Sunday, July 8, 2018

Hike in Valcanale: Rifugio Branchino and Lago Branchino


Hike route in Valcanale to Lago Branchino.View with cows above Baita Bassa del Monte Neel, Valcanale.
La Transumanza - annual flock migration in Valcanale.[Ranunculaceae] Trollius europeaus – Globeflower (Botton d’oro) along Lago Branchino.
Top Left: Hike route in Valcanale to Lago Branchino.
Top Right: View with cows above Baita Bassa del Monte Neel, Valcanale.
Lower Left: La Transumanza - annual flock migration in Valcanale.
Lower Right: [Ranunculaceae] Trollius europeaus – Globeflower (Botton d’oro) along Lago Branchino.


Overview


Length: 9.8 km (6.1 mi)
Duration: 5.0 hours walking including ~ 1 hour spend at lunch at Rifugio Branchino
Elevation: 1.130 m (3,707 ft) @ start of hike above Babes (above Valcanale); 1.860 m (6,102) @ Passo Val Vedra
Location: Italy, Lombardy, Bergamo, Valcanale


Details


Much of what we experience in Bergamo is born of improvised and last-minute plans – in its best sense. This hike was no different being hatched the day before when friends suggested a quick trip up Valcanale to Lago Branchino, which to them is like playing in the backyard.

It just happened to also be the day one of the Festival della Trasumanza – or seasonal migration of flocks to the mountains in Valcanale, a hamlet of Ardesio.  As we were leaving the trailhead we were passed by a stream of sheep eager to get the fresh greens waiting for them in the high pastures.


From Valcanale, you can easily reach the popular Rifugio Alpe Corte 1.410 m (4,626 ft), which is the first stop on the Sentiero delle Orobie Orientali. We bypassed Rifugio Alpe Corte and headed for Rifugio Branchino 1787 m (5,862 ft), then to Lago Branchino, and finally to Passo Val Vedra where we turned around. Trail-wise we followed sentiero 220, sentiero 218, and then sentiero 222. Sentiero 222 is called the Sentiero dei Fiori due to the high degree of biodiversity the trail goes through. The trail ends up Capanna 2000 where we hiked last year (see Hike: Cattedrale Vegetale to Capanna 2000).

Flora


In terms of interesting plants we saw on this hike and to add to our Pinterest list Bergamasque Prealp Flowers and Plants there are:

  • [Orchidaceae] Nigritella nigra rhellicani  - Vanilla Orchid (Moretta, Vaniglia d’Alpe). It really smells like vanilla!
  • [Orchidaceae] Traunsteinera globosa – Round-headed Orchid (Orchide dei pascoli)
  • [Rosaceae] Geum rivale – Water Avens (Cariofillata dei ruscelli). So hard to get a picture of these flowers with their head hanging down.
  • [Ranunculaceae] Ranunculus aconitifolius – Aconite-Leaf Buttercup (Ranuncolo a foglie di aconito)

Usual disclaimer: we use the resources listed in the post Resources for Identifying Plants around Bergamo to identify plants shown here. If we had to give ourselves a score for identifications, it would be 95% accurate for species and 98% for genus.


Key: [Family] Genus species – Common name in English (Common name in Italian)


[Apiaceae] Astrantia major – Great Masterwort (Astranzia maggiore)
[Asteraceae] Cirsium spinosissimum - Spiniest Thistle (Cardo spinosissimo)
[Asteraceae] Centaurea spp.
[Asteraceae] Crepis aurea – Golden Hawk's Beard (Radicchiella aranciata)
[Boraginaceae] Echium vulgare – Viper’s Burgloss (Viperina azzurra comune)
[Campanulaceae] Campanula trachelium – Nettle-leaved Bellflower (Campanula selvatica)
[Caprifoliaceae] Valeriana officinalis – Valerian (Valeriana comune)
[Fabaceae] Onobrychis montana – Mountain Sainfoin (Lupinella montana)

  • I love the following description from Wikipedia for Onobrychis. It gives me a whole new respect for this plant. "Onobrychis means 'devoured by donkeys', from Ancient Greek ónos (ὄνος, "donkey") and brýkein (βρύκειν, "to eat greedily"). This refers to sainfoin's good properties as a forage plant for large mammalian herbivores. Sainfoin is derived from Old French sain foin ('healthy hay')."

[Lamiaceae] Laminum maculatum – Spotted Dead Nettle (Falsa ortica macchiata)
[Lamiaceae] Stachys sylvatica – Wood Woundwort (Betonica dei Boschi)
[Orchidaceae] Dactylorhiza maculata - Spotted Heath Orchid (Ochide macchiata)
[Orchidaceae] Gymnadenia conopsea – Fragrant Orchid (Manina rosea)

  •      Bend down and take a whiff. This orchid is fragrant.

