Feb 24

Old Roads

We just posted this image on our facebook page, but we thought that it deserved a spot on our blog as well.

The image is from our Matterhorn Trek. Ken Fuhrer shot the photo on the Turlo Pass between the villages of Alagna Valsesia and Macugnaga in the Pennine Alps, the highest Alps in Western Europe.

This is one of the views that you get as you hike up from the Alagna side.

True story:

I hiked the old road from Alagna to Macugnaga with a friend a few years ago, and we noticed something quite odd. At one of the switchbacks we noticed the numbers for pi and various mathematical formulae scratched into one of the paving stones.

Who was doing math on the rocks?

The irony is that pi makes perfect sense on this path. If you get a chance to hike the route, then you’ll notice that the radii of the switchbacks are symmetrical and uniform. They’re also consistent all the way down the mountain. It’s as if the engineers laid a circle on the ground and then traced the turn for each switchback.

Were the road builders using pi to calculate the radius of each turn?

There are so many unanswered questions. For instance:

Why take so much time to scratch into rocks? A stick and some
twine would produce perfectly formed (and repeatable) radii too.
If it wasn’t the road builders, then who was it? Math professors on a hiking vacation, perhaps? A bored teenager that wanted to fool with hiking guides and their guests? Maybe the numbers weren’t related to pi or math problems at all. Maybe they were UFO landing coordinates or something.
We’ll never know. 
But this is why we love the Alps. They’re beautiful and filled with innumerable mysteries and wonders that can occupy the mind for years. 

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