Monthly Archives: August 2015

A terrible path

August 12th

Itinerary:  Bivouac – Passo dell’Orso – Capanna Como – Bocchetta di Correggia – Bocchetta del Notar – Rifugio Righetti-Fibbioli (Alpe di Lago)

Distance: 16,2 km
Time: 10 hours (including 1 hour 50 minutes for the stops)
Vertical distance: 1010 m uphill; 1950 m downhill

We both slept more than expected, in spite of stones and grass tufts and were on our way by 6.20 a.m.  But progress was slow initially as we were both feeling a little weak after the night in the open.  Finding the trail was sometimes not easy when the markers were far apart and still on the shadow side of large stones and boulders.  A small col on a ridge had chains on both sides, which provided some interest (see photo 1).  Later, we lost about 20 minutes at the Passo dell’Orso by following sheep tracks instead of the marked trail.  After about four and a half hours we came to the Capanna Como, occupied by a youth group, who graciously gave us a beer.  There was no warden and we would have needed to reserve in advance had we wanted to spend the night there.  The nearby Rifugio Avert di Darengo was closed.

Next, we climbed up the 450 m to the Bocchetta di Correggia and traversed to the Bocchetta del Notar, 2095 m.  The descent of some 650 m from this col was the worst “path” I have ever experienced.  It was well marked with red/white paint but this only gave the general direction.  The “path” was often non-existent, down steep grass, blueberry and Alpine rose plants or through shrubs or across boulder fields.  But the worst was the long grass that covered a thin track where people had been.  This long grass hid all other obstacles such as holes, stones (many with moss on them), shrub roots or steep slippery earth, with a few brambles and ferns as well to add variety.  Impossible to go fast, every step had to be taken carefully so as not to trip or stumble.  Lower down, the paint marks led over steeper rocks or grass, where there were rusty chains to help, often hidden under the long grass.

In the end the slopes became less steep and we emerged next to the Lagh de Cama  (where Peter swam) and went on to the friendly hut.  No mobile phone network at the last col (del Notar), nor at the hut, but I was allowed to phone home from their phone that was linked to a special aerial.


1. Peter in action
2. Border marker Bocchetta del Notar
3. Path(?) through boulder field

IMG_7228C  IMG_7229C  IMG_7231C

A night in the open (planned bivouac)

August 11th

Itinerary:  Alpe Gesero – Cima delle Cigogne (2201 m) – Cima di Cugn (2236 m) – Bocchetta Stazzona – Bocchetta di Camedo – bivouac

Distance: 14,2 km
Time:  6 hours 30 minutes
Vertical distance: 1380 m uphill; 940 m downhill

Mainly sunny and hot.

In the morning I drove down to Roveredo and Grono to buy extra maps – only partially successful as bookshop closed for holidays – and some food.

Then we had a late start, only at 13h30.  We took sleeping bags and bivouacked on a grassy ledge at 2200 m about 2 hours after Bocchetta di Camedo.  No cooker, only cold food; site not too comfortable, but we slept a few hours.

Nona drove to Bellinzona, left the car and took a train to Milan; ready to fly back to Vancouver tomorrow.


Leaving Alpe Gesero

Rupert August 11

An extremely long day

August 10th

Itinerary:  Brè – Capanna Pairolo – Capanna San Lucio – Gazzirola (2116 m) – Bocchetta di Sommafiume – Alpe di Giumello – Passo San Jorio – Capanna Gesero

Distance: 41,9 km
Time:  12 hours walking (plus 1 hour for stops)
Vertical distance:  2740 m uphill; 1780 m downhill

This was going to be a long day since we had at all costs to reach Gesero Hut as it was accessible by car and would be Nona’s last night with us.

After an early breakfast, Peter and I were able to leave Brè car park shortly after 8 a.m.  We followed pleasant paths in the forest, mainly uphill to Alpe Bolla, then past the Denti della Vecchia (old woman’s teeth – aptly named limestone pinnacles) to Capanna Pairolo and then Capanna San Lucio, by which time we were above the tree line.   We had a quick drink at each place.  Next came the gradual ascent of Gazzirola and a tedious ridge to the Bocchetta di Sommafiume, by which time we had hiked about 30 km and it was already 5.30 p.m.  There was no time to waste!  The weather had been fairly sunny all day but it was not too hot.

We possibly made a mistake here by choosing a path on the Swiss side, a little longer and descending an extra 100 m compared with a path on the Italian side (there was nothing on the jagged ridge itself), but we would never know if the latter path would have been any quicker.  In the event we had to climb 400 m up to just under Passo San Jorio before the long traverse to Biscia, by which time it was already dark.  For the last 30 – 40 minutes we followed the gravel road down to the hut – fortunately it was easy to follow even in the dark.  Peter did not want to use his torch to avoid blinding his eyes, and I had no torch with me that day!

Nona was waiting for us at the hut and the friendly hut warden gave us a meal even as late as 9.30 p.m.


Campione d’Italia – too time-consuming!

August 9th

This morning we intended to kayak and walk round this Italian enclave.  But we found the whole shore from Bissone onwards full of luxury hotels and other private properties with their own beaches and would have had to go some 2 km away to get the boat in the water.  We also learned that the 3 km-long land border was overgrown and almost inaccessible in many places.  This was depressing and I decided to leave out this enclave altogether because it would simply use up too much time.  Instead, we went to Lugano to try to get maps for the next sections north of Gandria, but being a Sunday, only some “kiosks” were open and they only had brochures.  The Tourist Information office was open but they only had one map I needed.  (Many maps and guide books are still at home and there was no quick way of getting them to me – bad planning!)

