Our summer hikes

It’s already the middle of October and that means the trekking season high in the mountains is almost over. This past Sunday, October 12th was the last day for alpine bus service. I planed to take the opportunity to go to Lucomagno, but it rained cats and dogs through the whole weekend. Hopefully, we’ll be able to explore a few more trails before snow hits mountains of Ticino. Now, that the summer is over, it’s time to recap our trail adventures from the past months.

People following me on Facebook tend to think that we spend all our time in the mountains. This is most certainly not true, but even I have the impression that we’ve been out a lot this season. Back in June I had an ambitious plan to go to the mountains every single week, alternating between easy and more strenuous hikes, but it didn’t work out. By the middle of the summer we’ve been to the mountains only twice. Most of the time we stayed home because of the stormy weather but also because D. was busy with his research. Sticking to the original plan didn’t make sense anymore, and so later when weather permitted we explored trails from the top of my list, those that require more effort and time. In total since June we only hiked seven times including a day hike in Sweden. Well, seven doesn’t sound like much, but all of them have been so wonderful, that it feels like we’ve seen a lot.

Here is a list of our hikes since my last post. I will publish more details on them in the next few weeks.

1. Länna – Lötsjön – Fjälnora – Selknä (Uppland, Sweden)

Day hiking near Uppsala in Sweden

Ekdalen, north of Fjälnora

2. Pian Geiret – Capanna Michela Motterascio – Diga di Luzzone

Summer hike in Greina region

Walking along Rein da Sumvitg in Greina

3. Dalpe – Capanna Campo Tencia – Lago Leit – Lago Tremorgio

Hiking from Dalpe  to Lago Tremorgio

Lago Leit

4. Passo Sasselo

Hike from Airolo to Passo Sassello

View from Passo Sasselo above Val Sambuco

5. Passo di Lucomagno – Val Cadlimo – Lago Ritom

Long dayhike from Lukmanier  pass to lago ritom

Lago Scuro

From Alpe Casaccia to Lago Ritom via Passo delle Colombe

Yay, hike number eleven! This one was on my wish list for a long time. Although we have already been to Lago Ritom area a few times we have never reached the region from the east. This time our plan was to hike up to Passo delle Colombe from Alpe Casaccia and then head down to Lago Ritom. This T2 route is a little over 15 km long with about 850 m of total elevation gain.

Route: Alpe Casaccia 1809 m – Passo delle Colombe 2381 m – Lago Cadagno 1921 m – Lago Ritom 1860 m – Piora 1851 m – Stazione Piora 1794 m
Access to starting point: bus 131 from Biasca train station to Olivone, then bus 136 to Alpe Casaccia
Access to end point: funicular to Piotta, then bus 117 to Airolo train station or bus 191 to Faido train station.

pizzo delle colombe still partly snowed in the middle of summer

PIzzo delle Colombe, 2545 m also know as Campanitt

At first it seemed that getting to the place by public transportation could be tricky, but everything goes smooth and around 10:15 am we arrive at Alpe Casccia. The weather looks like it might play along and despite the low clouds summits at the west side of the valley seem fairly clear. The initial climb to the Passo delle Colombe is only 560 meters but at the moment it looks like it’s going to take ages to get up there.

The trail starts right across the road from the Alpe Casaccia bus stop at 1810m. We follow the path toward Lucomagno for a few meters and then turn off to the west and continue on a nearly flat dirt road that leads to a couple of old stone houses in Alpe Gana.

heading up to passo delle colombe from alpe gana

Looking back down on Alpe Gana

From here our first ascent starts. A steep trail goes first through the forest and then along a grassy hill before we reach the vast meadow – Piano dei Canali at about 2100 m. Here the two impressive mountains Pizzo del Sole and Pizzo Colombe are laid in front of us. It gets surprisingly chilly and blustery. We put our windbreakers on and take a few bites to restore the energy before continuing the climb. Leaving the Piano die Canali behind, we hike up another 200 meters of steep trail to Passo dell Colombe.

alpine meadow with wild flowers at the foot of mountain Campanitt

Piano dei Canali with Pizzo del Sole, 2773 m (on the left) and Pizzo Colombe, 2545 m (in the center)

alpine flowers blooming along hiking trail leading to passo colombe

Continuing on to the Passo delle Colombe

alpine flowers blooming in Ticino mountains

Looking back down on Piano dei Canali

exploring hiking trails of southern switzerland

Pizzo delle Colombe (on the left) and the hiking trail leading to the pass

We are at the pass by 12:45. Getting up here took a little longer than planned, but well, I did too many stops for making photos. At this vantage we can see the entire Val Piora and Lago Cadagno at it’s west end. What a great view!

