MY WALKING WORLD David Preston

  THE WALKERS HAUTE ROUTE - CHAMONIX TO ZERMATT

 

Part one -  Chamonix to La Sage

 

CHAMONIX TO ZERMATT - Mont Blanc to the Matterhorn, the route is over 180 kms and crosses 11 mountain passes and ascends more than 12000 metres in height. My inspiration was the Cicerone guide THE WALKERS HAUTE ROUTE by Kev Reynolds. Once you get your hands on one of these little blue guide books you are hooked. I noticed that a lot of walkers from various nations use it as reference book, checking their route for the following day against the relevant map. I planned to walk just over half the route this year which I knew would take just about 1 week and then return next year to complete the rest. The walk from Chamonix to La Sage went as follows                                                                                             

   21/07/06 - Flight Liverpool to Geneva, transfer to Chamonix by ATS    26/07/06- Cabane Du Montfort to Cabane De Prafleuri     14km - 885m ascent
   22/07/06 - Chamonix to Col De La Forclaz             22km  - 1167m  ascent    27/07/06- Cabane De Prafleuri to Arolla                          11k -  735m ascent
   23/07/06 - Col De La Forclaz to Champex              15km   - 876m  ascent    28/07/06- Arolla to La Sage                                             10km -215m ascent
   24/07/06 - Champex to Le Chable                          13km   - 104k   ascent    29/07/06- Bus to Sion, Train to Geneva
   25/07/06 - Le Chable to Cabane Du Montfort         9km    -1636m ascent    30/07/06- Flight Geneva to Liverpool

 

After my Tour Du Mont Blanc Walk a couple of years ago I was determined to return to the Alps to tackle one of the other trails. I had intended to try the Walkers Haute Route in 2005 but after reading all the information I could I wondered whether it might be a little over ambitious for a lone walker and so decided to give it a miss that year. As a friend of mine said to me "its easy to talk yourself out of something you are not sure about. Once the opportunity had passed I instantly regretted it so I made up my mind to go for it the following year. Seeing as I was determined to go I was quite relaxed about the trip, I did not book my flight until a couple of weeks before departure, and the other important things were not booked until a couple of days before leaving. These were Insurance, Airport transfer and  the first 3 nights accommodation, The one thing that I did do thoroughly was to study the guidebook and all other reports on the web. By the time I went I felt that I really did know the route well and knew what to expect along the way


Friday 21/07/06 - The trip began with my Easyjet flight from Liverpool at 14.10hrs, the flight took off on time and after a comfortable flight I arrived at Geneva at 1700hrs, I collected my rucksack from the carousel and my transport was waiting for me. I use ATS for the transfer and have always found them to be excellent. There were about 8 of us on the minibus and I was the first to be dropped off at my accommodation  The Gite Le Vagabond in Chamonix which I had booked a few days before. I shared a 4 bedded room with 3 others and after unpacking a few items I went out into Chamonix to get something to eat. I had a wander around and then I settled for a McDonald's, something I rarely do but when on your own in a strange town it is an easy way to get a bite to eat. After that it was back to the Vagabond for a couple of beers before going to bed. It has a great atmosphere and I felt quite at home at this place.


Saturday 22/07/06 - I was up early today and after a continental breakfast I set off at 0845 through the town stopping briefly for a photo by the statue in the main square. I walked along the road out of town to where the footpath started, it followed the valley floor for a while before gently climbing the hillside and winding through the forest, it then dropped down into Argentiere and crossed the road to follow the hillside again to Le Tour. I had a rest break here and as time was getting on I decided to take the cable car up the hillside towards the Col De La Barme, I had already crossed this pass on foot in the other direction when walking the Tour Du Mont Blanc so I did not feel guilty about using the cable car. The charge was 11 euros and in no time at all I was sat outside the Refuge on the pass.  The path then followed the valley down towards Trient with the last part being quite steep down through the forest. As I had gained a little time I decided to walk into Trient for a look round before walking up the hillside to my Hotel on the Col De La Forclaz. I arrived at 1615hrs after a 7¼ walk including breaks. 45 mins later there was a storm with thunder, lightning and very heavy rain. which lasted for several hours. The early arrival after using the cable car certainly prevented me from getting wet. The evening meal was excellent, soup followed by chicken with chips and cauliflower, there were second and third helpings if you wanted. Ice cream for desert. Its a quiet place once the passing traffic has ceased and there is really nowhere to go for a stroll except downhill but I stayed here on the TMB and find it good value with excellent views down the valley on both sides


