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The Adventure Journals

The Alpine Supper Club: Winter in the Adamello Alps

The mountainsides, ridges, and valleys of the Adamello Alps lie suspended in hibernation, frozen tight, with temperatures well below zero. It's clear that Liz and I will have to change our original plan of an overnight snow hole bivouac - there's simply not enough snowpack to make this plan viable. We head back to our apartment, there's time to rethink our plans. The mountains are alive with potential, despite the unseasonal conditions.

This will be my fifth time to the Adamello Alps, having first encountered this amazing area on a location scouting trip for an alpine winter skills course. I'd been drawn here on the advice of a close friend and colleague who owns an apartment in the valley. Both of us having worked as International Mountain Leaders. I was searching for something different, a mountain area that offered more than a multitude of chair lifts, innumerable gear shops, burger stands and expensive refuges packed to the seams with snoring bodies. We use the apartment as a base and start planning our foray into the mountains.

The ski stores, cafes and small, mostly locally populated resorts in the villages strung along this narrow valley wait for the predicted snowfalls, teasing skiers and snowboarders with tiny flurries yet failing to deliver that heavy downpour. It's been a challenging winter season for the European Alps and this week is perpetuating the frustrations of the snow hungry.

Despite the lack of deep snow, there's plenty of adventures to be had in the Adamello Alps. The 'In' is very relevant in this area, as tunnels, abandoned subterranean villages, ladders and cliffside iron walkways criss-cross these mountains - relics from the 'White War', almost 100 years past. We turn our attention to exploring the area on foot. A summer plan in the mist of winter - A sign of the changing climate perhaps?

The Adamello and Presenalla mountain ranges also offer a different flavour in the literal sense from more popular areas of the Italian Alps. Local ingredients like chestnut flour, buckwheat, polenta, an array of wild mushrooms, sheep ricotta, bitter greens and long life cheeses - bitto feature heavily on menus. Regional wines like the sparkling Francecorte and Valtellina Superiore, mostly unknown or unavailable outside of Italy, pop up in even small bars. This is proper mountain food, ingrained in the culture, food designed to sustain long days working, skiing or climbing on the mountains.

Although we have some recipes in mind, we want to adapt every meal to bring the local flavours and ingredients we have sourced from the markets and shops in the area. First on the list we'll need on-the-move snacks; energy bars, cakes and flapjack, conferring ease of eating on the hoof, long life and densely packed energy. We're in Italy, so the classic combination of basil, tomato and cheese should make for an interesting savoury twist on flapjacks. We leave the cake recipe decision for this afternoon and seek inspiration in the market.

First stop is the supermarket for dried staples, but if the fresh produce section is anything to go by we'll only be filling the gaps with the outdoor market; more than a dozen varieties of tomato, five colours of onion, pomelos, bergamot, a veritable garden of bitter greens...and that's before we get to the cheese counter. How do you pick just one pecorino when there are more than twenty wheels on view?

Post food market shop and back in the apartment we get stuck into making our snacks. Twenty minutes later the smell of warm oats, herbs and melted cheeses flood the kitchen. The wooden spoon is on hand, warning any errant fingers not to steal an early taste.

Snacks made, dinner and breakfast ingredients laid out, we pack our rucksacks for two days on the mountains. All the ingredients for our meals, a stove, and our bivi equipment fit easily in my Alpine Ascent 40:50. The high snowline, low temperatures, and constant sunshine make for almost perfect winter walking and mountaineering conditions.

Next morning, with the valley still deep in shadow, we're on the move. Starting off on tarmac road, it seems impossibly quiet for the height of the winter season. We soon find the reason for no traffic. Small runnels of clear water ice lie mirrored in the shadowed corners and edges of lanes and trails, occasionally flowing across the road, making our movements tenuous. Higher still, these trickles fall tumbling over water rounder boulders and cliff edges where they twist and merge in the cold, forming thick ribbons that dance with reflected colour.

 

As the valley opens out, signposts appear, linking trails to summits, high lakes and a wealth of refuges and bivouac huts. The accommodation options high in the Adamello are plentiful and cater to a variety of tastes and budgets. We opt for a bivouac hut. These are unmanned yet offer comfortable beds, decent kitchens, blankets and a space to refuel and recharge for the days ahead. With these huts at our disposal, we can forgo the weight and bulk of a tent, lightening our loads.

We use these bivi huts as a base to explore the region for 2 nights. We hike in the day, cook simple, healthy food for breakfast and dinner and take our pre-prepared snacks for fuel during days out on the mountain. For me, there is a beautiful simplicity in bringing together the triage of freshly prepared local food, long days hiking in the mountains and time spent with good friends. The Ademello is the perfect place to do just that. Below you'll find the recipes I prepared during our trip in the mountains. Prepare them, cook them, and most importantly enjoy them.

