Adventures in the Alps -- Part IV: Braggio

From Zürich we head south, on Saturday, 23 September 2005.

Scott snaps this peak from the train on the way to Bellinzona. We catch a postal bus there and change in Grono to get to Arvigo.

Our host, Peter Hossman, meets us in Arvigo to orient us to the inner workings of the self-service aerial tram. Peter speaks Italian and German, but not much English. We do our best with our German and Italian dictionaries, pantomine and big smiles.

Privately, Ellen vows to improve her Italian before the next visit! Later Peter tells her he plans to study English in the winter.



Here comes the Seilbahn...

...and here we go, up, up and away above Arvigo. Adieu, Arvigo!
Like Jack climbing the beanstalk, we emerge at the top of the tram into another world, smack in the middle of the carfree village of Braggio. We are high on a sunny bench, almost 1600 feet directly above shadowy Arvigo, and out of sight of it.
The hanging terrace on which Braggio sits was once the bottom of a wide glaciated valley. A million years of fast-cutting river action alternating with glaciation have carved the bottom of the valley deeper yet.

Peter has thoughtfully provided a handcart for our luggage, but it's only a short walk to his house. Along the way he points out where his old house was, before an avalanche wiped it out completely.

Many of the service buildings are crafted of 'muro secco' (dry stone walls) from local materials. The whole region seems to be mainly gneiss, though there is a granite quarry at the foot of Arvigo.

Our apartment is on the ground floor of the Hossman's house. In our ignorance we have neglected to bring our own food. Margrit Hossman graciously invites us to dine with them, together with some English-speaking friends, and bakes us a loaf of bread in her bread machine for our hike the next day.

The Hossmans were wonderful hosts, and the apartment is spotless. Telephone in Braggio: 091 828 14 42, e-mail:

Peter knows all the trails, and, with some interpreting help from friends Rico and Regula, he gives us minute directions for our possible hikes.

The next morning dawned sunny and fair. We headed up the concrete road to points high above Braggio.
Just as Peter promised us, above the gate on the road the trail takes off straight up the hill. There were highly visible red-and-white blazes along the way.
In keeping with the red-and-white theme, the woods are dotted with Amanitas.
Scott stops to take a GPS reading. Ellen liked this cairn with a witch's hat on the corner of an old stone foundation.
At a fork in the trail we found the way well marked. We are making for the Alp di Fora.
There is a Hütte at the Alp di Fora. Scott is thrilled to find there is self-service beer for only €2. We lunch on Margrit's delicious bread.
After lunch, we easily reach the saddle over which the trail continues down to Santa Maria. This is one of the ways Peter suggested we go, returning by postal bus from Santa Maria to Arvigo. Scott, however, is determined to get up to a cross he sees above us, and we head up instead of down. Partway up he checks out the cliff-edge view of Santa Maria.

It's a tough scramble, pretty much straight up, with the possibility of falling to your death. "Isn't there a wimps' way?" Scott asks querulously, but we persevere, and we reach the cross!

From here the map shows a high trail going north, skirting the highest points and occasionally criss-crossing the ridge. If we can find this phantom trail, it appears to link up to an easier way down.

Scott is sure we can find that trail here somewhere. And, indeed, soon we are following a trail that looks like it might have been made... goats.

Where our route follows the ridge we find ourselves looking down at Cama in the Valle de Mesolcina, which is the next valley to the east of the Calancatal, through which a main road runs.

(If the distant valley and opposite hills look a little weird, it's because Ellen enhanced their saturation to offset the gauze-like masking effect of the haze filling the valley.)

Now we are skirting the west side again. The Calancatal stretches north beyond Scott. Here we are nearly 4000 feet above the valley floor of the Calancatal.

Scott can't help it, and it isn't easy, but he has to get up on the pillar.

Behind him you can see avalanche protection on the far hill.

We really are following something vaguely like a trail, and, not only that, it matches what's on the map. Here, back on the east side of the ridge, it takes us on a stone catwalk high above the Mesolcina.
At last we come out in another saddle. From here we should be able to find the 'easy' trail and head down.
Dusk is coming on, and we have a long way to go! Far below Ellen on the other side of the Calancatal is Landarenca. Like Braggio, it is perched on a bench above the valley floor. It's about the same elevation as Braggio, only across the valley. So, down and down and down we go...

...but now at least, as promised, we are following a real trail, one that leads to the avalanche barriers.

We stop to eat our last crumbs of food, sitting on the wall in front of this small rock hut, locked shut.


We were awfully happy to reach the concrete road again. It was pitch black long before we got back down to Braggio, but with our headlamps on we could easily follow the way, and there was nothing to trip over in the dark. Below us, Peter and Margrit were out for a walk. Maybe this is what we looked like as we came down the meandering road. Peter joked later he thought Martians had landed.

Go on to the next ALPS adventure.

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