Sunday 23/07/06 - After breakfast of bread, cheese, toast and jam it was time to set off. There was a choice of 2 routes, one was then high route over the Fenetre D' Arpette which is a spectacular route and one I would like to do again. However I chose to walk the Alps Bovine Route which is slightly longer but easier and would be a good choice in the event of bad weather. The weather today was excellent and the route climbed easily along the hillside and then up through the forest, I passed a farm building called La Giete which was in an open grass basin, and was amazed to hear someone playing what I took to be an Alpine horn, the sound echoed around the mountains, a unique experience, I recorded some of the sound with my digital camera, they are not just for taking pictures. After more larch and pinewoods I emerged onto the open mountainside with good views down into Martigny, in the distance I could see the Alp Bovine which I reached 2 hours after leaving the hotel. I stopped here for lunch which was a cheese sandwich and a coffee. Then it was off along the hillside before dropping steeply down through the woods  to reach the valley. The path then wandered along past farms and chalets before changing to a track then a lane and then into Champex about 5 hours after setting off this morning. I had booked a bed at Pension En Plein Air a few days ago on the internet, they do not open till around 1600hrs but once open I was shown to a nice twin bedded room which I had to myself. I had a shower then wandered down the road to the lake and had a large beer in a cafe on the lake shore.


Monday 24/07/06 After a phone call to reserve a bed at the Hotel du Gietroz in Le Chable I set off from Champex in bright sunny weather, the route followed country lanes and tracks  along the hillside through the village of Sous La Le and then onto the village of La Garde. The path  then followed the hillside to the Chapel of St Jean which stands in a prominent position overlooking the valley, after leaving the Chapel the path descended through woodland to the attractive village of Sembrancher where I had lunch sitting in the village square with other walkers I had met during the day. The way ahead to Le Chable lay along the valley floor  before climbing up through woods and then it descended again and then along tracks and lanes into Le Chable. I found the Hotel du Gietroz, checked in and had a shower, I was informed that the restaurant was closed on Mondays so I wandered next door to the Pension Les Ruinettes for a beer and met up with the other walkers who had got rooms there. They served food in the evening so I returned there in the evening and enjoyed an excellent meal in their company. I had a Cheese, ham and mushroom omelette with salad and chips 19CF, large beer was 5.50CF. Bed and breakfast at the Hotel Du Gietroz in an en suite room was 80CF. I  phoned  the Cabane Du Mont Fort for Tuesday night and  Cabane De Prafleuri for Wednesday night as I wanted to make sure of a bed because there is no real alternative in the high mountains ahead'


Tuesday 25/07/06 After a breakfast of bread, butter and jam with tea and orange juice I set off at 0745hrs through Villette and climbed up the hillside with great views over the valley, today there was to be a height gain of 1636m which was to be the maximum daily height gain for the whole walk. Despite the climb the walk was fairly easy along paths and tracks up through the forest to the junction of paths at Clambin, a rest break at the restaurant afforded marvellous views out over the valley. The path upwards became easier and started to level out along the hillside and there were great views of the Grand Combin in the distance. The  area was criss crossed with cable cars and ski lifts for use in the winter. The weather was sunny and there were many walkers following the paths along the ridge. At around 1400hrs I arrived at the Cabane Du Mont Fort. Set on a bluff overlooking the valley the refuge was clean, modern and provided excellent accommodation. I had a small two bedded room to myself and the evening meal consisted of Veg soup, mixed salad, spaghetti bolognese followed by chocolate mousse. Breakfast next morning was tea with bread and jam and the cost for half board was 70CF, a picnic lunch was 10CF.


