Sunday, July 20, 2014

Hiking with Chris in Wallis Day 4: Hotel Weisshorn -> St. Luc

 Text to come.
Start at the Hotel Weisshorn
trail along the cascades de Prillet


Details: 7.9km, 155m up, 840m down.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Hiking with Chris in Wallis Day 3: Gruben, Turtmanntal -> Hotel Weisshorn

Text to come.
view towards Bishorn, Weisshorn and Turtmann-Glacier

underneath the Meidhorn

between Borter-Pass and Pas du Boeuf


Details: 12.7km, 1215m up, 625m down.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Hiking with Chris in Wallis Day 2: Embd -> Gruben, Turtmanntal

Text to come.
towards the moon or the Augstbordpass?


descent from the Augstbordpass


Details: 12.6km, 1045m up, 1115m down.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Hiking with Chris in Wallis Day 1: Moosalp -> Embd

Text to come.
panorama path in front of the Bietschhorn

looking up the Mattertal


Details: 7.2km, 50m up, 675m down.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Hiking in Tessin Day 3: The walk down to Bellinzona

As expected at an Italian hut, breakfast wasn't particularly good, but we took what we got and were underway by 8:15. Once back up at the pass we contoured along the valley wall, enjoying great views across to yesterday's ridge and practicing our geology ("is this granite or gneiss?"). At a saddle we get a view across the Swiss side of the ridge, which is very attractive indeed. Finally we hit a saddle where the path turns down the other side to head down to the Cap. Gesero. Andrea really doesn't want to leave the ridge, so we choose to stay up top and go, mostly cross country, that way until it hits the path coming from the hut that crosses the ridge again. This ends up being a fun path-finding exercise, tramping through very wet high grass, trying to avoid bumping into electric fences, etc.

We are both ready to be back on a normal path by the time we hit the bowl where we rejoin the trail. As we cross we spook a fox, who crosses the bowl to run up the other side. That's our second fox this year. Very cool!

Back on the trail we follow the ridge, past the rocks and old shelter at the Sasso Guida,  slowly descending until we come to the picnic table and cross at the Monti di Ravecchia. What a perfect place to have a lunch break and enjoy the views down to Bellinzona and along the valley in both directions. After lunch it's into the woods and down, down, down along a great path through woods. The last hour is on an old mule path which would probably be very welcome on a muddy day but which is pretty hard on the feet. The asphalt when we hit Bellinzona is almost welcome. Our timing is great: we have just enough time to grab something cool to drink before the train back to Basel leaves. It would have been better, of course, if the normal train had been running the route and we weren't stuck in an old thing without air conditioning, but you can't have everything...

A nice day to wrap up a nice trip.

The track:

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.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Hiking in Tessin Day 1: Cadro to Cap. San Lucio

We did a hike along this route seven years ago at Easter time with Andreas and Elke. This time we were trying to find decent weather (our planned four day trip to the Berner Oberland had been cancelled due to weather and fresh snow). There were some heavy constraints because of the fresh snow, so we picked something nice and low and in Tessin.

Sunday afternoon we took the train down to Lugano so that we could get and early start on Monday. Andrea found a decent hotel downtown and we enjoyed the early evening with a stroll around town and then dinner at a pizza place. (The restaurant where we ate last time was right next door to our hotel, but unfortunately is closed on Sunday, so we couldn't eat there again). After watching the Germans beat the Argentinians in the World Cup, we went off to sleep. The hotel breakfast buffet was surprisingly good, and started nice and early, so we were on the bus to our start point shortly before 8am.

The bus dropped us in Cadro, where we started immediately walking uphill. The path was really nice, under trees and led us up, up, up the slope to the Alp Bolla. From this point we were on the path that we'd used on the last trip. Onward along the ridge we go, enjoying the nice views, until we reach the Dente Vecchia. These are just fun to walk through: Nice dolomite formations. At the saddle just on the other side of the Sasso Grande we decide that we've got plenty of time, so we opt to take the nominally T3 route to the top. We do something wrong and end up on a blue-white marked path (sign one that this route isn't actually T3) that leads us to a chimney to scramble up. The chimney rapidly gets too narrow for the backpacks, so after a short strategy discussion we ditch them and continue on our way. After a couple of fun scrambly bits that lead to quick "we are going to have to come back down this, so it shouldn't get too much hairier" discussions we reach the top and enjoy the views. The route back down the chimney requires some concentration, but it's not as hairy as feared. We reclaim our packs and continue back down to the main trail. After a sandwich break we continue on our way.

