Thursday, November 29, 2012

Selva, Italy - September, 2012 (Day 8)

Mom and Dad on the trail

Mom and Dad along our snowy path.

To properly describe today's events I need to first take you back to our Free Day yesterday. I don't really need to spend much time talking about our wandering around Ortisei seeing what this larger town had to offer. I don't really need to talk much about the mountain cafe/hutte/upper terminus of the funicular where we had a late morning snack that was surprisingly good. I do, however, need to touch on the weather that affected it all. It was a bit of a dreary day with totally overcast skies and on again off again rain especially in the afternoon when it became heavy showers. The temeprature had dropped considerably too. At the funicular upper terminus around noon I would not be surprised if it was barely 50. The forecast was for the temperature to plunge and snow to fall during the evening with the snow line somewhere around the 2,000 meter mark. Remember that the previous few days had seen high temperatures nudging the 70 degree mark . While a cold front like this may not be unuusual it still came as a bit of a surprise.

When we got up this morning and looked up towards the north eastern mountain slopes we could see plenty of snow had fallen. It was impossible to know how deep it might be or what the trails owuld be like but it was obvious the forecast had been correct. But it was also clear that the clouds had risen somewhat from the day before so while we had no real views when we were up high on Wednesday today seemed like it would be different. Mom, Dad, and I had decided that the harder walk which would cover, if the route was passible, some 8 or 9 miles with 2,000 feet of ascent and nearly 5,000 feet of descent was not for us especially since a lot of the descent was reportedly rocky. The easier walk felt as though it would be too short covering about 6 miles in the mountains with a 1.5 or so mile walk again back from San Cristina which none of us wanted to do again as the finale. Instead we decided to reprise the walk Mom had done Tuesday which was about 8 miles long with2,100 feet of ascent and close to 2,900 feet of descent (numbers could have been a bit higher). When Mom did the walk ambling west to east along a ridgeline around the 2,170 meter mark she spotted numerous cows and other animals along the green mountainsides and was no doubt bathed in sunshine. Our walk would be differnt.

North view from hotel
Looking north from Hotel Malleier (Ma-lay-ah).
Passing the snow line
Not that far from the upper terminus of the funicular station. Unlike yesterday the clouds have lifted and the town of Ortisei is clearly visible.
We, along with a fully packed funicular's worth of people were dropped off at the upper terminus just after 10:00. The ride up had shown us that the cloud ceiling had definitely risen as we could see Ortisei all the way up. The snowline , as marked by where snow really appeared beside and upon the tracks was not that far below the terminus which sits at about 2,150 meters elevation. A tiny bit of snow clung to the paths but they were really almost clear by this point with some small icy patches. I suppose the action of walking helped clear the paths and paths always seem to be a bit warmer than the ground just to their left and right (I suppose some machine could clear the paths but this seems a bit of a silly notion given the number of hiking paths and their length). The snow did cover the ground but even the drifts were not that deep and a typical depth was probably just an inch or two (up higher where the folks doing the tougher walk , suitably revised for safety reasons we would learn, the paths did have some snow and it may have been ankle-deep in many places). The effect was to make the mountain slopes white clad but with plenty of dark spots showing through where sides of rocks poked out. Trees, some of the walk would be above tree line, were clad with snow but they were not so burderened by it that they were merely white tall shapes. Instead the snow dappled the evergreens leaving plnety of very dark green contrasting with the snowy white. A very fairlyland wintry scene at times.

Busy snowy trail
This is a pretty busy path even on this chilly snowbound day.
A fine snowy scene
We were a bit surprised and dismayed at the number of people around. While the numbers did not match what we encountered on the "Notch Walk" (second walk) they were still considerable. You end up feeling a bit pressed to move on so as not to feel rushed by others getting close and that causes you to rush yourelf. But we had enough time when groups were mostly out of sight and earshot. I just wish it had been even more so. The temperature was about 40 and their was a brisk wind whipping about that I have no doubt sent the windchill down below freezing. Though cloudy it was not precipitating much at all. Really just here-a-flake;there-a-flake when something happeend. We had more of a storm back in Yellowstone last June.

