Note: The following hiking description is an alpine tour (T4) that is not suitable for beginners.
Whether we would do this partial stage of the Sentiero Alpino Bregaglia in the form described here was not yet clear to us when we shouldered our rucksacks in a clear blue sky at the Albigna mountain station last Saturday. To hike from Lake Albignasee to Lägh da Cavloc seemed a tempting idea to me. But this mountain tour leads along a white-blue-white marked mountain hiking trail. And the descriptions that I found online varied from arduous, but technically not difficult block stone terrain to climbing points of difficulty level II.
In short: I wasn’t sure whether this mountain tour might be a bit too daring for me. I am sure-footed and have a head for heights. But I’m also a scaredy rabbit. But it is well known that it wanders best without pressure. And so we started the tour on a wonderful autumn day at the Albigna dam with the openness to take it as it comes. The result: joy about your own performance and four days of extremely sore muscles.
The Sentiero Alpino Bregaglia at a glance
The Bergell is accessible in the longitudinal direction of two main hiking routes. From Maloja he leads Panoramic Path Val Bregaglia 18 kilometers to the paradisiacal Soglio. A great and technically not very demanding hike (T2). The alpine counterpart is the Pathway Alpine Bregaglia (depending on section T3 / T4 / T5), which once connected the three SAC huts in the valley (Capanna di Sciora, Capanna da l’Albigna and Capanna del Forno).
The Sentiero Alpino Bregaglia in the Albigna – Capanna di Sciora section has been closed until further notice since 2017 on the Piz Cengalo in Val Bondasca. The remaining 22 kilometers through challenging high alpine, stony terrain can be completed in the form of a 2-day hike with an overnight stay in the Forno hut. The first stage from Albigna over the Pass da Casnil Sud into the Forno valley is the more demanding section. And it is precisely this stage that we took a closer look at on our one-day tour variation of the Sentiero Alpino Bregaglia.
Starting point of the Albigna dam
In the run-up we had long thought about whether we should tackle the tour from Maloja or from Albigna, as suggested in the route description to the Sentiero Alpina Bregaglia. We weren’t sure in which direction the block section between the Pass da Casnil Sud and the Forno valley would be better / easier to tackle. With our overnight base in Bergell and the fact that I have never seen the wonderful Bergell Granitzacken up close, which attract climbing fans from all over the world, we finally decided to climb from Albigna.
“If we don’t like the path, we just turn around,” is our motto. Here we paid too little attention to the fact that the really tricky and arduous places are only followed after the pass crossing on the descent into the Forno valley. On the other hand, if I had walked in the opposite direction, I would probably have “thrown off the begging” relatively quickly. In this respect, our decision has made a significant contribution to the success of the tour.
We start the tour light-footed, reach the Albignahütte faster than expected and we agree: Sure, let’s just follow the white-blue-white marked path towards the pass.
From the Albignahütte to the Pass da Casnil Sud
We are rapidly gaining altitude. The path is very pleasant to walk up to the nameless lakes at 2,564 meters above sea level and is also available as a path throughout. Now the terrain is slowly changing. The grassy areas are getting less and less. The stone blocks take over. But here, too, the course of the route is mostly clearly visible and, apart from an approx. 35 m long couloir, where I have to use my hands to help, it can be mastered without much scrambling. Only on the last 500 to 750 m before the top of the pass do we reach the extensive block stone terrain.
Step by step you look for a path through the rocky desert, following the clearly visible markings. The constant up and down – deep holes immediately and balancing over uneven granite blocks – pulls your strength. But before I really start to get annoyed about the terrain, the pass crossing comes into view. Motivating 2.40 h after start at the Albigna mountain station including a 15-minute drink break at the SAC hut; «We continue hiking, right?».
Across block stone fields into the Forno valley
According to the map, we have covered a good half of the white-blue-white marked route at the pass crossing. The relatively short and not sloping climbing area and the not particularly steep block stone terrain gave me confidence. And although I am aware of the fact that the most demanding passages follow and that when I look down from the pass, I have to gulp down the steep slope edge interspersed with fresh snow, I am determined to follow the Sentiero Alpino Bregaglia further into the Forno valley.
Some tour descriptions that I have consulted in advance recommend using crampons and / or ice ax for a better grip on the valley basin on the northeast side of Piz Casnil, which is sometimes frozen for a long time. In late summer, most of the snow is gone here too. But as soon as the autumn cold snaps provide fresh snow again, the difficulty of this section increases significantly. With us there are only a few places with fresh snow in the top third of the basin (directly below the pass). But the – in combination with the now seemingly never-ending blockstone terrain – provide me with around 50 meters of altitude below the pass for a veritable moment of crisis. «What a shit!».
