. Hrm, ok, change back to the original plan. Back up, up, up we go, this time the whole way in the sun and with a light breeze. At around 2200m we take an energy bar break before the last push and enjoy the views back over the Alpe Veglia and the mountains behind it. Then it's up, up, up along a really nicely done steep path (not too many switchbacks) before we hit the pass (the Furggubäumlicke/Forca d'Aurona). We have lunch in the sun on the Italian side and say goodbye to those mountains before heading down the Swiss side.

The first bit is in shadow and still is wet and has some snow, but the going isn't too bad. The spots with metal steps and chains are nicely maintained and easy enough to pass, then we are down on a nicely marked path through the talus/scree.

Along we go, heading ever downwards, keeping our eyes open for the traces of a trail that should head off to the right to shorten the trip to the hut. At about the right height we find what could be the beginning of a trail; this quickly turns into a goat trail and then nothing, but we can see additional tracks across the bowl, so we continue across country, across and down the relatively steep grass and rock bowl. This isn't trivial, but with some care we make it across to what is (or was) obviously a trail. By this point the clouds have closed up again and it has started lightly sprinkling (yay). We follow the path around the corner, along a grass band through a cliff face, and then up a bit. All along its not quite clear if this is an actual trail or just a highly used goat trail, but this question answers itself when we round another corner and the trail ends in and impassable bit of rock. Crap. At least we can see the hut from here and have some idea of where the path to it should be. According to the (spotty, in the other direction) description we have, we are a good bit too high, so we descend carefully along the ridge until a more promising stretch is available in the correct direction. This is through shrubs and high grass and rocks and it starts raining for real partway through, but we do, with care, make it down to the actual trail. There was much rejoicing. It's now only a short distance to the hut.

We arrive, expecting to be the only guests there, and discover a big, loud event going on in the main room. Yikes! We check in, find out that the group is just there for the afternoon (yay!), put on some dry clothes, settle in, have some warm beverages, and then go out to enjoy  the sun and views when things clear up again. After a good meal we relax a bit more and then head off to bed.


Stats: 14.2km, 1463m up, 1138m down, 7:15

Monday, September 26, 2016

Swiss-Italian Border Hike Day 3: Crampiolo to Alpe Veglia

After a surprisingly good breakfast (clearly catering to the typical customer) we head off under blue skies (though not yet in the sun) towards the Lago delle Streghe (Lake of the Witches). This turns out to be a very pretty small lake in the woods with some nice mirroring of the surroundings. Around the lake through the woods we go and the slightly down to Alpe Devero. Here we walk around the huge field, half moor half pasture, and through a small herd of cows  to the small cluster of houses at Piedimonte. Here we turn up into the woods and start climbing. Up, up we go, now in the sun, past a cluster of buildings at Buscagna, past a shepherd with a big herd of goats, along a high valley (oh the views!), up another step and past a group of three hikers to the next high valley (oh the views!), along the valley and through a herd of cows to the end and then up, up to little tower above the pass Scatta d'Orogna.

Here we find a reasonably wind sheltered spot to eat lunch, greet the group of three hikers as they go by, and then head off again when the wind and the shade gets to be too much (the sun is unfortunately behind clouds part of the time now). The path now leads us down, around a small hanging valley, and then around a nose into the next valley. This is a great piece of path: narrow, high above the valley floor with cliffs towering above, secured with chains at one point, very very nice.

In the Passo di Valtendra we see another big herd of goats (no shepherd this time) and bid the views behind us goodbye before turning down the other side. The views aren't quite as good since the clouds are a bit low and the sun is mostly gone. Now a nice path through rocks leading us down, down, down to the next step. Here we pass the three Germans again and then head down to the next step. Across and down, now in the woods. It'd probably be really nice in the sun, but shadowed at the end of a long day this stage starts to drag on a bit. After a final bit of descent we hit Alpe Veglia and our hotel, which would have awesome views of the Monte Leone if the clouds weren't so low. We settle in, have a cool beverage, shower, nap, have a very good meal (yay! Polenta!), and then head off to bed after a bit of stargazing.


