Monday, 15 August 2016

2nd August - Compatsch, Rosszahne Gap, Tiersner Alpl Hutterite, Saltria, SouthTyrol, Italy.

It was a better morning than yesterday, there was cloud about but it was high, and the sun shone in places.  Today we moved on to our final hotel in Saltria.  We'd had two options today, one would get us to our destination in around three hours and was not too challenging, the other involved quite a steep ascent, but sounded much more interesting and took the route we had looked at yesterday when out on the plateau.  So it was to be option two, and after checking out of the hotel, we struck out along a tarmac road heading out of Compatsch and uphill, under the chair lift.  It was quite fresh, as we walked, but when the sun came out things warmed up, and combined with the uphill walk it was back to t-shirt weather.

With the height of the climb, and already the views of the mountains around us it was clear today was going to be a day of stunning views, but hopefully some interesting wildlife as well.

As we climbed the road we had views of Compatsch behind us.

And way beyond the village snow capped peaks.

Grass cutting was in full swing and every so often tractors would pass us on the road causing us to pause and wait for them to pass.  On one of those pauses we were treated to a lovely blue beetle on the stalk of a hogweed.

The path took us up to the Hotel Panorama where the chair lift stopped and we joined the many people that had come up by lift.  We set out along route 2 up towards the Rosszahne Gap.  It is now the start of the holiday season, and we have noticed a major increase in the number of people since last week.  These groups included families with young children, all being up to the task of a significant walk.  It was possible to see the route from where were, the top part involving quite a significant uphill zig zag path.

But for now it was a gentle incline over boardwalks that bridged what was a marshy area called Ladinser Moos but still covered in some interesting wild flowers, and wonderful views across the meadows of the Sciliar Mountain once again.  The two peaks have almost followed us everywhere we have been no wonder they are branded in many place.

The path was well walked and I did not need to refer to any of the detailed directions, you could always see where you were headed.

There are many huts dotted over the meadows, and on one a Wheatear was sitting on the roof, but as I raised the camera it was off and away.  A little further on there were Meadow Pipits but they too were camera shy.

The path now began to become a little more rocky, and also with a greater incline. The walking sticks came out, and we carried on, but always in front of us was the view of the steep climb to the top.

As we scrambled over the rocks a good way to take the mind from the climb was to look out for, the wild flowers, the rocky ground and increasing altitude meant that we were seeing flowers we had not come across before.  Like this Rough Saxifrage, probably available in many garden centres back home for rockeries, but here it was growing wild.

And these Alpine Pinks.

As we reached what was the base of what would be the steep climb I heard a distant Marmot call, a very piercing whistle, our guide notes had said this was the best place to see them, but as I scanned the rocks I wondered if that call would be the closest we would get.  Then another piercing whistle, this time much closer.  Then Helen managed to pick them out on the side of the mountain just above us, There were in fact two present at the entrance to what seemed to be a den

 Many probably think these animals are like Ground Squirrels, and are surprised to find they are almost as big as Badgers.  I would love to know what they were looking at, and calling too. 

Leaving the Marmots and continuing on, the flowers were now becaming more alpine, and much smaller and delicate, and I used the time photographing them to take a breathe as we slowly made the ascent.  

I could only find the scientific name for this small white flower, Achilliea atrata 

This one though is Bladder Campion, very similar to the white Campion we have in the UK.

Every so often there would be small spike of Fragrant Orchids in amongst what grass there was in between the rocks.

I have not been able to identify this tiny orange flowered succulent.

This is known as Buckler Mustard, related to the familiar rapeseed.

A beautiful tiny blue Alpine Forget-me-not.

The dominate flower of the rocks was the Mountain Thrift.  They were now probably past there best, the flowering season coming to an end, it must have looked quite spectacular when they were in full bloom.

More yellow flowers were these Alpine Cinquefoil.

And the low growing Kidney Vetch.

Finally these short blue petals of the Spiked Rampion.

The first part of the climb was along a short zig zag path, where the flowers were at their best, but soon the zig zag became longer and bare of flowers.  As a result we took our time to climb slowly up the side of the mountain.  The route was quite busy, and we would pass people, and then they would pass us as we all climbed higher.  looking down to where we had come gives a sense of the climb.

The clouds drifting past below us.

Then suddenly we were at the top, coming around a large rock to reach a gap that had incredible views on either side, and showed how far and high we had come.  We were in fact at an altitude of 2440 metres, having left Compatsch at 1850 metres.

On the other side the views were just as spectacular.

Old scree slopes that over time have been carpeted with grass and other plants.

