Yearly Archives: 2015

Three cols

November 7th

Itinerary:  Samnaun village – Zeblasjoch (2539 m) – Fuorcla Val Grondo (2752 m) – Fimberpass (Cuolmen d’Fenga, 2608 m) – Val Sinestra – pt 1507  on road to Hotel Sinestra above Sent.

Distance: 27,9 km
Time:  7 hours 40 minutes (plus 55 minutes for the stops)
Vertical distance:  1310 m uphill; 1680 m downhill.

Another beautiful sunny day.  This day was planned as a tour de force to leave the Samnaun duty-free zone.  The obvious destination would have been the Heidelberger Hut, already closed late September, which is more readily accessible from Ischgl in Austria.  To get back into the Lower Engadine involved crossing the Fimber Pass, with a long walk down the Sinestra valley to Vnà or Sent.  All went well, except that the stretch from the Zeblas Col to beyond the Fimber Pass required snowshoes and was laborious in the soft snow and absence of clear paths. Also, bands of grass and stones meant I had to take the snowshoes off (and put them on again) some eight or nine times in all.

Night:  Garni Pensiun Plaz, Sent

The next summits on the Austrian frontier, starting with the Fluchthorn (3398 m), cannot reasonably be done this year – there is too much snow, they would require a guide or a partner, mountain huts are closed (until the ski touring season), and the days are too short.  So they, and the rest of the frontier circuit, will have to wait until next July probably.

It has been a great adventure so far!  People have asked me how many kilometres I have done, how much I have climbed, etc.  So here are some statistics (I am grateful to my brother Rolf who started compiling the figures in a table on a daily basis).

Days involved: 98, including 5 rest days but not travel days
Kilometres covered: 1784, of which 137 by bicycle and 88 by kayak
Hours walked, cycled and by kayak, total: 625
Vertical distances:  uphill 102’660 metres, downhill 105’650 metres
Kilometres of frontier covered: 1358 (France 572, Italy 744, Austria 42)


1. Zeblasjoch
2. Fuorcla Val Grondo
3. View from Fuorcla Val Grondo to the southwest; Fluchthorn on the right

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November 6th

Itinerary:  Alp Trida Skihaus (2261 m) – Alp Bella – Grübelekopf (2894 m) – Flimjoch (2757 m) – Alptrider Sattel – pt 1748 m on main road 2 km below Samnaun village

Distance:  18,9 km
Time:  6 hours 10 minutes (plus 45 minutes for the stops)
Vertical distance: 1230 m uphill; 1740 m downhill

Partly cloudy in the morning, better in the afternoon.  The road up to Alp Trida needed a special permit from the municipality of Compatsch, which took some time.  So it was another late start (9.40 a.m.).  The road was untarred and steep in places.  Sally was terrified driving down again and swore she would never do such roads again.  So I had to allow time to descend into the valley.  However, all went smoothly, the only problem was finding the right path when most red and white markers were hidden under snow on the way across to the Flimjoch.  I was there shortly after 2 p.m. but there was no time to do the next summit (Bürkelkopf, 3033 m, steep scree, with a lot of snow at the top, guidebook time 1 hour up) and get down again before dark.  Once again, I saw nobody all day, except 2-3 workers at the Alptrider Sattel checking ski lifts and cable cars to be ready for the ski season.

Night: Hotel Post, Samnaun


1. View from summit of Grübelekopf, looking south
2. Signpost at Flimjoch

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Into Samnaun

November 5th

Itinerary (by bicycle):  Customs post Martina (Martinsbruck) – border crossing at Schalkl (Austria) – Vinadi (Weinberg, turn-off for Samnaun) – Hof da Fans (Pfandshof) – Customs post Spissermühle

Distance: 19.0 km
Time: 1 hour 55 minutes (plus 30 minute coffee break in the duty-free centre Pfandshof)
Vertical distance: 580 m uphill; 100 m downhill

We left Sent fairly early and were soon at the customs post in Martina, about 16 km away. Here I unloaded Roger’s bicycle and assembled it (wheels had been removed).  A border guard told us that kayaking was forbidden from here this year, because of a construction site. (But I no longer intended to do the next 6-7 km by kayak – too late in the season, water too cold, no companions, etc.)

At 9 o’clock I could start, still in the shade, at -2°C, about 7,5 km to the border crossing to Austria, from here back uphill to Vinadi and then up the mountain road towards Samnaun.  I had to make a big effort, panted a lot, and had to push the bicycle now and then. Two major construction sites with one-way traffic, a number of tunnels (I had no lights on the bicycle), but never more than 250 meters from the border (it runs lower down along the Schergen river). Sally was waiting for me at the first duty-free market, for a coffee with apple strudel, then I was again strengthened for the last 2 km to the turn-off for Spiss and Landeck (Austrian customs post).

