For the first winter hike of this season, I've chosen the beautiful alpine basin where Rifugio Fratelli Calvi is situated (in the upper Brembana Valley). This location is a classic in the Bergamo area, accessible practically in any season, and requires a moderate level of physical effort. Here is the description of the ascent through a variant taken in the summer: Excursion to Rifugio Fratelli Calvi - Summer Trail (stefanopoma.it)
With the onset of the first snowfalls, the summer route is generally strongly discouraged. However, by wearing snowshoes or crampons, it's still possible to reach the refuge following the winter variant (CAI trail 210). The ascent doesn't present any particularly technical difficulties and, despite the considerable elevation gain, can potentially be undertaken by anyone (provided they are well-equipped).
I want to emphasize that the alpine environment in winter can always conceal some dangers, and in the past, snow slides have occurred near the CAI 210 trail. Always check in advance the snow conditions and equip yourself accordingly before undertaking any mountain trekking. Useful sources can be the snow bulletin from ARPA Lombardia or directly the Facebook page of the refuge, where useful information about the snow and trail conditions is usually posted.
- ARPA Lombardia: Snow and Avalanche Bulletin - ARPA Lombardia
- Rifugio Fratelli Calvi: Rifugio Calvi in Carona, Val Brembana | Lombardy Refuges
- Rifugio Fratelli Calvi Facebook Page: Rifugio Fratelli Calvi
During these first days of November, the refuge is open only on weekends, and they have already informed us that we'll encounter snow only from the midway point onward. So, let's pack our backpacks, including crampons and gaiters, and set off early toward Carona.
- Summary: Trek to Rifugio Fratelli Calvi in Winter
- Where to Park in Carona to Reach Rifugio Fratelli Calvi
- Map: Trek to Rifugio Fratelli Calvi in Winter
- Inizio del sentiero lungo la mulattiere – CAI 210
- Alpine Hamlet of Pagliari
- Beginning of the Snow-covered Section of the Trail: Lake del Prato
- Arrival at Fregabolgia Dam
- Fratelli Calvi Refuge
- Return to the Parking Lot Along the CAI 210 Trail Passing by Fregabolgia Dam
- Galleria fotografica – Trekking al rifugio Fratelli Calvi lungo il sentiero invernale
- Conclusioni e consigli – Escursione invernale al rifugio Fratelli Calvi
- PRO and CONS and Evaluation
- Webcam near the Rifugio Fratelli Calvi
- Do you appreciate my work and want to support me?
- Where to follow me? Do you want to stay updated?
Dati tecnici – Sentiero invernale rifugio Fratelli Calvi
|E – Escursionistico
The CAI 210 trail starts from the small village of Carona (upper Brembana Valley), where you can leave your car in one of the numerous parking areas. So far, I haven't been able to find a free parking area, and all seem to be subject to a "Pay and Display" system with a daily rate of €2.
The most suitable parking for this hike is undoubtedly the one next to the Enel power plant. Alternatively, you can park along the Carisole street parking. If you can't find a spot there, the last alternative is the parking along the lakeside, which is more suitable for reaching Rifugio Laghi Gemelli and thus a bit further from the CAI 210 trailhead.
Here are all the useful details to set your destination on your navigation system:
- Parking next to the ENEL plant: Link to Google Maps (46.022835800108744, 9.790420717090974).
- Parking on Via Carisole: Link to Google Maps (46.02487488036255, 9.79540483080453).
- Lakeside parking: Link to Google Maps (46.01995405982615, 9.786078242661064).
Today we are lucky, and despite encountering numerous hikers along the village streets, we manage to find a free spot in the small parking area next to the Enel power plant. Stepping out of the car, the cold air and the 4°C start to make their presence felt, so I immediately slip on my fleece, lace up my boots, and I'm ready to begin the ascent.
Follow me Wikiloc
Best Offline Maps App for Trekking: Review of MAPY App for Trekking
Inizio del sentiero lungo la mulattiere – CAI 210
Before starting the trail, we need to ascend along via Pagliari, a narrow asphalt road that winds eastward from where we parked the car, soon leaving behind the last houses of Carona. After a short bend, I come across a large bulletin board displaying the main trails in the area; the 210 trail is clearly marked with an estimated time of around 2 hours and 45 minutes.
