Adventures must be done!

Denti della Vecchia (7.-9. Nov 2009)

Day 1
We left Zurich earlyish on Saturday morning, boarding a southbound train that would take us to Lugano. From there, a bus took us to Tesserete where we started to tramp. Zbynek had brought is new mountaineering boots, which caused him considerable trouble along the way. He soon took to performing various methods to keep the pain at bay; 'experiments' he called them. Invariably, every break yielded another experimental setup till his feet were curiously patched up with foam rubber, bits of cloth and medical tape.
Nonetheless, we made good progress and got a bit of a view once we reached the treeline.

Above the treeline looking North.

A change in weather was imminent. The last rays of sunlight were soon absorbed by a grey layer of cloud that started to cover the whole hemisphere and a cold wind forced us to don some more layers.

Yvonne tramping towards Motto della Croce

View towards the South from Motto della Croce (1393 m asl)

We had brought bivvy gear along but opted to stay in a Swiss Alpine Club hut this evening. When we got there, we found the hut to be staffed and therefore, dinner was provided to us.
We had tea and nibbled some of our cookies and wondered what to do now, but then we discovered a game of Scrabble and the evening was saved! Yvonne excelled at it, not only because she was native English speaking, but because she knew some tricks that earned her a lot of points. It was however Zbynek that came up with the most ludicrous spellings, really cracking us up; most memorable is probably: 'GUSE'. Yvonne and I shared a look of raised eyebrows, till I cried out: "Ahhh, goose, you mean!"

Zbynek and I involved in Scrabble

As it got evening, snow fall was setting in, but Zbynek was still sneering at the fact that we had brought snow shoes along: "There will never be enough snow!".

Day 2

When our alarm went off, I reluctantly left my cosy sleeping bag to look out of the window. There was quite a bit of snow drifting around, driven by strong wind and it looked rather inhospitable outside. "Ahhh, hmmmm ....", I grunted, and crawled back into my down bag:
"I reckon, it's not the day for the high route ... there is no need to hurry!"

We eventually got up, dressed, had breakfast and geared up for the outdoors. It was indeed fairly windy with about 10-15 cms of snow. But once we got used to it, the conditions were quite enjoyable; it was just great to experience the force of nature, bringing snow and high winds at our altitude while it presumably rained in the valley below us.

Zbynek bashing through a snow drift

Icicles along the path

Snow level gradient in the forest

Looking South

By midday we reached the church of San Lucio, where we had a short lunch. Zbynek was bound to walk out today, so Yvonne and I had a short chat about what to do. We felt both fairly chilly at the time, sitting around in the cold munching lunch just cools the body down, even though the wind had died down by now.

"Quite simple, either we continue or we walk out as well."
'Hmm, yeah ...'
"It'll be warmer when we move again."
'Would be a shame to leave ...'
"Indeed, couldn't show our faces anymore ...'

Thus, it was decided that we would go on as planned, and a good decision it was too, providing ample adventures in due course!

Church of San Lucio

Mountain range East of San Lucio with clearly dicernible snow level

Zbynek walked with us up to a little knob. There we parted and he back tracked and we watched him pick his way through the snow.

"Here we are ... shall we put on the snow shoes?"

Progress had been hindered by the undulating ground under snow. It turned out that the snow shoes really improved comfort and the whole affair seemed to be more professional all of a sudden.

Snowy mud pool along the way.

We soon got into coniferous shrubbery, deeply covered in snow and overhanging the path.
Only way to go on was to put up the hood and push through, sometimes crawling on all fours and getting copious amounts of snow dumped upon us.

Yvonne at the start of the bushbashing

Me when tramping without a jacket could still be done ....

View over Lago di Como

Cliff towards the end of day 2

Twilight approached when we descended to a pass, which we had identified as our destination. From there we spied a bit of flat ground on a ridge line leading off to our right. A few more minutes brought us to the spot and it was indeed most perfectly suited to put up our tarp. We spent some time compressing the snow, always surprising how much space the tarp takes up after all.
Soon we got ourselves installed in the tarp and the stove was melting snow for a cuppa, which was highly welcome. The cookies tasted much sweeter than on the previous day and we mutually agreed that continuing had been well worth it!

Tarping on snow

We cooked pasta for tea and a lot of steam escaped the billy, forming a thick fog in our tarp, which eventually condensed on the fabric and turned into an ice sheet later on!

The night kept us working on insulation issues. We both found that the mattresses were not really made for these conditions and our hips and shoulders were perpetually cold till we stuffed some clothing down the sleeping bags to beef up the insulation. Especially Yvonne's sleeping bag was not as new as it had been a few years ago and a warm cup of tea was very welcome in the morning!

Day 3
We had had the fancy to imagine staying in our sleeping bags till the sun would warm us up. However, reality proved to be different and we got up anyway, hoping to warm up when tramping.

Our camp in the snow.

The weather actually worsened in the course of the morning, bringing mist and snow, and thus we came across the famous Denti della Vecchia, formidable limestone formations, without really seeing much. After a shivering lunch in a shelter the sun started to appear and soon the chill was gone.
Crepuscular rays of sunlight trace through mist in the Beech forest

We reached Bre, a little village, in the later afternoon and found that there was more than half an hour before our bus would leave for Lugano. I therefore proposed to have tea time and set about preparing a brew.

Preparing tea at the bus stop

We just had had a first sip of Lady Grey tea when the bus appeared! There was nothing for it but to tip our cups back into the billy and take it aboard! The driver either possessed a high degree of false confidence or was just a plain nutter, but he was rocketing downhill in a fashion that made little rivulets of tea make their way forward along the floor of the bus. This progress we watched with fascination and curiosity: "Hope there will be some tea left!"

A most remarkable adventure ..... and by now we also know about some effects essentially related to mild frostbite!

Pictures: Yvonne and Andy