[Orchidaceae] Nigritella nigra rhellicani - Vanilla Orchid (Moretta, Vaniglia d’Alpe)

  • There are lots of synonyms for this vanilla-scented orchid, e.g., also called Nigritella rhellicani.

[Orchidaceae] Traunsteinera globosa – Round-headed Orchid (Orchide dei pascoli)
[Plantaginanceae] Digitalis luteaYellow Perennial Foxglove (Digitale gialla piccola)
[Polygonaceae] Bistorta officinalis – Meadow Bistort (Poligono bistorta)
[Polygonaceae] Bistorta vivipara – Alpine Bistort (Poligono viviparo)
[Ranunculaceae] Helleborus viridis – Green Hellebore (Ellebore verde)
[Ranunculaceae] Ranunculus aconitifolius – Aconite-Leaf Buttercup (Ranuncolo a foglie di aconito)

  • Leaves look like Aconitum, hence the species epithet.


[Ranunculaceae] Thalictrum aquilegifolium – Columbine Mead-Rue (Pigamo colombino)
[Ranunculaceae] Trollius europeaus – Globeflower (Botton d’oro)
[Rosaceae] Geum rivale – Water Avens (Cariofillata dei ruscelli)


[Asteraceae] Centaurea spp.[Asteraceae] Crepis aurea – Golden Hawk's Beard (Radicchiella aranciata).[Boraginaceae] Echium vulgare – Viper’s Burgloss (Viperina azzurra comune).[Campanulaceae] Campanula trachelium – Nettle-leaved Bellflower (Campanula selvatica).
Left: [Asteraceae] Centaurea spp. Center Left: [Asteraceae] Crepis aurea – Golden Hawk's Beard (Radicchiella aranciata). Center Right: [Boraginaceae] Echium vulgare – Viper’s Burgloss (Viperina azzurra comune). Right: [Campanulaceae] Campanula trachelium – Nettle-leaved Bellflower (Campanula selvatica).

[Caprifoliaceae] Valeriana officinalis – Valerian (Valeriana comune).[Fabaceae] Onobrychis montana – Mountain Sainfoin (Lupinella montana).[Lamiaceae] Laminum maculatum – Spotted Dead Nettle (Falsa ortica macchiata).[Lamiaceae] Stachys sylvatica – Wood Woundwort (Betonica dei Boschi).
Left: [Caprifoliaceae] Valeriana officinalis – Valerian (Valeriana comune). Center Left: [Fabaceae] Onobrychis montana – Mountain Sainfoin (Lupinella montana). Center Right: [Lamiaceae] Laminum maculatum – Spotted Dead Nettle (Falsa ortica macchiata). Right: [Lamiaceae] Stachys sylvatica – Wood Woundwort (Betonica dei Boschi).

[Orchidaceae] Dactylorhiza maculata - Spotted Heath Orchid (Ochide macchiata).[Orchidaceae] Gymnadenia conopsea – Fragrant Orchid (Manina rosea).[Orchidaceae] Nigritella nigra rhellicani - Vanilla Orchid (Moretta, Vaniglia d’Alpe).[Orchidaceae] Traunsteinera globosa – Round-headed Orchid (Orchide dei pascoli).
Left: [Orchidaceae] Dactylorhiza maculata - Spotted Heath Orchid (Ochide macchiata). Center Left: [Orchidaceae] Gymnadenia conopsea – Fragrant Orchid (Manina rosea). Center Right: [Orchidaceae] Nigritella nigra rhellicani - Vanilla Orchid (Moretta, Vaniglia d’Alpe). Right: [Orchidaceae] Traunsteinera globosa – Round-headed Orchid (Orchide dei pascoli).

[Plantaginanceae] Digitalis lutea – Yellow Perennial Foxglove (Digitale gialla piccola).[Polygonaceae] Bistorta officinalis – Meadow Bistort (Poligono bistorta).[Polygonaceae] Bistorta vivipara – Alpine Bistort (Poligono viviparo).[Ranunculaceae] Thalictrum aquilegifolium – Columbine Mead-Rue (Pigamo colombino).
Left: [Plantaginanceae] Digitalis luteaYellow Perennial Foxglove (Digitale gialla piccola). Center Left: [Polygonaceae] Bistorta officinalis – Meadow Bistort (Poligono bistorta). Center Right:  [Polygonaceae] Bistorta vivipara – Alpine Bistort (Poligono viviparo). Right: [Ranunculaceae] Thalictrum aquilegifolium – Columbine Mead-Rue (Pigamo colombino).