This morning, the sky is covered with thick clouds that don't allow any sunlight to filter through. The air is cold (there's a forecast for light snowfall in the afternoon), and along the ascent, we're accompanied only by the relaxing sound of the Brembo river, coupled with the footsteps of a few other hikers who, like us, are ascending to Rifugio Fratelli Calvi. The scenic impact of this initial stretch isn't the most impressive: the snow is visible only on the distant peaks, while the colors of the grass and trees, still retaining some traces of the past autumn, are dimmed by the total lack of sunlight.
Continuing along the mule track, we keep moving forward for about ten minutes until we encounter a sign indicating "Summer Trail 3h" to the right. As mentioned earlier, this variant is strongly discouraged in winter. Hence, we decide to continue straight ahead, staying on the CAI 210 trail.
Continuing, the valley inside which we're ascending opens up a bit, giving us some glimpses of the Brembo river, the surrounding meadows, and the slopes of the mountains completely covered in splendid orange larches. A shy sun also starts to peek through the clouds, adding some color to a few sections of the woods surrounding us. In the distance, the pure white peaks of Val Rossa and Reseda become increasingly visible, their bright, illuminated appearance contrasting perfectly with the still dark sky and the darker rocks of the lower mountains.
Just a few more steps, and we find ourselves facing a view absolutely worth immortalizing: the trail, at this point, reaches a small alpine hamlet consisting of many stone huts built adjacent to each other. Most of them are closed, but from a couple of chimneys, faint smoke emerges, and a few open windows reveal the lit interiors of the homes.
We have reached the small hamlet of Pagliari, a cluster of huts built with slate extracted from the local quarries, with ancient origins, probably dating back to 1600. Until the 1940s, the village played a central role in the transportation of goods between the Brembana Valley and Valtellina. These mountains were frequented by several smugglers who, to evade tariffs along the San Marco pass, preferred accessing Valtellina through these areas. Pagliari was their last useful stop before the final ascent to cross the mountains and access the current province of Sondrio. After the war, the village lost some of its significance and over the years was left to itself, almost entirely abandoned. However, in the last decade, particularly for tourism purposes, many of the huts have been renovated, maintaining their original architecture. Today, during the summer, many are used as small restaurants, bars, or vacation homes for their owners.
After taking numerous photos in this location, we continue along the trail and, nearing the houses, come across a couple of fountains and a small bar set up inside one of these historic huts.
The mule track, partly cemented and partly asphalted, bypasses the village and starts to steeply ascend towards the east. Gaining altitude and just before re-entering the woods, I am struck by the incredible beauty of the panoramas we are leaving behind: below us, the Brembo river carves sinuous meanders through meadows and larch forests. Further up, the village of Pagliari is still distinctly visible, magnificently framed by the orange-toned slopes of the mountains that border the valley. The scene is completed by the snow-capped peaks of Pizzo Badile and Pizzo del Vescono, sharply emerging on the distant horizon.
Continuing on, in a few minutes, we reach the Cascata della Val Sambuzza, a remarkable waterfall that cascades right beside the trail, splashing water on all hikers passing through this section. The area is secured by a series of fences that somewhat disrupt the composition for photography, but I decide to stop nonetheless to attempt a few shots. Here, the trail begins to get a bit slippery, and thin layers of ice form in the areas that remain mostly in the shade. We continue with caution and with crampons ready in our backpacks.
Ascending a few more switchbacks, as we approach an old hut, snow and ice now cover almost the entire trail, transporting us into an entirely new landscape. Since the snow is still relatively fresh and not too deep, it's possible to continue simply using our boots without any particular difficulty. It's evident that this path is frequently traversed, and the constant passage of hikers generally allows for ascent even without the need for snowshoes and crampons (of course, ensure to check beforehand before starting your hike).
For the next 30 minutes, we traverse through a denser forest, which occasionally still offers glimpses of snow-capped peaks, a hut completely covered in snow, or brief sections of the Brembo river. From now on, thin sprinkles of white also cover the treetops, evidence that a light snowfall likely occurred just a few days ago. About 1 hour from the start, we reach a wide clearing, where the trail makes a very wide curve to the right. As we approach, we notice that the trail does not continue straight due to the presence of a large body of water that covers much of this flat area, known as Lake del Prato. We start to follow this broad curve, which, along its course, leads to a small hut and allows us to cross a short stretch of the stream via a footbridge. The view now also opens up to the snow-capped peaks of Pizzo Torretta and Monte dei Frati, creating a spectacular landscape. I decide to stop on the bridge to take some photos directly from the center of the stream.
