Swiss Autumn in the Calanca Valley: Larchophil

The magnificent Calanca valley in autumn light.


When Deadlines Outnumber Trees

Fellow adventurers and world travellers Philippe and Robert asked me to join another weekend trip into the Swiss Alps. Sure enough, I was fond of this idea regardless of the pressing deadlines approaching fast. Therefore, we did what every reasonable person woud do and planned a brief stay in the Calanca valley, which belongs to Graubünden but where Italian is spoken.

Weekend trip to the Calanca valley in search of larchae
Weekend trip to the Calanca valley in search of larchae

Calanca Valley

The Calanca valley is remote and it would take us normally 4 hours by train. However, we got stuck in Arth-Goldau due to issues with too many people in the train. Apparently, there is a limit for how many people can be in a train going through the Gotthard tunnel. A kind locomotive driver wanted to take us with him in the cockpit, yet the door closed in front of our nose unfortunately. So, with a delay of 2 hours we made it to our destination and began the hike through the wonderful valley.

Gaining Altitude

Stunning autumn colors in the Calanca valley Switzerland
Stunning autumn colors in the Calanca valley Switzerland

On the bus ride to this remote valley, I recognized an angler by his attire. When he turned around because I talked to him, he instantaneously recognized me as ExpediTom. A friend of my girlfriend had worked with him and told about my website before he went to New Zealand. What a coincidence!

Hiking through the Calanca valley, we were greated by locals along the way. Given neither of us was capable to speak Italian (no not every Swiss speaks all 4 national languages), we communicated by hand and foot. This valley has problems with a declining population as many others do too. So, if you are looking for an inexpensive mountain hut – this is the place to look for! We gained altitude quickly and followed the gin clear Calancasca creek with its magnificent blue color. There, I also observed several trout happily rising trout in mouth-wateringly beautiful pools.

Eventually we stopped for repleneshing our water by filtering. Even though the water quality in the Swiss Alps is exceptionally good, there are a lot of cows on the alps. Therefore, we were rather safe than sorry. Meanwhile, we came across enchanted princess:

The street became a path and then a small single trail. The only people we came across were 3 hunters. Hunting season had just opened at the beginning of October and the 2 shots we heard later suggested they were successful.

The hike took longer than anticipated an we arrived shortly before night fall. Setting up the tent, we got cozy around the gas stove eating pasta. Quickly it became below zero with the wind chill and we retreated into the tight 3-person MSR Freelite 3 tent.

Alpine Serenity with 4G Mobile Connection

Shoulder to shoulder, we lay in the tiny tent. My new Western Mountaineering winter sleeping bag was kind of overkill and I was soon to warm, yet I enjoyed the space and ability to unzip it around my feet, which my Sea to Summit Spark II could not do. Given that ther was the San Bernadino pass on the other side of the valley, we had even 4G internet in the tent. It was almost glamping, would it not have been for the windchill and the tight space.

Morning views in the Calanca valley
Morning views in the Calanca valley

The following morning, I got up before sunrise. The ground, tent sheet and my boots were frozen. Thirst pushed me to go outside and filter water. I took some night shots, ate, and enjoyed the silence. It is only at those places that you realize how loud our daily environment is. Silence is balm for the soul. All together we watched the sunrise and relaxed when the highly anticipated sunrays reached our spot. We then ate a wonderful breakfast: bacon, bread, coffee, chips and nutella. As healthy as it gets.

Larchophility Extremus

Since we had visited Mount Assiniboine in Canada all together, we were amazed by the colourful autum foliage. In particular the larchae added to the experience with their yellow hues.

Larchophility - they are so soft
Larchophility – they are so soft

While descending towards the San Bernadino pass, we walked through a forest that had already begun to turn yellow. Whereas Robert and Philippe enjoyed the scenery in calamity, I got kind of ecstatic. Conifers usually have the odd characteristic of being pointy. However, larchae are very soft and I could not stop touching them. Proceeding through the forest, the trees became greener and greener until we reached the bottom of the valley from where we returned home.

Larch forest in the Swiss Alps
Larch forest in the Swiss Alps

Time out(doors)

In my experience it is usually a good idea to take time with friends when life starts to get stressful. As counterintuitive it may sound, taking a time out(doors) allows me to run to full potential when returning home. We had a glorious trip with lots of laughs and amazing scenery. Thanks Robert and Philippe for another memorable adventure in the Calanca valley.

ExpediTom Wildlife photography
ExpediTom Wildlife photography

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