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I am considering a late October trek through the boundary area between Ticino (Switzerland) and Verbano Cusio Ossola (Italy), including the Valle Cravariola. This takes be along several bivouacs and rifugi on both sides of the border. Because camping may be difficult and of unclear legality (although I suspect bans would not be enforced much in this time and place), I am considering to sleep in mountain huts, passing along such huts or bivouacs as Campolatte, Sironi, Bonasson in Italy (operated by the Clup Alpino Italiano (CAI)) and Grossalp in Switzerland (operated by the Unione Ticinese Operai Escursionisti (UTOE)). The Grossalp hut is open year-round, but how is it for the Italian huts? I do not expect any huts to be staffed in late October, but is there still an open part where I can sleep? If yes, do I need a key (Wikipedia mentions the Alpenvereinsschlüssel)?

  • Is "CAI" Club Alpino Italiano? – Aravona Aug 12 at 11:35
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    @Aravona Yes - edited for clarification. – gerrit Aug 12 at 12:22
  • Hi gerrit! This sounds like a fun trip! By any chance can you link to information about Grossalp in English? I tried to find something but wasn't sure it was exactly what you were referring to! Thanks! – Sue Saddest Farewell TGO GL Aug 13 at 0:41
  • @Sue Unfortunately I don't know if they have anything in English, but on the linked page it says Apertura: tutto l’anno which means open year round. – gerrit Aug 13 at 10:05
  • @gerrit, thanks for the reply! I understand that they don't need to provide information in English, I asked just in case! – Sue Saddest Farewell TGO GL Aug 13 at 19:18
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I seem to remember being told that Italian huts will have an emergency shelter room as well.


In any case, this emergency shelter may not be meant for people who stay there over night during a planned trip: it is meant for proper emergencies.

I've seen signs saying "to stay while not staffed, please contact (phone number of someone from the local CAI section)". So for planning a tour, I'd email or call the respective section of the CAI about the possibility to stay in/at/near the hut for one night.


One slightly off-topic info: I had the impression that in the Italian alps huts that do not belong to the Alpine Club and in consequence are not bound by the Alpine Club prices (= also: need to operate economically on their own) are more frequent than in other parts of the Alps (Austria, Germany, Slovenia).

  • I don't think every Winterraum is only for emergency use, is it? – gerrit Oct 1 at 9:47
  • @gerrit: no, IIRC there are also huts with winter rooms that are meant for unserviced but non-emergency/"normal" use. I would not bet on every hut having this, though. I don't know for sure how this is handled in Italy, but I know from other countries that the always accessible emergency room may just be a tiny wood shed, whereas the "I've called for the key" winter room is more spacy and has proper bunks. – cbeleites supports Monica Oct 1 at 10:10
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In the region managed by CAI Vigezzo, there are actually many bivaccos (unstaffed shelters) that are open year round. As most of those were not on either the Swiss topographic map, or Openstreetmap, or online sources I consulted prior to departure, I will list them here. During my hike 2019-10-25/28, I passed by:

Alpe Croso Fuori, OPEN, basic

Basic shelter. I didn't sleep here, it has a platform where one can put mattresses and sleeping bags, and a stove, but not much fuel. Open 2019-10-25.

Location: 46.2083°N, 8.49247°E

Alpe Croso Fuori, outside

Alpe Croso Fuori, inside

Bivacco Campolatte, OPEN, primitive

Very primitive. Sleeps four. Visitor needs to bring everything but a tent. Rarely visited; guest book lists about four entries per year. Also known as Baitin dul Peurat. As of 2019-11-06, wrongly mapped on Openstreetmap, but I will fix this. I slept here 2019-10-25/26.

Location: 46.2174°N, 8.44887°E.

Bivacco Campolatte, outside

Bivacco Campolatte, inside

Rifugio Bonasson, main hut CLOSED, winter room OPEN and primitive

Main hut was closed 2019-10-16. Access requires a key, which is not available late October (I asked). Winter room is available but primitive. I did not sleep here.

Location: 46.2336°N, 8.45341°E

Rifugio Bonasson, outside
Main hut and winter room.

Rifugio Bonasson, inside

Bivacco Alpe Cavegna, OPEN, partially equipped

Very close to Rifugio Bonasson (15 minute walk). I did not sleep here. Appears to have gas, gas stove, and mattresses. Open on 2019-10-26.

Location: 46.2375°N, 8.45047°E

Alpe Cavegna, outside

Alpe Cavegna, inside

Alpe Bosa, OPEN, well equipped

Well equipped self-service hut with beds, mattresses, cutlery, gas stove, gas, etc. Open 2019-10-26. I did not sleep here.

Location: 46.2583°N, 8.41836°E

Alpe Bosa, outside

Alpe Bosa, inside

Alpe Corto Rossa, OPEN, well equipped

Impressively well-equipped hut: beds, mattresses, gas stove with gas, firewood oven with firewood, candles, pots, pans. I slept here 2019-10-26/27.

Location: 46.2682°N, 8.41413°E

Alpe Corte Rossa, outside

Alpe Corte Rossa, inside

Others

In a pinch, one can also spend the night in one of the other (semi-)abandoned alps, but some are very dirty. There is a Massenlager at the campsite in Cané, Cimalmotto, Valle di Campo. The Capanna Grossalp SAC above Bosco/Gurin was still staffed 2019-10-27/28, although I was the only guest to have spent the night there for over two weeks. It didn't seem to have a winter room, but from this hut it's only a 30 minute walk down to Bosco/Gurin which has hostels and hotels.

I've also seen hiking signs pointing to other shelters that I didn't pass by and therefore couldn't inspect. Those are: Bivacco Ragozzo, Capanna Alpe Arena (Switzerland), Bivacco Alpe Cortevecchio. I would expect those to be comparable to the other bivaccos that I did pass by.

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All over the Alps the huts and bivouacs can be divided into:

  • available to anyone when unstaffed (some require key and registration, some not)
  • available only in emergency when unstaffed
  • open all year round

You have to check each one individually.

For huts on the Swiss side, Swiss Alpine Club website provides all the information: https://www.sac-cas.ch/en/huts-and-tours/sac-route-portal/

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    This doesn't answer the question, how is it for the Italian huts?. He already knows about the Swiss hut. He's asking about the Italian ones. – topshot Aug 12 at 14:05

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