Solo hike in the Lepontine Alps, Ticino/Piedmont, Switzerland/Italy

Calonge 001

Late autumn is the perfect time for hikers who wants to get some “Into the Wild” feeling. The snow has already covered the higher parts of Alps, most of the mountain huts are closed, days are short and temperatures during the night are around zero or less. Only very little hikers decide to go into the higher parts of the Alps which makes it almost a wilderness area. The landscape during the spring is fairy-tale-like and colours almost unreal. With a great weather forecast for the next few days, it was a perfect time for a nature-lover adventure. I packed my backpack with everything I need for 4 days and went to swiss canton of Ticino in the Lepontine Alps region.

Trip Summary
Duration: 4 days (28 October – 31 October 2016)
Route: Ossasco – Capanna Cristallina – Capanna Basodino – Rifugio Maria Luisa – All’Acqua
Distance: 42.6km
Ascent: 2796m, Descent 2496m
Total number of hikers met along the way: 13
Animal encounters: Weasel, Rupicapra (Gämse), Alpine Chough (Alpendohle), Alpenbirkenzeisig

Duration: 6h, number of people met along the way: 0
Route: Ossasco 1313m – Leiunscia 1539m – Alpe Cristallina 1800m – Alpe Torta 2225m – Passo Cristallina 2568m (CAS Capanna Cristallina 2575m)

I started in Ossasco in Val Bedretto, which can be reached by a local bus from Airolo train station. The 1300m ascent to Capanna Cristallina was relatively easy up to about 2200m altitude where the path was covered by snow and some parts blocked by frozen snow which was tricky to pass without appropriate climbing gear, especially the last part just before the Cristallina Lodge. The hiking time to Cristallina indicated on the signpost in Ossasco was 3.5h. This is maybe possible with ideal weather conditions in Summer but not at this time of the year and not with a backpack for a 4 days trip. It took me about 6h to get there but the landscape and silence at the top was indescribable. There was not a single soul there, it was only me and the nature. This was the “Into the wild” feeling I was looking for.


View over Val Bendretto


Solo hiker and the unreal background …


Following the animal trail towards Capanna Cristallina


Capanna Cristallina 2575m (Cristallina Lodge)


Sunset at Capanna Cristallina

Duration: 6h, number of people met along the way: 6
Route: CAS Capanna Cristallina 2575m – Lago Sfundau 2465m – Lago Bianco 2110m – CAS Capanna Basodino 1856m

The narrow path from Cristallina hut in south direction leads along lake Sfundau on a steep slope. This route is particularly dangerous and is also indicated on the map in Cristallina hut with dash-dot line indicating sections with increased level of risk. In addition to that the path was totally covered by hard snow and certain parts were fully blocked. It took me 2 hours to pass lake Sfundau. At one point I really wanted to give up and turn back to the hut because the path was blocked at a very steep valley and there was a risk that I could slide 150m down the slope into the lake. After the lake the path was descending down to Lago Bianco and then further to Basodino hut and the snow fully disappeared from the path. I reached Capanna Basodino at 4:15pm and decided to stay for the night because there was not much time left untill it gets dark.


View towards Capanna Cristallina 2575m from the path along Lake Sfundau


Lake Sfundau with Basodino Glacier in the background


Heading south after passing Lake Sfundau


Basodino Glacier

Duration: 10.5h, number of people met along the way: 6
Route: CAS Capanna Basodino 1856m – Lago Robiei 1940m – Bocchetta di Val Maggia 2635m – Laghi Boden 2370m – Alpe Kastel 2242m – CAI Rifiugio Maria-Luisa 2160m – Riale di sotto 1733m – Riale 1740m – CAI Rifugio Maria-Luisa 2160m