After taking the time to get our breathe and take pictures of the incredible views around us we made our way down the other side.  Following yet another rocky path, but this time down hill.

Looking up from the path, the peaks of the Rosszahne towered over us.

We stopped and had lunch at the Tiersner Alpl Hutterite, a busy and popular place.  As we walked up to it two Alpine Choughs flew alongside the peaks above us, not the best views but at least I have managed to seem them, I was beginning to wonder if I would miss out.

After lunch we started to make the descent down a steep gravel track.  As we did so, an Italian couple in front of us were pointing at something under a rock.  They pointed it out to us, and I realised that there was a Marmot in a hollowed area eating.  I could just get some pictures despite the darkness of the hole.

The Italian lady then tried to get close to take pictures with her phone, but seemed to forget that if you keep talking loudly the Marmot may get frightened and disappear.  Well it did, but fortunately it came out of the back of the rock, and gave us some wonderful close views.

These are specifically Alpine Marmots are in fact members of the squirrel family, but are closely related to Ground Squirrels, and Groundhogs.  Alpine Marmots live at heights between 800 and 3,200 metres.  They are excellent diggers, able to penetrate soil that even a pickaxe would have difficulty with, and spend up to nine months per year in hibernation.  Alpine marmots eat plants such as grasses and herbs, as well as grain, insects, spiders and worms.

Alpine Marmot can be often seen "standing" while they keep a look-out for potential predators.  Warnings are given, by emitting a series of loud whistles, and sound we were hearing now frequently, after which members of the colony may be seen running for cover.

The breeding season for Alpine Marmots occurs in the spring, right after their hibernation period comes to a close, which gives their offspring the highest possible chance of storing enough fat to survive the coming winter.

As the summer begins to end, Alpine Marmots will gather old stems in their burrows for bedding during their impending hibernation, which can start as early as October.  Once winter arrives, alpine marmots will huddle next to each other and begin hibernation, where their heart beat slows, and their body temperature can be the same as the air around them.  Some alpine marmots may starve to death due to their layer of fat running out; this is most likely to happen in younger individuals.

Once it had disappeared again we continued the walk down hill, the peaks and scree covered slopes on either side of us.

Another new Alpine flower, this time the Alpine Toadflax.

The whistles of the Marmots continued, then suddenly there were Marmots everywhere, running around on the grass by the side of the mountain.

Then we found a pair on the outside of their hole.

They continued to greet each other as we walked past.

We saw others too from a distance running across the meadows.

The walk continued downhill quite steeply, and we passed several people coming up, it felt better going down though.

Waking down the limestone rocks towered above us, and behind from where we had come.  The sun lighting them up and increasing the beauty of the rock.

As we walked I considered the fact that this rock has been produced from small crustaceans millions of years ago.  While in Bolzano we were amazed at the age of Otzi at 5000 years, but that was just mere seconds compared with the age of the rock in these mountains.

Walking on we could hear the calls of the Marmots, and once or twice the call of a Peregrine, but we were never able to see it.

The sun was now out, the clouds easing back, and we could enjoy the peaks at their best.

As we got to lower altitudes, flowers, and the now, warm sun produced butterflies, and once again the opportunity to photograph them.

A new butterfly for the trip, a Mountain Fritillary.

 And a Large Ringlet.

The walk down was dominated by them, causing us to stop in places to see what we could find. This another Mountain Fritillary.

And a smaller Alpine Heath

There was one more alpine flower to catch the eye this delightful Alpine Gentian

We were still heading down hill, winding through Pine forests where Common Redpolls sang from the tops of the trees.

Where before the views of the peaks were behind us, as we descended the views now looked out to the mountains in the distance beyond our next destination of Saltria.

The path continued through short grass meadows where we found several blue butterflies.  This our first Alpine Blue.

Plus a lovely Chalk Hill Blue on the path in front of us.

There was also a first Olive Skipper picking up salts from a muddy puddle.

All the time in the grass meadows you can hear the sound of crickets and grasshoppers, and as you walk through the grass they skip away from you.  As we came down the path one appeared on the path, and I was able to get a photograph.  It is a lovely shade of green and black, and almost shines in the sunshine.

The path then followed a valley with a strong stream heading away from us, and very soon levelled out taking us through another hotel and bar area, before we finally came to the hotel Floralpina our residence for the next three days.  It was another exhausting walk, but one that gave you a sense of achievement with the climb to the gap at quite a significant altitude.

The hotel was superb, and we were lucky to have a room with a lovely balcony that had great views back up to the mountains we had just walked from.

 With three nights here we were able to unpack, and take the chance to rest before dinner once again.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.