Jerry’s Spring Tour 2009 Bergamo – Friday April 10th

Como — Monte Bisbino — Monte Generoso/Stazione Bellavista — Passo Bonello — San Fedele d’Intelvi — Como (125 km, 3390m, 11-26°C)

Monte Bisbino

After the extreme day the day before I was not able to do another day with over 4000 height metres on this trip. I decided to do my best in following the plans for the other days and tried to select a day without too steep roads. I decided to take the planned trip to Como and that area. In the end I had to cut this planned day rather short as it was harder than anticipated. It was nice to get a little rest on the train as a start and listening to some music. I was lucky to always catch the trains just some minutes before they left. This was yet another nice day.

The start out of Como to Cernobbio (201m) was on an extremely busy and somewhat narrow road. The traffic around Lago Como near Como is enormous and most of the time it would be quicker to take the bicycle rather than the car – it seems like you many times would get quicker even all the 36 km up to Menaggio with a bicycle than with a sports car! The other side of the lake may have less traffic, but it is perhaps an even narrower road there.

At Cernobbio it is simple to find the way as you just go up the mountain on the main road, which soon becomes very narrow. There are lovely views for some time while climbing up through the houses that clings on the mountainside all around here. Higher up you will get into more wooded areas and the road deteriorates here and there. The climb is somewhat evenly steep and I went very slowly up as I wanted to slowly warm my muscles up again to save them as much as possible at the start and I also felt really tired.

Monte Bisbino

I noticed a book at the Bed & Breakfast where I was staying: Passi e Valichi della Montagna Lombarda, which starts with an account of Monte Bisbino (1325m), noted that it was also pass: “Ma il Bisbino, metri 1.325, è anche passo.” The idea that a mountain could also be a pass is new to me, but there is some logic to it here as there is a path passing over the mountain top that continues down another valley, so this is a passage in the mountains at least!

The road ends just below a small church – “chiesetta” (Santuario della Beata Vergine). There is a staircase up to the church and I carried/led my bicycle up there and had some photos. There are information panels showing the range of mountains that can be seen in the distance from different directions. The first photo here is taken in the direction of Monte Generoso (which is where I was heading next) and you can vaguely see it behind the trees as the highest point in the photo.

In comparison to Varese’s closest mountain, Campo dei Fiori, Como’s Monte Bisbino was a little lonelier and I only saw a few walkers, a few cars and one cyclist here. I tried to get to a nearby pass on a gravel road that takes off the main road a few bends below the top, but the first place you get to, while an obvious pass, it has no pass name and the road to the next pass, Colma del Bugnone (1119m), was supposedly reached by following the road that descended quite a lot there. This road was actually paved here (concrete) but I was not in the mood of exploring this further (I tried a “closed off” road, but soon realised that was not the correct one), especially not as I would have to go back the same bad road.

Salorino lunch

It was a nice descent from Monte Bisbino. I went by memory and knew only that I should take the first best asphalted road going right into Switzerland in order to avoid the busy road by the lake. I guessed the way and eventually I was at a locked gate with sand bags in front, but it was just to walk around and continue on the asphalt road on the other side (it is a residential area (Roggiana) on both sides here).

In Switzerland things looked a bit different and you feel a different atmosphere in the air – it is more orderly, more modern and a bit more boring. I managed to ask some old ladies about a road choice and was told I could get through on a road where I did not have to go all the way down to the main road (there was a few metres with only walking/cycling path on this road) in order to get to Mendrisio, but I think I came up on a busy road at Balerna and then went to Mendrisio. I stopped at some places to hear if I could get something to eat, but I was a bit late apparently for lunch. I continued up the start of the Monte Generoso climb and first came to Salorino and here I asked again and here was no problem having something to eat. I could not get any hot food but got some nice cheese, salami and bread, as you see in the photo here.

Monte Generoso/Stazione Bellavista

The climb up to Monte Generoso/Stazione Bellavista (1224m) is on a very nice road in very nice scenery! I asked the lady in Salorino about the alternative gravel road via Dosso Bello, but she said it was not ”bella”! :-) One cannot bicycle (not with a road bike anyway) up to the top of Monte Generoso (1704m). One can only get up to the last train station before the final station at the mountain top. This is Switzerland and of course they have a railway going to the mountain top! The last 2 kilometres to the Bellavista train station, which has a restaurant open in the Summer (June-October), is on a gravel road with somewhat big gravel on it. There were 3-4 people at Bellavista and I was not sure if they were waiting on a train or something else (a young lady crushed the last snow under her feet looking like she was waiting for a train to come). I looked at the time table on the wall and it said that trains would start to operate in May, I thought. I must have read it wrong as when I was about to go a train descended from above (not the sky – the mountain!) I see now on the official webpage and it says: “Tutti i giorni dal 28 marzo al 1. novembre 2009.” I had read that hippies gathered here in the early 70’s, but had confused it with Monte Verità (near Locarno), nor did I see any very suspect people around.