view from passo delle colombe towards west

Looking west from Passo delle Colombe

Snow is present at passo delle colombe in the begining of july

Passo delle Colombe and Lago dei Capanitt

hiking trai runs through piora valley towards lago cadagno

Heading down to Val Piora from Passo delle Colombe

The sun comes in and we stop for a lunch break before taking off to the lakes on a very easy gradual downhill path. At about 2250 m elevation the trail splits into two sections contouring the opposite sides of Val Piora and both leading to Lago Cadagno. We turn off to the left thinking that this side of the valley will offer better opportunities for picture taking but after a few meters all of a sudden the trail turns into a gravel road. This upsets me a bit, but the views are great, so I have nothing to complain about.

walking from piora valley to lago ritom

View of Val Piora towards Capanna Cadagno

trekking lago ritom region

View of Val Piora towards Lago Cadagno

unpaved roard leads from lago ritom to capanna cadagno

Walkking on the gravel road leading to Lago Ritom

Just a few meters until you get to Capana Cadagno trail splits again with one section running to the right up towards Passo Forca and Lago Ritom and the another one goes straight to the Capanna and Lago Cadagno. We opt for the later and continue straight on the road. Eventually trail goes off the road and leads down to Lago Ritom. What a joy to be back on trail! After a much-delayed break and a few snacks we walk around the lake towards Piora and arrive at the Piora Funicular station right on time for 17:00 departure.

lago cadagno is the only meromictic lakes in Switzerland

Cows grazing on the shore of Lago Cadagno

classic day hike trip in ticino region

Finally we arrive at Lago Ritom

trekking in canton Ticino

Descending to Lago Ritom

easy day hike aroung Lago Ritom

Walking along the shore of Lago Ritom

This was a great hike, very beautiful and not difficult at all. I am really looking forward to exploring other trails in the area and planing at least one backpacking trip up there this summer.

24 Hikes of 2014 Challenge

view from summit of monte san salvatore in lugano

View of Lake Lugano from Monte San Salvatore summit


1. Motto della Croce 14,61km
2. Monte Boglia 9,22km
3. Snowshoeing in Savognin, Graubunden 11,92km
4. Monti della Gana 13,77km
5. Alto Malcantone 13,73km
6. Mt Bigorio 12.46km
7. Capanna Pairolo 13,88km
8. Sasso Gordona 13km
9. Valle di Moleno 14.25km
10. Sentiero dei monti in Alta Leventina 7.35 km

Lugano & Capriasca Scenic Trail: a Photographer’s Perspective

volunteering at  lugano scenic trail  race

Runner heading toward Capanna San Lucio checkpoint during the 2014 Lugano & Capriasca Scenic Trail

As I wrote in the previous post I was fortunate to shoot at the inaugural Lugano & Capriasca Scenic Trail. The course of the race is 50 km long with total elevation gain of 3800m and the scenery along the trail is stunning. So when few days before the event one of the race directors asked me if I am interested in shooting I could not say “No”.

The trail lover inside of me was exited, the photographer – challenged. The things is I do not own a decent DSLR. I know it sounds weird, everyone these days seems to a have good digital camera, but my equipment still comes from the film department, except for my Iphone. So, no camera, but a will to shoot at the event. I’ve asked around and luckily was lended a Nikon D80 with 18 – 200 mm NIkkor lens. I knew the camera is some what slow, but still it was better than nothing.

capanna san lucio offers panoramic view of Colla valley

Capanna San Lucio (on the left) – one of the checkpoints of the 2014 Lugano & Capriasca Scenic Trail

For shooting I was given three locations to choose from: Gazzirola, 2116m, Capanna San Lucio, 1542m and Fojorina, 1810m. First, I thought about going to Gazzirola – the highest point of the course, but then decided to play it safe and pick the Capanna San Lucio.

The race start was scheduled at 7:00am, the photographers team left Tesserete around 7:50am. At 8:20 we’ve arrived on location. There’ve been four photographers including myself, but we all worked independently. The first runner was expected at about 10 am, so I’ve had some time to scout locations and set the camera.

I hiked up toward Gazzirola until the first runner passed by me about 9:40. At that time I was about 100 meters higher than the Capanna San Lucio and the view was quite good. So I decided to shot at that location for a while and then slowly descent continuing shooting along the way, have a little snack at San Lucio and move on toward Fojorina. With this strategy I could stay close enough to the aid station and at the same time have a number of different views.