Instead of following the path from last time, we take a less marked path that leads us along the ridge. Very, very nice path. Very recommended! At the Cappana Pairolo we agree that neither of us can remember it and then continue on our way. Up above we find a nice dry place where we take a rest before continuing along the path. After a bit we pass a sign for the Cima Foiorina, which will add an hour to the day, but seems like a good idea. We've still got plenty of time. The path up to this runs a stupid route, so we cut it short by doing a, more or less, dirrettissima up the grass slope. Eventually we hit the real path, which takes us to the saddle and then from there further along the ridge. The clouds have been playing a game where they clear out for a while and then the next one comes in to cover the peak. Of course there's one coming in as we do the ridge. Greg decides to speed up so that he can at least enjoy a few moments of view before getting sucked in by cloud. He barely makes it and can enjoy a partial view to the South. Once Andrea catches up, we continue on our merry way along the ridge until we hear thunder on the Italian side. That's no good. We hurry up more to get the descent out of the way, hearing a couple more thunder bangs along the way, but we get down without even really getting rained on. Now we rejoin the main path and finish our way to the Cappana San Lucia. We have the great surprise of being able to shower and then enjoy a very relaxed early evening before a very, very good meal, a post-dinner stroll, and then bed.

Stats: 16.7km, 1630m up, 540m down.

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Weather follies around the Martinsmadhütte

The weather report for the weekend was somewhat dodgy - possible rain on Saturday, probably ok on Sunday - but we decided to head up to the mountains anyway. The Martinsmadhütte has been on our list of places to check out for a while: it's small, according to the stats not particularly full, and there are some interesting tours to do around it, including a Hochtour + traverse that sounds really tempting.

So, on Saturday we grab an early train, train, train, bus combo and make our way to Elm (we've started here before). The plan is to make our way up along the ridge to the Mittaghorn, then head from there down to the hut. The weather seems like it might play along: there are plenty of clouds, but our ridge seems fairly clear. So, up, up, up we go along a very nice path. We've got the mountaineering gear with us, so our packs are heavy (good practice for our upcoming week in the Berner Oberland! at least that's what Greg keeps telling himself as he starts to curse the weight of the rope). At some point we end up in a cloud, so we lose whatever views we might have had, but at least it's not actively raining. Along the way we decide that trying to do the ridge in these conditions (wet, no view, etc.) doesn't make a lot of sense, so when we get to the fork in the path at around 1620m, we turn off to the left and contour around towards Nideren. After descending to the river (you have to go down in order to go up) we turn right and then head up the wall at the end of the valley. We do a short break after the first step (haven't really done much in the way of breaks so far... the weather doesn't really encourage standing around), and then continue along. The hut, perched on the edge of one of the cliffs, is visible now; pushing us to finish the hike. The last bit is steeply up another couple steps and then we're at the hut. The sun has come out 5 minutes before we arrived, so we can enjoy our refreshing beverages and much-delayed lunch sitting outside the hut and enjoying the views. After a nap, a bit more enjoying the views, and a few games of cards, we enjoy a very nice dinner (SAC huts are normally fine, particularly since we're always pretty hungry, but this was quite good food) with the other 9 people staying at the hut and then head off to bed.

On Sunday we get an early-ish start with breakfast at 6. We're on our way, under cloudless skies, by 6:45. The blue-white marked path leads us to the end of the bowl, up a small step, and then across another broad step to the "Schwarzwändli".
The Schwarzwändli in the foreground, the larger wall in the back.
Here we have to improvise a bit since the path leads us to a snow field that doesn't look particularly inviting. We do a bit of scrambling up the wall until we hit the cable that accompanies the path. The rest of the way up is a fun bit of scrambling, with the cable always there if things get too hairy. The top of that wall leads us to the next bowl, surrounded by very impressive 400m walls. We soak in the ambience and then continue along the very well marked path, heading more or less west, across some snow, across some rocks, steadily ascending, until we're at the top of the wall. After a bit more walking, the Vorabfirn comes into view, as does the peak we're heading for: the Glarner Vorab. Well, ok, that's a like. The Glarner Vorab would be in view, but it's 3018 meters high, and the clouds that have come in are at about 2750m. Crap!

We take a short break in a sheltered spot out of the wind, consider the situation, and decide to proceed at least to the pass to see what the other side looks like. We carried all the glacier crap with us, so we might as well use it. So we put on the glacier gear and head out across the firn. Just shy of 2800m we are in the cloud and can't see too much.
In the cloud on the Firn
After another consultation, we decide that the cloud really isn't going away and that we're not quite stubborn enough to really climb a mountain and then do a T4+ ridge hike when there's no view whatsoever to be had, so we turn back around (crap!) and head down to the ugly, and out-of-place, Station Vorab Gletscher ski station down at 2566m.

At the station we find a wind-sheltered spot, have a lunch break, pack away the glacier stuff, and plan a new route down. After some looking around on the map (hooray for the SchweizMobil app!) we opt for a scenic route down to Falera. First we follow a road (part gravel, part limestone) through the ski area, head across to the Fuorcla da Sagogn, climb up to the Crap Masegn, then head off along the ridge (we get our ridge after all!) until more or less the end. The views are very nice, including back to the ridge that we didn't do (still largely in clouds, definitely the right decision).
Looking back towards the ridge we had planned to traverse. The Bündner Vorab is almost visible at the right of the ridge.
At the end of the ridge we head down, down, and then around a long bowl before doing the last bit of descent into town. We arrive at the bus stop about 5 minutes before the bus leaves (not an accident...), enough time to pack stuff away and get ready for the long trip home.

Though things didn't go as planned, it was still a good trip. We'll have to go back some weekend with better weather and actually do what we had planned here.

 Day 1:
And day 2: