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  • Writer's pictureMarion Marquardt

Trekking away from the crowds - the lonely passes of the Valchiavenna

Updated: Aug 26, 2022

From Montespluga to Chiavenna along the less frequented Valle Spluga Route
40 km, 3,300 meters in altitude, 35 kg of luggage and difficult alpine terrain are not only challenging our orientation skills
Overnight in secluded bivouacs or in the tent with incredible views
Discover the last remains of the glaciers in Valchiavenna
Few hikers, but golden eagles, marmots and many happy goats and cows

Before leaving for South America, we are still a few weeks in Valchiavenna - our adopted home. In August it is scorching hot here. With the exception of a few thunderstorms, the temperature is constantly at 35 degrees. It can almost only be endured at the lake or at over 2,000 m. We opt for the latter. The trekking tour over the wild passes of the Splügen valley has been on my bucket list for a long time.

Since we have been traveling at sea level in the last few months, we make two smaller day trips to acclimatize. Is that enough?

There are no rifugios or rest stops on this side of the Splügental. For the night we use the bivouacs of the Italian Alpine Club or our tent. Therefore our luggage is quite heavy. Tent, sleeping bags, thermal mats etc. In addition there is food for 4 days and of course Micha's photo equipment. In the end we total up to 35 kg. Of course, Micha is carrying a bit more than me :-)

We go by bus to Montespluga; from there we hike to our first overnight, the Bivacco Cecchini (>>> in winter we are here very often). The stage is relatively short - thank God - as the bus to Montespluga only runs in the late afternoon. So we can only start at 4:30 p.m. In the evening sun we reach the bivouac at 2,740 m - a wonderful panorama awaits us. We have the best mountain weather: clear views and hardly any clouds. However, it gets cold really quickly. There's no stove in the bivouacs. The only thing that helps is tea, a warm evening meal and then quickly cuddle into the sleeping bag.

Valle Spluga Trekking from Chiavenna to Montespluga Madesimo Hiking Michael and Marion Marquardt Mountains Bivacco Cecchini Val Loga
View from the window at Bivacco Cecchini

Valle Spluga Trekking from Chiavenna to Montespluga Madesimo Hiking Michael and Marion Marquardt Mountains Bivacco Cecchini Val Loga Pizzo Ferre Glacier
View of the Pizzo Ferre glacier

Valle Spluga Tracking von Chiavenna nach Montespluga Madesimo Wandern Michael und Marion Marquardt Berge Bivacco Cecchini Val Loga
Breakfast with a view (Pizzo Ferré)

We have a lot on the agenda for the second day. The stage is "only" 13.5 km long, but the path promises some meters in altitude. And we have no idea how difficult the terrain really is. We already know the Valchiavenna to some extent, but it is still good for a few surprises. The descent from Bivacco Cecchini into Valle Schisarolo is tough. Except for sparse path markings, nothing indicates a hiking trail. We descend over the scree fields of the Ferré Glacier and very steep terrain. In between, we see a large herd of goats that obviously feel at home in the area. After that it is fairly flat, but markings are still rare. That's why we also use GPS to orientate ourselves.

It's already after 5 p.m. when the final ascent to Lago Grande is before us. We want to camp there. Unfortunately, there is no alternative overnight accommodation in a bivouac for this night. We need to scrape together all our motivation, but it's worth the effort. The plateau is picturesque. Except for a few cows we don't meet anyone far and wide. The herd is very curious and quite annoying. When the cows finally start to lick our backpacks, Micha starts his drone to chase them away. Sorry, I know what you may think, but they were really super aggressive.

Valle Spluga Tracking von Chiavenna nach Montespluga Madesimo Wandern Michael und Marion Marquardt Berge Lago Grande Ziegenherde
Peaceful contemporaries - mountain goats on our way

The next day we face a similarly long stage. We still feel our bones from the previous hiking day. But that's how it is on multi-day tours - the wear and tear increases exponentially :-) We first walk back a bit to find the turnoff to Lago Bianco. And then the search for paths is starting again. Not the last time that day. Often there are either no markings or the path does not match our GPS coordinates. So we decide that from now on to always follow the markings - if there are any. And this is becoming more and more difficult, because meanwhile fog has come up :-) The first part goes really well and at noon we arrive at Lago Bianco. So far we only know this place from winter. Even in summer, the Pian de Cavalli offers a picturesque backdrop. Now it's just over the Passo Barnan to the Bivacco Ca'Bianca. This marks about half of today's stage; so we plan to have lunch there. However, the way to get there is a long one. Completely annoyed, we arrive around 3 p.m. And that's supposed to be half? We're about to spend the night there. This, however, means that the following stage would no longer work out. A nice Italian, whom we meet at the bivouac, says he hiked the route to the Bivacco del Servizio 2 years ago and shows us the direction in the terrain. "It's about the same level. Just down here and then up the other side." When we ask more about it, we learn that it took him 4-5 hours to do it. But he confirms "Everything is possible." Alright, let's go.

The path is actually more pleasant than what we are used to so far from our trekking. Once again we see countless marmots whistling excitedly as soon as people are nearby. So cute! Unfortunately, they are much too quick in their holes for the camera. At the "golden hour" we are then on the final climb to the bivouac. A good opportunity for some great shots. When we finally arrive, we are done, but very proud. Shortly after, another hiker arrives who underestimated his day tour and asks if there is a place available for him. Since he is traveling without overnight provisions, we feed him Pastasciutta and tea.

Valle Spluga Trekking from Chiavenna to Montespluga Madesimo Hiking Michael and Marion Marquardt Mountains Lago Bianco Pian de Cavalli Bivacco del Servizio
Lago Bianco - on the long way to Bivacco Servizio

Valle Spluga Trekking from Chiavenna to Montespluga Madesimo Hiking Michael and Marion Marquardt Mountains Lago Bianco Pian de Cavalli Bivacco del Servizio
Sunset at Bivacco del Servizio

The last stage is imminent. We have almost only descent ahead of us. A horror for the knees. And the terrain is hardcore again. Right at the beginning we have to descend the Passo del Servizio. As we see the marking, we can hardly believe that we have to go that way. It is "direttissima" down over a scree field. And after a short plain, another one. If I had known the terrain, I would not have planned the stage like this. Look at it:

Passo del Servizio - it was a lot more extreme than it appears

On slippery terrain with heavy luggage it is a desaster. But we've reached the bottom. And once again the nature has rewarded us - in the hidden valley, golden eagles with a huge wingspan are circling above us. Unfortunately, Micha didn't have his telephoto lens with him. Now the path is quite simple, leading along the Valle del Truzzo, until we reach the reservoir of the same name. At the Bivacco Carlo Emilio we do our lunch break and gather power for the last descent.

Bivacco Carlo Emilio am wunderschönen Lago di Truzzo Montespluga Madesimo Chiavenna Wandern Berge Alpen See Baden Marion Michael Marquardt
Bivacco Carlo Emilio at the beautiful shores of Lago di Truzzo

It's another 1,100 m down to San Bernardo. Even if the path is reasonably good, our bones don't think it's that great anymore. In the Valle del Drogo there is a nice agriturismo "Dai Camuscin", run by a young couple. Time for a food booster. The mixed platter of homemade goodies tastes amazing. And after the pain and deprivation of the last few days, we feel like in heaven.

From San Bernardo it is another 800 meters downhill and 10km to home. We definitely want to avoid that. Unfortunately there is no bus service. And so we ask for a ride at the trailhead. Luckily, an Italian couple offers to take us with them. We can't believe it as they and their two dogs (no tiny ones!) head for the smallest car in the lot. But everything is possible - our backpacks are squeezed into the trunk, we take the dogs on our laps and off we go! Italians are just so uncomplicated. We are so grateful :-)

All in all, the tour was way harder than expected. A little bit can be attributed to our lack of practice lately, but a lot to the rough terrain. However, the Splügen valley is still very wild and untouched. And it just has its very special charm for us to hike away from the crowds. We are very proud of ourselves. There's no harm in challenging yourself and depriving from time to time. So, one appreciates more the things that are taken for granted in everyday life, such as a shower or a panini. And the last hot days in Valchiavenna we relax at the lakeshore :-)

Here you can see an overview of our trekking:

Day 1: Montespluga - Bivacco Cecchini 4,9 km, 852 m uphill

Day 2: Bivacco Cecchini - Lago Grande 13,5 km, 924 m uphill, 1.376 m downhill

Day 3: Lago Grande - Bivacco Servizio 10,1 km, 1.164 m uphill, 897 m downhill

Day 4: Bivacco Servizio - San Bernando 11 km, 442 m uphill, 1.790 m downhill

If you like the Valchiavenna, I recommend my homepage There you find numerous tipps for every season in this beautiful, authentic region of Italy.

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