Stats: 17.0km, 1001m up, 1029m down, 7:05

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Swiss-Italian Border Hike Day 2: Binntalhütte to Crampiolo

After a surprisingly minimal breakfast we leave the hut and head up the couple hundred meters to the Albrunpass. The morning is clear and the views down into Wallis are quite nice (the hut has a great view of the Bietschhorn and the Nesthorn). In the pass we hit the sun and pick up nice views down into Italy. We play around a bit in the pass, taking pictures and doing some scrambling on the big boulders that are there before continuing on our way down, down into Italy. The trail leads us curving down onto a high plain and then by a largish alp (Alp Forno) and then along a stream across the high plain.

We do an energy bar break (the new batch is quite good) in the sun before we turn off at the Alpe la Satta and contour around and down (in the shade, brrrr!) to the Alpe della Valle. Around the corner, and back in the sun, we meet the trail coming up from Alpe Devero, now there are more people around, and we turn off to the left and start to climb through another small valley up towards Alpe Naga and the Passo Pojala. Up up we climb while the views open up around us.

When we find a good spot we stop for lunch with nice views back across the valley towards the Albrunhorn, Ofenhorn, and the rest of that chain. A couple of groups pass us in each direction while we are eating (this is not a lonely path after all!).  We check the map and find an alternate route around the other side of the ridge and past a couple of lakes. So up up we go onto another high plain, past a big patch of wool grass and then through the broad Passo Pojala over the Lago di Pojala. This is a really, really pretty alpine lake nicely situated in its  valley and surrounded by likely camping spots (next time). Around the lake we go and then down to the next long plain with a few buildings placed picturesquely at the end (Alpe Pojala).

An aside at this point: this day had so many absolutely fantastic views that it's really impossible to describe, so I haven't tried. We spent a lot of time saying "wow" and giggling to ourselves as we hiked.

Across that valley and to the houses (mostly abandoned with a couple of modern container like structures that are now lived in), where we have a break and a snack, and then we turn off to the right and climb gently along the slope, with a view down to the artificial lake (Lago di Agaro) below opening up, until we reach another pass (Botta di Scarpia). We bid the views to that side goodbye, greet the views of the Albrunhorn et al. again and  head down the other side, through the woods, down down down, until we hit the bottom of the valley at Crampiolo.
Here it's madness! It's a sunny Sunday afternoon and a short walk from the parking at Alpe Devero and the Italians are out in force. We manage to check into our hotel (greeting the two Swiss we had eaten with the previous night), have a rest in the sun and a cool beverage, do a short stroll around town to buy some cheese (and eat a bit of yogurt), take a nap, and then have a nice meal before heading off to bed. What a day!


Stats: 16.6km, 794m up, 1283m down, 7:42

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Swiss-Italian Border Hike Day 1: Binn to Binntalhütte

The trip down to Wallis is crazy full, it seems like half of Switzerland is headed to the mountains to enjoy the late season sun. Fortunately, the bus waits for the (20 minute late) train in Fiesch and so we do end up making it to Binn. We've been talking for years about doing a tour in the Binntal, but somehow never got around to it until now; it is a long enough trip down that it really only makes sense to come for a multi-day tour.

The plan is to do a long piece of the ridge towards the Holzjihorn, probably not including the peak itself, and then head across the next ridge and over to the Binntalhütte, where we are staying for the first night. It's a late start, so we feel like there is some time pressure, particularly greg, so we keep up a healthy pace as we head up, up, up out of town towards to Eggerhorn. The first bit of the Andreas-special is nicely shaded under the trees, but we are above the tree line soon enough. The views from the path and ridge are quite good, though a bit encumbered by clouds over the Berner Oberland (to the north) and, to a lesser extent to the south. Up, up and along we go until we hit the old bunker under the Eggerhorn, which is under construction (!). We opt to do lunch and enjoy the views there instead of doing the last 15 minutes up to the peak. Once we find a reasonably wind sheltered spot we enjoy a quick lunch with somewhat cloud-covered views to the north. After lunch the wind really picks up, so out come the hard shells for a bit.

[then we climbed the Grosses Fülhorn....]