The descent was fun once I had come back on asphalt again. The railroad track is crossed once and as this is a chain driven train, the track is not very nice to traverse with a road bike. I saw some cyclists on the way down. Before I had gone up the gravel part to Bellavista (which has a bar across the road) I had thought that maybe I should continue on the asphalt road and I followed it as far as Cascina d’Armirone (1152), where one has some really nice views both up the mountain and down the valley one climbs. This is a pass, but not in name (the name is for the farmhouse once located here, but destroyed in the late 60’s).

Monte Generoso/Stazione Bellavista

Now I was to get out of Switzerland again through another road. I had planned to try a gravel road and since it is not very high I was hoping that snow may not be a problem, but in all likelihood it would have been quicker to take the asphalt road via Lanzo d’Intelvi and I might then had the chance to climb another mountain that I had planned. I was not yet clear on that I would have no such chance and anyway it did not get better by me choosing this gravel road crossing.

There is an (two) asphalt road going up the Valle di Muggio between Monte Bisbino and Monte Generoso which goes very close to the asphalt road going up to Erbonne on the Italian side, but there is not even a poor gravel road connecting them (even though there might be a path that could be used with a mountainbike). But there is in fact a gravel road up from Cabbio in Valle di Muggio via Alpe della Bolla and Passo Bonello which descends to the Erbonne road on the other side. This I wanted to explore, but I was a bit nervous about in what state this gravel road could be in. I had read that mountainbikers use it, but they also note it is a quite steep road.

I found the road via Monte and Casima, which is a bit of a climb in itself, and this road is nice. I was overtaken by an older cyclist here, but was too tired to be interested to try and hang on to him. After Casima there is a very steep descent to the valley floor and an at least as steep climb back up to Cabbio on the other side of the valley. I looked a little on the map and decided that I should continue up through Cabbio (which was correct) and after Cabbio there is an obvious very narrow, but asphalted, road that continues up in steep ramps. It was asphalted for some time and I engaged in wishful thinking hoping that maybe, maybe as the pavement was recent, this road has been nearly totally asphalted now. If it had been, then this would have been a highly recommended road and it is quite nice at first and it is also very nice where one reach the asphalt on the Erbonne road.

Monte Generoso/Stazione Bellavista + train

First came some stretches that had not been paved and even if they were flat it is a lot of small stones on it. Eventually one reaches a crossroad and a very poor forestry road continues straight ahead (I think it would not be possible to use very far and the walking would be long), but the road that went over to the other side of the valley seemed to go a long way back and I wondered if it could be right, but soon understood it was right (maybe there were a sign for Alpe Bolla). This turned out to be correct, but soon this road turned into a very poor gravel/dirt road with big stones and somewhat loose ground and a bed of leaves. Still it was better than the other road, so I continued and was determined to try and cycle all the way up and even to my own surprise I succeeded with this. This is nothing to try for those who are worried over flat tyres etc.

Near Alpe Bolla I heard some very strange sound – I thought it sounded like someone were beating their dog to death in a ritual ceremony of some kind as I also heard a dog howling. It soon became clear it was only the local farm guy screaming at his cattle. He noticed me and soon saw I came on my road bike and got a big smile on his face said “bici corsa!” I said “ciao” or something and continued to the gate at Passo Bonello (1142m), which again one had to walk around in order to continue on the gravel road on the other side. It looked like this gate had not been opened for at least 50 years. I took some photos and descended to the asphalt road. This was the shady north side and the snow still lingered here and there, but the road was just now passable and was also just about rideable with my bike (alos some big stones here even if the road is wide here).

It was now getting a bit late and the last climb had been really testing. I went down to Casasco and stopped for a coke and a cake before the shop closed. I had planned to climb the Bocca d’Orimento (1275m) and could probably had done so, but it looked snowy and gloomy in that direction and I would probably not get any good views from up there now, so I decided to skip it. (I also would have had to go back the same way.)

Monte/Casima road looking toward Cabbio and Passo Bonello

In my dreams I had also planned to climb up to Rifugio Venini (1576m) from San Fedele d’Intelvi (731m) (obviously another unnamed pass), which was totally out of the question, which bothered me as it was something I really wanted to do (several passes up there and great views), but decided that maybe I could do it in one of the remaining days instead (and so I did).

I went down the nice and fast road to Lago Como at Argégno (221m) and went in very high speed back to Como in order to catch a train so I would be back in Bergamo for a shower and proper dinner. Well, I guess it was a pizza dinner again – it could have been the day when I had two pizzas! It had been a nice day and I was happy with it.

Passo Bonello / Alpe della Bolla

View from Erbonne road toward Lago Como