Ascending along the trail, we arrive directly above Lake del Prato, at a perfect spot to admire the colors of the body of water, now covered by a very thin layer of ice that, however, cannot entirely conceal its intense blue. I pause here to capture this view with a panorama and then continue my ascent along the trail, which continues through a sparse forest, maintaining a constant yet never excessively steep slope.
In about twenty minutes, we find ourselves exactly where the summer trail intersects with the winter one, then making the final ascent toward the dam along the same path. Here, the snow off the trail practically reaches knee-high, and as expected, there are no traces on the summer trail, making it quite challenging to pinpoint the exact route with this beautiful white mantle covering everything. From this point forward, the sun finally seems to emerge from the clouds, and its rays begin to illuminate the few orange larches in the area, creating a beautiful contrast of colors with the terrain completely blanketed in snow.
With a little more effort, we reach a fork in the road. To the right, we could head directly towards the top of Fregabolgia Dam; to the left, however, we could take an alternative path that bypasses the dam and joins the trail to Rifugio Fratelli Calvi a few hundred meters past the large natural dam. Reaching the top of the dam is undoubtedly very scenic, but the left trail manages to offer some better views of the surrounding mountains. Hence, the advice is to take one route for the ascent and the opposite for the return.
We decide to take the left trail, which almost immediately immerses us in a beautiful white clearing where small huts sporadically appear. Along the forest edge, some last traces of color are seen in the remaining larches, and lifting my gaze, the beautiful peaks of Diavolo di Tenda, Diavolino, and Monte Grabiasca stand out on the horizon. It's probably one of the most dramatic vistas of the entire hike, and I take a few moments to capture the best possible photo from this spot.
Continuing, the trail ascends along a couple of steep switchbacks, and in about ten minutes, it reconnects with segment 210 from Fregabolgia Dam. Finally, we arrive at the vast plateau where the Fregabolgia reservoir is located, created by a dam approximately 190 meters long and over 60 meters high, built in 1953. From this position, we have a fantastic view of the natural dam, the main mountains in this area (Madonnino, Cabianca, and Cernello), and of course, the natural reservoir that develops right alongside the trail.
Unfortunately, today the water level is extremely low; only a small trickle, almost completely frozen, manages to reach the dam, while the remainder of the lake is in a more central and distant position from it. However, the vastness of the depression in the terrain and the height of the dam make us imagine the enormous volume of water that could be contained here during periods of greater flow (the maximum capacity should be around 4,680,000 cubic meters of water). The disappointment over the lake's conditions lasts very briefly; as we continue on the trail, now completely flat, we immerse ourselves in a gorgeous landscape. The steps of the few hikers are entirely absorbed by the snow, and the gaze can freely roam, admiring imposing mountains completely enveloped by the white mantle and a sky that in the distance gradually takes on a darker hue, heralding the arrival of disturbances.
We have finally reached our destination. From this point forward, the trail remains practically flat, and in about ten minutes, we reach the location where the Fratelli Calvi Refuge stands, inaugurated in 1935 and rebuilt in 1982/84.
Despite the dining hall being able to accommodate approximately 70 people, today the refuge is completely full. Therefore, we decide to bundle up and have our meal on the numerous benches located beside the structure, only entering to purchase a slice of cake and a beer. Standing still, the cold begins to seep in, but fortunately, the dense clouds from this morning have dissipated, and the sun gradually begins to warm up this chilly day.
Wandering around the plateau where the refuge is situated, I capture some snapshots of the surrounding environment, focusing on the majestic shapes of Pizzo del Diavolo di Tenda and Diavolino, or trying to capture the soft lines created by the blanket of snow covering the small hills in the alpine basin where we find ourselves. From this spot, it's also possible to admire and potentially reach a small body of water called Lago Rotondo (now almost entirely covered in snow). Climbing to the right, one can reach Lago dei Curiosi or Lago di Cabianca in about 30 minutes.
The Fratelli Calvi Refuge is thus an excellent starting point for numerous excursions, ranging from short treks lasting a few tens of minutes to challenging ascents that can lead to the peaks of the mountains surrounding us. Of course, during the winter, any additions to the described trail should be carefully evaluated, gathering information on the feasibility of the route, the snow conditions, and, most importantly, ensuring you're equipped with all the necessary precautions and gear. I prefer to conclude my description near the refuge, leaving you the opportunity to explore further routes (more feasible during the summer) by properly informing yourselves about them.