We passed a rifugio in short order and continued on to a seemingly lonely small church. I believe this tiny house of worship has been up here at the 2,200 meter line for centuries but I find myself wondering why. While I have no doubt animals were and are grazing up here I don't think many homes were ever up here. The crucifix with a very tortured Christ on top of the local peak (about 2,257 meters) is impressive but I suppose it is tied directly to the hcurch. It wouldn't draw people to live here , would it? Looking out across the valley (south) we didn't have great views into the valley below but we could well see across to some rather snowy mountains on the far side. The scene had the stark beauty snow covered swathes of land often have.

We left that high plateau and began the bulk of the walk along the ridge. We would rise and fall sometimes dipping just below the tree line but remaining always above the snow line. One stretch, just after a path junction I believe, where we turned northerly for a time, had us strolling down the dirt path through a small forest that was particular pleasant with plnety of winter-time type coloring to catch the eye: the rich brown of the dirt path, the deep near black green of the trees, the white of the snow - a litle blue would have been nice but the sky remained totally cloudy (a blessing in some ways considering how bright sunshine would have made the snow). When we were amongst the trees the wind was blocked and we felt more than comfortable. Even when the wind bit at us we were happy.

We did not pause much. This was perhaps in part due to a desire to stay warm by moving but I think mostly to avoid getting caught up in any of the larger groups that were travelling the paths with us. It did mean we took fairly few photos which is a bit sad since there were some photogenic locations. Our hiking path would eventually turn into something more akin to a two-track that would continue to undulate along the mountainside. On Tuesday Mom saw a fellow on a motorbike herding cows. Today we saw no man or beast. We were making good time and when we finally stopped for our lunch in a bit of rock sheltered curve we had walked two thirds of the route. It was about 13:10 and the temperature was still hovering around 40. We did not linger over our sandwhiches. When we came to where we would turn to begin the bulk of the descent, by a cow grate not far from a rifugio, we made the turn bypassing the mountain hut (a small group of sheep were nearby; the only fauna we would see). The bulk of the descent is done in about 3km on hiking paths that eventually wind through lush stands of evergreens. Mountain glades pop up now and then but what really made the descent nice was the stream burbling nearby. It was a wholly enjoyable descent: not terribly steep and upon a treadway with fine footing. We arrived at the Furnes terminus of the Seceda lift just after 14:00. A very fine walk.

Horn pipers in Ortisei
The same alpine horn pipe players we encountered on the second day. I think they played the same music.
Spending a bit of time in Ortisei before returning to Selva was well worth it. The sun broke out for a time during this part of the day. We had a snack and drink (not as good as it could have been; our latte machiatos were not hot enough. We were serenaded by the same alpine horn pipe players too. I think they played the same suite of music. We wrapped the afternoon up with a visit to the summit of Mount Seuc taking the Seuc lift up. These red bell-shaped cars are rated for 15 people and that must be one hell of a squeeze when full. Our return journey had 8 of us and one rhodesian ridgeback dog and I don't know how you would get 7 more people in there. It remains a surprise to us that dogs can go anywhere. Our jammed to the gills bus ride back to Selva had at least a couple large dogs along with a big stroller and standing room only people (why we sat around Ortisei for 10 minutes before moving I do not know). I will note that the views from Mount Seuc were quite nice but we did not linger as we had nothing really to do. It was a nice way to end the day as the sun shone down upon us and helped to show us just how big Ortisei is as we rode the gondola up and down.

The night featured a brass band, the Big Brass Band of Selva, concert. They played supposedly local pieces but also quite a lot that was not what I would call a celebration of local culture. Not unless you can consider the A-Team theme or Whitney Houston or even a bit of Verde local. Still it was nice.

View all the photos for this walk (15 photos).

View the map of today's hike (the same route Mom followed two days earlier).


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