Vipers, Not-so-Hot Springs and Italian Chamois Hunters

Wednesday, 10. June 2015

by Martyn Bryant The 6 day hike led by Guido, Chantal, Katherine and I explored the Swiss/Italian border region west of Locarno.

We took the train to Intragna in Ticino, where we took our first icy swim. Beside the river we began our excellent teamwork as tried to save some stranded fish in a stagnant pond by digging them a trench through the sand to the river. After saving one or two one-centimeter-long fish we climbed the ridge, past sweet chestnut trees, beech trees and Catholic Shrines towards Piazza Ruscada - high to where Swifts, the birds that sleep in flight, live. From there we turned North West, past juniper shrubs and the Italian border, wild thyme, good-king-henry (also known as poor-man’s asparagus), through mountain passes, small snow fields, and abandoned rusticos and on day three descended into the larch forest high in the Onsernone valley.

We ate sausages, sausages, pesto pasta, good-king-henry expertly wilted and seasoned by Guido, sausages, pesto pasta, polenta, marshmallows, trail-mix and sausages. I don’t know who carried the sausages, but there was an endless supply. Coffee was served according to the cowboy tradition, or the Turkish, whichever name you prefer.

The weather turned wet on day four and one member of the group rolled their ankle on the way up to Passa dell' Omo. We will be eternally grateful to and impressed by the Italian Chamois hunters who helped with her piggyback evacuation down towards Spruga.

On the 5th and 6th days we slowed down to recover and dry our socks and everything else that was wet over the fire. We continued to explore the lower Onsernone valley, looking for Guido’s favourite trees (Guido has quite a few favourite trees), avoiding vipers and bathing in the not-so-hot springs at Bagni de Craveggia with the tadpoles who had brand new legs.

It was a great trip but many had mixed feelings as this was their last hike with the Ecole. Personally, I can’t wait until September.