Sue and Martin above Zermatt - 2018

Sue and Martin above Zermatt - 2018
Showing posts with label Alta Via di Valmalenco. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Alta Via di Valmalenco. Show all posts

Friday, 1 June 2018

Sunday 6 September 2015 – Descent to Rifugio Cristina


Deadline met for the Valmalenco Photobox book, with just a few hours to spare. Over 350 images in a 100 page book, plus text from my contemporaneous blog. It’ll form a great record of that trip. There are numerous similar exercises on my ToDo list!

So this is the last of these Valmalenco entries (apart from an index), today’s recalling the descent from 2615 metre Passo di Campagneda to 2233 metre Rifugio Cristina.


Here’s Rifugio Cristina, with 3323 metre Pizzo Scalino towering above.


If you like hut to hut routes, and haven’t walked this one, we wholeheartedly commend the Alta Via di Valmalenco.

Saturday 5 September 2015 – Descent from Rifugio Marinelli Bombardieri


Another Valmalenco memory. Sue poses on an outcrop during our scenic descent from Rifugio Marinelli Bombardieri to Rifugio Carate Brianza.

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Tuesday 1 September 2015 – Alpe Mastabbia


Whilst I was travelling up to Montrose last week, Sue bought a 100 page credit from Photobox for a photo album at a very good price (less than £25). The trouble is that it needed to be used within 14 days. So I now have two more days in which to create a book, which will recount our trip to the Valmalenco area of Italy in 2015.

I could have posted a picture of today’s walk to Dunham Massey with JJ, but I think I prefer this reminder of our Valmalenco trip, taken at Alpe Mastabbia on the second stage of the walk.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

The Alps - Day 20 - Alta Via di Valmalenco - Day 8 - Rifugio Cristina (2233 metres) to Chiesa (Hotel la Betulla)

Monday 7 September 2015

16 km, 200 metres ascent, in 5.7 hours including breaks.

Weather: blue sky with frost that didn't clear in the shade until the afternoon.

Cumulative statistics for the full eight day round trip from Chiesa are as follows:

102 km with 6750 metres ascent.

These figures may be amended when I've downloaded the data from my Garmin Forerunner 310XT which was used throughout the trek.

What a beautiful day on which to conclude a gorgeous mountain walk.

We appreciated the ambience of Rifugio Cristina's fine location before heading off across the frosty alp. There was very little climbing today, the belvedere path leading gently down to the tree line that we were last below on the walk up from Chiareggio several days ago.

It was shorts and t-shirt weather, if a bit chilly in the frosty shade.

The views to Monte Disgrazia and to the Bernina massif were immaculate. The recent rain seems to have cleared the atmosphere and there was no discernable haze to cloud our views. The morning remained cloudless, with wafts of high cloud appearing in the afternoon. (I nearly said 'after lunch' but we didn't really have any as all the shops seem to be shut on Monday afternoon.)

Luckily we'd had a good rifugio breakfast. That and the flask of tea and some biscuits fuelled us sufficiently to see us happily meandering back to the hotel from which we set off eight days ago. They spotted us arriving and the doors opened to welcome us in as the day's only guests.

Then it was a quick sort out for the trip home, beer o'clock, and an excellent meal at the ever friendly Restaurant Malenco, just around the corner, where the waitress spent a year on Jersey (40 years ago) and likes to practice her English. It's a great place in which to finish a trip like this one. We had a pizzocheri for you Gillian, and raised our glasses in appreciation of your encouragement to us to visit this area.

We will come here again.

Today's pictures:
Pizzo Scalino and Sue
Bernina peaks from Alpe Acquanera
A spring/shrine equipped with a ladle
Looking towards the Bernina massif from Alpe Cavaglia
Close up from the same place
Looking down to Caspoggia, with Monte Disgrazia
Chiesa (2)

Monday, 7 September 2015

Flowers of Valmalenco (2)

Here's the list I promised. A flower expert would probably have identified at least three times as we (mainly Sue) did, but for anyone coming here in September this list would give you a start...

