At the beginning of June, we made our way back to the Val Grande National Park. The Val Grande National Park is located north of Lake Maggiore and is easily accessible from Konstanz by public transport.
The planned tour covered a distance of about 45-50 kilometers and was designed to provide insights into the Val Grande as well as the old military route and Monte Zeda, finally we are about half of the planned tour and an unscheduled round from Cicogna to Pogallo ran. And have come to about 40 kilometers.
During the planning we have in detail the routes, which in the book "National Park Val Grande: Traveling in the wilderness between Domodossola and Lake Maggiore"* Are described and have put together an individual 5-day tour from these. The planned times are all to be treated with caution, since we already had the experience last year that we move rather slowly with luggage in this area.
The planned tour looked like this:
|Tuesday||Alpe Curgei||Alpe Forna||5h||5|
On each day of the tour is spent in another place, it starts with 2 managed accommodations, which are followed by 2 uncultivated and simple accommodations and finally a managed accommodation.
The third day was planned with a hike of only 4 km as a rest.
Why this did not quite work, you will learn in the following report 😉
Day 1: Arrival and arrival in Domodosolla
On Saturday we meet "early" in the morning in Konstanz at the station. For breakfast, we are still at the station bakery with snacks for traveling.
We have already bought tickets in advance for the route Constance to Domodossla via Zurich, for the last section from Domodossola to Mergozzo we buy tickets directly in Domodossola.
The ride to Domodossola runs, as usual from the Swiss railway, without problems.
In Domodossola we have a shorter stay, until the regional train continues to Mergozzo. On the one hand, we use it to buy our tickets at the counter and for a short visit to the weekly market, which is located in front of the train station. At the market we cover ourselves with a large Italian bread and smoked salami. After shopping, we look for our track and get into the slightly earlier arriving regional train and let us down in one of the apparently poorly maintained car. In contrast to the German railways here is the air conditioning fully turned up, so that the brought sweater worth the first time. Our train tickets, bought at the counter, are joyfully held in the hand, we expect the conductor, which is already recognizable as such from afar. He checked our tickets for a long time until he explained to us in English that we should have validated them at a ticket machine on the platform, and that driving without a validated ticket would cost 50 euros per person increased transport costs. Since we obviously look like ignorant tourists and also communicate more with our hands and feet, the conductor turns a blind eye and we come with the request to devaluate the tickets properly next time. The next passenger, by the way, has the same problem and here too the conductor pushes one more eye.
Finally arrived in Mergozzo we get out of the cooled down train and enjoy the pleasant warmth that prevails in Mergozzo. Thanks to the warmth and slightly higher humidity, we can free ourselves from our sweaters and get ready for the start of our first hike. So start GPS device, wait for the satellite fix and off you go!
Day 1: Hike to Alpe Ompio
The first hike is only planned as a warm-up after the long train journey. The first route takes us from Mergozzo train station via via Bracchio to Bracchio and from there on footpaths to Alpe Ompio, where the Rifugio Fantoli is located, where we spend our first night.
Our starting point is about 200 meters and today's tour is almost only a slight climb up to 1000 meters. It seemed to have rained already before we arrived and it starts to dribble again as soon as we start. However, it rains only slightly, so that we can dry very quickly thanks to the heat. Therefore, we do not change to rain gear and enjoy the light refreshment. In Bracchio we are told by a friendly Italian that the signposted route to the Alpe Ompio would be very slippery and exhausting because of the weather and we should rather take the path via Vercio, at least we are more or less unanimous that he has tried this to tell us. The way through Vercio is also already planned by us, so we thank you as friendly as we can and continue on our way.
If the view in the direction of the road is rather unspectacular, a look back is already rewarded with the view of the small Lago di Mergozzo. The higher we get the better the view of a small corner of the Laggo Maggiore and the surrounding mountains. After Vercio, following the footpath to Alpe Ompio, we find a public spring. We use this opportunity to replenish our water supplies and to refresh ourselves. None of us filters or treats the water with tablets before we drink it. The water tastes clean and looks clear. On the last part of the path divides and we stand before the election on a hiking trail or on a paved road. Since all are already KO we decide for the paved road and are in a short time at the Rifugio Fantoli. Once there, we will be greeted friendly by the son of the host. This asks us what we have the days before and if we want to eat something tonight. Then he has to go to Verbania and leave us to his not less nice father. Despite less Italian knowledge on our part, the communication works well with hands, feet and wordcakes and we get first of all a very delicious, well-chilled beer freshly tapped. While we enjoy our cold beer, another hiker successfully arrives at the Rifugio. In contrast to us, she has logged in exemplary and reserved a place to sleep. She also comes from Germany and joins us for dinner and increases the Italian knowledge of the group by 100%. The dinner consists of 2 variations of meat with sauce and polenta. For dessert there is a selection of cakes, everything is delicious. For food there is either homemade wine of the host or wine from the home of the host. Here we can not agree on a translation. Whether homemade or home-made, the wine goes perfectly with the food.
