Monday, August 14, 2023

A Hike to Monte Alben

The trail to the peak of Monte AlbenThe trail to the peak of Monte AlbenView from the peak of Monte Alben
Left and center: The trail to the peak of Monte Alben. Right: View form the peak looking south.

A beech tree illuminated by the sunA view east from the trail to Monte AlbenThe Orrido di Bracca
Left: A beech tree on the panoramic trail. Center: A rock window on Monte Alben looking east. Right: Driving to Cornalba through the Orrido di Bracca.

Duration: 8 hours (includes stop for lunch and stop for afternoon snack at Monte Alben)
Elevation: 1139 m (3737 ft)
Length: 15 km (9.3 mi)
Location: Italy, Bergamo, Cornalba

We picked this hike because we never had been to this rifugio or peak and decided to give it a try. It’s a beautiful area that the pictures on Google Maps don’t really do justice to. The Rifugio Monte Alben (1635 m) is a perfect spot for lunch, surrounded by Cima della Spada (1952 m) and Monte Alben (2020 m).

We arrived by car from Bergamo and parked (white spots only) in the center of the small town of Cornalba and started the walk up. There are two ways up. We went up Trail 503 and came back on a “panoramic trail” going around Corna Pradello (1608 m). Trail 503 is a classic hiking trail and pleasant as it is mostly covered until you reach the top. The panoramic trail we took back was not worth it. They were reconstructing parts of it and creating a very wide and boring trail in our opinion.

Once we broke through the tree covered part of the first part of trail 503 (around 1500 m) and into the upper pasture, it was just a matter of a few minutes more to get to Rifugio Monte Alben. At the rifugio, we picked a picnic table with two cousins at it and hand a wonderful conversation about language, food, and the local mines (famous for zinc). One of the cousins encouraged us to go to the peak of Monte Alben. He said it was easy.

It wasn’t exactly easy.

From the rifugio, you take Trail 502 to Passo la Forca (a pass at 1848 m) and then turn right to get to the peak at 2020 m. Up to the pass is easy, after that it’s a “sentiero per escursionisti esperti” (more skilled hikers). It requires a head for heights and being okay with narrow trails with sharp drop offs. Also, the trail requires a bit of arm work as you are climbing up and down and around boulders. One ½ of Travelmarx made it there frazzled and couldn’t wait to get back down.

There are a couple of ways to reach Cornalba by car. On the way is to drive through the Orrido di Bracca. (A orrido is a gorge.) Bracca is a popular bottled water brand, which is sourced from the hills around Bracca, or one would assume. In our young and crazy days just 7 years ago, we did a walk from San Pellegrino to Bracca. See A Hike Between San Pellegrino Terme (Ruspino) and Bracca.

Rifugio Monte AlbenAt Passo la ForcaBaita dol Gioan
Left: Rifugio Monte Alben. Center: La Forca pass. Right: Bivouac Gioan.

Rifugio Monte Alben - late afternoonRifugio Monte Alben - sausage and polentaRifugio Monte Alben arrosto and polentaRifugio Monte Alben - strudel
Eating at Rifugio Monte Alben.

Rifugio Monte Alben under the protection of Monte AlbenThe alpine meadows around Rifugio Monte AlbenAlpine pasture of Monte Alben
Pastures on the west side of Monte Alben.

Orientating compass roseThe Orrido di BraccaThe Orrido di BraccaTrack from Cornalba to Monte Alben
Left: The compass rose on top of Monte Alben. Center left and right: The Orrido di Bracca. Right: Tracks for this hike.

The peak of Monte AlbenThe trail to the peak of Monte AlbenThe trail to the peak of Monte Alben
Left: On top of Monte Alben. Center and right: The pinnacle formations of Monte Alben.

The trail to the peak of Monte AlbenThe trail to the peak of Monte AlbenHiking up to Rifugio Monte Alben on Trail 503
Left: The trail to Monte Alben requires some arm action. Center: Monte Alben trail. Right: Approaching Rifugio Monte Alben.

Trail 503 through forest on way up to Monte AlbenView from Monte AlbenView from trail to Monte Alben toward Monte della Spada
Left: The trail down low starts in forest. Center: View form Monte Alben looking west. Right: Look down in the pasture below Monte Alben.

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