Wednesday 26/07/06 After breakfast I left the refuge at 0745hrs and followed the path which is called Sentier des Chamois, this is a superb path with fine views, narrow in places with but always within the capabilities of the average mountain walker. After 1¾hours I arrived at the Col Termin with some of the other walkers who were heading to the same refuge as I was. After a rest stop the path changed direction and headed north east towards the Col de Louvie, there was a great sense of heading into a wild and desolate area, the scenery was magnificent, there were several groups of walkers heading along the trail towards the pass and it was tremendously exciting to climb up to the summit of the pass and look out over the Grand Desert Glacier. This was a good place to stop and enjoy the view, overhead on the cliff above we saw several ibex  with a young one looking down at us surveying the scene. After a rest break the path descended  to the valley floor beneath the Grand Desert Glacier, this was a remote place and although there was no danger, it was a case of picking your way through boulders, streams and small ponds. Across on the other side of the there was a large marker which the guidebook indicated was the place to head for. It was enormous and was obviously intended to guide you across in poor weather conditions although in poor visibility it would not be possible to be seen from across the valley. Nevertheless there were hundreds of smaller painted markers guiding the way across. Then it was a steady climb up to the Col De Prafleuri at 2965 metres, the highest point so far. Below is an enormous quarry floor which I believe was quarried around 50 years ago to provide material for the Dam in the next valley. It was a desolate place of gravel beds and paths with peaks all around. After crossing the quarry floor the path drops to left and you finally see the Cabane De Prafleuri on a rise overlooking the valley. It had started to rain as I reached the hut and the weather was closing in. For the next few hours there was thunder, lightning and hailstones and the mountainsides were streaked with powerful streams tumbling down from above. Accommodation was spotless and the dormitory I slept in had a large communal  bed sleeping eight on each side of the room. Showers were 3CF and half board was 56CF, the evening meal was excellent and consisted of soup to start with, followed by a mixed salad, after this we had pork in mushroom sauce with pasta strips and rice, there were second helpings for anyone who wanted more. As a desert we had Apricots and ice cream. Breakfast next morning was cereal, bread and jam, cheese squares and a nice mug of tea. I ordered a picnic lunch and this consisted of 2 slices of bread, a piece of cheese, a piece of salami, a bag of crisps, a Mars bar, a bag of mixed nuts and a small bottle of water- 12 CF. There was no public phone and you could not get a signal on your mobile. The water in the refuge was not drinkable according to the signs. It looked as if it was straight of the glacier, full of silt. Obviously it was bottled water we were given to drink.


Thursday 27/07/06 The weather today was sunny with clear blue skies and excellent visibility and after a short climb of 160 metres from the refuge up to the Col Des Roux there was a superb view of the Lac Des Dix, the path descended easily down to the shore and there followed an excellent track along the shoreline to the far end of the lake, the views of the surrounding mountains were superb. At the end of the lake the path climbed steadily upwards and along the valley, alongside the torrent which drains the Glacier de Cheilon which lies ahead. There are two routes into the next valley the first is up to the Col De Riedmatten and the path zig zags up the left hand side of the valley and then climbs steeply up to the narrow notch which is the Col De Riedmatten. There is a superb view from here and the Matterhorn is clearly visible from here nestling behind the mountains to the east. The alternative route is over the Pass des Chevres which is a short distance further on but this entails a climb up three near vertical ladders. Some of my companions went that way and described it as OK but with a packed rucksack I think I made the right choice. The path then descended steeply down into a pleasant valley with excellent views all round. It was then an easy walk along paths and tracks down the valley and into Arolla.  Once down in the village I went straight to the Hotel Du Glacier and was able to get an excellent room overlooking the village square. I planned to stay two nights and then leave for Geneva on the Saturday morning. The Friday was really a spare day which I could have used anywhere on the walk but as I did not feel overtired I decided to walk the next day to La Sage and catch the bus back to the Hotel. half board at the hotel was 73 CF and was good value, the room was great (not ensuite) and the food was excellent. I slept well that night  after my nights up in the mountains particularly after several large beers at 5.50 CF each. I felt really pleased with myself having got this far and achieved what I had set out to do.