After the abundant food we move into the sleeping places and sleep until about 7 o'clock in the morning.
Day 2: Hike to Cicogna and unplanned stop in Basegra
The start of the day is with a typical Italian breakfast, with biscuits and coffee.
Our goal today is Cicogna. There is an Ostello, a kind of youth hostel, where you can expect a dinner and breakfast, depending on who is on duty of the carers, at least there is a hot shower and reasonable prices. The weather is very sunny and it does not seem to rain.
The path leads via Corte Bue to Ponte Velina to Velina and then to Baserga and - originally planned - also to Cicogna. The signposted duration for the way to Cicocgna is 5h 45m.
The path leads first above the Alpe Ompio, so that we once again have a beautiful view of the Alps and the Lago Maggiore. Through lush green we continue hiking upwards. We cross the small watercourses of the Rio Bue several times and soon have a good view of Corte Bue. In front of Corte Bue we see the first goat sunning and watching us. In the distance we can already see Cicogna. Once in Corte Bue we look at the old buildings and visit the publicly accessible Bivacco, which looks very tidy but not exactly spacious. Here it would be three cuddly certainly. Then we are looking for a nice place to take a break. Here we meet once again on the Wanderin from the Rifugio Fantoli, which is much faster on the way than we, which is certainly only due to our heavy luggage (not). Having found a bench overlooking the valley, we will savor the Italian bread and smoked Domodossola salami and enjoy the sun for a few minutes. After a long break we continue towards Ponte Velina. In Corte Bue, it goes past some old and dilapidated buildings and then continue in the shade of the trees in some not very clear ways. At the bridge we have a good view of the Rio Valgrande. The beautiful view we use for another break. At the latest here are the first signs of stomach problems noticeable what in the further course for some additional breaks and the short-term disappearance behind bushes means. After the bridge, we scramble for a short distance towards the approaching water and continue walking in the shade of the trees. Arriving in Velina, thanks to our acute stomach problems, we doubt for the first time today that we can continue on our way to Cicogna. We remember that there should be a bivacco in Velina which we want to use. After a short search we found but only collapse-endangered huts or well-preserved but closed huts. So disabled mode of the mobile phone and hoped for Internet reception, luck, Internet there! A short research shows: the next Bivacco is in Baserga, so with new forces on to Baserga. After a few minutes we arrive in Baserga and are greeted by a sign saying "Bar". With great anticipation for a cold beer, we continue towards the huts we see. At the largest there is an information sign explaining that there is an unattended free lodge and a hosted inclusive shower from the "3 friends of Velina". We look at the empty cabin, and then decide to drink something cool and a shower for the hosted hut. After a short "hello call" we enter the courtyard and are greeted by Pietro, who lives in one of the cottages on the property friendly. After we explained that we want to spend the night in the hut and the drink question is clarified, we sit back in the sun with a cold canned beer.
Even before we manage to prepare a dinner Pietro offers us a self-caught fish for bridging. To refuse any culinary experience, we naturally accept the offer and try the fish. Then we try to heat the water for our ready meals with the wood stove. Because this takes ages, Pietro recommends switching to the gas stove, which will soon be able to bring the water to a boil. After preparing the bag meals, we still drink one of the whiskeys and so we do not have to carry so much yet another.
After we follow the football match and the Formula 1 on Italian radio at the same time, we will eventually fall asleep early in the evening.
Day 3: Hiking and scrambling to Cicogna
The next morning we pack our things together and sweep once through the hut left to us, so that we leave this broom clean. For breakfast there is one of the cereals brought. After we have paid our bill at Pietro and we try a few of his own picked strawberries, we make our way to Cicogna. Since the section before us, according to our actual plan, should be mastered already yesterday it could be today, only a simple tour. After just a few minutes of comfortable walking, however, we meet the first steep climbs, which are secured with chains and are also very wet due to the last rain showers. After we got over the first few climbs, we were glad that we did not try this passage the day before. Due to the wet and the part rusty and loose chains this is definitely the most demanding part of the tour. We spend most of our time protected by trees in the direction of Cicogna. Although we meander more or less along the 700m contour line, there are some short ups and downs again. When we finally arrive at the helipad of Cicogna, we used the meadow at a safe distance, first for a little break. The plan to build up the tarp carried along at least as a sunscreen fails because of the lack of power and the dwindling motivation, so that we just enjoy the sun and peace. The Tyvek brought along serves as protection against the still wet meadow.
After resting, head towards Cicogna. From the landing place a small road leads into the center. The path leads past a goat farm, where you can eat as well as stay overnight, for dinner we will go back here later. For the night we decided for the cheaper and already known Ostello in Cicogna. Arrived in Ostello we are welcomed by Strato, who is hosting the Ostello this season. We get registered by Strato and "check in", put our backpacks in the bedrooms and head back to the goat farm for a quick lunch snack. Arrived at the goat farm we have a Vesperplatte put together and enjoy a few drinks. The Vesperplatte was delicious, but including drinks cost 40 euros! That felt like the most expensive food on our tour, but that's just what happens when everything is grown ecologically and fairly and the owners still have to live off their farm.
