Val d’Ambra and Valle di Bri – from Bodio to Biasca
My original plan was to climb Pizzo Ricuca via the W ridge, pretty much like Zaza describes here and then walk down to Iragna along the standard route to Pizzo Ricuca. Unfortunately I had to turn around at some point and didn’t make it up Pizzo Ricuca; instead I explored the beauty and old paths of Valle di Bri and Val d’Ambra, which was very interesting as well.
The route up the west ridge to Pizzo Ricuca is not mentioned in the “SAC Führer”, so I emailed Zaza and got some valuable information about this hike (thanks again!). He did say it is a lot for a one day hike like I planned it, but since I’ve done longer hikes with greater difference in altitude, I felt comfortable to be able to do this anyway. However, for me the problem with this route was not the length, difference in altitude or the physical endeavor; it was to find the path or path traces.
With the first train & bus I arrived in Bodio from where I walked to Personico and then up to the dam of Bacino Val d’Ambra. I then followed the path on the Northern side of Val d’Ambra to the bridge near Cassinone. Shortly after crossing the bridge I turned left onto the western path up the Valle di Bri.
Here is where trouble started… Zaza describes: one has to cross the river close to the huts of Torn, but the junction is hard to find (“Abzweigung leidlich erkennbar”). Well, I didn’t find it. Judging from the 25K map I expected to somehow see the huts of Torn from this side of the river since on the map there is a large clearing with no trees around the huts. I neither saw a clearing nor huts, but ended up crossing the river close to point 1307. Of course there were no huts there and after checking my altimeter I realized that I went too far. For a few minutes I thought I could just follow the Eastern side of the river to go down to the huts of Torn, but soon realized that it was a bad idea. So I returned to the path I came up. This time I carefully checked my altimeter and crossed the river at approximately 1180 meters. I still couldn’t find any path, but finally found the well hidden huts of Torn somehow. The huts are mostly ruins these days and trees hide them well …
After a short break at the huts of Torn I followed the path traces up to Riva. Zaza: “Man stösst auf den anfangs recht deutlichen Pfad Richtung Riva”. Well, maybe Zaza has more intuition in finding old paths, but I definitely kept loosing the trace and had to go back and find it - or better guess it - quite often. This was definitely way more time-consuming than I had expected. About half way up to Riva I decided to turn around. First of all I hadn’t even reached the wall between Torn and Riva which - according to Zaza - needed to be bypassed on the NE side. Second, supposedly the difficult and troublesome part was still to come “… der sehr steile Westgrat, der stellenweise verbuscht und mühselig zu begehen ist …” (what I’ve seen so far it was “mühselig” already). Third, it took me quite some time for 200 meters in altitude from Torn and with 800 meters to go at the same pace, I wouldn’t have made my train in Biasca to go back home, without running down to Iragna from Pizzo Ricuca.
So instead I returned to the huts of Torn. From there I didn’t feel like going back the same way I came up but instead chose to hike down on the Eastern side of the Valle di Bri. Zaza sent me the link to the first editions of the Swiss 25K maps of the Ticino (see a picture of the detail around Torn here). Unlike the latest editions, this old map still shows a path from Torn to Cassinone. Since I already was “experienced” in finding old paths I felt like searching again. Even though not always obvious, this path was pretty easy to find. It seems like somebody has maintained it or at least part of it not too long ago. I even found some old ropes to secure a patch where one needs to cross a side river. However, as you can see in this picture, it is not advisable to use or depend on these safeguards… From Cassinone I then went along the marked path to Monda and Badresc. On the way down to the footbridge crossing the Ticino I got my T5/T6 excitement for the day anyway, because I decided to take a few shortcuts (definitely not advisable…). Finally I walked along the Ticino to Biasca.
I think I want to return and finish the W ridge of Pizzo Ricuca at some point. The next time I should probably take Zaza or somebody else who’s familiar with the area along or just simply allow more time!
Exact route: Bodio – Personico – Monastéi – Torn – half way up to Riva – Torn – Cassinone – Monda – Badresc – Pasquerio – Biasca