Friday 28/09/06  The weather again was good and after breakfast at the Hotel I set off for the 10 km walk to La Sage. The path follows the wooded hillside for several kms  before coming out onto the open hillside at Lac Bleu, it was well named and quite a nice spot for a rest break, the path then descended past a small alp hamlet where refreshments were available and continued down to the village of La Gouille. the route then crossed the road and wound down the valley through meadows and forests eventually reaching Les Haudres. This was a large village and was somewhere I will have to return to for a good look round. After walking through the village the path climbed steadily up through the trees for several kms to the small village of La Sage, this was the end of my walk for this year and will be my starting point for the next section which I will hopefully return to complete next year. As it was still early I decided to walk back to Les Haudres to catch the bus back to Arolla. There is a bus service but the village was very quiet and the walk back was all downhill. About halfway back the rain started and it was on with the waterproofs for the rest of the walk back to Les Haudres. The rain was heavy enough to make me seek shelter on the outskirts of the village  until it eased off. The bus arrived promptly and I had an enjoyable ride back to Arolla. Back at the hotel I spent an hour repacking all my walking gear back into my rucksack ready to start the journey home the next day.


Saturday 29/07/06 The Easyjet flight leaves Geneva at 1245hrs each day and I did not think it would allow me enough time to catch the plane after travelling from Arolla so I planned to stay  the night in Geneva and catch the plane home on Sunday.  After breakfast I caught the 0825hrs bus from the village square to Sion (fare 19.80CF) where I arrived at 0945hrs. The bus terminus was outside the train station so it was just a short walk into the station where I bought a train ticket (fare 47CF) for Geneva Airport, the train left at 1005hrs, there was plenty of room on the train and I had a very enjoyable journey watching the Swiss countryside speeding by. The train arrived at Geneva Airport at 1215hrs and although I had seen a Hotel on the Internet which was quite close to the Airport I wondered if I could find another hotel nearby.  I enquired at the Tourist Information Counter in the Arrival hall and they recommended  a Hotel close by called the Nash Airport Hotel, the price was 100CF for bed and breakfast plus 5CF booking fee. Within 15 mins a minibus arrived to collect me and other guests, many of whom were pilots and cabin staff who apparently stay there when off duty. The hotel was excellent with clean and modern rooms with a good public bus service (fare 3CF) into the centre of Geneva which was about 3 kms away. I spent a pleasant afternoon exploring Geneva and then it was back to the Hotel for the evening.


Sunday 30/07/06. As the airport was close I decided to walk to the Airport where I had to wait an hour for the check in to open, the flight left at 1245hrs Swiss time and arrived back at Liverpool at  1345hrs. An excellent flight  and after being picked up from the airport by my son it was back to reality.

Looking back on the holiday I will treasure all those moments. The mountains I crossed. the people I met, the places I stayed, all wonderful memories. I am glad that I made the decision to go,  and look forward to returning next year to complete the walk to Zermatt, starting this time in La Sage

Equipment  

Lowe Alpine Rucksack 35 litres

Brasher Walking Boots

Sprayway Fleece

Zip off walking trousers

Spare pair of shorts

Lightweight trousers for evening wear

Lightweight shoes for evening

3 T shirts

Short sleeved shirt best shirt

1 Long sleeved shirt

Rab Micro fleece Sweatshirt

Food was purchased daily

2 litre Platypus water container only full when on the long stretches, plus a 75cl water bottle

2 Digital cameras Fujifilm 602 Zoom and small compact Nikon 5600

 