Back in Cicogna we think again what we want to do in the next days. Let's continue our original route, despite our non-improving stomach problems, or make a smaller tour of Cicogna and return to Cicogna. On the one hand we are attracted by the military trail beginning after the Alpe Curgei, on the other hand we are already partially weakened, so we decide on a round trip to Pogallo with start and finish point Cicogna.
Day 4: Round trip to Pogallo and back
The today's hike we do with light luggage, actually only with some provisions and enough water. So we left our main luggage at the Ostello in Cicogna. We first go to Alpe Pra. Here is the so-called Casa dell'Alpino a very large hut, but unfortunately only by appointment and from 5 people will be open. According to Strato, the hut should also be open on weekends, but we were unable to read this on the internet. There is also a small well at the cottage, which we use to replenish our water supplies and refresh ourselves briefly. Shortly after we reached the hut, two curious horses joined us. Alpe Pra offers great views of Lake Maggiore and some valleys. After a short break, we continue on our way to Pogallo. Past old, sunken and ruined buildings we continue. For a relatively long time the path still goes unprotected across meadows, but soon we are again on forest trails, which could also be near the Marienschlucht. We continue on smaller streams until we come through green shrubs to Pogallo. Shortly before we arrive it starts to rain and we use the shelter of a hut in Pogallo to take a break and protect ourselves from the rain. There were already 2 Italian hikers, who were on the way to Plan di Boit, where there is a public bivacco, which we ourselves from last year in good memory.
After a longer break and a short conversation with the Italian hikers, we make our way back towards Cicogna. The way back leads most of the time along the Rio Pogallo, is very well developed and offers a beautiful view of the gorge. The way back, as beautiful as he was, retired a bit thanks to our not very good fitness. Half an hour before Cicogna, it starts to rain heavily, causing a slowdown and additional motivation to move forward quickly.
Finally, wet and knockout arrived in Cicogna, we look forward to a hot shower and a bed. In the evening Strato prepares noodles with meat sauce and polenta, as well as salami, cheese and white bread. Everything was delicious and Strato was a pleasant host.
Day 5: Return to Verbania
The breakfast in the Ostello was also ok, even muesli and chocolate cereal there was. Our discount tickets, which we bought in advance for the return trip, were unfortunately one of the latest possible connections, as we wanted to be sure when booking that we would not miss our return trip and make it to Verbania in time. After breakfast, we checked out and made our way to the ferry service in Intra, where the next ship left for Locarno at 12 o'clock something. We could not take a later connection, because then we would have arrived too late for our train connection in Locarno. Due to the early ferry connection we had to hang around at the station Locarno for about 4 hours, until finally our train arrived. While waiting, it started raining again. Meanwhile, it was also much colder when waiting, at least now, the otherwise not needed down jacket was worth it. Finally, our train came and we drove back to Konstanz.
Even if we did not run the tour as planned, it was a very interesting and beautiful hike. It was definitely good to know in advance about possible alternative cabins and accommodation. We are not sure where we got our stomach problems, was it already the first source or the first dinner or something on the way? Maybe even something we ate during the arrival? We will not find out any more.
We especially noticed this year how nice were all the Italians we met in between. Both during the hike and in Cicogna and Verbania were all very friendly and always helpful and somehow always in a good mood.
After the Cicogna - Pogallo round we clearly noticed how fast we can be without luggage. This was the first time we could fall below the times indicated. Probably for next time: Work significantly on the dragged weight and if possible take less.
Conclusion to the packing list
Here is the packing list we all kept more or less, in addition the items which we divided in the group (cooker, Tarp, ...)
|rain pants||No||it was definitely too warm for rain pants||No|
|Raincoat / poncho||Yes||was useful for heavy rain showers, can quickly be put on and off again||Yes|
|shorts||Yes||mostly carried on huts, on the way because of high grass, long pants||Yes|
|functional jacket||Yes||This time only necessary in air-conditioned trains||Yes|
|walking sticks||Yes||pleasant with a heavy backpack||Yes|
|Backpack rain cover||Yes||Yes|
|Sleeping bag||Yes||only used in the hostel instead of blanket||yes, only if unkempt huts on the track|
|sleeping pad||No||yes, only if unkempt huts on the track|
|Hut sleeping bag (silk inlet)||Yes||Yes|
|Insect protection (Autan)||No||Yes|
|Effervescent powder (magnesium, electrolytes)||Yes||Yes|
|zusätz. water tank||Yes||Yes|
|Trangia cooker||No||yes, only if unkempt huts on the track|
|spirit||No||yes, only if unkempt huts on the track|
|Tarp||No||The possibilities to tarnish in the environment are very limited (little plane surfaces)||No|
|Ground Sheet||Yes||Only as documentation on wet meadow||No|
|GPS device||Yes||very useful in this walk, as paths are often not recognizable||Yes|
The weight of our backpacks was between 8 and 12 kg including food.
Thank you for reading, I hope you enjoyed the report.
- Sebastian -