Canyonlands: Tales from Narrow Places

Descents of Val d’Iragna, Osogna Nala & solitude in the Alpine

Posted in Switzerland & Italy by canyoneering on November 19, 2012

Val d’Iragna intermedio & inferiore, V4A4IV
Riviera, Ticino, Switzerland


The accumulation of physical activity is starting to be felt. Laura wants a day off from canyoneering. The weather looks good and Eric and I want to take advantage to descend Val d’Iragna intermedio and inferiore. Laura is happy for some alone time. Starting from the Curzútt Hostel she begins a walk up into the Alpine. Eric and I head down the hill from the Curzútt and then drive past vineyard lined streets to the quaint town of Iragna. We park along the Iragna River that cuts through the middle of the town as we get our gear together. Directions to the start of the canyon are vague. On the edge of the town a local tending to his yard  outside his stone home asks us “canyoning?” in a heavy accent and with a friendly smile. We nod yes. He points us in the right way and we climb. We drop down into the canyon and suit up. Meanwhile for Laura…

Solitude is a gift that I no longer take for granted. Alone with my thoughts. Stopping to sit in the forest. Visiting an ancient church. Eating my lunch on a bench carved from a large pine tree. One step in front of another I follow red and white blazes along a meandering and steep path above the Valle di Sementina leading me closer to the tree line. I walk up the mountain through small villages, past wandering cows and under hang gliders drifting silently above me. I see few people. I fill my Nalgene from a spigot tapped into mountainside. I continue my walk. At the treeline I can see down the sharp valley to villages that populate the hillsides above the urban center of Bellinzona. I circle back to the Curzútt as it starts to sprinkle.

                  – Laura

Back in Val d’Iragna, clean water, jumps, toboggans, small and big rappels. The canyon is tight and challenging. Anchors are tough to get to. Water flows are lighter than they could be making these obstacles more manageable. The canyon ends at a swimming hole in the middle of town.

On the way back to the Curzutt we stop for groceries and drink beer in the parking lot. No brown bags here. It begins to rain. Clutching our groceries we hike back up the hill to the Curzútt in a downpour. Laura is in the room reading a book under her sleeping bag. I realize I have forgotten the linguini in the car. I hike back down to retrieve it. What goes down down must come up in this scenario. It is still raining and I am drenched with linguini in hand. No worries with a hot shower waiting for me. Eric makes dinner in the windowsill of our quarters as we drink local Merlot.

Just another day.

Osogna Nala inferiore, V4A4II
Riviera, Ticino, Switzerland


After sleeping in we check out of the Curzútt having spent three comfortable nights there. We hike down the hill. This time I realize I have forgotten the key in my pocket. Urgh! I jog back up to return it. What goes up must come down this time. A little extra work out before a descent of Osogna Nala inferiore. We drive up the Riviera to the village of Osogna and park alongside a cemetery on the edge of town. The hike begins as we switchback around the ivory white Santa Maria del Castello church. Climbing up the hillside blasts of dynamite in the granite mine on the other side of the Riviera vibrate the entire valley. Again directions are vague. We get entirely off route. As we try to right ourselves we must also pay attention to not lose our footing on the steep hillsides covered in slippery vegetation that can quickly turn into a vertical face. On this terrain it would not take much to begin a death slide into the canyon below. The ink from my Xerox copied beta from our guidebook, “Eldorado Ticino” by Luca and Anna Nizzola, has smeared and bled from the drips of my profuse sweat. After much searching and backtracking we find our way into the canyon bottom. The canyon cloaks the sounds and vibrations from the mining blasts across the valley. The gorge is dark, beautiful and narrow. The rock walls are polished and colorful. The water is emerald green. The rappels are intense and challenging. By now we are entirely comfortable with our whistle systems for communication and contingency anchors for these challenging water rappels. The canyon ends with a jump into a deep pool. On the edges of the swimming hole locals sun themselves on large, flat rocks.  We feel good as I imagine they do too.



2 Responses

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  1. Stephen Schwartz said, on November 19, 2012 at 12:13 pm

    Beautiful stone construction. Hard to fully appreciate those sun bathers. You need to get a little closer. 🙂

  2. […] descending Val d’Iragna, Eric and I stop by it’s next door neighbor to check out the level of water flow at the […]

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