An autumn hike near Monte Montasio
It all started with a photo of the Stuparich Bivouac seen on Instagram in 2018. It was taken on a gloomy day and the hut’s red tin created a sharp contrast with the gray clouds and rocks. I saved the photo on my phone and put the Stuparich Bivouac on my hikes to do list. I got there 3 years later, slightly lengthening the way.
The Jôf di Sompdogna and Stuparich Bivouac loop trail is a fantastic autumn hike (but not only) to admire the foliage, see remains of the great war, touch a peak and enjoy a fantastic view.
But let’s go step by step
What you will read in this post:
Jôf di Sompdogna and Stuparich Bivouac loop trail recap
The data below refer to the hike me and Stefano did.
- Total Length: 10 km
- Elevation Gain: 930
- Time: 5 hours (does not include breaks)
- Level: Strenuous Hike. Some parts of the trail near the Jôf di Sompdogna peak may panic those who are not used to this type of hikes. Pay attention also to the descent from the Stuparich Bivouac as it is in full shade and slippery
- Children allowed: yes, but only if they’re already used to hike
- Support structures: Rifugio Grego and Stuparich Bivouac (no water on the trail)
- CAI trails: 611 – 651 – 610 – 652 639
How to reach Val Saisera
From Udine take the A23 motorway to the Tarvisio exit (if you want to save a little on the toll, you can also exit in Pontebba and follow the signs to Tarvisio). Follow the signs towards Valbruna and then Val Saisera.
Where to park for the Jôf di Sompdogna and Stuparich bivouac loop trail
To make this loop trail you have two parking options.
- Val Saisera Parking nr. 6 “Ghiaie”
- Sella Sompdogna
Starting from Sella Sompdogna you can completely skip the Rifugio Grego, thus gaining about 400 meters in altitude. If you still want to visit the mountain hut to have a coffee, it is about 15 minutes-walk from the Sella.
On the other hand, if you are looking for an autumn hike, the climb from Val Saisera is a must to see the colors of foliage. You might want to familiarize yourself with the route since the road leading to the Grego Hut is perfect for a snowshoe hike.
From Val Saisera to Rifugio Grego - CAI trail 611
We leave from Val Saisera around 9 in the morning. In the sky, there are only a few clouds to stain the blue, as the cool tickle our cheeks. We set off on the CAI trail 611 towards Rifugio Grego.
Autumn, when we take this trip, is barely hinted at but we can already see some scarlet leaves.
To reach Rifugio Grego it is possible to choose whether to follow the forest track (ed. at the moment it is closed for work) or the well-marked trail that cuts through the forest heading straight towards the hut. The trail starts with a nice slope but does not present any kind of difficulty and allows us to easily reach the Grego in about 45 minutes.
The sunny open space on which the Grego is located offers us an almost 360 ° view of what surrounds us. We see Mount Lussari, the Jôf di Montasio and even the Stuparich bivouac, the final destination of our hike.
Even if it is still early, a scent comes out of the shelter’s chimneys, I think of goulash, which tempts us and invites us to stay there without struggling further, but let’s be good, and let’s move on.
If you are new to hiking, you can stop here.
From the Grego Refuge to the Jôf di Sompdogna - Trails 651 and 610
Our Jôf of Sompdogna and Stuparich Bivuoac loop trail continues exactly behind Rifugio Grego where the CAI path 651 takes hikers to the junction with the path 610 that climbs to the Jôf from Sella Sompdogna. Along the way, you will also come across a small pond.
Detour to Sella Sompdogna
We who have never Sella Sompdogna decide to make a small detour and reach by foot. From the Grego it takes no more than 10 minutes.
From the Sella the view opens onto another valley and looking up we find the Jôf di Miezegnot, where I aim to go next year.
On the Sella we also find a sign that gives us some information about the place. Sella Sompdogna was in fact on the defensive line of the Italian Army and the entire trail 610 is dotted with war relics. We also discover that most of the hollows on the ground around us are craters left by the grenades’ explosion.
Here too, as on the Pal Piccolo, I feel a shiver down my spine.
