Cima dell’Uomo – The big search

What started as a nothing-special-to-mention weekend turned out to be rather exiting, exiting both in terms of what happened and challenges to overcome them … Smile 

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As the weather was once again uncertain in the northern part of Switzerland and I definitely wanted to do a real world test with my new camping grill I decided to go to Ticino. This time I wanted to combine my grilling adventure with the first stage of the “Via Alta della Vercasca”. I already did the third stage of this hike earlier this year and since it doesn’t look realistic to complete the whole hike this year there was no harm in trying the first stage. I wasn’t in a hurry, and it took me eternity-1 minute to finally pack things and get ready. When I left Zurich it was already 3’o clock in the afternoon.

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Having to go through the fancy one-lane Gotthard tunnel on a Saturday afternoon caused some further delays. So when I finally was ready to hike it was around 6, which was just 2 hours away from sunset. This would have been perfectly fine, would there not have been a wedding party of at least 278 people in front of me queuing up for the cable car. I had planed to accelerate my ascent by using this cable car for the first 1100m. Now with that many people in front of me I would have had to wait for a very long time (given the fact that the cable car war a really small one and it took maybe 10 minutes per run). Probably I could have started the camping right at the bottom of the cable car. So I skipped the cable car idea and started to hike up the mountain, at maximum speed in order to be in a somehow good position for sunset.

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The only break was when I had to get water from a fountain.

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By the time the sun was setting I was obviously not yet very far. If only I had left Zurich earlier…

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… whatever … I decided to continue further up using my headlights to get into a better spot for the next day.

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What I already realized when hiking was a rather intensive wind. And it wasn’t really warm, more like a cold breeze. After walking for an hour in the dark, I was at an altitude of 1700m, I decided to call it a day and started to look for a place to camp. As I wanted to have a nice view the ridge I was hiking on was the only option. Some might argue that in the dark the view doesn’t matter but I wanted to have a nice view when waking up and enjoying the sunrise. The ridge just had one issue: The wind. I had already broken two of my best practice rules, 1) leave on time and 2) be at the camping spot while there is still some light and staying on the ridge in the wind was violating rule number 3: “look for a place without wind”. But Mr. Marco wanted to stay there! Absolutely! Actually I found a place where there was no constant wind but just occasionally.

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So the fun with the grill started. It turned out that I had taken with me enough coal to do the grilling for the whole wedding party which had blocked the cable car. So this was definitely something to optimize for next time.

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While I was boiling water for pasta …

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… I had the starter, a salad.

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Soon I realized that the wind was actually jeopardizing my grilling. It took a very long time until the water was boiling. In the end the pasta thing went quite well.

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With the meat I had some real issues. I had to place it very close to the embers to get some of the heat while on the outer side it was staying cold. It took more than 20 minutes until the meat was ready to eat. You can imaging that such a treatment wasn’t too beneficial for the juiciness and softness of it. At least my stomach was full in the end, so mission accomplished! However there quite a number of things to improve before I would consider myself a outdoor grill master.

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By the time I was ready to sleep it was already 11. The wind was still there and it was stayed there the whole night.

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Thanks to all the clothing layers I actually was never cold. Just getting out of the sleeping bag was a mental challenge. And a pair of gloves would have been really nice!

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The view of Lago Maggiore with the high mountains in the back already illuminated by the sun was breath taking.

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I started to hike again when the sun was coming up.

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Big “Steinmännli” on a small nameless summit.

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And the view down to Locarno.

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The plan today was to do the first stage of the “Via Alta della Vercasca ”. At some point I realized that I would not reach the starting point before 11 which was way too late for a 7 hours hike. So I decided to abandon my initial plan and instead do a big loop towards Locarno and then somehow return to my starting position. As a result I also went off the hiking trail in order to “enhance” my hiking experience. In the below picture I decided to go up on the right side which looked perfectly doable from below. But it was a dead end as there was a wall behind. So I had to return. I picked a small rocky band for that which was ok except at some point three was a bit step where I had to get down. The step wasn’t a problem, the frozen water, better known as ice, covering it however was. At that point I heard the sound of a helicopter getting louder and louder. And then I saw it. It was a Rega rescue helicopter coming up the valley straight towards my. What the f*#@ is this? Did I accidentally trigger the Rega app on my mobile and had called for help? Indeed I was in a kind of awkward position right now, but I wasn’t in need for help, not yet at least. Since both of my arms were required to keep me in that position I wasn’t even able to check my mobile. So I was just smiling and watching the helicopter passing my position at a distance of less than 100 meters. It was obviously heading to another location. Pfffff. After that I managed to safely get over the step by just using the extra length of my legs.