Alpine aster
Alpine birdsfoot trefoil
Alpine clover
Alpine gypsophila
Alpine moon daisy
Alpine rock jasmine
Alpine toadflax
Alpine willowherb
Alpine wood forget-me-not
Autumn crocus
Bavarian gentian
Bearded bellflower
Bladder campion
Common monkshood
Cowberry (red fruit)
Creeping avens
Dark stonecrop
Garland flower
German gentian
Glacier crowfoot
Glacier mouse-ear
Globe-headed rampion
Grass of Parnassus
Greater stitchwort
Grey alpine groundsel
Himalayan balsam
Horse mint
Kidney vetch
Lady's mantle
Meadow buttercup
Meadow cranesbill
Mountain sorrel
Mountain thrift
Moss campion
Nottingham catchfly
One-flowered fleabane
Paniculate saxifrage
Perforate St John's Wort
Red campion
Rosebay willowherb
Self heal
Spiniest thistle
Spreading bellflower
Starry saxifrage
Stemless carline thistle
Vernal sandwort
White stonecrop
Willow-leaved gentian
Yellow mountain saxifrage
Yellow wood violet
Plus sundry Avens, Pinks, Cinquefoils, Clovers and more

I may add to this list when some of the photos have been processed and further flowers have been identified.

The Alps - Day 19 - Alta Via di Valmalenco - Day 7 - Rifugio Bignami (2401 metres) to Rifugio Cristina (2233 metres)

Sunday 6 September 2015

15.5 km, 550 metres ascent, in 6.4 hours including breaks.

Weather: blue sky with frost, turning to sunny periods with a cool easterly breeze.
We woke to frost and a clear blue sky. Allessio and the three dogs supervised the traditional rather paltry high rifugio breakfast, but unlike yesterday I enjoyed a large jug of coffee.

We were away by soon after 9 am on the sunny but cool morning. Marmots were playing nearby. Some look so small that we wonder how they'll survive the winter.

The path was straightforward, with no need for white lines to accompany the yellow guiding triangles. Luca had explained how the hut teams set out every year with pots of paint in an effort to mark the best routes across the ever shifting boulder fields. We found their white stripes on the rocks on which it was safest to step very helpful when crossing Forcella di Fellaria yesterday.

Today we decided against Gillian's suggested route across the Lago di Gera dam and instead took Allessio's advice and rounded the northern end of the lake, a route of similar distance and timing.

Wrens and redstarts were encountered. We've also seen snowfinches, choughs, dippers and a number of other species.

Soon we encountered other walkers. Having seen virtually nobody for 3 to 4 days this was something of a novelty. There were lots of people out today - including a group of about 40 on the path that traverses high on Sassi Bianco. We even met a large chap descending Valle Poschiavino with a cigar in his mouth.

Elevenses were taken overlooking the reservoir, which is by no means full and is a rather sickly pale turquoise colour.

Alpe Poschiavino had shut for winter, the cattle having been returned to the valley. It looks an idyllic place in which to spend the summer.

Above the alpe we soon reached the snow line again and we enjoyed the gentle climb, subject to a few easy chains near the top, to Passo de Canciano on the border with Switzerland.

Lunch comprised cups of tea and a twix/snickers bar. Don't feel sorry for us, we've been eating far too much!

Even at this late stage of the year, the kidney vetch and moss campion described by Gillian were still in evidence as we made our way up to our high point of the day, 2615 metre Passo di Campagneda, where we enjoyed views towards Monte Disgrazia through a large wooden arch. There are also excellent views towards Bernina from here, but today those summits were embraced by cloud.

The descent to Rifugio Cristina was gentle and uneventful, past picturesque lakes with the fine peak of Monte Disgrazia in the background.

The rifugio is in a lovely meadow together with a number of small dwellings, mostly adorned with solar panels. The rifugio itself is powered by a turbine, and a small stream running past the front door powers a butter making churn.

Pizzo Scalino, the 'Matterhorn' of Valmalenco, towers above us at 3323 metres.

After being the sole visitors at the last two rifugios, tonight we have the company of a family of five. The family run establishment has fed us very well. I've come to prefer these family run concerns to the places run by highly qualified people who are escaping the rat race for a while.

