Alta Via 1 - Day 3
In the morning, the weather was nice. While packing our gear, the horde of hotel people started climbing up the hill. They all wore spotless clothes and didn't carry heavy backpacks. The following section was relatively flat. First, we passed another mountain cabin where we got water from a well and then raced across an open valley. We tried to cover as much ground as possible because we knew two huge climbs were coming.
After a few hours, the climb started. We knew it would take at least two hours to reach the top. The trail steeply climbed uphill through barren rocks and past sharp cliffs. We were glad we had packed a lot of water because it was very warm again and we were totally exposed. Every time we thought we were near the top, another hilltop would come into view, but eventually, we reached the summit.
We took a good break at the top, knowing that another big climb lay in store for us. The descent was steep and passed over lots of loose rocks. Still, there were quite a few other hikers, including a couple from the U.S. They said didn't understand how all the tails could be well maintained without everyone having to pay an entrance fee. Having lived in the US for a few years now, I could understand their surprise, but I was glad we didn't have to deal with that.
At the bottom of the descent was a lake. There seemed to be a shortcut counterclockwise around the lake, but we took the safer but longer route. It started to rain again. Koen wasn't pleased about the incoming thunderstorms. We briefly considered camping next to the lake but decided to start the next climb to a mountain hut high up on the next mountain.
After about 20 minutes, the weather took a turn for the worst, and we had to put on our rain clothes. It also started to thunder and a thick fog blow in. We saw several people turning around. Soon, we ran into a couple and a family, and they asked our advice about whether they should go up or down. The couple was also on their way up, and I told them it seemed best to keep going, as it was "only" another hour until the mountain hut and significantly more down to a supposed parking lot somewhere past the lake. They agreed, while the family continued their way down. I was walking in front and could barely see the trail markers ahead of me. I hoped I wouldn't lose my direction, as the weather was getting terrible, and I now had three people following me. "Fortunately," the wind picked up shortly after and blew the fog away.
We still had at least an hour to go until the summit. There were very few people on the mountain, but at least the route was well marked. After about 40 minutes, the trail became less clear as we were climbing over rock slabs and boulder fields. The last stretch consisted of a very long steep climb over loose boulders while the rain was pounding down on us. Koen was struggling, and I wasn't having an easy time either. All our clothes were drenched by now. Eventually, we got near the mountain hut, which also marked the highest point of the Alta Via 1. The sky started opening up a few minutes before we reached the hut, and literally the second I stepped onto the balcony the rain stopped.
We walked into the mountain hut, completely drenched and exhausted. There were quite a few other people, most of whom had come up using a ski lift. I wrung out some of my clothes and put on dry ones. Koen immediately called his mom and girlfriend to let them know he was still OK. We bought some apfelstrudel and hot chocolate to recover and put all our clothes out to dry. The view was incredible and the weather suddenly great.
After a good rest, we started a long descent. There had been much fighting in the area during World War 1. We passed a few bunkers and a kilometers-long tunnel that served as an alternative to the Alta via 1. We decided not to take it, as it would involve a long detour. After getting drenched for a few hours, it was now super warm, and we were trying not to get sunburned or run out of water. The route itself was relatively easy.
After a few kilometers, we started climbing again. There was a huge thunderstorm forming behind us, so we decided to try to camp early. We passed a few somewhat level areas, and I asked Koen if he wanted to stop. However, he said he wanted to keep going a little longer, hoping we would find something better.
The black clouds started to close in on us, and we tried to get passed the highest part of the trail quickly. It already started to drizzle. That was when Koen slipped and cut his leg on the loose rocks. He had two pretty deep cuts in his legs and lots of scratches. We cleaned it with some disinfectant and agreed to try to find a place to camp as soon as possible. After a few more minutes, it really started to poor and the thunder was deafening. We were still quite high up the mountain. There were some relatively flat areas at the bottom of a slope slope. I yelled at Koen that I would run down to check them out.
A few 100 meters away, there was a good place to camp, so I quickly put up my tent in the downpour. I yelled at the top of my voice for Koen to come down and was annoyed that I didn't see him. I ran uphill again. Apparently, he hadn't heard anything. Koen and I took shelter in my tent and tried to bandage his cuts. When the rain stopped for a few minutes, Koen also pitched his tent.
The rain soon started again, but at least we were now dry. We cooked dinner in our tents and tried to sleep. Despite our rain gear, much of our clothes had again gotten wet from sweating. Next time, I will consider taking a good poncho rather than a rain jacket.