Walk around Lago Bianco
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Reflections in Lago BiancoFoto: Josiah Skeats, Macs Adventure
Your journey starts from Pontresina or Surovas train station for a ride aboard the 100 years old, UNESCO-protected Bernina Line Railway. Were you to travel the entire 122km you would cross 196 bridges, through 55 tunnels and through German, Romansh and Italian-speaking regions of Switzerland, as well as some of the Swiss Alps most spectacular scenery. So, grab a window seat (right side, if you can) and savour your transportation to the start of the hike.
If you start early enough, when you disembark the train at Ospizio Bernino, Lake Bianco will offer a mirrored reflection of the snow-capped mountains that crowd its shores. The path remains flat and hugs the contours of the lake, allowing for a pleasant stroll with ever-changing views.
A short climb brings you to Sassal Mason Hut. The views from here stretch around the valley, dominated by the glacier of Vadret da Palü which appears to defy gravity as it clings to near-vertical mountain slopes. A thundering waterfall of meltwater explodes from within the glacier, its noise reverberating around the valley as you descend to Alp Grüm.
This route is above 2,500 metres so bear in mind you may feel a shortness of breath and additional muscle fatigue associated with the altitude.
There are several river crossings. There are always stepping-stones available but these may be slippery, and especially when wet. Take extra caution on these crossings.
Some of the path is along rocky steps and sections with exposed roots; be careful as these may be slippery, especially when wet.
There are some exposed edges; be sure to read instructions carefully, stick to the main path, and don’t wander close to the edge. Use handrails where provided.
In early spring/summer there may still be patches of snow. Walk around where it is possible, and otherwise place your feet carefully and use walking poles if you have them.
This trail is not suggested for walkers with vertigo; the slightly lower ‘Panoramaweg’ trail is a good alternative; well-signposted, impressive views, and finishing at the Muottas Muragl station.
This path requires you to cross the railway tracks. Check whether the warning lights are flashing, and then check both directions, before crossing carefully.
Weitere Infos und Links
Points of Interest
Railway Outdoor Museum
Photos and information boards line the platform at Ospizio Bernina, recording the incredible story of the railway. The railway was initially only available during summer but quickly became equipped to deal with the region’s harsh winters, with only a few mishaps along the way; in 1920 an avalanche swept 8 workers away, and in 1962 a train full of passengers was stranded for three days in Bernina Ospizio.
Lago Bianco, meaning White Lake, was formed by the damming of two natural lakes, Lago Bianco and Lago della Scalla. Hydroelectric systems related to this have powered the railway since its inception. The lake gets its striking turquoise colour from the glacial waters that feed it.
Food and Drink
There is a café at Ospizio Bernina train station, where the trail begins, and a café and restaurant near the Alp Grüm train station. After 4 kilometres, the hut at Sassal Mason may be serving food and drink.
0.00km – Catch the train from Pontresina or Surovas train station (depending on which is closer to your hotel) in the direction of Tirano, and disembark as Ospizio Bernina. Timetable available here: https://www.sbb.ch/en/timetable.html
0.00km – After disembarking the train, facing the station and with the lake behind you, TURN RIGHT to walk towards the tunnel. Just before reaching the tunnel after 85 metres, BEAR LEFT to head uphill following the green signposts for footpaths 30 and 33 to Alp Grüm.
0.22km – Having passed the buildings on your right, BEAR RIGHT to continue along the flat path with the lake and railway on your right.
0.90km – CONTINUE STRAIGHT ON as the path crosses over the train tracks. If there is a train coming the warning lights will be flashing, but check both directions for a train regardless.
2.20km – After reaching the end of the lake, and just as a train tunnel starts on your left, TURN RIGHT onto the rocky uphill path following the sign to Sassal Mason and Alp Grüm. After 200 metres, BEAR RIGHT of a brick building to head below the dam.
2.50km – TURN RIGHT at the T-junction with a gravel road below the dam. After 50 metres, BEAR RIGHT to follow the path heading uphill, following the sign to Sassal Mason (Green 33) and ignoring the path straight ahead to Alp Grüm (Green 30).
3.80km – Pass to the left of two brick buildings so that you reach the terrace of Sassal Mason Hut. Enjoy the spectacular views through the valley and to the glacier, and then BEAR RIGHT so that you pass to the left of two circular stone huts and follow the stone path in the direction of the glacier. This path will zig-zag downhill.
4.90km – At the staggered crossroad, BEAR LEFT then BEAR RIGHT to head downhill, following the signpost to Alp Grüm. You will see this path crossing over a stream and then over the railway. Shortly after the stream, CONTINUE STRAIGHT ON, ignoring a right turn to Cavaglia and a left turn to Ospizio Bernina.
5.90km – The path passes above the train station and then loops round towards it. As the path forks, BEAR RIGHT to head downhill following the sign to Stazione and ignoring the left turn to Hotel Restaurant Belvedere (meaning ‘Beautiful View’ – aptly named!).
6.30km – Finish at Alp Grüm train station. Why not enjoy a celebratory drink in the café while waiting for a train to arrive for the magical return journey to Pontresina or Surovas. Note: Surovas is a ‘stop on request’ station, so you may have to press the stop button upon hearing the English announcement. Some express trains will go directly to Pontresina, from where it is a short walk or bus journey to your hotel.
Such is the way of Alpine hiking, that you need to be prepared for all seasons and weathers; sturdy hiking boots, warm clothes and a waterproof/wind-break layer are all required, as is plenty of sun-cream and a healthy respect for the sun.
Walking poles will be a big advantage on some of these ascents and descents.
Ensure your phone is fully charged; if you doubt the battery will last throughout the hike, it might be beneficial to bring a power bank.
This walk is isolated with few opportunities to buy food or water so be sure to bring enough with you.
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