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Chasing Swissness

You wouldn't believe how spectacular this trail is, but I'm still racing to put it behind me.

Today is the big Swiss national holiday, when they celebrate their ancient Swissness. I'm still in Italy, but if I move fast enough I'll make it over a couple more passes and then descend into the Bregaglia valley of the Engadine region - in other words, Switzerland. There, in the town of Soglio, people are gathering at 8:30 tonight to begin the festivities. I want to be there!

So just a very few words about this Sentiero Roma before I continue up the boulderfield to my next high pass, the Passo Porcellizzo (2900m).

This is one of Italy's premiere mountain hiking routes. About 50-something kilometers long, it connects refugios (alpine huts with full services) with full days of serious hiking through some of the finest alpine granite mountains this side of Paradise. By serious hiking I mean kilometer after kilometer of boulderfields separated by steep cols where the "trail" is a very long chain that you hang onto for protection as well as to pull yourself up or lower yourself down. I saw a family today doing the trail, but it's not a normal family affair. One couple was wearing harnesses so they could use a rope for additional security.

The reward is a breathtaking alpine experience. Just above us is the crest of the Bregaglia Range, which is the border to Switzerland. It's famous among climbers for holding some of the world's finest alpine granite climbs. I had originally intended to follow the crest. Then I learned that only one roped team of two climbers had ever accomplished the feat. So I'm down here on the highest trail that's close to the border. The Swiss side holds vast glaciers and terrain far too rugged for this solo hiker. But from the villages I'll reach tonight I'll get to see that terrain, including the great north face of Piz Badile, one of the world's finest.


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