Saturday, July 23, 2016

At times the way down was steep!

The way forward!

We did some boot skiing 😜

At the pass, Day 5

Morning, Day 5, still smiling

I must have done something right despite the estimation errors!

Another day, another pass

Although this one was a little higher than usual -- 2770m from Ticino into Graubünden. And yup, that's the pass, on the horizon (more or less).

Waterfalls everywhere

Massive views

Some of those peaks are in the Berner Oberland, 100's of km away.

View back from Anzonico

We came down the right hand valley. As always click to see the high rez version.

The big general catch-up and mea culpa blog post from Vals

So, we got to Vals... although in dribs and drabs and none of us by foot. I'll explain....

A couple of days ago Russ reminded me of something that I had forgotten. Many years ago after my first (and up until now only) hike in Ticino (the couple of days to Sonogno at the end of the H3H Stage 2 two years ago didn't count because they were either downhill or along trails I knew and thus correctly estimated how long they would take), I told him that I found the hiking much more difficult here than elsewhere in the Alps. Would that I had remembered when planning this summer's hike!

My estimations of how long it would take to hike days two and three were way off... as in 25%-45% too short. And since they were fairly long days already, the result was that they became VERY long days. We were on the trails during Stage 2 to Anzonico for 10 hours instead of 7, and Stage 3 to Camperio took 11 hours instead of 9. Not all of the extra time was due to the trails being more difficult than expected, but a lot of it was. And then there were other problems.

But first the trails. What on the map looked like simple climbs, traverses, or descents turned out to be in reality torturous mixtures of ups and downs that added much more altitude to our daily planned totals. Another factor was the steepness of the trails... because really steep trails with high steps are much harder on the muscles to go up and down than gentler trails even if the altitude gained / lost is the same. So, we were much more tired than I expected us to be.

And then the temperatures were very high... upper eighties to low nineties fahrenheit (28-32C) depending upon whether we were in the valleys or up at the passes. Towards the end of Day 2 I got heatstroke, or dehydrated... I'm not sure which, I just know that all of a sudden I couldn't go more than a few hundred steps without needing to take a brak and pant like a dog. Added about 40 minutes to the day for those who were still with me (some had given up earlier).

And to top it all off, there were the pysical ailments: my knee started acting up again, Russ got chafe, two others also had knee problems, one boot malfunction and another where the boot was pressing on a nerve or a bone bruise or something... all conspired to make us slower than we would otherwise be, which also contributed to our overlong hiking times.

You might be surprised to hear that despite all of the above I was not drawn and quartered by my fellow hikers... they were remarkably, no astoundingly, patient and reasonable with me... perhaps because they saw how much I was suffering. Because, on this hike so far, I have been the weakest. I couldn't hike at all from early May (when I injured my knee, ahem, weeding) until early July... and so I only did three trial hikes in total, leaving me in much worse shape than I usually have been. And in worse shape than any of the others. Good for the soul ;-).

At least, however, I managed to do the hikes each day (although on Day 4 we took a bus from Olivone to Campo Blenio saving an hour because we were so exhausted from the day before, and on Day 5 we did the same, saving a two and a half hour hike down the valley into Vals). Russ had to skip days 4 and 5 to heal his chafe, and two of the others opted not to come over the 2770m high pass into Vals because of its difficulty (a good decision -- it was difficult, and instead they walked 3+ hours back down to Campo Blenio and took buses to Vals).

So we were only four out of the original seven who hiked day 5 into Vals. Russ has arrived the day before, the two others came in during the evening. I said I'd explain ;-).

Ah well.

At least the accommodations have been excellent... in different ways. The two self-service cabins, where Kristof cooked cheese fondue one night (while I made a salad of tomatoes and avocadoes that it almost killed me to carry up the trail) and spaghetti another night (without salad :-) were spectacularly sited and wonderfully kitted-out. The two Osterias we stayed at, in Anzonico and Camperio, had excellent food and pleasant rooms, with friendly service. And now, in Vals, we are living in warm and casual luxury with really, really good food. Which has been much appreciated!

And we only have had one day during which it rained upon us -- day 5 coming down from the high pass -- and even then the rain held off until we were down into the valley and off the steep part of the trail.

And the landscapes and the trails and passes have been spectacular. Well worth coming to Ticino to see and hike (just expect it to take longer than you plan :-).

So, all in all, it has been a difficult, but ultimately satisfying first week. But boy am I glad to be in the midst of two rest days.

More tomorrow....

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Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Looking back to the pass

Thomas (less in his element) and Russ

Thomas in his element

View from pass

We hike over the low pass on the horizon (2111m) morning Day 2

Looking back to Sonogno from Capanna Cognora

Yosemite Falls... Valla Verzasca

We happy few...

Slow posting

Sorry for the non-existant posting: first night no Internet, second night too tired, this morning dead batteries in keyboard. We are all alive, hot weather, trails more tiring than expected, spirits good.

More in a couple of days when we have our first restday in Vals. I'll post a few photos in the meantime.

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Monday, July 18, 2016

Stage 0

We, all seven of us, arrived in Sonogno... eventually. Russ was first, in the early afternoon, then Kritof, Corinna, Franz, Thomas and I, but not Walter, who was standing 10m away from where he should have been and saw the bus flash past without stopping. Swiss precision: the downside 🙄. Sonogno as beautiful as ever, weather perfect, full moon rising from behind a mountain shoulder, it would have been a perfect day if Russ hadn't coughed all night. OK, not quite true: he slept from time to time. I know because then I heard him snoring. 😠. I didn't sleep much.

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