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At the highest point, the “Cima dell’Uomo” I had to do some small correction to the “Steimännli” as it was tilted like the tower of Pisa … just kidding.

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In case you are wondering why I was wearing a red wind stopper on top of my dark down jacket. It was not because of the still present wind and the down jacket would have been more than enough. It was because I didn’t want to be recognized as something you can shoot at since from 1-20 September there is the “high mountain” hunt in Ticino and in fact you could hear occasional distant shots fired during the whole day.

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This would have been the trail I had initially planed to do. Next year then.

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View down to Lago Maggiore.

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Why put the hiking signs on a pole if it works like this as well? Or maybe they were just lazy.

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It was lots of fun walking on this ridge, following the same path as the goats.

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When reaching the “Cima di Sassello” I discovered that there was a wall out of stones starting here. Later I found on Google that the wall is called “muraglia polacca” as it was built by polish prisoners after world war 2. I could not find a reason why it was built, so let’s just assume it was built so I could walk down on it. And that’s what I did.

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Ascona and Locarno and in the back also the Pizzo Leone where I was a couple of weeks ago.

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Still on the wall.

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Again a nice panorama from the little peak call “Sassariente”.

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On the way down it must have happened at some point: I lost my private phone. When I realized it I was already close to the bottom of the mountain. I could remember that I had slipped and had a rather forceful impact on the ground when I got off the hiking trail and as a result was going down a very steep section in the forest in order to get back to the official trail. That was probably the location where I had lost it. But it would have taken me at least an hour to get up to that place again with little hope to find my dark phone in an unknown location within a forest. So I was writing off the phone and continued the way back to my car.

On the bottom I figured out, that I was around 7 kilometres away from my car and the next bus into that direction would go in more than an hour. So I decided to walk back as I am able to do the 7 kilometres in less than an hour, mostly following the road in order to not prolong things too much.

Luckily at some point the speed limit was lifted and I could accelerate a bit…

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When I was back home I quickly wanted to checked on Google if it was possible to remote-wipe my phone before getting the sim card disabled by the mobile provider. What I didn’t know is that there is a “Find My Device” thing available even though I never installed any app. And it was reporting its location exactly where I had slipped earlier today. Damn, what should I do?!? Drive back to Ticino which is around 200km from Zurich and try to get my phone or just forget about it… I also thought about asking one of my relatives in Ticino to go there and pick it up but as the place is not accessible easily i skipped that idea. Not sure of what to do I went for dinner with a friend.

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After having discussed everything back and forth during the dinner I decided to go back in the morning. I uploaded the gps track from my watch to my garmin. This and in combination with the position from the Google “find my device” page I should be able to find the area where my phone should be. As the battery was already very low in the evening I knew that the phone was already in panic mode to survive longer. Based on my experience it would at least survive till the morning but when I checked again at 05:00 before leaving home the position of the phone could no longer be retrieved. I have to add that the whole rescue mission was feasible because there was a road up the mountain which I could drive and from the end it was just around a 30 minutes hike to the potential location of my phone.

When I was back in the forest I could sometimes see my steps on the ground but I had to relay on my garmin gps in order to get back to the place where I had fallen the previous day and expected the phone to be. Guess what? The phone was not there. As you can imaging something dark brownish is not easy visible here. So I started to look around slowly widening the area of search. Nothing. Damn! All the effort for nothing.

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Suddenly I had the idea to call my private phone from my business phone. Beep – Beep – Beep! So there was still had some battery left but since I had put it on mute I wouldn’t hear it even if I would be standing right next to it. BUT I remembered that the “Find my Device” also had the “Play Sound” option which should work regardless of the sound setting of the phone. So I was using my laptop to select the “play sound” option and immediate a faint “ding-dang-dong” was audible in the forest. It was further down to my current position. With big steps I was jumping down, stopping every now and then in order to get a new direction, as the sound was not permanently playing but just every 10 seconds or so. And then I saw it. On the ground, waiting for me to be picked up! “Ding-Dang-Dong” and Marco was happy!

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When I picked it up, it hat 3% charge left. Pffff, that was a tight call as without playing a sound I would have never ever found it.

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So, lessons learned of the whole exercise: Make sure your phone is fully charge when you loose it. It helps tremendously ! Winking smile 

 

Distance: 33.7 km
Elevation change: 3000 m
Duration: 11:10 h