[Ranunculaceae] Helleborus viridis – Green Hellebore (Ellebore verde).[Ranunculaceae] Ranunculus aconitifolius – Aconite-Leaf Buttercup (Ranuncolo a foglie di aconito).[Ranunculaceae] Ranunculus aconitifolius – Aconite-Leaf Buttercup (Ranuncolo a foglie di aconito).[Apiaceae] Astrantia major – Great Masterwort (Astranzia maggiore).
Left: [Ranunculaceae] Helleborus viridis – Green Hellebore (Ellebore verde). Center Left and Center Right: [Ranunculaceae] Ranunculus aconitifolius – Aconite-Leaf Buttercup (Ranuncolo a foglie di aconito). Right: [Apiaceae] Astrantia major – Great Masterwort (Astranzia maggiore).

Polenta cooking at Rifugio Branchino. Pizzoccheri - a Bergamasco dish with buckwheat pasta, potatoes and greens.Polenta and melted cheese. A tagliere (cutting board literally) with local meets and cheeses.
All about the food. Left: Polenta cooking at Rifugio Branchino. Center Left: Pizzoccheri - a Bergamasco dish with buckwheat pasta, potatoes and greens. Center Right: Polenta and melted cheese. Right: A tagliere (cutting board literally) with local meets and cheeses. 

Walking along Lago Branchino toward Passo Branchino.Approaching Lago Branchino and heading toward Passo Branchino.Walking along Lago Branchino toward Rifugio Branchino.
Left: View from Passo Val Vedra looking back toward Valcanale. Center and Right: Views of Lago Branchino.

Cows below Rifugio Branchino and above Baita Bassa del Monte Neel.Below Rifugio Branchino and above Baita Bassa del Monte Neel.Cows below Rifugio Branchino and above Baita Bassa del Monte Neel.
Scenes below Rifugio Branchino and above Baita Bassa del Monte Neel.

Trail 222 - Passo Branchino heading south.Hiking up Trail 220 with a pig.Passo Val Vedra looking approximately south.
Left: Trail 222 - Passo Branchino heading south. Center: Hiking up Trail 220 with a pig. Right: Passo Val Vedra looking approximately south toward the pianura padana.

Sign for the Sentiero dei Fiori.Sign explaining La Transumanza.
Left: Sign for the Sentiero dei Fiori. Right: Sign explaining La Transumanza.

Flower Close-Ups


All the photos up this point were taken on an iPhone 8. The pictures below were taken with a Canon EOS M6.

[Asteraceae] Cirsium spinosissimum - Spiniest Thistle (Cardo spinosissimo).[Orchidaceae] Nigritella nigra rhellicani - Vanilla Orchid (Moretta, Vaniglia d’Alpe).
Left: [Asteraceae] Cirsium spinosissimum - Spiniest Thistle (Cardo spinosissimo). Right: [Orchidaceae] Nigritella nigra rhellicani - Vanilla Orchid (Moretta, Vaniglia d’Alpe).

[Rosaceae] Geum rivale – Water Avens (Cariofillata dei ruscelli).[Polygonaceae] Bistorta officinalis – Meadow Bistort (Poligono bistorta).
Left: [Rosaceae] Geum rivale – Water Avens (Cariofillata dei ruscelli). Right: [Polygonaceae] Bistorta officinalis – Meadow Bistort (Poligono bistorta).

[Asteraceae] Centaurea spp.[Asteraceae] Centaurea spp.
[Asteraceae] Centaurea spp.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Val Veny: Hike to Rifugio Elisabetta


GPS tracks of hike to Rifugio Elisabetta up the Val Veny.A view of Val Veny looking northeast with Spotted Gentian.
Lake Comal and view southwest toward Rifugio Elisabetta.Lake Miage and the Miage Glacier.
Upper Left: GPS tracks of hike to Rifugio Elisabetta up the Val Veny. Upper Right: A view of Val Veny looking northeast with Spotted Gentian. Lower Left: Lake Comal and view southwest toward Rifugio Elisabetta. Lower Right: Lake Miage and the Miage Glacier.

