Sunday, November 3, 2013

Una bella esperienza.

After nearly four and a half months at Arpisson the time had come to say goodbye for the year. Leaving was one of the most difficult decisions I had to make thus far on my journey, but there were other unknown places and experiences awaiting me before heading home!

All in prefect timing, it snowed (almost half a meter in just over a day) two days before I left and I was able to make one last trek to Arpisson under snow! It was so beautiful and peaceful; the perfect way to end my time there.

My experience at Arpisson was one of a kind.  I arrived not knowing what to expect and left with so much more than I could ever had imagined: life long friendships, life long skills and unforgettable memories to name a few.

Until next time, Arpisson! Arrivederci!

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Grand Adventure of Monte Emilius

The Grand Adventure!

Finally, I was able to access pictures from Maya, Dave and I's epic adventure to Monte Emilius (and Dave and I's adventure to Punta Rossa coming later) which occured earlier this summer!  We had heard, via Attilio, that there is this really awesome via ferrata that takes you along the ridge from Becca di Nona to the top of Monte Emilius, rather than taking the more populated trail on the other side of the mountain.  Having already done a couple smaller via ferrata paths we were immidiately intrigued, especially since this one was supposed to be longer!

Since we were working with a limited time schedule we decided to leave after the evening milking and dinner, eventually departing around 9:30 PM for Rifugio Arbole approximately two hours up and over the Arpisson Valley.  It was a beautiful, chilly night - the path partially lit up by the stars. If I remember correctly we didn't even need to use our lights until we headed up Col Garin (the top of the Arpisson Valley) and then down to Rifugio Arbole.

We arrived at Arbole around 11:30 and were early to rise the next day as we had a couple hour hike to the beginning of the ridge.  On our way we encountered several stambecchi (mountain goats) strolling over the ridge one by one; a beautiful site to be seen!  We could also see what resembled a tiny foot bridge connecting two tall peaks on the ridge we assumed we would be climbing, both exciting us and making us a little nervous for the unknown! 

There was no mistaking the beginning of the via ferrata for a couple reasons: one, two people in front of us decked out in all your lastest climbing gear (making us feel rather ill equiped) and two, the immediate ascent up one gnarly looking ridge!  We were immediately a bit indtimidated both by our predecessors and the mountain. But upon agreeing that if any of us felt uncomfortable at any point we would turn around and head back, we began the five and a half hour climb to the top of Monte Emilius for one epic 360 degree view of Italy, Switzerland and France!! 

Here a few pictures of our trek, shot by David and Maya!

At the top of Aprisson Valley: really windy and quite chilly!

Heading out the next morning, outside of Rifugio Arbole

Big boulders; heading to the ridge.

Foot bridge from afar!          
I spy Stambecchi!
Start of the via ferrata, oh my!
Mom, close your eyes! 

We reached the bridge, now what!?

Rule number one: don't look down!
Dave getting his climb on!

Punta Garin, Gran Paradiso in the background.

Switzerland, Matterhorn Mountain

France, Mont Blanc

One of the coolest hikes ever!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Fall has arrived.

Well the day has finally come and passed for us to depart Arpisson (we left early September). As much as we all wanted to stay, minimal grass and rapidly lowering temperatures left us no choice but to return to the lower farm.

Before we knew it the helicopter was hovering above us, ready to take down the fruits of our summer labor (over two tons of cheese!), the cats and chickens (the geese got left behind, which shaped a later adventure - bringing a literal meaning to the term "wild goose chase!"), all milking and cheese making materials, bedding and the works. Leaving us behind the goats, cows and calves. The calves being the most difficult to bring down as it was their first journey on the trail, and they are by nature, the most stubborn and deceivingly strong little devils!

I'm sure it would have been very entertaining to observe us trying to corral them down the trail shouting out different cuts and types of meat at the ones that wondered off, as if their behavior determined their fate. "SALAME! Dai, andiamo!" You would go get one calf that wondered off and come back to find the others scattered in every other direction! Eventually (three or four days later) we had all eleven calves back at the lower farm. 

In comparison, the goats and cows were a breeze. Put them on the beginning of the trail and they know exactly what to do and where to go - it's quite amazing to witness!

Life resumed as usually once we settled back into the farm, minus the fact that someone had to begin looking after the goats again - everyone's favorite job (not really). Every now and then, if you were lucky, they would find a patch of grass they were content with and remain there for and hour or and you could peacefully doze off in the sun. This is the romantic idea I had in my head before actually ever trying my hand at shepherding.  In contrary, if you are lucky enough to catch a cat nap, it's only a matter of time before you're woken up by the sound of thundering bells and left in the dust of 62 goats sprinting off in the distant.

Most likely one goat stepped on a branch that snapped, scared itself and jumped, which in turned caused all the other goats to flee the coop. The next hour or two then consists of thrashing about the forest, scrambling through bushes, climbing riverbeds and running up and down terraced fields in order to keep up with them and 'prevent' them from going where they are forbidden (most importantly, people's gardens in the nearest village and back up to Arpisson in the mountains).  It's easy to laugh about now, but at the time it's the most frustrating task!!

I didn't really have the chance to take many pictures of our move back down - here are a few that I did manage to take, plus some others.

The one of the cheese was one of two containers that were flown down. After the helicopter struggled to lift the first one off the ground and gain control we had to lighten the second!

Arpisson with a setting sun and me with the goats a few weeks earlier.

The waterfall just bellow Arpisson, taken in early October after we had come down. You can see the trees are beginning to change color - so beautiful!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Life on the alpine farm.

OK, well I meant to write a bit about these pics and life at Arpisson in more detail, but the night is getting late, and this may be the last opportunity I have to use WiFi again for awhile so pictures will have to do for now!!

Love to all, hope everyone is healthy and happy!!

Con amore,


Adventuring: my favorite!

One of the greatest perks about living at the alpegio (Italian for alpine farm) is having the opportunity to explore the mountains practically every day. Whether you have to go find the goats or cows to bring home for the evening, have time for a trek after lunch, a day off or have to go searching for a newly born calve (that actually happened) you can always find yourself in the depths of a valley, on one of several of mountain tops, in the midsts of a 'via ferrata' ('iron road' for use of cables, metal ladders and stairs built into the mountain) or next to a glacier lake. Not bad, if you ask me, and for the most part we've all taken advantage of this!

I've gotten to know the ins and outs of the valley pretty well but each time I venture out I'm surprised by something I've never noticed, seen or a part that all of a sudden looks completely different with the changing season: a new trail, different flower, a changing route of a stream, a dried up stream... you name it.

I've definitely had some adventures that is for sure. Some of the most memorable being Punta Valleta (my first via ferrata and over 10,000 ft. summit accompanied by Maya and Elly), Punta Pouset (solo journey, perfect day), Punta Rossa (conquered with Neighbor D equipped with an unforgettable view and memories), Punta Garin (no trail, climbed by few, accompanied by Attilio, summit completely worth the harry bits), and of course Mont Emelius via la via ferrata (definitely the scariest, yet most exhilarating...Dave and Maya, don't think I could have done it without you!). 

Here are a few pictures of our adventures (Punta Rossa and Mont Emelius to be included later). Also, it should be noted that Kira, my lovely and best canine friend, was a major part of most treks that didn't include scaling mountains. She joined the crew at two months old just before departing for Arpisson!