Unfortunately, very early into the race I ran into а barbed wire. I was so concerned about getting a good shot, that have not even noticed the wire in a grass. The cut on my leg was not deep, but I needed to clean and cover it. So I’ve decided to go down to the aid station. I continued shooting all the way until I’ve reached the Capanna. I’ve spent more than an hour at the aid station, however I am very thankful to the medical team for taking great care of the wound. By time I got back to the filed the main crowed has long gone. These people are fast!

I’ve walked a little up toward Fojorina still hoping to capture а few frames. The location offered very good views although the lighting was tricky. About 15 runners passed by me at the this location and that was it. I looked back at Gazzirola and could not see a single runner coming my way, so I realized that it is time to go back to San Lucio. A little later all the volunteers have been served with a wonderful hot lunch of lasagna and polenta at the Capanna. The cut-off time for San Lucio checkpoint was set for 14:00, at this time the Gazzirola – San Lucio leg of the race was closed and we’ve packed our staff and returned to Tesserete.

Race volunteers picking up trail markers at the end of ultra race in Ticino

Race volunteers picking up trail markers at Gazzirola – San Lucio leg of the 2014 Lugano Scenic Trail

This was a great event, the spirit and the scenery are wonderful. It was a new experience for me and as a photographer I’ve learned a lot from it. The most important is – know your equipment limitations. This is something you learn from experience, basically by just shooting with the same equipment over and over again. I had some reservations about D80, but the experience was lucking. It is a pretty old entry level camera and compared to newer models it is slow and not very responsive. Its continuous mode speed is low, you get around 2fps infill the buffer is full and that happens quickly. The autofocus is slow and sluggish. So the best approach when using a camera like this would be to pick a good location with the safest light possible and at the best distance from the subject to get the sharpest shots. With this approach all shots will look alike, but you will have solid results at the end. I did the opposite, I moved a lot, got a number of different views, but not all of the shots are of high quality. So, do I want to shoot at a mountain race again? Absolutely yes, but with a better camera: something like Nikon 610 or Nikon 800.

If you want to know about runner’s experience at the 2014 Lugano Scenic Trail check out the race reports by trail runners:
Alex Brennwald at Swiss Ultra Trail Community (in German)
Lorenzo Clementi at Clem’s blog (in Italian)
Maarten Hendriks at Mud Sweat Trails (in Dutch)

And if your are not a trail runner, just go hike the course. It is well marked, accessible by public transportation, there several mountain huts for overnight stays and the views are amazing. You can day hike a part of the course or complete the whole route in three days.

What you see when you run Lugano & Capriasca Scenic Trail

Recently I’ve had the pleasure to shoot at the Lugano & Capriasca Scenic Trail. The course is 50 km long with 3800 m of total elevation gain. For a regular hiker it takes 3 days with 2 overnight stays at mountain huts to complete the course. And a strong runner hits the finish line in sub 6 hours. Impressive!

lugano scenic trail in ticino region offers great views of swiss and italian mountains

Runner heading down to Capanna San Lucio checkpoint during the 2014 Lugano & Capriasca Scenic Trail


I will write about my epic experience as a newbie sports photographer in the next couple of days. Stay tuned.

Where have we been

I am back with a short recap of the past weeks. It’s been a while since my last post and that means, that we didn’t go to the mountains as much as we’ve wanted to.

There have been only three hikes since the last post, here is the list:

#8 Cabbio – Rifugio Prabello – Sasso Gordona – Cabbio (13 km +845 m) – nice and easy hike on the border between Ticino and Lombardia, good views of mountains and small villages on both swiss and italian sides;

Saas Gordona summit seen from Rifugio Prabello

View of Sasso Gordona from rifugio Prabello

#9 Moleno – Alpe di Ripiano – Alpe di Lai – Alpe di Confienn – Alpe di Ripiano – Cher – Preonzo (14.25 km +1450 m) – beautiful, but exhausting hike along Moleno River, we were not able to go all the way up to Alpe di Confienn because of the snow at about 1220 m altitude and another negative surprise of this hike – the valley was full of ticks;

#10 Lurengo – Predelp – Molare (7.35 km +687m) – this was planned as an easy hike, but because of plenty of fallen trees across the trail we’ve completed just a half of the course, finishing at Predelp, and that took us about five hours, the area is beautiful and I have two more hikes planned there.

Looks like we are behind the schedule with my “24 hikes in 2014″ challenge: it is already June and we have only completed 10 hikes. I don’t think there will be more hikes this month, but starting July we will get back on track.