Whilst at Bignami last night a couple of campers passed through. It would be perfectly feasible to walk the AVV on a wild camping basis, especially in September when the cattle and their shepherds have returned to the valley. We have enjoyed the hospitality of the rifugios though, and the benefits of carrying just a light rucksack. The cost of the eight day circuit will be less than the 900 euros we set out with.

Today's pictures:
The view north from Rifugio Bignami
Alpe Poschiavino
Ascending Valle Poschiavino
On the Swiss border
A chat with a chap from Ecuador
The view down Piano di Campagneda with Monte Disgrazia
Outside Rifugio Cristina with the butter maker

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Flowers of Valmalenco

Despite the lateness of the season, we've seen lots of Alpine flowers.

A list will follow, but a few are shown above:

Eyebright - possibly the most abundant
Bavarian gentian - high in the mountains
Yellow mountain saxifrage - loves to be close to water
Bearded bellflower - an old favourite
Alpine toadflax - very pretty
Willow-leaved gentian - quite rare

The Alps - Day 18 - Alta Via di Valmalenco - Day 6 - Rifugio Marinelli Bombardieri (2813 metres) to Rifugio Bignami (2401 metres)

Saturday 5 September 2015

8.5 km, 300* metres ascent, in 4.8 hours including breaks.

Weather: overcast.

We awoke to a Christmas card scene. Four inches of snow had fallen overnight. The wolf was delighted. He managed to escape. The goats weren't impressed, but the feisty beasts held their own.

We didn't meet the guardian (Sue thinks he was away), but we did chat briefly last night with his assistant, a social anthropologist who had done research at Cambridge on the effect of oxygen levels on high altitude mountaineering, or something of that ilk.

She left a sub-assistant to sort out our 8 am breakfast; this girl was the only member of staff we saw this morning. Breakfast was a meagre affair - a cup of coffee, muesli and cornflakes, and a couple of packets of dried bread with butter and jam. We had agreed with the assistant guardian that she would phone ahead to let Bignami know we would be staying there, and we confirmed with her assistant that the call would be made.

Soon after 9 we set off into the snow. It was 2C outside, with no wind, so didn't feel cold. Care was needed on the slippery rocks as we made our way back along yesterday's route from Rifugio Carate Brianza. The flowers had all but disappeared, the long stalked Spiniest thistles and some tired looking thrift being the sole reminders of yesterday's finds.

Whilst the day was overcast, there were some fine looking snow scenes, so frequent snapshot stops, together with the slithery rocks, made progress slow. It took an hour and a half to cover the 3 km to Rifugio Carate Brianza, where Amanzio greeted us like long lost friends.

After a long coffee break, and Amanzio's assurance that the high route over Forcella di Fellaria (2819 metres) would be fine if we were careful, we set off along the mainly contouring route through the snow.

It was easy enough apart from a short section of giant boulders through which we wended our way with great care. The Forcella proved to be one of false summits, but we got there in the end despite the paucity of path signs - they were mostly covered in snow.

A steep descent then deposited us below the snow line in a lovely valley. Views were limited as the weather was closing in as a prelude to a rainy afternoon. Eventually we arrived at Alpe di Fellaria, where the 'active summer dairy farm' had returned to the valley after locking up for the winter.

A few metres further on, Rifugio Bignami was reached by 1.30 pm, shortly before the rain started in earnest. We received the usual friendly greeting from Luca and were soon tucking into Taroz dell'alpe (a potato, beans and cheese version of pizzocheri) and chocolate cake.

We were expected, but only because Amanzio had taken the trouble, unprompted, to let them know that an English couple were coming over the pass with the intention of staying the night. The staff at Rifugio Marinelli Bombardieri hadn't bothered to call. "She may be a social anthropologist but she doesn't like humans" was an unattributed comment.

So, we settled down to a leisurely afternoon of R&R. Mainly light reading - I'm back on the Jessica Daniel stories by Kerry Wilkinson, and chatting with Luca and Skye.

Wet snow fell outside.

* I'm now relying on Gillian's estimates as my Suunto Altimax died today. A shame - it was a leaving present from my colleagues at Grant Thornton in 2004, so it has had a good innings. I have a feeling the sealing washer wasn't put back properly in Sallent in the Pyrenees when the man in the outdoors shop changed the battery for me at the end of June. Anyway, it survived quite happily until getting drenched on the morning we left Rifugio Ventina. I should have had it checked when I got back from the Pyrenees, but the battery housing is jammed on and the gadget looks very battered and is probably best replaced. Hans had a nice watch that performed the same functions - Tissot - 800 Swiss Francs! (£600).