Then I disassembled the bicycle and stowed it in the car, and we drove a few kilometres to Samnaun village, where we found a hotel (about 70% of the hotels, etc are already closed, until the end of November).  I was then still too exhausted to contemplate another hike in the afternoon.

Night: Hotel Post, Samnaun

Arrivederci Italia!

November 4th


First part:  circuit Reschner Alm (2020 m) – pt. 2745 m above the Grubenjoch – Piz Lad (2808 m) – pt. 2784 – Dreiländerpunkt (triple point Switzerland-Italy-Austria, 2180 m) – Reschner Alm

Distance: 12,6 km
Time:  4 hours 40 minutes (plus 30 minutes for the stops)
Vertical distance: 960 m uphill and down again

Second part:  descent from the Reschner Alm to the main road, so that Sally doesn’t have to drive up a narrow untarred road a second time

Distance:  3,2 km; time: 35 minutes;  vertical distance: 230 m downhill

Good weather in the morning, overcast in the afternoon.  Fairly easy climb on a good path, some snowy stretches higher up, that I could avoid on steep grass.  On the way down, I took a shortcut to reach the Dreiländerpunkt more quickly – traverses of fairly steep snow slopes – luckily there were tracks of a person who had done the same path 1 or 2 days before!

This day’s hike marks the end of the border with Italy, with 744 km the longest border between Switzerland and a neighbouring country.  In these 744 km there were the highest point and the lowest point of the border (Grenzgipfel and Lago Maggiore), the most southerly and the most easterly points, and all the 4000-metre peaks!

Night: Garni Pensiun Plaz, Sent


1. View from pt. 2784 to the  Reschensee / Lago di Rèsia
2-4. Limestone boulder used as frontier stone: triple point Switzerland-Italy-Austria.

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Advice from a hut warden

November 3rd

Itinerary: Pt. 1829 m above Schlinig (Slìngia) – Sesvenna Hut – Schlinigpass – Rassaserscharte (2714 m) – Rojental (Valle Roia) – Reschen (Rèsia)

Distance: 25,4 km
Walking time: 7 hours 40 minutes (plus 1 hour 10 minutes for the stops)
Vertical distance: 1160 m uphill;  1480 m downhill

Piz Starlex and Piz Sesvenna were not possible because of the snow, so I opted to continue from the Schlinig Valley.  It was a late start (9h10 a.m.) because we started driving up the wrong access road and had to turn back when the road   ended.  After an hour’s walk I reached the Sesvenna Hut.  It closed on October 25th but the hut warden was there, ferrying provisions up on a goods cable hoist.  He advised against my plan to traverse the Craist’Ota and the ridge to the north as it would be too icy and I had no crampons with me, only snowshoes.  Instead, he advised crossing the Rassaserscharte from the Swiss side into Italy and descending to Reschen.  This was a good marked path (except where snow covered the markers), yet again not shown on the 2011 Swiss 1:25,000 map nor on my GPS.

Sally paid a visit to Merano by train but for some reason her phone was not working and I could not contact her orally or by SMS to say where I would be coming down.  We had booked a place in Sent (near Scuol) and she was helped by two very friendly Italians (running a restaurant and pizzeria close by) who called me on their mobile phones.  In the end I had to walk right down into Reschen, arriving after dark, while she had to come back to fetch me.

Night: Garni Pensiun Plaz, Sent


Setting off


Golden larches

November 2nd

Itinerary:  Müstair village (1250 m) – Piz Terza / Urtirolaspitze (2909 m)  – Fuorcla Starlex (2634 m) – Val d’Avigna at 1530 m

Distance: 19,3 km
Time: 8 hours 30 minutes (plus 1 hour for the stops)
Vertical distance: 1850 m uphill; 1570 m downhill

A beautiful sunny day.  The good weather of the last few days had removed much of the snow on the south-facing slopes up to about 2600 m.  On the north-facing slopes it’s a different story …

I left directly from the hotel at 7.40 a.m. and followed well marked paths to the summit of Piz Terza.  The larches were beautiful (see photos) and the forest paths very pleasant, soft underfoot due to millions of fallen larch needles.  The last 45 minutes or so were on snow and would have been more tedious if weren’t for tracks left by a party of 4 or 5 the day before.  Summit at midday.  Beautiful 360° view.