Peter and I later walked up from Gandria to Brè village, where we were collected by Nona.  Distance 3,6 km; time 1 hour; vertical distance 500 m uphill.  This would save us that amount of climbing tomorrow.  Weather forecast not brilliant for the next days.

Night: Hotel Rest. Stella d’Italia, Valsolda

August 8th

Itinerary:  Val Muggio (above Muggio) – Monte Generoso – Lanzo d’Intelvi – Ceresio – San Mamete, Valsolda (Italy)

Section 1, on foot:
Distance:  27,5 km
Time:  7 hours (including 50 minutes for the stops)
Vertical distance:  1110 m uphill; 1600 m downhill

Section 2, in the kayak:
Distance: 2,3 km
Time: 40 minutes

We went back to the place where Nona had collected us the day before, 3-4 kilometres above Muggio.  I went on alone, first on the road, then on steep paths.  A little more than 2 hours were enough to climb the 1000 metres to the summit of Monte Generoso, 1701 m; the station is at present a huge building site. Then I continued on the watershed to Cima Crocetta, a nice viewpoint. There, I made the mistake of taking a path in Italy. Well marked on the maps, and on the GPS, I found no traces in the field. However, I discovered trenches dug during the First World War (why so far from Austria-Hungary and opposite the Swiss frontier?) Finally I reached the top of the old funicular linking Lanzo d’Intelvi with Lake Lugano (Ceresio).  It had been put out of service around 1975 but I was able to go down the steps at the side, taking care not to stumble on tree branches, boulders and stones, and iron wire.  In the end I reached the bottom and was soon collected by Peter, who had brought the kayak from the opposite shore. We spent a pleasant evening at San Mamette on the north shore of Ceresio.

Night: Hotel Rest. Stella d’Italia, Valsolda


The old funicular
Arrival in San Mamete

IMG_7214C  Aug 8 San Mamete

Another hot day

August 7th

Distance: 28.5 km
Time:  8 hours 45 minutes (including 1 hour 15 minutes for the stops)
Vertical distance: 1700 m uphill;  1210 m downhill

Started at Chiasso station at 8h40;  3 hours to Monte Bisbino (1325 m), entirely in Italy.  Very hot.  Begged some extra water at Alpe Loasa where they also offered us some coffee.  Finally arrived at the road above Muggio, where Nona picked us up.  Supper at Grotto Loverciano in Castel San Pietro.

Night: Hotel Milano, Mendrisio

A very long and hot day

August 6th

Distance:  35,4 km
Time:  10 hours 40 minutes (including 1 hour 40 minutes for the stops)
Vertical distance:  1350 m uphill;  1410 m downhill

Well, I did have this idea that we should “catch up” for the time lost yesterday with the car battery.  Peter and I managed it, under very hot, heatwave like conditions!

The Mendrisio hotel only served breakfast at 7 a.m.,  so we were only able to set off at 8.40 from Terniciolo on Lake Lugano (Ceresio).  We passed the twin summits of Poncione d’Arza (1015 m), then descended towards Arza, San Pietro and Stabio.

We then covered the whole southern border up to the most southerly point of Switzerland (south of the village of Pedrinate) and from there to Chiasso station.

Night:  Albergo Milano, Mendrisio


1.  and 2.  Two old frontier markers
3.  Peter at Switzerland’s most southerly point

IMG_7183C  IMG_7194C  IMG_7203C

Ponte Tresa – Ceresio

August 5th

Part 1:  Suino customs post – Ponte Tresa, on foot

Distance: 9,4 km
Time: 2 hours
Vertical distance:  110 m uphill; 230 m downhill

Part 2:  Ponte Tresa – Brusino-Basso Ceresio customs post, by kayak

Distance: 8,4 km
Time: 1 hour 30 minutes

Part 3:  Should have gone further south on foot, but problems with the car battery forced us to go to Chiasso to get a new battery.  Ended up in a hotel in Mendrisio (Albergo Milano).

Note:  Ceresio is the local name for Lake Lugano.


Leaving Ponte Tresa

Aug 5 Lake Lugano 2

August 4th

Itinerary:  Alpe Cedullo – Indemini – Monte Pola (1742 m) – Monte Lema (1621 m) – Sessa

Distance:  27,5 km
Walking time:  7 hours 40 minutes
Vertical distance:   1320 m uphill;  2220 m downhill

Cloudy and misty most of the day.  Left Alpe Cedullo at 7.30 a.m.  Coffee in Indemini (see Frontier stories no 12, for further information on Indemini).  The last section down, at the end of the day, was very tedious as too flat – one only lost height very slowly, but did too many kilometres!.

Night: stayed in a small flat belonging to Christopher Lockie (a second cousin of mine), in Dumenza (Italy)




Lago Maggiore and Gambarogno

August 3rd

Part 1:  Kayak across Lago Maggiore, Peter and I in the two-seater, from Valmara to Dirinella, 5,4 km, 50 minutes.

Part 2:  Dirinella – Covreto (1594 m) – Monte Paglione (1554 m) – Oratorio di Sant’Anna – Alpe Cedullo (agroturismo).

Distance:  9,4 km
Walking time: 3 hours 40 minutes
Vertical distance: 1420 m uphill; 320 m downhill

A beautiful day, calm with no wind on the lake.  Very hot walking up in the forest in the heat of the afternoon.

Nona met us in Dirinella where we loaded the kayak onto the car.  Then she parked the car in Indemini and walked up to Alpe Cedullo (360 vertical metres).