The weight was just over 20lbs without food and water and everything carried was necessary although I did not use the sweatshirt and gloves I would still recommend carrying them. I had generally good weather throughout but there were occasional  storms in the late afternoon

3 pairs of walking socks

3 pairs of lightweight socks for evening

4 pairs underpants

Sleeping bag liner (silk - very light) and pillow case

Lightweight waterproof trousers and jacket

Travel towel and toiletries

Compass, whistle, maps and guidebook

Head torch, compass and sunglasses

Sun cream

Mobile phone and charger

Binoculars

2 Cameras - Fuji film 602 Pr0 Zoom and small Nikon Coolpix 5600

Spare AA batteries for cameras

Hat and gloves

Leki Malaku Walking Pole

Map - Mont Blanc Grand Combin 1:50 000 - Number 5003 by Swisstopo - this covers the route from Chamonix to Arolla. The scale was OK but I would prefer a larger scale for the higher parts of the walk, particularly the crossing of the Grand Desert.

 

 

  Costs and links   Costs
BMC Treking Insurance           Covers you for Treking in the Alps                            Don't go without it £27.00 £27.00
Easyjet Flight Liverpool to Geneva plus Easyjet Insurance                                        Great flight £223.43 £223.43
Transfer from Geneva to Chamonix by ATS - one way -                                           Door to door - Hassle free £30.42 £30.42
Accommodation in Chamonix at Gite Le Vagabond - Bed and breakfast                     Good value 20.90 euros £14.01
Accommodation at Hotel de la Forclaz - Half board room with en suite                    Good location on pass 100 cf £46.08
Pension en Plein Air in Champex - Half board                                                          Good value 77.50 cf £35.71
Hotel du Gietroz in Le Chable - Bed and Breakfast - ensuite                                    Quiet 80 cf £36.86
Cabane Du Mont Fort  - Mountain Refuge - Half board                                            Great views 80 cf £36.86
Cabane de Prafleuri - Mountain Refuge - Half board                                              Great views 59 cf £27.18
Hotel Du Glacier - Arrolla - 2 nights half board - not ensuite 77.25CF per night      Great location 154.50 cf £71.19
Journey - Arolla to Sion - bus 19.80 CF - Sion to Geneva train 47 CF                      Great journey 66.80 cf £30.78
Nash Airport Hotel - Geneva - 100 CF bed and breakfast plus 3.47 booking fee      Modern and next to Airport 103.47 £47.68
  Approximate costs for nine nights of a superb walking holiday   £627.20
  Costs are based on an exchange rate at the time of 2.17 Swiss francs to the pound - Euros 1.41 to the pound. I could have done the trip for less cost if I had booked my flight earlier in the year and saved 50% of the flight cost. There were occasions where I could have stayed in cheaper accommodation and saved money but looking back I think I made the right choices.  I have not included refreshments such as beer, coffee and snacks.
       

Photos of the Walk

   Saturday 22/07/06

Gite Le Vagabond in Chamonix - A friendly relaxed 150 year old oak beamed and stone built hostelry

Bed and breakfast in a four bed room was 19.40 plus a laundry charge of 4 euros for laundering for up to a 7 night stay

   
This is it - the starting point for weeks walk the statue in the square at Chamonix

 

   
The path winds through the woods on the way to Argentiere

 

   

Looking back at the Mont Blanc range

 

   
This is the border between France and Switzerland
   
The refuge on the Col de Balme on the border between France and Switzerland
   
After leaving the Col du Balme and as you get down the valley towards Trient there is a great  view of the Glacier du Trient on your right
   
Looking down towards Trient - The Hotel du Col de La Forclaz is halfway up the hillside
   
The Hotel du Col De La Forclaz - 100cf  for a single room en suite with demi pension (half board)  - excellent meal in the evening
   

Summary      Distance 22km - height gain 1167metres - Started at 0900hrs and had a  good days walking along  paths which wound their way along the Chamonix Valley through Argentiere and Le Tour. As I had previously crossed the Col De Balme on foot I took the cable car up from Le Tour (11 euros) this saved me a little time and I was able to have a look around Trient before walking up to the hotel on the pass. I arrived at 1615hrs just before a massive thunderstorm arrived, the air was full of thunder, lightning, hailstones and torrential rain. very exciting when viewed from your hotel room.