From this point on the path tends to stay under the ridge, which helps with the wind and we aren't really missing too much viewing to the north (thanks to the clouds). Along we go, gently climbing and descending on the nice path, onwards and onwards until we hit the pass at p2716. Here we turn steeply down and follow the path more or less directly to the bottom, crossing the stream, climbing up a bit towards the Gandhorn and then continuing along to the alp at Schinerewysse. Now we leave the marked paths and follow the farm road to the small, but nicely renovated, hut at p2251 before turning downhill on an old, clearly no longer used, path that takes us down to the river at Chiestafel. Back in marked paths now we cross the bridge and head up, up, up and along until we get to the Binntalhütte. We've made excellent time, so we have plenty of time to relax and enjoy a cool beverage before dinner.
The hut is quite nice (and small) and not completely full, so it's reasonably calm; the food is excellent, and we even manage to get in a bit of star gazing before heading off to bed.
It would be nice to do this approach again without the feeling of time pressure and without the clouds. The views from the ridge must be really something when one can see everything.


Stats: 18.5km, 1845m up, 982m down, 6:36

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Running in SF

A route through SF.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Ok, not this weekend

This weekend we wanted to do a longish multi-pitch route. We settled on spending Saturday night in the Fergenhütte and then climbing the Fergenkegel on Sunday. It's a good sounding plan because we get to stay in hut without a custodian (which we haven't done before) and the climb itself is nice and long without being too difficult. From the descriptions we read it also sounds like it's not something that loads of people do. When Andrea reserves our spots they say that 12 other people have already reserved. We hope that at least some won't show and assume that they're going to be hikers.

Saturday morning we get a late start (it's a short day) and start walking from Monbiel at around 12:30. At first we follow the road away from the (very full) parking lot, turn off onto a forest road, and then turn to ascend on another forest road. By this point we're alone. After some easy, well except for the heavy packs, climbing under the trees we do a lunch break with views in a clearing and then continue our way up along a nice path. Up, up, up we go until we get to the hut shortly before 3. Only one other couple is there (yay!) though they are climbers (hrm). We claim two beds, checkout the small (but nice) hut, put a beer in the water trough to cool for later, and have a short rest. As we're leaving for the usual reconnaissance tour a solo hiker arrives. She has apparently made a navigation mistake and is at the wrong hut, but the planned hut is more than 5 hours away, so she calls down to ensure that there's going to be a free bed.
Fergenhut and Fergenkegel in the background
The reco-tour is pretty straightforward: we follow the marked path towards the Fergenfurgga and then turn off on the obvious line towards the base of the Fergenkegel. The "tower" itself looks great! We're both very psyched since we haven't climbed something quite as tower-like before. On the way back down we follow some sheep paths to a nice view point where we hang out for a bit before heading back to the hut. At the hut we have a snack and a cool beverage, check the hut book to see what fraction of overnight guests climb the Fergenkegel (small! reassuring!), change into somewhat warmer clothes (the temp is dropping) and start to think about moving inside as the clouds that have been threatening for the past few hours are now occasionally loosing a drop of rain. As we're thinking this through another group of three, all with climbing gear, arrives. What? A couple minutes later, another group of three, also all with climbing gear, arrives. Uh oh. Shortly behind them is another group of climbers. There end up being 12 climbers in this group and they're likely planning to do the Fergenkegel (it's really the only climb in the area). Crap! Andrea confirms their planned route (Fergenkegel, of course) and we look at each other and make a very quick decision. There's a bus from the parking lot shortly before 7. It's 5 now. We quickly re-pack our stuff and head back down. Of course it starts raining as we're walking down, including some nice thunder (luckily we're head down the flank and are under trees). We move fast so that by the time we get to the fields at the bottom we have some time to wait out the last of the real rain under some trees. Back at the parking lot we have another sandwich while waiting and then get on the bus for what turns out to be an even-longer-than-anticipated trip home thanks to multiple train delays.

That was just bad luck that the big group was there, so we'll go climbing locally on Sunday and plan to do this trip another time.

Saturday, September 03, 2016

A couple Glarner ridges

After a few weeks of doing mountaineering we were both in the mood for more of a hiking weekend. We haven't really done a long day yet this year and would be underway with light packs, so greg pushed for something with at least 2000m of climbing and some length. The forecast was good, so we were really spoiled for choice. We ended up picking a long ridge in the Glarnerland.

