Monthly Archives: July 2015

Deep valleys – steep sides

July 31st

Distance:  18,6 km
Time: 7 hours (plus 1 hour for the stops)
Vertical distance: 1190 m uphill; 2260 m downhill

Over 2000 m downhill seems to be a record so far.  Not the best thing for knees but they survived!  The valleys really are deep and steep here:  first we had the 700 m down from Alpe Saléi to Comologno, all steep, especially at the end going past small chalets and barns.  Had a coffee here, then had to drop another 230 m to get across the river.  Followed by over 1000 m steeply up a ridge to near Pizzo Ruscada, then down again over 1100 m to Borgnono and Camedo in the Centovalli.  Luckily we had lighter rucksacks since no rope, ice axe or crampons were needed.

I had been warned that below about 2000 m it is almost impossible to progress away from proper paths without losing a lot of time and energy because of the vegetation – mainly small junipers, bilberry bushes and Alpine rose bushes – and we experienced this ourselves yesterday when we went astray and tried to cut back to the correct path – so we chose marked paths as close to the frontier as possible.

One consequence of these deep valleys is that the frontier with Italy does not follow the watershed in the Valle di Campo and the Valle Onsernone but lies down below on the Swiss side.  The frontier follows ancient agreements on grazing areas for sheep and cattle and access to these areas was easier from the Italian side coming over the passes than from the Ticino side coming up the deep valleys.

We found a nice hotel in Italy – Albergo Bellavista in Folsogno (commune of Re) – quieter and cheaper than down the Centovalli in Switzerland.


1. Peter and Nona at Comologno
2. Below Pizzo Ruscada

IMG_7161C IMG_0867C

Lago Maggiore gets closer

July 30th

Itinerary:  Cimalmotto – Passo della Cavegna – Capanna Alpe Arena – Passo del Bùsan – Pilone (2192 m) – Capanna Alpe Saléi (above Comologno)

Distance: 21,2 km
Time: 9 hours (including 45 minutes for the stops)
Vertical distance:  1480 m uphill;  1140m downhill

Left Munt la Reita agroturismo at 8.20 a.m. with Peter, me with two ski sticks and an elastic bandage around my knee.  A bit slow going downhill on stony paths, otherwise OK.  Lost half an hour when we lost the red/white markings but were saved by the GPS!  Sunny weather mainly, some clouds.  From Passo del Bùsan (2006 m) had first view of Lago Maggiore (and Locarno)!  Quite an emotional moment.

Nona drove the car round to Comologno and walked up 700 m to the Saléi Hut to meet us, also bought some Perskindol for me.


At the Cavegna Pass


A short day

July 29th

Itinerary:  Grossalp to Cimalmotto

Distance:  9,4 km
Time:  3 hours
Vertical distance:  420 m uphill;  890 m downhill

Peter and Nona walked down to Bosco / Gurin for a good buffet breakfast in the hotel (Nona had done this yesterday).  I could not walk down so went by chairlift at 8.30 a.m.  No pharmacy in the village but managed to get some ibufren off the hotel first aid box, also a bandage from the minute local Coop.  Used wi-fi to partially update website blog.

Weather:  windy and rainy most of the day.  This and the state of my knee precluded any summit attempts.

At midday Peter and I took the chairlift back to the hut, collected our things and walked over the Quadrella Pass to Cimalmotto where we had reserved accommodation.  Nona went there by car.  My knee – bandaged – held out quite well.

Night: Munt la Reita agroturismo, Cimalmotto

Bosco / Gurin

July 28th

Itinerary:  Rifugio Piano delle Creste – Colle Crosa – Pizzo Cazzòla (2756 m) – Capanna Grossalp (Bosco / Gurin)

Distance:  13,0 km
Time:  8 hours 15 minutes (including 45 minutes for stops)
Vertical distance:  990 m uphill;  1190 m downhill

The endless boulder fields got me in the end!  Somehow I injured my left knee and the last hour or so down to the hut were slow and painful.

Nona met us at the hut.  She had brought my car (and the two-seater kayak) round from Airolo to Bosco / Gurin and walked the 700 m height difference to the hut with food for us.

Bosco / Gurin is a German-speaking enclave in Ticino.  They speak an upper Valais dialect.


In a boulder field



July 27th

Itinerary:  Rifugio Corno Gries – Passo San Giacomo – Bocchetta di Val Maggia – Basòdino (3272 m) – Passo d’Antabia – Rifugio Piano delle Creste

Distance: 19,7 km
Time:  11 hours (including 40 minutes for stops)
Vertical distance: 1570 m uphill; 1800 m downhill

Peter and I left the hut at 7 a.m. and traversed to the San Giacomo pass.  Climbing the Marchhorn from here appeared too difficult (no snow in the steep couloir) so we took the well marked path to the Bocchetta di Val Maggia.  From here we had to descend some 250 m in height to traverse to the Basòdino Glacier below the Kastellücke.  About 2 hours on this glacier allowed us to climb the final ridge to the Basòdino summit.  Good weather, a few clouds on the horizon.  Descending the SSW ridge proved exciting (knife-edge sections of good rock), but the descent from the Antabia Pass was tricky and required two abseils.  Finally, we reached the Piano delle Creste Hut just in time for supper.