Sunday 23/07/06  
A barn on the Alp Bovine route, there was someone playing the Alpine horn here and it echoed around the mountainside. Absolutely fascinating
   
Alp Bovine - a good place for refreshments and what a view while you relax
   
The views after you leave Alp Bovine are even better
   

Pension En Plein Air good dortoir and rooms 72 cf for half board and I had a twin bedded room to myself

   

Summary         Distance 15k - height gain 876km - 5½hrs of walking. I chose to use the Alp Bovine Route as I had already crossed the Fenetre d' Arpette in 2004 when I completed the Tour Du Mont Blanc. Although not as spectacular as the high pass the Alpine Bovine Route was enjoyable with good views, it started in the forest near Col de la Forclaz and then crossed open hillside near Alp Bovine, I stopped here for lunch and then the path carried on around the hillside with great views before descending steeply through the forest and then following valley footpaths and minor roads into Champex 


Monday 24/07/06  
The track between Champex and Sembrancher
   
Looking down from the track at the haymaking in the fields below
   
Further on along the track heading towards Sembrancher
   
This is the beautiful little chapel of St Jean on the hill overlooking Sembrancher
   
Sembrancher below and Le Chable is behind the hillside on the right. The track is on the right of the picture before it disappears into the forest
   
I stayed here at the Hotel Du Gietroz - 80cf for bed and breakfast with en suite room. It was very clean and  quiet
   

I had my evening meal here with other walkers I had met on the trail.  It was next door and they stayed here and said it was fine, and they also reckon they had a full English breakfast, I was envious!

 

   

Summary          Distance 13km - height gain 104metres - about 4 hours walking through rural Switzerland, you pass through several small villages which are very pleasant. Lunch of bread and cheese from a small shop in Sembrancher. An enjoyable walk during which I met some other walkers doing the same route. They were Ben and Anthony from the south of England, Kammila and Eungne from Denmark and Shuam from Hong Kong. Hope I've got all the names correct, I enjoyed there company and friendship during the coming days.


Tuesday 25/07/06  
Leaving Le Chable the route winds it way up through the village streets

 

   

Looking back down on Le Chable

 

   
Although most of the walk today is up hill when you stop to rest you get a great view back down into the valley
   

Another pause to get my breath back

   
The view down the valley, Le Chable below and Sembrancher out of sight down the valley

 

   
A level bit on the mountainside, the bisse path I had just come along can be seen curving around the mountain

 

   
The Cabane Du Mont Fort - My accommodation for the night - very comfortable I had a 2 bedded room to myself - Half board was 70 CF. The evening meal was excellent and consisted of vegetable soup, mixed salad, spaghetti Bolognese, followed by chocolate mousse.

There was another storm about 5.00pm with thunder and lightning

 

   
   
View from the terrace of the Cabane Du Mont Fort, the path from the refuge goes up to the Col De la Chaux which is the alternative route to the tomorrow nights refuge - The Cabane De Prafleuri

 

   
The view North west from the terrace of the Cabane Du Mont Fort
   
A nice clean bed in the small 2 bedded room

 

   
Summary - An uphill day today - 1636 metres of ascent in 9 km, the weather was ideal and although it was mostly uphill it was an enjoyable day, it was just a case of keep plodding along and enjoying the magnificent views. A good rest stop about half way up is Clambin where there are good refreshments available
   

Wednesday 26/07/06  
Myself and the friends I met along the way just before we set off for the Cabane Prafleur

Front row Shum from Hong Kong and Ben from the South Coast

Back row Eungne and Kammila from Denmark, Anthony from the South Coast and myself