We start in Mitlödi and quickly end up in a very efficient climb up the East side of the valley (last time we were in this area we went one train stop further to Schwanden and went up the other side) on a mixture of forest road and path. It's all through the woods and nicely shady. At Achseli we start to follow the contour around, past Chli Gheist, and then climb up to Mittler Gheist where we do a food break while enjoying the very nice views. After lunch it's up, up towards Ober Gheist. Now we start seeing loads of blueberries by the side of the path, but unfortunately we don't really have time to stop and pick them (it's a long tour!). Past Ober Gheist, where a couple are processing the blueberries they have picked (damnit!) and then up, up more. Now we're following a track that's initially marked by newly planted trees and then later by stonemen, up, up until we reach the end of the Güntelchamm. Here we get a fantastic view of a really, really cool high plain (this is one of those "wow" moments that happens while hiking... so nice). We descend to the plain, realize that we're losing the stonemen, and stop to do a bit of route planning. We want to get up to the Breitchamm as soon as we can, but certainly after any of the really rocky bits that require climbing. So, based on what Andrea's read in a hikr report, we contour around on the blocks under the Breitchamm. It's fun walking and the views of the high plain really are nice. When we hit the grass flank above the Bei den Seelenen we continue along, now starting to climb, and basically pick the "logical" route along the steep flank until we come up onto the Breitchamm between p2395 and p2351, where we re-join the marked trail.

high plane underneath Güntelchamm
The trail takes us up a bit to the Gufelstock, where we do another quick food break and enjoy the views. Now that we're back on a marked path there are once again people around, but not too many. The next patch is a very, very nice stretch of ridge over the Höch and the Chli Höch and the Heustock to the Schwarzstöckli. This is a tick above T3 and has the great views you expect from a ridge hike. We do this relatively quickly since we've still got a ways to go and don't want to get to the hut overly late. From the Schwarzstöckli we continue along the ridge over the Wisschamm, cross the pass at Rotärd (the name makes sense when you see the big stretches of red rock/gravel/earth up here), and then turn off at the pass at p2224. Now we start descending, down, down, to the Fronalppass, past Ober Stafel, and then steeply down (unfortunately on a farm road now) to Mittler Stafel. Further along the road until we get to the Naturfreundhaus where we're staying the evening. We check in (very surprising to discover we're the only guests given how everything else in the area seems to be full), have showers (!), and then enjoy views, beverages, and dinner on the terrace before heading off to bed.
along the ridge
We wanted a long tour and got it; stats for day 1: about 20km, 2250m up, 1390m down, 8.5 hours of hiking (including breaks).

On Sunday we set out after a good breakfast under blue skies. The path starts by taking us along the road  a bit and past the restaurant before turning off and starting to contour around under the Fronalpstock, towering high above us. This ends up being a really lovely path through woods with big moss covered boulders all around. We follow it until Hofalpli and then turn upwards towards the ridge connecting the Fronalpstock to the Nüenchamm. We have a pretty good description of the route up here, but it turns out that the whole thing is (relatively recently) blue-white marked, so route-finding isn't a problem. We climb steeply, at first through a bit of wood, then just on grass, through mixed rock and grass, up, up, past a bunch of goats, up until we hit the Fedensattel. Nice views back towards Glarnerland, but now we can also see into the valley on the other side and the Ruchen again. We ignore the blue-white path down into the valley and continue along the ridge towards the Nüenchamm. This is also marked, but since we're on a ridge the only real markings required are those that show us when to go around an obstacle instead of over it. It's a nice ridge, mostly walking, a bit of easy scrambling (though there tend to be chains in these bits), at times quite narrow, lots of fun. We're surprised to find ourselves alone on the peak (the forecast is for rain to come late in the day and it's still early), but we aren't complaining. After a lunch break and some view enjoyment we start our way down, down, down along the red-white path to Habergschwänd. It's a nice path and we do encounter some people on their way up to enjoy the views. At Habergschwänd we have a second lunch (we get a table with a view; it's too much to resist!) and then decide to rent trottinettes  for the trip down to Filzbach instead of walking or taking the lift. It's our first time doing this and it's a fun way to get down to town. We haven't paid attention to the time, so in Filzbach we end up waiting a bit for the bus that starts the trip home.
along the ridge to the Nüenchamm

Aside: we're really going to have to figure out a good tour to the Ruchen, we'd admired it before and having it looming over us for two days was almost too much. :-)