Loco Madone ritorno – more of an adrenalin rush than I had planned

Published by 360 Pro , 27 February 2009, 16h30.

Region: World » Switzerland » Tessin » Locarnese
Date of the hike:25 February 2009
Hiking grading: T4 - High-level Alpine hike
Snowshoe grading: WT4 - High-level snowshoe hike
Geo-Tags: CH-TI   Gruppo Pizzo Cramalina 
Access to start point:cff logo Loco, Ricovero
Access to end point:cff logo Loco, Ricovero

There are at least 9 different mountains called Madone in the Ticino, why it is such a popular name or what it actually means I don’t know. So far I’ve only been on one of the many Madones, the one above Locarno belonging to the Gruppo Poncione Piancascia. The one I visited on this day is between the Valle Onsernone and the Valle Maggia and belongs to the Gruppo Pizzo Cramalina. I climbed it with snow shoes and it was definitely worth visiting, but maybe not exactly the way I did it.

If you ever want to do a very low budget two day trip from Zurich to the Ticino, I can recommend what I did: Click & Rail Zurich Locarno (14.- Fr)., take the bus to Loco (4.80 Fr.), spend the night in Casa Schira (25 Fr.), do your hike or whatever you want to do, take the bus back to Locarno (4.80 Fr.) and then Click & Rail back to Zurich (14 Fr.). If you bring your own food and drinks along, the total cost of the trip is 62.80 Fr.!  Casa Schira is actually a very nice place to stay (thanks for the tip Zaza) and I can recommend it very much.

Now to the snow shoe hike: I started a little less than an hour before sunrise in Loco and walked along the marked path up to Colmo, most of this part of the hike I already checked out the night before. The view from Colmo is less spectacular than I expected, mostly due to trees which block the view. In addition it started to get kind of hazy. I then continued to Sella and Sassello still without the snow shoes on.

After Sassello I did my first mistake of the day. Instead of following one of the two paths up to Pino, I had the "great idea" to take the shortcut from here up to the SSE ridge of Madone. What looks like good idea on the map was a minor disaster. It is up to 45º steep and not well suited for snow shoes. There is more trees and bushes than one might guess from the map. These trees and bushes don’t help to make it easier to advance, except maybe as an aid to pull yourself out of the snow again, after you sink in up to your hips… Anyway I made it up to the ridge eventually. One event I should mention here is that I somehow lost my 25K Swiss map during this “shortcut”. Oh well I thought, I didn’t really need it for the rest of my hike anyway…

The way up to Pino (now in snow shoes) was steeper than expected, but easy compared to what I did before. Also, the rest of the SSE ridge all the way up to Madone was straight forward and not too steep, mostly below 30º, the steepest parts are probably close to 35º. Once on top I was glad that I finally left the annoying fog and clouds below me and enjoyed the warm sun and the nice view (it was a little hazy though). I couldn’t really decide which of the two summits the higher one is. On the map (which I checked out at home) it looks like the eastern summit is considered the main one, but due to the huge snow cornice the western peak seemed higher to me, so I went on both.

For a few seconds I also fancied to go over to the close neighbor Pizzo Peloso, but the amount of snow, the cornices on the rather exposed ridge, the time and energy I lost during the “shortcut” and the fact that I was alone and didn’t have my map any more all spoke against such an adventure. Instead I enjoyed my lunch and then went back down to Pino.

There I had the three options to walk back to Loco: go down the way I came up, go back to Sassello in the west flank via Cortasiell or go down to the Passo della Garina, mostly in the forest. Without the map I should have chosen the second option which was not in the forest or maybe the first option and follow my tracks back to Sassello, but I made my second mistake this day and decided to go down to the Passo della Garina.

The first white/red/white path marking I found easily, then after about 15-20 minutes, the forest got thicker and I happened to run into another white/red/white mark. I kind of felt proud of myself that I had the right intuition of finding my way in the forest where there where no tracks or visible markings. Shortly after that, I saw a little wooden sign “pericoloso”. Since I studied the map the night before for this option back to Loco via Passo della Garina, I somehow remembered that I had to bypass a drop on the left side. So left I went…

First it was OK, a little steep, but nothing serious. Then it got steeper and steeper, uncomfortably steep, too steep for a path to go down here. I turned more to the right again because I wanted to get back to “the path”, but after a while it got even steeper. At this time I guessed the steepness at around 45º and it didn’t look like it would get any less steep further down, but I even saw some vertical drops coming up.

What now? I took a break, a deep breath, drank some tea, got out my compass and looked around. According to the compass I was almost going down north. Up on the left side I saw Madone through the trees and about 200m in altitude further down I kind of saw a river bed. But where was Salmone? I should have been able to see it through the trees somewhere, because the Passo della Garina was in that direction too. I knew now that I definitely had to go right. In addition I also decided to go uphill again, because down there was definitely not where I wanted to go or be. After about 100m of an eastward ascent and crossing two rather icy dells, I saw a clearing coming up and all of a sudden I heard dogs bark. Shortly after, I stood in a rather large clearing with two houses, three dogs barking at me and I saw Salmone and even the Passo della Garina and my unplanned detour was over.

The rest of the way down to the pass I strictly followed the tracks which the person who came up here made and from the Passo della Garina it was no problem at all to find my way back to Loco. I also didn’t need my snow shoes any more for this last part.

Loco – Colmo – Sella – Sassello – Pino – Madone – Pino – Costa dei Masgnei – Passo della Garina – Loco

Hike partners: 360


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Comments (3)

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Zaza says: Poco food in Loco
Sent 2 March 2009, 19h15
A fine report and great pics; especially the action shot...congrats!

Incidentally, I've spent a night in Casa Schira two weeks ago. Alas, the culinary options are somewhat limited in Loco, at least in winter. The only warm food I got at La Posta was a bowl of Minestrone...

regards, zaza

360 Pro says: RE: Poco food in Loco
Sent 2 March 2009, 22h28
Since I brought all my food along, I didn't depend on a restaurant. When picking up the key at La Posta for the Casa Schira, they told me one can have dinner there, but only if you tell them in advance you're coming. Tel. 091 797 18 95

Zaza says: RE: Poco food in Loco
Sent 3 March 2009, 06h50
I had told them in advance that I'd be coming, but their definition of dinner is the aforementioned bowl of Minestrone ;-)

But in fact it's no problem...Auressio has a restaurant and is not too far away, even on foot.

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