Overview


Length: 15.2 km (9.4 mi)
Duration: 5.0 hours walking, plus time spend at lunch at Rifugio Elisabetta
Elevation: 1.681 m (5,515 ft) @ start of hike above La Visaille; 2.195 m (7,201 ft) @ Rifugio Elisabetta
Location: Italy, Valle d’Aosta, Courmayeur, Val Veny


Details


Last weekend, we dropped a friend off who was starting the Tour du Mont Blanc (TMB) from Courmayeur. See, Hike from Courmayeur to Rifugio Bonatti and Back. This week, we came back to pick her up. She started the hike from Courmayeur going counter-clockwise. We walked up her the Val Ferret (north of Courmayeur) to Rifugio Bonatti. On today’s hike we met her at Rifugio Elisabetta in Val Veny (sourth of Courmayeur) to walk her back.

This hike is easy to do. From Courmayeur, follow the signs for Val Veny and keep driving up the road Via Val Veny until you cross a bridge and you see cars parked on the side of the road (approximately here). Park and start walking on the asphalt road, which will give way to a dirt road and then a trail/road all the way to Rifugio Elisabetta Soldini. As far as trails go, it’s not that interesting, but the scenery makes up for it.

From the rifugio, we caught sight of two herds of alpine ibex (Capra ibex) – called stambecco in Italian – and one herd of Chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra).

On the way to or from the Rifugio, make sure you stop to see Lake Miage. It’s a short climb from the main trail/road first to reach Cabane du Comba (1.968 m) and then on upward to the lakes. You’ll see some beautiful blue lakes, but keep walking to see Lake Miage, which is browner in color.

Note the ice cliffs at one end of the lake. They are part of the Miage Glacier, “Italy's longest glacier and also the largest debris-covered glacier in Europe.” [Wikipedia]. The debris gives the lake its brownish color. When we were there, we saw small rocks rolling down the ice cliffs into the water. It was a warm day. On warm day on August 7, 1996, visitors to the lake saw a little bit more than a rock or two: they saw huge ice blocks calf off the glacier and cause a wave that swept people into the nearby lake as shown in this video. Be careful. For interesting views of Lake Miage over the years, see Glaciers online.

Next to the Rifugio Elisabetta you can view a plaque honoring those lost in the 1946 crash of B-17 above the rifugio at Aiguille des Glaciers. For more information, see the B17 Mont Blanc site.

Flora


We noted two things about this hike in contrast to last week’s hike in Val Ferret. First, we didn’t as many orchids – at least that were easily visible from the trail – as in Val Ferret, and second, in Lago Combal there are a lot of shrubby trees that looked to be part of the willow family, but we couldn’t be sure.  Plants we didn’t see in Val Ferret but we did see here in Val Veny were Dryas octopetala and Gentiana punctata.

Usual disclaimer: we use the resources listed in the post Resources for Identifying Plants around Bergamo to identify plants shown here, specifically the web sites that allow you to change region. (Set region to Valle d’Aosta). If we had to give ourselves a score for identifications, it would be 95% accurate for species and 98% for genus.



Key: [Family] Genus species – Common name in English (Common name in Italian)

[Asteraceae] Crepis aurea – Golden Hawk's Beard (Radicchiella aranciata)
[Asteraceae] Petasites albus and hybridus– Likely based on emergence of flowers before leaves.
[Asteraceae] Tussilago farfara – Coltsfoot (Tossilaggine comune)
[Ericaceae] Vaccinium vitis-idaea - Foxberry, Ligonberry (Mirtillo rosso)
[Ericaceae] Rhododendron ferrugineum – Alpenrose (Rododendro rosso)
[Gentianaceae] Gentiana punctata – Spotted Gentian (Genziana punteggiata)
[Geraniaceae] Geranium sylvaticum - Wood Cranesbill (Geranio dei boschi)
[Linaceae] Linum spp. – Blue Flax (Lino)
[Orchidaceae] Nigritella nigra rhellicani  - Vanilla Orchid (Moretta, Vaniglia d’Alpe)
[Primulaceae] Primula spp. – Possibly P. hirsuta.
[Primulaceae] Soldanella alpina – Alpine Snowbell (Soldanella comune)
[Ranuculaceae] Aquilegia alpina – Alpine Columbine (Aquilegia delle Alpi)
[Ranunculaceae] Caltha palustris – Water Cowslip (Caltha palustre)
[Rosaceae] Dryas octopetala – White Dryas (Camedrio alpino)
[Rosaceae] Rosa spp.
[Saxifragaceae] Saxifraga oppositifolia – Purple Mountain Saxifrage (Sassifraga a foglie opposte)



[Ericaceae] Rhododendron ferrugineum – Alpenrose (Rododendro rosso).Gentianaceae] Gentiana punctata – Spotted Gentian (Genziana punteggiata).[Asteraceae] Crepis aurea – Golden Hawk's Beard (Radicchiella aranciata).
Left: [Ericaceae] Rhododendron ferrugineum – Alpenrose (Rododendro rosso). Center: [Gentianaceae] Gentiana punctata – Spotted Gentian (Genziana punteggiata). Right: [Asteraceae] Crepis aurea – Golden Hawk's Beard (Radicchiella aranciata).

