Monthly Archives: October 2015

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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More snow

October 14th

We woke up to find it had snowed during the night:  10 – 12 cm at the Stelvio col (and on the car), more higher up, and the whole countryside plastered with fresh snow down to about 1800 m.  I had planned the high level walk from the Stelvio col to Piz Chavalatsch, the easternmost point in Switzerland, then down to Müstair.  Although the weather forecasts more or less agreed on a calmer, even slightly sunny period until the late afternoon, the walk could not be tackled safely with 15 – 20 cm of fresh snow.  Thursday 15th and Friday 16th would bring even more bad weather.  So once again we drove home, over Pass Umbrail, Ofenpass and Flüelapass, hoping for a stable period of good weather later in the year, with the risk that winter will set in properly and the mountains will only be accessible on skis.  Fortunately, we had winter tyres on the car and snow chains with us (not needed today since the snow ploughs were most efficient in both Italy and Switzerland).


Pass Umbrail, yesterday and today

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October 13th

Itinerary:  Cancano (near the dam) – Bocchetta di Forcola (2768 m) – Pass Umbrail (2501 m) – Stilfserjoch/Giogo dello Stèlvio (2757 m)

Distance: 17,5 km
Walking time:  3 hours 50 minutes to the Umbrail pass, almost without stopping; 15-minute stop, 50 minutes to the Stelvio col.
Vertical distance:  1310 m uphill; 420 m downhill.

It had rained a little during the night; in the morning the sky was completely covered with shreds of clouds everywhere. Sally took me to the place where she had collected me yesterday, a small parking lot above the Cancano dam wall. The paths were quite pleasant and easy to follow (mountain bike tracks everywhere), visibility was very variable, with lots of thick fog from 2400 m (one could barely see 50 metres).

Sally was waiting for me at the Umbrail Pass for a quick picnic and I continued up to the Stilfserjoch (Stelvio col), the highest road pass in the Alps, where there was a lot of activity despite the fog.  We settled into a small hotel here (there was plenty of choice).

Night: Albergo Genziana, Stelvio col

Goodbye to Livigno

October 12th

First part: 4.0 km kayak on the Lago di Livigno, from the Punt dal Gall dam, going east to where Roger dropped me near a path.  He returned alone in the kayak but had to do almost 6 km to find an easier place to get the boat out of the water. Later, he drove home to Grandvaux.

Second part: 18.2 km walk on good paths and forest roads on the Italian side of the border, usually between 1 and 3 km distant from the actual border, along the Lago di San Giacomo di Fraéle and Lago di Cancano, to the Cancano dam wall, below the Piz Schumbraida, where Sally collected me.  All this part could have been done by mountain bike.  We found the accommodation in Bormio.

Distance: 4 km plus 18.2 km
Time: 40 minutes kayak and 3 hours 40 minutes on foot (including 10 minutes for the breaks)
Vertical distance:  200 m uphill; 40 m downhill

The weather was fairly sunny all day.

Night: Hotel Villa Rina, Bormio


Roger ready to go home.


The frontier around Livigno

October 11th

Itinerary:  Alpe Campaccio (1950 m, on the road Livigno – Forcola di Livigno) – Piz la Stretta (3104 m) – Monte Garone (3030 m) – Fuorcla Federia 2899 m) – Valle di Federia, pt 2010 m.

Distance: 24,3 km
Total time: 9 hours 20 minutes, of which 1 hour 20 minutes for the stops
Vertical distance:  1760 m uphill; 1700 m downhill

I decided to get my revenge on Piz la Stretta – where I couldn’t reach the summit because of fog and snow on October 4th.  This time it was quite sunny with only a few clouds.  The snow line had moved up to about 2800 m and the snow was hard and quite easy to walk on.  So this was an easy summit.

I also wanted to continue along the frontier to the north as far as possible.  But the way down to the north did not look good in the snow (see photo) and is not described in the guide book (is this ridge ever done?).  I tried descending the west ridge to the Fuorcla Chamuera so as to get back to the frontier further north.  It is graded “peu difficile” but after going down some very steep snow I was defeated by a rock band, only 3-4 metres high, that appeared to have no weak points.  So back again to the summit, having wasted a good hour of my time.  Then I found a cunning way round to the east but it involved going down 400 m and up again to Monte Garone, taking another 2 hours.  The next stretch of the frontier to the north went quite quickly; in fact the hard snow covering made everything much easier.

I had to stop at the Fuorcla Federia and walk down the very long valley to Livigno.  The next summits would have been more difficult and I was running out of time.  Sally and Roger had arrived that afternoon and Roger was able to drive up the Federia valley to pick me up, saving me the last 3 km.

Night: Hotel Bernina, Livigno


Piz la Stretta from the north-east, north ridge on the right


Back to Livigno

October 10th

The weather looks promising, so I returned to Livigno and settled into a small hotel.  5 hours driving, via Zurich,  Landquart, Davos, Flüelapass, Zernez.

Night:  Hotel Bernina, Livigno


October 6th

Two visits to the urologist today.  My bladder is still not emptying properly, so the catheter must stay in another 3 weeks.

Meanwhile, I am waiting for a spell of better weather to allow some of the snow on the mountains to melt.  Early next week looks promising.

Also, I have updated the website:  there are now a few more photos and some more earlier blogs in German.  To access earlier blogs in English and German (there seems to be bug in the programme here) either go to the French version, then change the language, or use the “archive” feature for the required month.

Geo Tracking should be updated on Tuesday, October 13th.