   
Looking back up at the Cabane Du Mont Fort where I had just spent the night
   
Looking back along the path towards the Cabane Du Mont Fort which is perched on the raised ground in the centre of the picture
   
This appeared to be the result of last nights storm and was clearly where the water and debris had been swept down the mountainside, it was a like a plowed furrow that went straight down to the valley below

It was an incredible sight  and there were many more  like this on this section of the walk

 

   
Kammila and Eungne crossing one of the results of last nights storms

I would not like to have been anywhere near this area last night

Quote from Kev Reynolds book  Chamonix to Zermatt - The Walkers Haute Route

"On this walk you are witness to the ceaseless toil of erosion. The mountains are dying, falling apart and to wander through their scenes of destruction is a sobering experience"

 

   
Looking back along the path after we had rounded the corner

 

   
Looking along the path I was a bit apprehensive about where the path climbed up over the shoulder but it was a lot easier than it looked once I got up to it - Part of the Grand Combin is in the distance

 

   

Rest stop on the Col Termin

 

   
Col Termin 2648m with Grand Combin in the distance
   
The path from the Col Termin towards Col Du Louivue which is the low point on the ridge, about 1½ hrs away
   
Further along the path
   
Another view of the Col Du Louvie
   
Looking back from the Col Du Louvie 2921m to the Col Termin which is the notch at the bottom of the ridge that slopes down from the peak
   
While having a break on the Col Du Louvie I glanced up at the peak above and spotted this Ibex, this is taken with the zoom lens
   
On the Col Du Louvie with the Grand Desert behind me. This is a barren wilderness of screes, moraine and the glacier coming down from Rosablanche on the right of the picture just out of sight.

Its an exciting place to be and was one of the highlights of my trip

   

I followed this walker down the snow slope and about halfway down I slipped and slid on my bottom all the way down the the slope much to the amusement of other walkers. Only my pride was hurt, but it just goes to show mishaps can happen anytime. I must have slid 20-30 metres and just came to rest at the bottom when the snow changed to scree

   

A glacial lake in the middle of the Grand Desert, the recommended route goes to the left of the lake but as the glacier had receded well back from the lake we crossed to the right, it was fine but there were several fast flowing and ice cold streams to negotiate.

The whole route is marked with frequent markers and on the far side there is an enormous waymark painted on a boulder. In the picture you can just see a small white speck just over halfway up the slope. This is the very important marker stone and  in the case of bad weather is probably one of the most important waymarks you will ever see

   

The big marker on the other side of the Grand Desert. Note the wild flowers

   
A wild and beautiful area, this was one of the easy streams to cross
   
One of the fast flowing streams that were flowing down from Rosablanche
   
There are wild flowers everywhere in this inhospitable area
   

Plenty of markers along the route, very important as I would imagine in bad weather it would be very easy to miss some of them

   
Note the flowers  everywhere in the sheltered places

 

   
Another view looking back over the Grand Desert to the Col Du Louvie
   
A welcome sight, the highest I've climbed 2965m
   

Looking down from the Col De Prafleuri, there are two walkers crossing the quarry floor in the centre of the picture. apparently this quarry was solely for the purpose of providing material for the dam in the next valley, a true feat of engineering, More about that later

 

   

Cabane De Prafleuri

Half board was 56 cf - showers 3 cf - water was not drinkable and there was no phone available or mobile phone signal

Evening meal was excellent and consisted of Soup, mixed salad, pork in mushroom sauce with pasta strips and rice followed by Apricot and ice cream

   

There was another storm again tonight and looking out from the refuge showed swollen streams cascading down the mountainside. You can see the remains of the quarry workings quite clearly from here

There did not appear to be any access road to this refuge and I asked the guardian how they got supplies. She answered "through the tunnel" apparently a 2 km tunnel was constructed from this quarry to The Grand Dixance Dam.