Today's pictures:
The view from our room
On the descent from Rifugio Marinelli Bombardieri
A view towards the Bernina summits
Looking down to Rifugio Carate Brianza (compare with yesterday's similar picture)
Inside Rifugio Carate Brianza
Approaching Rifugio Bignami

Another nice meal without being excessive, including (by special request) a selection of local cheeses.

Saturday, 5 September 2015

The Alps - Day 17 - Alta Via di Valmalenco - Day 5 - Rifugio Lago Palù (1947 metres) to Rifugio Marinelli Bombardieri (2813 metres)

Friday 4 September 2015

13 km, 1350 metres ascent, in 6.5 hours including breaks.

Weather: sunny periods; cooler above 2600 metres.

Number one, Maria Louisa, and her able assistant (son) Bepe, ensured we didn't leave the comfort of Rifugio Lago Palù either hungry or thirsty. As today was deemed to be a short day we enjoyed a lie in, breakfasted at 8, and left soon after 9.

The proliferation of mushrooms, the careful negotiation of paths streaming with water from overnight rain, and the admiration of plentiful Eyebright, Grass of Parnassus and a multitude of thistles, all distracted us from the steep ascent to Bocchel del Torno on a day the coolness of which reflected the recent wet weather. However, we enjoyed a fair amount of sunshine even if our fleeces were worn above 2600 metres.

Descending a ski piste, we passed a couple of chaps who were servicing the snow making gadgets. Maria had told us that snow could be expected as low as Lago Palù any time now, and the first significant falls in October or November would last all winter.

We soon turned left onto what Gillian describes as 'an atmospheric old mule track'. Since then it has lost its 'atmosphere' having been resurfaced as part of a network of mountain bike tracks. I'm sure the asphalt will bed in and the mountain bikers will discover the excellent path, which today bore no sign of the passage of any tyres.

We soon crossed a river and climbed easily to Rifugios Musella and Mitta. Musella comes first, and Daniele was keen to take our order for cappacinos. We admired the array of mushrooms he had on trays outside the rifugio, all drying in the sunshine. We got the impression that both Rifugios are owned by the same family and that his grandfather built Mitta.

A little further on, Alpe Musella housed a herd of happy cattle, with cows whose noses could be stroked without scaring them. Tails weren't swishing; there were no flies. A lone martin was struggling to harvest any prey.

At the top of the meadow, we passed the time with two friendly shepherds who were curious as to our destination. They had a big woolly sheepdog and a bouncy puppy that enjoyed a fight with Sue once they got to know each other. It wanted to follow us up the hill.

Compared with some of the paths on the AVV the ascent up well graded zigzags to Rifugio Carate Brianza was very easy, and we had time to admire some great views, albeit the high summits remained in cloud all day.

Amanzio greeted us in the usual welcoming manner. He had no visitors yesterday and we were the first today. He doesn't expect any more. All this on an excellent route that is easily accessed, when there will be large numbers of folk trailing around the Tour of Mont Blanc and other higher profile but no more scenic trails.

One portion of tagliatelle between the two of us was more than enough for lunch!

That set us up for the final high level stroll through wonderful rock and ice scenery, to our 2813 metre home for the night. En route many varieties of flowers were spotted, so with Sue wanting to photograph each one, progress was slow. But there was no hurry and we reached the rifugio, perched high on a rocky outcrop, by 3.30pm.

The rifugio can accommodate 210 visitors. Tonight it's just the two of us, so we are hugely outnumbered by staff and effectively have our own personal chef for the pasta with mushrooms and the goulash that we've been promised.

Whilst I write this (5pm) Sue has ventured out along the path that leads eventually (EAO) [experienced alpinistes only] to Rifugio Marco e Rosa a Rocca (3600 metres). Meanwhile the hut dog, a wolf, is being restrained from trying to eat a nearby herd of goats.


Sue returned having got a view of the higher rifugio, which we understand has no visitors tonight, from a path junction at around 3000 metres.