At the San Giacomo Pass


July 25th – rest day/travel

Logistical rest day

Dave, Peter, Nona and I all went down to catch the post bus to Airolo, then went by train through the Gotthard tunnel to Gõschenen.  Here a good connection took us directly to Visp in two and a half hours.  Then another train to Sierre.  Peter and Nona waited here for just over two hours while Dave recuperated his car (short taxi ride from the station) and kindly drove me to Mattmark to collect my car.  He then went on to Evolène.  I picked up Peter and Nona and drove home.

Into Ticino – a very long day

July 24th

Itinerary:  Binntal Hut – Ofenhorn (3235 m) – Hohsandhorn (3182 m) -Blinnenhorn (3373 m) – Corno Gries Hut

Distance: 25,0 km
Time taken: 14 hours
Vertical distance: 2170 m uphill; 2090 m downhill

We were committed to getting to the Corno Gries Hut:  Dave needed to get home the next day and I was meeting with Peter Rowat, an ex-climbing friend, who would be there this evening and would accompany me for the next 3-4 weeks.  When we mentioned Corno Gries to the hut warden, a nice lady, she almost said it was impossible but instead said it would be very difficult and long.  I did not dare tell her we intended to do three summits as well!  We left at 6 a.m. and were on the Ofenhorn 3 hours 15 minutes later.  It was foggy and misty all day, which did not help orientation.  Another problem was that the glaciers had retreated, leaving many rocky outcrops exposed that were not marked on our maps and GPS.  Nevertheless, we found our way to near the Hohsandjoch.  We had planned to go on to the Ober Hohsandjoch on the snow slopes below a rocky ridge, but Dave thought we could traverse the ridge to avoid losing height.  In the event this rocky ridge – unnamed on the map and hardly mentioned in the guide book – gave interesting but very time-consuming climbing, going around many gendarmes made of huge slabs of rock.  I estimate we lost up to an hour of precious time here.  From Ober Hohsandjoch to the Hohsandhorn was easy, as was the descent of the crevassed upper part of the Hohsand Glacier.  We then traversed across the whole South face of the Blinnenhorn, well below its SW ridge, on scree and snowfields, ending up at the top of a residual glacier.  Three pitches on rubble, where everything you stepped on slid down, took us to the ridge.  How Dave managed to lead these I will never understand!  However, we were on the summit at about 4.30 p.m. from where I was able to phone the hut warden, who was none too pleased with our arrival which would be late.  We finally reached the hut at 8 p.m. after navigating the Gries Glacier in the mist, and were welcomed by Peter (and wife Nona) who had persuaded the warden to keep some supper for us.

Alpe Dèvero

July 23rd

Itinerary:  Alpe Veglia – Alpe Dèvero – Binntal Hut

Distance: 27,5 km
Walking time:  8 hours 15 minutes
Vertical distance:  1730 m uphill; 1240 m downhill

There are many passes and cols between the Swiss Binntal and the Italian Alpe Dèvero area but the summits are more accessible from the Swiss side.  The highest summit, Helsenhorn, lies entirely in Switzerland.  The forecast was still not very good and we were somewhat stuck on the Italian side, so we decided to have a longish day and reach the Binntal Hut.  We left at 6 a.m. and reached Alpe Dèvero at 10h45.  One section, the final “wall” up to the Passo di Valtendra, was a steep, stony and vicious path – the 330 m vertical height had taken us a good 45 minutes.  We treated ourselves to an ice cream and went on to Crampiolo for a plate of spaghetti for lunch.  Finally, the ascent to the Albrunpass and down to the hut.  It had been partly overcast with some spots of rain all day.

Bad weather day

July 22nd

First part: Monte Leone Hut – Wasenhorn (3252 m) and back, 2,5 hours

Second part: Monte Leone Hut to Alpe Veglia, Rifugio Città d’Arona (CAI), 2 hours 45 minutes
Total distance: 14,6 km
Vertical distance: 520 m uphill, 1600 m downhill

The morning started very misty and the weather forecast was not good.  We took in the Wasenhorn and had one glimpse of the valley through the clouds.  To continue on the ridge was not advisable under these conditions, so we then descended to Alpe Veglia in Italy.  Nasty descent down some short cliffs exposed by the retreating glacier, with several metal chains and footholds.  Later it started raining, enough to make us put on rain gear but not enough to soak us.  It only lasted half an hour and when we reached the mountain hut around lunch time we were dry and there was even some sun.  Lazy afternoon.