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

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