Hiking the Swiss Alps of Adelboden and Pontresina


05 September 2015

Today, Familie Zgraggen will join us for some hiking. They arrive in the morning and we have breakfast together at the hotel and reacquaint ourselves. It has been over 10 years since we last saw each other. And, instead of using their camper that they drove, they decided to get a room at the Engadinerhof. Perhaps it was the great breakfast that convinced them!

We head out by mid-morning amidst a gloomy sky. It rained and snowed—and some thunder, too—during the night and there is snow almost to the valley floor. We arrive at the téléphérique Albigna and are whisked up from 1190 m to 2165 m and arrive at Albignasee (Albigna Lake).

The outdoor deck at Capanna da l'Albigna. We won't be using it today.
The outdoor deck at Capanna da l’Albigna. We won’t be using it today.
Capanna da l'Albigna.
Capanna da l’Albigna.

First we must hike across the dam but soon we are climbing to Capanna da l’Albigna (Albigna Hut), a Swiss Alpine Club (SAC) mountain hut at 2336 m. The guardians, or hutmeisters, are friends of Fam. Zgraggen and we are introduced and welcomed.

Hiking towards Pass da Casnil-Sud and discussing how much farther to go.
Hiking towards Pass da Casnil-Sud and discussing how much farther to go.
I guess this qualifies as our first snow hike of the season.
I guess this qualifies as our first snow hike of the season.

After a brief drink and food stop, we continue our hike towards Pass da Casnil-Sud (2941 m). There is snow on the ground and no other hikers on the trail so we get to enjoy this by ourselves. The fresh snow and the low clouds and fog create a stillness in the air and muffle our voices—all of which adds to the magic of this location.

 Steinbok (also known as ibex).
Steinbok (also known as ibex).

We spot a pair of steinbok (also known as ibex) along the way but they are difficult to see because we have ascended into the clouds and it has become foggy with reduced visibility. We hike only a short distance more as there is nothing that can be seen in the thickening mountain fog. We do not make it to the pass—but we are close.

It continues to snow as we descend from the hut.
It continues to snow as we descend from the hut.

Retracing our steps, we return to the hut and once again drink tea and eat. We learn that the owners of the hut keep all the sleeping fees, while the guardians only keep the money from the food and drink that they sell. We finally leave when we must to catch the last téléphérique car down by 1645. Miss this and it’s a long and steep descent by foot. By now, it is snowing again and the visibility has diminished even at this lower elevation.

Afternoon festivities in the piazza in Chiavenna, Italy.
Afternoon festivities in the piazza in Chiavenna, Italy.
Narrow streets are filled with cafes and shops.
Narrow streets are filled with cafes and shops.
And the narrow streets lead to narrow walkways...
And the narrow streets lead to narrow walkways…

Instead of driving back to Pontresina we are given a tour down valley of some old villages including Vicosoprano, Borgonovo, and Stampa before crossing the border into Italy. Our next stop is Chiavenna. The city piazza is bustling with people and activity and we wander through its narrow streets. It is remarked that Swiss towns close up at 1630 on Saturday while Italian towns come alive at that hour. I think I agree.

Narrow streets and bridged buildings in Chiavenna.
Narrow streets and bridged buildings in Chiavenna.

We enjoy a fabulous dinner at a restaurant in the old quarter. Finally, it is time to return and we arrive at Engadinerhof at 2250—just minutes before they lock the outside doors for the night. I do not have my key having left it on the wall hooks provided in the reception area. Luckily, Fam. Zgraggen have brought their key so we do not need to worry about getting back so late—or having to sleep on the outside steps!