Switzerland 2014

Thursday July 3, 2014
Leukerbad, Martigny, and Champex

Friday July 4, 2014
Hiking from Champex to Trient

Saturday July 5, 2014
Hiking from Trient to Le Tour, then bus & train to Zermatt

Pension au Plein Air champex lac

Pension au Plein Air, Champex Lac

Friday morning the weather was decidely overcast.  It was one of those days where you were pretty sure you'd get rained on if you were crazy enough to hike up into the mountains. 

I started walking up the street to find the Tour de Mont Blanc, which overlaps Haute Route in this area.  I soon found the ski lift up to Grand Plans along with the parking lot for the lift.  There were signs literally everywhere pointing out different trails, but I couldn't find my trail. 
I also knew that several trails in the area would end up going up the Val d' Arpette, but I wanted the straightest most direct trail. I finally got out the GPS which told me that I'd somehow missed the trailhead  I walked back down the road and finally noticed the sign telling me to walk up the paved road toward Grand Plans.  A few hundred feet up the road another sign told me to turn right onto a trail that went under the Grand Plans ski lift.  Soon the trail went up into the trees and ran along a bisse (mountain irigation canal). 


After a while the bisse turned into a creek and the trail was difficult to find.  I had the turn on the GPS a few more times, which told me the trail followed the creek uphill.  Finally the trail merged with a two track dirt road, so route finding was no longer a challenge.


Looking back down the valley toward Champex.



For perhaps 20 or 30 minutes I believed this false summit may be the real summit.  I knew that I hadn't climbed or hiked anywhere near enough for this to be the summit, but it was certainly heartbreaking when I got to the top of this and couldn't even determine where the pass was.


Looking back down the valley toward Champex.

The road on the right goes up to the top of Grand Plans.

The trail behind me goes up toward Glacier d'Arpette.

8:33am - same spot at last picture, just looking up the trail toward FenÍtre d'Arpette.  You still can't see the pass from here.  While I was alone for perhaps the first hour of the hike, I had now caught up to a few parties of hikers.


Looking back down the valley toward Champex.  This was the start of the rocky terrian I had been warned about.  It didn't strike me as anything very challenging - almost no trail would to big a challenge compared to Monday's deathmarch.


I could finally see the entire trail and FenÍtre d'Arpette.


The snow crossing was not at all dificult, especially compared to the crossings I'd made earlier this week, but I still took the shortest possible path to minimize the chances of a fall or getting my cloths wet.

10:07am - FenÍtre d'Arpette.  These two hikers were part of a party of 8 Belgians.  They were quick to remind me that Belgium had just beaten the USA.  It took me a minute to realize they were talking about the World Cup loss last Tuesday.

10:09am - looking northeast toward Trient

10:17am - Glacier du Trient, which is really a spectacular icefall here.

10:18am  The hike down the east side was a steep scramble down a talus.  I must have seen 30 to 40 hikers on the trail - nothing like last Monday when I saw 6 people in 2 parties all day.

10:20am - Refuge Les Grands from across the valley on full zoom



I was making poor progress because I stopped to take so many pictures, but I was very happy the sun came out at just the right time so I could get pictures in sunlight instead of overcast glare.


Click here for a panorama of Glacier du Trient


12:22pm - The most direct route to France follows the trail up this unnamed valley to Refuge Les Grand before continuing over to Col de Balme.  I had seriously considered hiking this route to save a day, but decided that I didn't need another all day deathmarch like Monday.  I also didn't want to get rained on, and I also knew I wouldn't be able to get to the lift on the French side before it closed, so I'd be hiking all the way down the hill.  I also risked missing the last bus out of Le Tour.

12:22pm - I love the blue colors of the glacier.  I assume that the blue would never had been visible in bright sunlight.


12:40pm - Chalet du Glacier - the bridge over the glacier runoff is visible in the background on the left.  You can drive up a paved road most of the way up to the Chalet on the other side of the valley.

12:47pm - obligatory beer at the Chalet.  I had finally caught up to the Belgians again (not pictured).  They were headed across the bridge to hike up to Refuge Les Grands and over to Col de Balme.  They asked me to follow them but I declined.

1:02pm Bisse.  I didn't run into too many hikers on this path.

1:14pm Bisse, looking back up the mountain.

1:22pm - Looking up the valley to tomorrow's hike and Col de Balme, the final high pass on my reverse Haute Route.

1:49pm  The hike down seemed to take forever.  It took me nearly 4 hours to hike down 5 miles and 1400m vertical, but I had stopped plenty of times to take plenty of pictures.

1:57pm - I'm finally in Trient.  There are supposed to be two hotels in Trient, but I had no idea where they were.  I saw La Peute across the valley on the way down and decided to skip it - it appearred to be nothing more than a few homes and barns. 


The two hotels in Trient are side by side at the bottom of the village.  The Auberge Mont-Blanc Trient looked quite run down and had a large number of suitcases stacked outside, presumably for a party that was arriving later in the day.  I decided to spend the extra 10CHF to stay at the Hotel La Grande Ourse, which had clearly been renovated recently.  The exterior was resufaced and painted, while the entire interior was completely refurnished.  I splurged to get a room to myself again instead of spending the night in a dorm room.  I had arrived relatively early in the day, so I hiked back up to see the church and cemetary.  Almost all the headstones had the same 3 family names on them.  The town had no other businesses I could discern beyond the hotels, or at least no other businesses that are actually open more than a few hours a week.



I took a much needed shower.  The newly refurbished hotel missed a few details, like soap dispensers in the shower stalls.  Unfortunately they only had Swiss outlets, and my generic European adapters didn't fit into them, so I couldn't recharge my phone.

After a while it rained lightly.  The World Cup quarterfinals between Germany and France were on, and many of the guests crowded the bar and common area to watch the first half before dinner was served at 7pm.  I ate with a German couple and a married Swiss woman who was hiking part of the TMB alone. The Germans poked fun at the way Swiss speak German, accusing them of speaking it in a sing-song fashion.  I was happy that everyone at my table spoke English so I could participate in the conversation.  Dinner was salad, local fish and rice, and local apricot pie for desert, and it may have been the best meal I ate in Switzerland - it was fantastic.


Kent visited Brig on his way back to Zermatt...

Thursday July 3, 2014
Leukerbad, Martigny, and Champex

Friday July 4, 2014
Hiking from Champex to Trient

Saturday July 5, 2014
Hiking from Trient to Le Tour, then bus & train to Zermatt