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  • Writer's pictureMarion Marquardt

Test under extreme conditions for our expedition vehicle "Hugo"

Now it's time to put our expedition vehicle through its paces. So far we've only driven... And if we do test, then we do it under extreme conditions to check its suitability for winter. Where could that be better than in Livigno, where it's down to -15 degrees at night.

We pack the snowboards into the rear box and off we go. The passes are no problem for the 3.5 ton truck, we just have to get used to the reduced cruising speed. We are staying at Camping Acquafresca. Once there, we set up our expedition vehicle. That's part of it, because it's the only way we can use the cabin. The construction is still a bit tedious for us. Hopefully, with more practice, we'll be able to do it much faster. We don't use shore power - after all, we want to know how self-sufficient we are with our supply battery. After a long walk through Livigno, we head back to the campsite.

winter neve livigno
Wintertime in Livigno

First of all, we heat up. For the Diesel heater the temperatures are not a problem; within a short time, it is cozy and warm. At night we decide to sleep without heating - a big mistake, as we soon find out. The vehicle cools down within a very short time. Our sleeping bags are made for such temperatures, but nontheless the night is not very comfortable. Even worse: in the morning the inner walls are frozen and the water pipes no longer work. Oh sh...! What a way to start. We run the Diesel heater during the day and connect the shore power to supply our boiler. At least, the sun is shining bright. We're going to enjoy it outside on a little tour. So we take the free shuttle to the Passo d'Eira. From there we climb up towards Monte della Neve and then descend through the ski area. That's enough for us to get started. Back at the camper, pleasant temperatures await us inside. This is bearable. And the second night will also be much more comfortable.

aperitivo camping vanlife
Aperitivo in our camper

Despite constant heating, however, the grey water tank freezes. There seems to be a jinx on it... Now water comes out of the tap, but it doesn't drain away. And so, if you like it or not, I have to go out to wash the dishes. Good that we have a campsite with all the amenities.

Today we tackle one of the most famous freerides in Livingo, the Pizzo Cantone (2,904 m) - or at least a part of it. After all, it's almost 1,000 meters in altitude - no slouch on snowshoes and a snowboard on your back. The weather is perfect again. Bright sunshine and no breeze. Almost too warm to climb up. We make it up to about 2,750 m. That's a wonderful long descent. Unfortunately, the snow is really difficult to ride. I'm struggling to stay on the board. But falling is the worst option, because getting up in deep snow costs the most energy. Take it easy and let it go, that's Micha's advice :-) All in all, it's a really good freeride that we'll definitely keep in mind.

In the meantime we've slowly accostumed with camping. The processes in the camper are taking shape and we are much more relaxed. With regular ventilation, we can get rid of the ice that forms on the thermal bridges at night despite constant heating, to some extent. The next day it's already time to leave. We get Hugo ready to go and plan a small freeride tour on the way home. Unfortunately, after four days in the cold, the Toyota starts a little hard and when driving we realize that something is wrong. He hardly pulls and jerks extremely. We don't know that from our robust and reliable Toyota. We try the four-wheel drive... when that doesn't help either, it dawns on us that the diesel has probably flocculated due to the extreme cold. We still have some summer diesel in the tank. Thank god, the car doesn't take it too badly and once the engine and the pipes are warm, everything runs smoothly again. Phew!

Now let's strap our snowboards on our backs and off we go towards Monte Rocca. A nice open slope with ideal inclination. It's a bit windy and cloudy today. When it gets too uncomfortable, we turn around. After all, we managed a little more than 500 meters in altitude. The descent is much more relaxed than yesterday, the snow is a lot easier to ride. Only the trees bother me - but I have to get through it, in the truest sense :-)

Now we head back to Chiavenna. Wow, the 35m² apartment is so big all of a sudden! All in all, a very successful start with our expedition vehicle with a steep learning curve! I'm already looking forward to the next trip...

Here is a small impression of our freeride tours in Livigno:

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