In order to cross the Swiss-Italian border through Bocchetta di Val Maggia I had to start early in the morning because it was a long hike and I didn’t know what to expect at Bocchetta di Val Maggia which is at altitude 2635m. Passing lake Robiei I started to climb towards the italian border through a scenic valley which ended with Bocchetta di Val Maggia. All along the way the 1.5km long Basodino Glacier was dominating the landscape. The rocky climb to Bocchetta is often classified as T3 and some climbing skills were necessary, particularly at the higher sections where the path was covered by snow and ice. Getting to Bocchetta was relatively easy comparing with descending the icy slope of the valley on the italian side. It was the second time during my trip where I was considering to turn back. I even used my knive as an axe to prevent sliding down the icy slope. Trekking poles would be very useful here! After passing Bochetta the path led into Val Formazza with couple of lakes on the way (Laghi Boden). After passing Rifiugio Maria Luisa and checking the shelter I visited the nearest village Riale. This 400m descent and ascent back to the hut took all my energy and I came back at 8pm exhausted into the hut after almost 2 hours hiking through a complete darkness. From time to time, when I aimed my headlamp to the side, I saw a pair of green eyes in the forest looking at me. I felt like a prey being observed by a predator … That gave me of course additional kick of energy to get to the hut as quickly as possible. I hope these animal were only harmless foxes … But you never know …


Landscape from a different planet – Val Maggia


Already on the italian side – Laghi Boden 2370m

Duration: 4.5h, number of people met along the way: 1
Route: CAI Rifugio Maria-Luisa 2160m – Lago Toggia 2191m – Passo San Giacomo 2313m – San Giacomo 2254m – All’Acqua 1614m

The hike through Passo San Giacomo was relatively flat and easy. I made a very long break on the way at Toggia lake enjoying the view over Val Formazza and sourrounding mountains but also recovering strength from the day before. After San Giacomo I entered Bendretto Valley and the landscape changed to colorful autumn pattern. It was one of the most beautiful parts of my tour which I really enjoyed. The Alps in Ticino are magnificent at this time of the year. I reached All’Acqua at about 1pm, had a beer in the restaurant and jumped into the bus to Airolo. The adventure came to an end :).


Recharging batteries at Lago Toggia 2191m


View over Val Bendretto

4 days solo hike Swiss Alps

Accommodation – Capanna Cristallina CAS – Capanna Basodino CAS – Rifugio Maria Luisa CAI

Information – My hiking tour on – Swiss Alpine Club (CAS) – Club Alpino Italiano (CAI) – Swiss topo map online – Information about Cristallina on summitpost – SwitzerlandMobility, Hiking in Switzerland – Website with many hikes in Switzerland – MeteoSwiss homepage – Information about Val Formazza – GPS, Tours, Routes, Planner etc. – Sentiero Cristallina – Swiss Federal Railways website – Oficial website of canton Ticino – Oficial website of Airolo municipality

11 comments on “Solo hike in the Lepontine Alps, Ticino/Piedmont, Switzerland/Italy”

  1. Rayx says:

    Hi really enjoyed reading this, so much inspiration to make me want start planning a trip like this asap.

  2. Alex says:

    wow ! What an amazing post and a great challenge! It must have been amazing to experience the nature in such a wonderful place!

  3. Alice ford says:

    Wow what an amazing place. Sounds like a difficult and dangerous hike if you aren’t prepared.

    • meczek says:

      Thanks Alex and Alice!
      It was a great challenge indeed. Some parts of the trails were dangerous because the trail was blocked by icy snow. I have to say that I was not fully prepared. For this trail, at this time of the year I should also have had:
      – ice axe
      – crampons
      – trekking poles
      Every journey is a lesson 🙂

      Talking about nature: I have never been so close with nature before (maybe excluding canoe trip in Finland). The 3 lonely night in the mountains in SAC huts were unforgettable.

  4. Wow this is a true adventure. I absolutely adore Switzerland and the Lepontine Alps look an absolute dream. Great pics and video. You sure know how to live life!
    Kristie – you.theworld.wandering

  5. Dan campbell says:

    Alps is genuinely my favourite place ever .
    Great adventure.
    Great read.

  6. Elsa says:

    I just love your images! Was quite inspired by this post 🙂

  7. Amrita says:

    The photos are gorgeous! I’m reminded of our Chadar Trek…almost four years back.

  8. Liberty says:

    LOVE your photos here – what an adventure 🙂

  9. […] After a short break at Rifugio Benevolo (it was still closed and the summer season has not yet begun) we split into 2 groups from which one went back to the parking lot and the other continued the hike. After Benevolo trails was fully covered with snow and it was difficult to follow the proper path. We were fighting our way through the snow, trying various paths leading up. At the end we didn’t reach any of the lakes but hiked up to the foot of Roc du Fond and had lots of fun in the snow :). Have to come back here in the summer and do a multiple hike like I did in Lepontine Alps. […]

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