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THE TREKKING 700 ROUTE
Based in Switzerland’s temperate south, the Trekking 700 provides an accessible ‘pass-hopping’ route.
In 1991, the Swiss celebrated the 700 year anniversary of the confederation of independent cantons which later became Switzerland. As part of the commemoration walking paths were developed throughout the country. The Trekking 700, which stretches across Ticino, is one of these paths and a popular long distance route.
Ticino, Switzerland’s most southerly canton, is distinct both geographically and culturally from the rest of the country. In the north, the Swiss Alps form a natural border, with access into Ticino via the famous San Gotthard and San Bernadino passes. The Alps decrease in size further south, eventually giving way to the pre-Alps and lakes in Sottoceneri, Ticino’s southernmost tip.
Sottoceneri protrudes like a finger into Italy, but all of Ticino has a distinctly Italian flavour as the canton has always been closely affiliated with Lombardy. It was not until the 19th century that Ticino became a canton of the Swiss confederation in its own right. Ticino’s enduring and relatively recent links with the south are reflected in its inhabitants, most of whom speak Italian and share Lombardian customs and ways of life.
Although alpine, Ticino’s climate is milder than many parts of the country. It experiences a high number of sunshine hours, consistently warm temperatures and a generous level of rainfall. These conditions favour a unique mix of flora, rich in both alpine and mediterranean species. Rural depopulation means that much previously cultivated land is returning to wilderness, making Ticino an ideal location for walking.
The Trekking 700
Like many of Switzerland’s long distance routes the Trekking 700 is a pass-hopping one. It starts in Mesocco and heads west across Ticino via numerous peaks and valleys to finish at Formazza in Italy. Although the route climbs to over 2,000m on a daily basis, it avoids the highest peaks. This, together with the fact that it can be completed within a week to nine days, has made the route a more popular one than some of the strenuous paths further north.
The walk starts at the village of Mesocco – dominated by the Castello di Mesocco. These beautiful ruins sit high over the Moesa river, which spawns numerous waterfalls as it flows south to join the Ticino river and eventually Lake Maggiore. The path does not follow the river valley but instead climbs north-west out of it to reach the route’s first high point of 2,161m at Trescolmen pass.
This section of the route is a series of ascents and descents until after it has traversed l’Alpe della Motta, when walkers can rest for the night at Capanna Cava, a tiny village on the mountain’s flank.
Biasca is situated in the fertile Ticino river basin at the head of Val Leventina. The valley is one of Ticino’s main alpine playgrounds and the villages along its length are bases for skiers, mountaineers and outdoor enthusiasts, as well as those interested in the canton’s wealth of Romanesque art and architecture. Biasca was historically an important ecclesiastical and trading town on the route to the San Gotthard pass. Evidence of this history can be admired in San Pietro e Paulo, a 12th century basilica with stunning frescoes.
The path continues from Biasca to the Gagnone pass and the summit of Cima D’Efra. En route it crosses Ticino’s wildest country. Scarred by deforestation and soapstone mining, the landscape is slowly reverting to its previous state of harsh peaks, sparse alpine meadows and scrub. It is scattered with tarns and is a haven for alpine flora. Among the more interesting species are the stemless carline thistle, a plant purported to have saved Roman armies from the plague, and the giant gentian, which also has medicinal properties and, unlike its more common namesake, has large sturdy yellow flowers.
Sonogno and San Carlo
Delicate, blue gentians border the path as it approaches Sonogno. Tucked at a crossroads between valleys, this village is almost entirely built of stone. In the surrounding valley, empty houses are a lonely testament to the depopulation of the area. Attempts are being made to curb the trend by developing crafts and tourism.
After the village the path goes into another cycle of rigorous climbs and descents before levelling briefly as it runs along the Val Bavona. This is a relatively untouched area, despite the depletion of its river by hydroelectric schemes, and the valley’s sides are cloaked in forest. Another pretty village, San Carlo is popular with walkers as a cable-car runs from it up into the Cristallina mountains.
From San Carlo, walkers have a choice: a steep but truncated route via beech and larch forests to Pian di Crest; or a circuitous route via the summit of Basòdino and its glacier. The latter will add an extra day to the route but, if the weather is good, gives walkers a panoramic view of the peaks along the Swiss–Italian border. For those not choosing to climb Basòdino, the final day of the Trekking 700 will also be the highest. The crossing to Italy is via the Tamier pass at 2,772m, before the route makes its ultimate descent to end in Val Formazza.
© Walk Europe
Walk Europe is a guidebook which provides holiday ideas for single travellers, couples, families and groups of all ages and abilities.