The ridge to the north required snowshoes.  A series of rock steps covered in snow forced me down on the Swiss side and I reached the frontier again at the Fuorcla Starlex.  The descent from here was uneventful but a communication problem meant I had to walk a few kilometres more down the road in the Val d’Avigna than I had intended.  Finally, Sally found me and drove me back to the hotel.

Night: Hotel Chavalatsch, Müstair


Larches in autumn; early morning sunlight

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Piz Chavalatsch!

October 24th

This is a very special summit because it is the easternmost point of Switzerland and had to be done!

Another beautiful sunny day.  I managed the summit in good time, using snowshoes again, they were invaluable.  The two previous days I had met not a single person during the hike, today just 2 people at the summit; they had come up a different way from a mountain hut.

Itinerary:  start at 8 a.m. at 1500 m above Müstair – Piz Chavalatsch (2763 m) – down on Italian side via Rifair Scharte – customs post between Müstair and Taufers.

Distance: 15,0 km
Time:  6 hours 55 minutes (plus 1 hour 10 minutes for the stops)
Vertical distance:  1280 m uphill;  1530 m downhill

Tomorrow (end of summer time!) we return home for a week of babysitting.  If the weather is good early November, I may be able to do another frontier section, otherwise I (and my dear readers) will have to wait until next  year!

Night: Chasa Chalavaina, Müstair


1. Piz Chavalatsch summit cross
2. Signs on the cross
3. View of Müstair from summit, 1500 m lower down
4. Frontier stone at Müstair customs post

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A tactical mistake

October 23rd

A beautiful sunny day!

The day’s target was Piz Chavalatsch, the last summit before Müstair.  To avoid too great a height difference, I decided to leave from the Umbrail Pass road at about 1830 m, above Gasthaus Alpenrose.  This route involves a traverse of about 6 km at 2300 to 2400 m.  In summer this would have taken me 2-3 hours.  But with 30-40 cm of snow on the ground …

After yesterday’s experience, I went to a sports shop and rented snowshoes for 2 days.  This gave for a late start and the snow was soft.  And the path was not easy to find above the tree line.  As a result the first 3 km of traverse took over 3 hours of floundering in the snow, sinking in up to my ankles and beyond, even wearing the snowshoes!

Then it was time to abort the exercise, to find a path down to the valley before dark.

Itinerary:  Umbrail Pass Road at 1830 m – shepherds’ hut Pin Grond – Müstair village.

Distance:  15,1 km
Time:  6 hours 15 minutes (plus 45 minutes for the stops)
Vertical distance: 640 m uphill;  1220 m downhill.

Night: Chasa Chalavaina, Müstair


Piz Chavalatsch, in the centre, still some 4 km away, as the crow flies …


Adventure in the snow

October 22nd

Itinerary:  Stelvio Pass – 5 summits on the border going north – down to Gasthaus Alpenrose (1788 m) above Santa Maria on the road to the Umbrail Pass.

Distance: 14,2 km
Time:  10 hours 45 minutes (plus 40 minutes for the stops)
Vertical distance:  850 m uphill;  1920 m downhill.


Piz de las Trais Linguas, 2843 m
Piz Cotschen, 3026 m
Korspitz, 2933 m
Gross Tartscher Kopf, 2963 m
Piz Costainas, 3004 m

I left the Stelvio Pass at 7:40 am; it was -6°C but the day would be fine: no clouds, no wind.  There were 15-20 cm of fresh snow, and less where it had blown away on the ridges, and it had even disappeared in places.  So I phoned Sally to say it was OK and that I would continue.  How wrong I was!  As I progressed further north, the snow became deeper.  For a kilometre I could follow the tracks of a group of ibex but then progress became increasingly difficult and tiring; I sank in up to my knees, sometimes up to a hip between boulders.

The ascent of the last two summits proved easier; there was less snow between the rocks and I could follow the markers visible in places. On the other hand, the technical difficulty was higher, PD or even more, and on the fairly steep descents, I often floundered up to my thighs.  A little before 4 p.m. it was time to stop: I went down a not too steep slope from a col just after Piz Costainas, on the Swiss side.  Once I had reached the bottom of a side valley, the snow became less deep, but it still took more than three hours to reach the road between Santa Maria and Umbrail – by then it was already dark!

Night: Chasa Chalavaina, Müstair


1. Below Piz Cotschen, still acceptable
2. The south ridge of Piz Costainas; the route goes directly to the summit from the bottom of the picture

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