The Dam which is the highest in Europe is 285 metres high and 700 metres long and holds back Lac Le Dix which contains 400 million cubic metres of water. Some photos of the lake are on the next days walk

 

   

One of the large beds in the room I stayed in, there were 9 on this side and 8 on the other. All very clean and modern but some light sleepers may need ear plugs

   
 

Summary      This day was the highlight of the trip so far, it took around 6½ hours but seemed longer, the views all along the route were spectacular and the crossing of the Grand Desert was something I will always remember. There were no roads or buildings anywhere in sight, just a line of markers, soaring peaks, fast flowing streams and wild flowers. A wonderful sense of the wilderness. This is one walk that I want to do again

   

Thursday 27/07/06  
A bright morning at the Cabane De Prafleuri
   

On the Col Des Roux  2804m which is 20 minutes from the Refuge. Lac Des Dix is below. The paths winds down the mountainside and then follows the lake shore to the top end of the lake. It then climbs upwards heading for the Col De Riedmatten

   

Heading down from the Col Des Roux

   

This was a tricky bit, the metal spar was part of the footbridge and it looked as if the rest had been swept away. To get across you had to  place your hands as far out as possible on the spar and then  jump. Not as difficult as it seems once you have done it

   
Refuge De la Gentiane La Barma on the shore of the lake
   

There is an inflow of water at the far end of the lake which pours out of a tunnel, quite impressive when you get up to it

   
The water level was quite low in the lake
   

Looking west at the end of the lake

   

The suspension bridge at the end of the lake

   
Another tricky bit crossing one of the ravines on the way to the Col De Reidmatten
   

Looking across the valley to the Cabane Des Dix which was one of the alternative routes on this walk

   
Looking south as we climbed higher - Mont Blanc de Cheilon
   

Still heading up

   

Another fine view of Mont Blanc de Cheilon

   

The low notch on the left is the Pas de Chevres, there are about 22 metres of steel ladders bolted to the rock face.

 I took the route over the Col De Riedmatten which is on the left before the Pas de Chevres

   

On the Col De Riedmatten, that is the Matterhorn on the skyline. Easily identifiable before the cloud drifted across This was the only time I caught a glimpse of the final destination. As soon as you drop down of the Col you lose sight of it.

Next year with a bit of luck I hope to finish the walk in Zermatt

   
Another view of the Matterhorn peeping out from the clouds
   

Heading down the valley towards Arolla

   
Looking back up the valley towards the Col De Riedmatten
   
I stayed here for the Thursday and Friday nights at the Hotel Du Glacier. Very nice - 73CF for half board - not en suite but very comfortable
   
Summary    Another very enjoyable day with good weather, after crossing the Col Des Roux there was the pleasant walk alongside Lac Des Dix and then the climb up over the Col De Riedmatten and down to Arolla - about 6½ walking

Friday 28/07/06 Arolla to La Sage  
After leaving Arolla the path follows the hillside through some very attractive woods
   

Looking back towards Arolla

   
The path passes Lac Bleu - you can see where it gets its name
   
Further along the trail towards Les Hauderes
   
Just below Lac Bleu there is a tiny alp hamlet called Louche where refreshments were available
   

Another view of Louche from below

   
The track on the hillside heading towards Les Hauderes
   
A small Chapel at the roadside, note the climber on the rocks behind
   

Looking down on Les Hauderes

   

The minor road heading down towards Les Hauderes

   

The village of Les Hauderes

   

Another view in the the village of Les Hauderes

   
A typical farm building built on the raised pillars to deter rodents
   

The minor road leads up towards La Sage

   
The road in the centre of La Sage - The path for the next stage of the journey to Cabane De Moiry starts here
   
Journeys end for now. The valley I had just come down from Arolla is on the right of the picture.

The walk to Zermatt from La Sage starts here

   
 

Summary - The walk from Arolla to La Sage took around 4 hours and was a pleasant end to the first part of my walk. I had completed around 99 kms in seven days. The walk passed through a great variety of scenery and I am looking forward to completing the rest of the walk next year

   

 

Return to main page  
   
   
 
 

David Preston Copyright 2002 - 2012