After a lunch break and numerous photographs, the descent begins, following almost precisely the same route as the ascent. The only slight variation, as previously mentioned, is the brief loop we undertake near the dam: this time, instead of circumventing it, we follow the left trail that leads us to the top of the dam, even allowing us to walk across it entirely.
The view from the top of the dam is truly spectacular in every direction, as it allows us to stand right in the middle of the water, offering a very central perspective of the entire plain where the refuge is located. Turning westward, we can admire all the mountains we saw at the beginning of the excursion and the vast forest we traversed during the initial part of the ascent. The sky has completely cleared, the clouds have almost disappeared, and the sun, illuminating most of the surrounding mountains, provides a completely new view of the landscapes and peaks we had already contemplated during the climb.
Continuing the descent, many sections of the previously barren and dry-looking forest have now completely transformed, creating expansive orange patches full of color, bathed in light that becomes increasingly warm and lower. As we near Carona, we are almost in the Golden Hour, and the brief descent (approximately 2:00 required) has turned into a gradual and magnificent journey between the white of winter and the orange and red tones of autumn, which still persist at lower elevations. We didn't expect to encounter such unique conditions, and I honestly thought autumn had long departed. However, indeed, if you undertake this trek after the first heavy snowfall of the year, during the first few weeks of November, it's still possible to experience this unique overlap between two vastly different seasons.
Other winter treks
In questo articolo voglio condividere con voi la lista di tutte le ciaspolate presenti in…
Galleria fotografica – Trekking al rifugio Fratelli Calvi lungo il sentiero invernale
All the shots from this outing are also available in high resolution on my Facebook page: Photo Gallery - Trekking to Rifugio Fratelli Calvi along the winter trail.
Conclusioni e consigli – Escursione invernale al rifugio Fratelli Calvi
The trail to reach Rifugio Fratelli Calvi does not present any particular difficulties and will reward you with a fantastic view once you reach your destination. However, the elevation gain of over 1,000 m and the approximately 3:00 hours required for the entire ascent do not make it suitable for everyone. It requires some athletic preparation and suitable equipment to tackle snowy or icy trails.
Any winter trek must also be approached with due caution, so pay close attention to the snow and trail conditions. The area is indeed subject to potential avalanches, which could make the trail dangerous. For more information, check the ARPA bulletin (Snow and Avalanche Bulletin - ARPA Lombardia) or contact the refuge directly (Rifugio Fratelli Calvi).
Water along the trail
The only water sources along the trail are the two fountains located in the village of Pagliari. I recommend using this app to quickly locate all the water fountains around your position: Mapy.cz Review - The best Trekking App (stefanopoma.it).
- WinterConsider whether snowshoes or crampons are necessary and whether the trail is free from hazards.
Links and useful references
- ARPA Lombardia: Snow and Avalanche Bulletin - ARPA Lombardia
- Rifugio Fratelli Calvi: Rifugio Calvi in Carona, Val Brembana | Lombardy Refuges
- Rifugio Fratelli Calvi Facebook Page: Rifugio Fratelli Calvi
- Visit Brembo Portal: https://www.visitbrembo.it/en
- Trail consistently wide with constant elevation
- Perfect for trying snowshoes and/or crampons
- Beautiful view once you reach the refuge
- Dislivello e durata dell’escursione non indifferenti
- Non esiste una vera e propria tappa intermedia qualora si voglia interrompere l’escursione prima
There are no webcams in the vicinity of the Rifugio Fratelli Calvi.
However, I'll provide you with the exact location on Instagram: Rifugio Fratelli Calvi Link. If you find recent posts or stories, it will provide a clearer picture of the weather conditions.
Currently the only way to support me is to "donate me a coffee" through the fundraising function provided by PayPal. Anything raised will be used exclusively for improving the quality of my content. Software subscriptions, plugins, pc components, new lenses, filters, etc. Unfortunately, the work of a photographer and video maker is not cheap and there are many upgrades I would have to make to my current equipment.
- Newsletter: The best way to stay updated as new articles are published.
- YouTube Channel: Here you will find videos regarding my photography excursions, reflections and product reviews related to the world of hiking and photography.
- Instagram Page: short trailers via Reels, news and quick communication with stories and most of my photography publication.
- Wikiloc: maps of the treks I do. Please note, all treks not yet posted on the blog are set as private on Wikiloc.
Some of the photos you see in this article were taken and post-produced by @stefanodosselli (Instagram page).