Towards the top of the Jôf di Sompdogna
We retrace our steps and set off on CAI trail 610. Also, in this case, the trail rises in the woods and, although quite sloping, does not present exposed sections.
In our opinion it was partially ruined by the snow that fell in the winter of 2020/2021, but nothing that cannot be tackled.
At about 1600 meters above sea level, in correspondence with some entrenched lines, the trail flattens and the vegetation lowers allowing us to finally take a glimpse of the Jôf di Sompdogna.
The trail continues quietly, surrounded by mountain pines, up to a small fork. From here the track narrows and becomes more exposed taking us with tight turns towards the top.
This stretch is the reason why I put the + at the level of the excursion. Along with us on this last bit of the trail, there was a small group of people, some of whom were visibly not practiced in the mountains. We accompanied them for a while, but they were anxious and, a few meters from the top, they gave up out of fear. Try not to ruin your hike. No matter how beautiful the autumn walk is, study the route and always evaluate if it matches your level of preparation.
The Köpfacli Bivouac
A few steps from the summit, we arrive at the Köpfacli bivouac. A tiny shelter wedged into the rock and complete with everything, table, chairs, stove, and a moka. I couldn’t resist and spent a few minutes writing my thoughts in the book.
The summit of the Jôf di Sompdogna
After the Köpfacli bivouac, there are really a few meters to the top. We reach the cross under the gaze of Mount Montasio which observes us from above. The clearing is swept by a strong wind and we are regularly immersed in the clouds. We stop for the time necessary for the photos (including some stupid videos) and to admire the peaks around us including Cima Cacciatore, Nabois Grande, and Jôf Fuart. Then we continue the tour.
Towards the Stuparich Bivouac - CAI Trails 652 and 611
The CAI 652 trail which will lead us closer to the Stuparich Bivouac, starts a few steps from the summit cross. It develops just behind it, pushing towards other First World War quarters.
In this section, the buildings are well preserved and they make us better understand how the soldiers lived. The trail lowers in altitude gently surrounded by mountain pines. At this point in our loop trail, we are alone and enjoy the view and the autumn sun.
We cross a strip of snow at the base of Montasio and approach the Stuparich bivouac. Before reaching it, we change the trail once again and return to the 611 that had accompanied us to Rifugio Grego.
The Stuparich Bivouac
The Stuparich Bivouac is located on a rock spur overlooking the Saisera Valley, in a small hollow in the land under Mount Montasio. Despite being surrounded by vegetation, its fiery red color makes it immediately recognizable.
Owned by the CAI Section of Trieste, it is perhaps one of the most comfortable and welcoming tin bivouacs I have ever seen. There is a small dining area, about 12 beds, and even a bathroom not far from the mountain hut (I don’t know what condition it is in).
We have lunch warmed by the sun. I think back to the first photo I saw of this place and I find it equally beautiful even with the sun and the blue sky. I wish we could stop more but the loop trail is not over yet.
We retrace our steps to the junction between the CAI paths 611 and 652 and we deviate to the right to descend towards the Val Saisera.
The descent towards Val Saisera - CAI trails 611 and 639
This part of the trail is quite steep as it descends in a narrow rocky hollow formed by quite high stone steps. This allows us to lose altitude but not to proceed fast. We arrive on the gravel bed of a stream, we cross it and find a new signpost that shows us the way to Rifugio Grego. Proceed as indicated if you have left your car in Sella Sompdogna.
If, like us, you have parked in Val Saisera, choose CAI trail 639 which goes down parallel to the stream. At a certain point, you will enter a beech forest that will take you to the Spragna area in Val Saisera.
From here, walking on the gravel, you quickly return to the parking lot.
Why you should do the Jôf di Sompdogna and Stuparich bivouac loop trail?
In my opinion, the best part of Val Saisera is not the super picture-perfect points but the variety of landscapes that are found in a small space. From the beech woods that turn red in autumn to some scree, from the forest to very low vegetation areas. As if that weren’t enough, one just needs to look around to find relics from the World Wars or signs of the border culture that exists here (just think of Cappella Zita too).
Seeing the remnants of the war both fascinates and saddens me. For the human lives lost but also for the wasted genius used to build trenches and constructions in impossible places.