[Linaceae] Linum spp. – Blue Flax (Lino).[Primulaceae] Primula spp. – Possibly P. hirsuta.[Orchidaceae] Nigritella nigra rhellicani  - Vanilla Orchid (Moretta, Vaniglia d’Alpe).
Left: [Linaceae] Linum spp. – Blue Flax (Lino). Center: [Primulaceae] Primula spp. – Possibly P. hirsutaRight: [Orchidaceae] Nigritella nigra rhellicani  - Vanilla Orchid (Moretta, Vaniglia d’Alpe).

[Ranunculaceae] Caltha palustris – Water Cowslip (Caltha palustre). [Rosaceae] Dryas octopetala – White Dryas (Camedrio alpino).Saxifragaceae] Saxifraga oppositifolia – Purple Mountain Saxifrage (Sassifraga a foglie opposte).
Left: [Ranunculaceae] Caltha palustris – Water Cowslip (Caltha palustre). Center: [Rosaceae] Dryas octopetala – White Dryas (Camedrio alpino). Right: [Saxifragaceae] Saxifraga oppositifolia – Purple Mountain Saxifrage (Sassifraga a foglie opposte).

Polenta concia (infused with Fontina cheese) at Rifugio Elisabetta.Tagliere misto at Rifugio Elisabetta.Approaching Rifugio Elisabetta.
Left: Polenta concia (infused with Fontina cheese) at Rifugio Elisabetta. Center: Tagliere misto at Rifugio Elisabetta. Right: Approaching Rifugio Elisabetta.

Brochure of the Tour du Mont Blanc (TMB).Brochure of the Tour du Mont Blanc (TMB).
Brochure of the Tour du Mont Blanc (TMB).

Map of Courmayeur.Map of Courmayeur.
Map of Courmayeur.

View of Cabane du Combal, with Lake Combal in front.Looking northeast along Val Veny.
Left: View of Cabane du Combal, with Lake Combal in front. Right: Looking northeast along Val Veny.

Ettore, the French Bulldog (Bulldog francese) with a stick.Rifugio Elisabetta with the Lex Blanche glacier behind it.View from Val Veny to Grandes Jorasses.
Left: Ettore, the French Bulldog (Bulldog francese) with a stick. Center: Rifugio Elisabetta with the Lex Blanche glacier behind it. Right: View from Val Veny to Grandes Jorasses.


Flower Close-Ups


Now for a little flower porn...

[Asteraceae] Tussilago farfara – Coltsfoot (Tossilaggine comune).[Gentianaceae] Gentiana punctata – Spotted Gentian (Genziana punteggiata).
Left: [Asteraceae] Tussilago farfara – Coltsfoot (Tossilaggine comune). Right: [Gentianaceae] Gentiana punctata – Spotted Gentian (Genziana punteggiata).

[Geraniaceae] Geranium sylvaticum - Wood Cranesbill (Geranio dei boschi).[Linaceae] Linum spp. – Blue Flax (Lino).
Left: [Geraniaceae] Geranium sylvaticum - Wood Cranesbill (Geranio dei boschi). Right: [Linaceae] Linum spp. – Blue Flax (Lino).

[Orchidaceae] Nigritella nigra rhellicani  - Vanilla Orchid (Moretta, Vaniglia d’Alpe).[Ericaceae] Vaccinium vitis-idaea - Foxberry, Ligonberry (Mirtillo rosso).
Left: [Orchidaceae] Nigritella nigra rhellicani  - Vanilla Orchid (Moretta, Vaniglia d’Alpe). Right: [Ericaceae] Vaccinium vitis-idaea - Foxberry, Ligonberry (Mirtillo rosso).

[Primulaceae] Soldanella alpina – Alpine Snowbell (Soldanella comune).[Primulaceae] Soldanella alpina – Alpine Snowbell (Soldanella comune).
[Primulaceae] Soldanella alpina – Alpine Snowbell (Soldanella comune).

[Ranuculaceae] Aquilegia alpina – Alpine Columbine (Aquilegia delle Alpi).[Rosaceae] Rosa spp.
Left: [Ranuculaceae] Aquilegia alpina – Alpine Columbine (Aquilegia delle Alpi). Right: [Rosaceae] Rosa spp.