Tuesday, 1 September 2015
The Alps - Day 13 - Alta Via di Valmalenco - Day 1 - Chiesa (Hotel la Betulla) to Rifugio Bosio
16 km, 1300 metres ascent, in 6.4 hours including breaks.
Weather: sunny, hot and humid lower down; sunny periods and warm higher up (afternoon).
A leisurely start was to set the tone for the day, and perhaps for the entire Alta Via.
Our good friend Gillian Price recommended the Valmalenco area to us some time ago. Then she wrote a guide book covering a 9-day tour of the Bernina Alps and an 8-day tour of the Valmalenco. The Bernina area is mainly in Switzerland, as viewed yesterday as we wound our way over the Bernina Pass. On the other side of the snow clad summits pictured yesterday as we made our way to Toblino is the Italian side of the range, the Valmalenco. Sue and I paid a brief visit to the area last July and found it to be both scenic and very friendly. And that was in bad weather. So we decided on a longer exploration of the area.
Hotel la Betulla gave us a superb room with a lovely view from the balcony. They have let us store the luggage we don't need for the walk, and our car will be safe in their car park.
We said our goodbyes and set off at 9.30 through Chiesa, collecting luncheon provisions en route. The route described by Gillian starts 5 km down the valley at Torre di Santa Maria. We could have caught a bus, but we chose to start our walk gently by way of a 200 metre descent along the Sentiero Rusca.
We easily picked up the Alta Via di Valmalenco (AVV) route at 11 o'clock at the foot of a set of hairpins up to Ciappanico. The path soon set the tone for the day, an old mule track ascending through light woodland with fairly frequent views. Hamlets dead and alive were passed through as we rose steadily to Son, and then past huge anthills to the meadows of Piasci. We lazed here in the shade of a children's play house whilst enjoying our lunch.
Then a short further ascent took us past summer farms up to Rifugio Cometti Grande. Here the official AVV route appears to head over Sasso Bianco (2489 metres), taking four hours to reach Rifugio Bosio. We were happy to take the route described by Gillian - path number 313 direct to Bosio. That took well under two hours, the path rising gently beside cascading streams and past copious amounts of raspberries together with a few micro-bilberries.
On this last section we met the only walkers seen all day, a few folk and one mountain biker coming down the hill.
Rifugio Bosio, reached by 4 pm, was a relative hive of activity. We received the friendly welcome that seems to be a hallmark of these parts. Sue was very quickly provided with a deck chair and a mug of tea when she commented that she was tired. Some folk wandered off down the hill, a mountain biker's hard tail mean machine was admired before he set off. "Don't break your collar bone" I advised...
Others are staying here but we have a six bed room to ourselves. It's a lovely spot, with good views to the mountains, if not down the valley.
The guardian wandered off wearing washing up gloves and carrying a plastic bowl. "Ortica for the rice" he told us.
There's no phone signal or wifi at Bosio, which is actually quite nice. People are playing cards, chatting, or reading.
Cesare is the guardian here. He served up a delicious meal tonight. We can see very few entries in the hut book from the English speaking world. Cesare says that until this year there were "zero" visits from that source. Gillian's book was published in March 2015, since when there have been a number of UK and US visitors, into double figures even. He hopes the trend will continue and that next year he will be able to go out and buy a new car.
All I would say is "well done Gillian" and "come to Rifugio Bosio, say hello to Cesare and his team, and if possible include Sasso Bianco and Lago d'Arcoglio on your itinerary. It's highly recommended by Cesare".
Our guide book and map
Getting ready to collect water at a fountain in Chiesa
Ascending the mule track to the hamlet of Son
Passing an ant hill on the way to Piasci
The view to the Bernina massif from our shady lunchtime perch
Sue relaxes outside Rifugio Bosio