Dinner was delicious.

Fresh supplies arrived by helicopter.

No goats, even the babies, were eaten.

We enjoyed an early night.

As expected, there is no wifi or phone signal here, though the staff make a great effort to keep the place warm for visitors. That's much appreciated by these particular visitors.

Today's pictures:
Looking back to Alpe Roggione
Below Alpe Campascio
Daniele and his mushrooms at Rifugio Musella
Looking back to Rifugio Carate Brianza
Looking up to Rifugio Marinelli Bombardieri 
Arriving at Rifugio Marinelli Bombardieri 

Friday, 4 September 2015

The Alps - Day 16 - Alta Via di Valmalenco - Day 4 - Albergo Chiareggio in Chiareggio (1612 metres) to Rifugio Lago Palù (1947 metres)

Thursday 3 September 2015

15 km, 1050 metres ascent, in 7.3 hours including breaks.

Weather: overcast with very occasional sunshine.

Breakfast comprised the usual cereal and yoghurt, bread and butter and jams, and huge jugs of tea and coffee, served cheerfully by Flavia, the matriarch of this family concern.

The bill was a surprise, as usual. Just €109 for half board and various drinks. I think we are relieved to have chosen the Italian Valmalenco route rather than the Swiss Bernina one!

It was wet outside but not raining, looking as if we were setting off in just a brief pause from the rain, which was forecast to fall on and off all day. A bit of a potential problem for Sue, who has left her shiny new waterproofs at home and has brought a version that can be likened to blotting fabric. Luckily the rain held off all day and we even received some rays of sun in what was mainly t-shirt and shorts weather.

The rain started again after 5 pm, an hour or so after we arrived at Lago Palù.

Easy paths, initially through fungi rich pine woods, led up to Rifugio Longoni, where Elia was in residence. We passed on Gillian's best wishes and chatted with him over coffee for a pleasurable half hour. He was the only person we encountered on today's walk, and we may have been the only people he encountered all day after waving off two English couples who stayed there last night. They must have continued beyond Lago Palù as they aren't here.

Elia also confirmed that the bright blue 'spring' gentians we've been seeing are Bavarian gentians and not short-leaved gentians. There are some very near his rifugio.

Looking back, we could see yesterday's lunchtime venue - we gave Piero a wave. Looking down, we watched a nearby kestrel hovering then diving, with success.

We could have taken a path directly east from the rifugio but we followed Gillian's instructions to the letter and retraced our steps to a flagpole before descending to a track. This track led towards a large building on the horizon. It used to be the access road to Rifugio Scerscen, which was a base for summer skiing on the glacier beyond it. Nowadays the glacier has receded and the building has been abandoned.

We followed the good track for a while and enjoyed some goats cheese and tomatoes from the shop across the road from last night's hotel.

Then the hard part started. A traverse with little climbing - apart from the giant boulders that litter the route. Slow going, but we beat the signposted time by 30 minutes or so. Sue and I have done quite a bit of boulder hopping. It's quite fun! But very slow going as care is needed.

There were good views down the valley to Sondrio and the mountains to the south. Lots of tempting places to visit.

The weather was slowly closing in, with high mountains gone for the day, but we were pleased to find Willow-leaved gentians on the path through pine trees to Lago Palù, where the Rifugio is of the 'extremely comfortable' variety as opposed to the merely 'comfortable'. We were expected, as Flavia had phoned ahead for us. Our policy on this trip is a 'day by day' one, as there is no likelihood of anywhere being fully booked. It's courteous though to phone ahead on a daily basis for catering purposes. So far, the guardians/hoteliers have been happy to do that for us.

There are just two other guests tonight, Hans and Danielle, a French Swiss couple from near Lausanne. We spent a very pleasant evening with them whilst 'Number One' served up an excellent six course meal and Number Two entertained himself by opening bottles of fizz and distributing them to anyone in the room, handing out antipasta, and throwing logs onto the fire. This trip is becoming a culinary challenge and for the second day running we failed to finish our main course.

Today's pictures:
Ascending above Chiareggio
The view down the valley towards Sondrio 
On the boulders
Outside Rifugio Lago Palù