But I keep fighting stone over stone towards the foothills of the Piz Casnil east ridge. In this area, the path has been adapted in recent years due to the Forno Glacier, which is retreating ever further. Instead of descending over the scree fields directly towards the valley floor, the mountain path now follows the lateral moraine a considerable distance out of the valley. This is where the technically most delicate section of the tour is hidden. A section secured with chains and iron steps leads over sloping rock faces (approx. 50 m long). Mentally, this game is less troubling for me than the block stone terrain behind me. Rather, I am glad that the majority of the way is now being led again as a “path”. Even if we still have a handful of steep hairpin bends and descents over rock slabs that are secured with iron steps.
Talauswärts to Maloja
For the section between Pass da Casnil Sud to the junction towards Forno hut at the wooden bridge at the bottom of the Forno Glacier, including breaks, we need two hours and therefore a good 30 minutes longer than the signs (at the pass crossing, 4 hours to Maloja are signposted). On the following kilometers along the loudly roaring Orlegna out of the valley, it becomes clear that the tour has not yet been mastered by mastering the white-blue-white marked route.
Rather, one should keep in mind that after that there are still 9 tough kilometers to wait for the already tired legs to go to Maloja. Up to Plan Canin, the boulder rocks also remain in the majority – after that the path turns into a pleasantly springy forest / meadow path, which has a noticeably positive effect on my walking pace.
Shortly after 4 p.m. we reach the idyllic Lägh da Cavloc. At this time there is not much going on at the lake and in the pub right next to it we can easily get a place on the sun terrace. Here we toast the completed tour with an alcohol-free apple cider. I am proud that I took up the challenge and at the same time proved to myself that constant hiking training pays off after all.
Practical tips for your hike from the Albigna dam to the Lägh da Cavloc
The following map shows our route on the Sentiero Alpino Bregaglia from Albigna over the Pass da Casnil Sud to Maloja. The route measures 16.1 kilometers and includes a gradient of around 1,160 meters in altitude. From the Albigna hut to the wooden bridge in the Forno valley (approach to the Forno hut), the route is signposted as a white-blue-white mountain trail of difficulty T4.
In this case, T4 means that there are no permanent tracks (block stone terrain), at certain points the hands are needed to move forward and the terrain is sometimes quite exposed. The hike requires a basic familiarity with sloping passages as well as surefootedness and a head for heights. If you want to tackle the tour early in the season (July), please make sure to inquire about the snow situation in advance and take a pimple with you to be on the safe side.
You reach the starting point of the tour from Pranzaira (Bergell) with the Albigna cable car. The cable car operates daily from mid-June to mid-October from 7:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and 1:15 p.m. to 4:45 p.m.
Key data of the tour: Albigna – Pass da Casnil Sud – Lägh da Cavloc – Maloja
|starting point||Bergstation Seilbahn Pranzaira (Albigna) (2’097 m ü. M.)|
|reachability||accessible by public transport|
|Altitude difference||↗ 1’156 m ↘ 1’441 m|
|duration||6:30 – 7.00 h|
|Destination||Maloja, Cad’Maté (or alternative Maloja Posta) (1’815 m ü. M.)|
|Catering||Capanna da l’Albigna CAS and Restaurant Cavloccio at Lägh da Cavloc|
Extra tip: sleep better in Bergell
Of course, you can combine the tour described here with an overnight stay in the Albignahütte (as a starting point) or in the Forno Hut. For the ascent to the Forno hut, another 430 meters of ascent (around 1.5 hours) must be allowed for from the junction at the wooden bridge. Or you leave it open – as we did – whether you want to “suffer” on the white-blue-white marked hiking trails or simply enjoy the dolce farniente in the quiet Bergell and stay in the B&B Pontisella Stampa a.
I had the Bed an Breakfast on my watchlist for a long time. When we booked a room in May for the planned September weekend, only the smallest of the four rooms was available. However, I indicated that I was interested in a change of room in the event of any cancellations and was ultimately awarded the “Lavender” room.
Our conclusion: atmospheric interior, beautiful garden, fine aperitif platters and a delicious breakfast. The only negative aspect: for dinner there is only the Val d’Arca as an option in the immediate vicinity and it is not open every evening. Alternatively, we recommend a 45-minute evening walk to Vicosoprano, where you can eat well in the Hotel Corona, for example.
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Bergell Alpine Path: Albigna – Pass Casnil Sud – Lägh da Cavloc