The Recipes

Tomato, basil, cheese and oat flapjacks

Makes 10 flapjacks

  • 200g porridge oats
  • 20ml olive oil from jar of sun-dried tomatoes
  • 75g cheese (bitto or casera for preference), finely diced
  • 50g semi sun-dried tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 8-10 leaves fresh basil, finely chopped

Method

  • Heat an oven to 160c
  • Heat a deep saucepan and add the olive oil and tomatoes.
  • Warm gently, add porridge oats, cook for 5 minutes.
  • Add the cheese and most of the basil, mix well then transfer to a silicone flapjack/cake moulds.
  • Cook in the oven for 20 minutes.
  • Remove from the oven, allow to cool, top with the remaining basil then refrigerate overnight.
  • The next day, un mould the flapjacks, wrap in greaseproof paper and pack for the hills.

The flapjacks will last 4-5 days in the fridge or in cool temps (below 5c), or 1-2 days out of the fridge.

Pomegranate, polenta, almond, orange and olive oil cakes

Makes 10 small cakes

  • 150g fine polenta
  • 100g almond flour
  • 100g spelt flour
  • 100ml olive oil
  • 100g sugar
  • 50g greek yoghurt
  • 2 eggs
  • 5g baking powder
  • Seeds of 1 pomegranate, remove any white pith.
  • Juice 1 large orange
  • 2 tbsp honey

Method

  • Heat an oven to 180c
  • Heat the olive oil and sugar in a pan until the sugar dissolves completely then remove from the heat.
  • Stir in the polenta, both flours, baking powder and mix well.
  • Add the 2 eggs, yoghurt and pomegranate seeds and mix well.
  • Spoon into small silicone cake moulds and bake in the oven for 20 minutes or until a skewer/toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean.
  • While the cakes are baking, pour the orange juice and honey into a pan and heat until the honey dissolves.
  • When the cakes come out of the oven, prick them all over with a toothpick and pour the syrup onto the cakes.
  • Allow to cool, refrigerate overnight, then un mould.
  • Wrap in greaseproof paper, store in tupperware or ziploc bags.

The cakes can be stored in an airtight container for 3-4 days at room temperature.

Apple, walnut and dark honey overnight porridge

Serves 2

  • 1 mug porridge oats
  • 1 red apple
  • 2 tbsp dark honey
  • Handful walnuts
  • 25g butter
  • Water

Night before at home/in camp:

  • Pour the porridge oats into an insulated food flask, tupperware container or widemouth bottle.
  • Grate the apple and add to the container.
  • Bring water to the boil, add to the container and leave to leave to soak overnight.

In the morning:

  • Add a little water to your camp stove, bring to a simmer and add the soaked porridge.
  • Heat, add the butter, honey and walnuts, mix well and serve.

Ricotta, bergamot and rocket risotto

Serves 2

  • 100g carnaroli rice
  • 1 yellow onion, finely diced
  • 1 glass Lombardy white wine
  • Juice and zest of 1 bergamot
  • 100g fresh ricotta
  • Large handful fresh rocket, dandelion, sorrel or lambs lettuce (washed and dried)
  • 500ml vegetable stock
  • 50g butter
  • Salt and pepper

Method - in advance:

  • Melt 30g butter in a deep pan, add the onion and sweat until translucent on a medium-medium/high heat.
  • Add the rice and cook with the onion for 2-3 minutes, then add the wine, cook until absorbed.
  • Add the bergamot juice and stir until absorbed.
  • Stirring all the time, add a ladle of vegetable stock at at time and cook until absorbed.
  • Taste the rice, season if necessary. You want it slightly undercooked as it will continue to absorb moisture when cooling.
  • Transfer to wide, shallow bowl/s and when room temp place immediately in the fridge/freezer overnight.
  • Chill a good insulated food flask overnight and in the morning, store the risotto in the flask.
  • NB: It's important to cool the rice rapidly and store below 4c to reduce the risk of contamination. If you prefer, you can freeze the rice before transportation.
  • Store the bergamot zest, butter, ricotta and rocket in separate containers or ziploc bags.

In camp:

  • Warm 50ml white wine, stock or water to simmering and add the risotto.
  • When hot (above 80c), add the butter, half the ricotta and mix well.
  • When reheating rice, you must make sure to heat it to an internal temperature of 80c.
  • Serve, topping with the remaining ricotta, bergamot zest and rocket.

About Keiran

Kieran Creevy is a private chef and mountain leader. He combines a love for locally sourced, fresh produce with a need for outdoor space and adventure v his work as an expedition chef. Kieran is constantly challenging the traditional idea that camp food is bland and boring. His recipes are always informed by local ingredients and culture.

You can keep up with Keirans' latest trips and recipes by visiting his website or following him on Twitter or Instagram.

Products used in this Adventure Journal...

Alpine Ascent ND 38:48
Color(s):

Alpine Ascent ND 38:48

38:48lt | 65 x 30 x 26cm | 1.01kg

The Alpine Ascent ND 38:48 is clean and lightweight, the ideal companion on high alpine peaks, winter climbs and summer rock routes.

€129.95
Ultralite Stuffsac (Multipack)
Colour(s):

Mixed

Ultralite Stuffsac (Multipack)

Mixed | N/A | 0.00kg

Ultralight water resistant stuffsacs. Ideal for packing and protecting kit when the grams count.

€27.95

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