This morning I had to decide whether to take the Fenetre d’Arpette route on the Tour du Mont Blanc – from Trient to Champex Lac in Switzerland. Or whether to take the lower and shorter Alp Bovine route.
The day dawned clear again and the forecast was for a hot day – the hottest so far. The concern would be carrying enough water for the more than six hours hiking at altitude. I would have to buy food supplies at the Col du Forclaz and I was still weighing up the options as I walked uphill through the trees from Le Peuty.
As I gained the high path I had views down over Trient village with its pink church.
As usual, I met no one going in a clockwise direction for the first part of the walk. Then I met a couple of Danes I had chatted to the day before and that settled it – I would walk via the Alp Bovine with them.
Although my policy was always to travel high, I was worried about the heat and lack of water on the Fenetre d’Arpette route. By 8.30am it was already very warm climbing the mont blanc trail.
This is the Pays de St Bernard canton of Switzerland and what do you think was the first creature I saw? He was arthritic and suffering from the heat but he was a magnificent St Bernard dog, out for a family walk.
The Alp Bovine route climbs and skirts the foothills for a few hours before breaking free of the forest for good at a viewpoint where you can see the bright umbrellas on the open alm that spell COFFEE. Also a delectable tarte framboise and a tasty rosti! I was a very happy hiker.
This lovely old family-run hut enjoys expansive views of the Rhone Valley, including the town of Martigny. They have solar power and cook over a wood stove. Decoration is mainly in the form of cowbells and children’s drawings. The herd of black cows typical of this region scuffed up dust on the summer pasture.
This day’s walk on the Tour du Mont Blanc was a very different experience from the previous three. Not just because it was gentler; it was far less dominated by big mountains, rather wandering through forest and pastureland. It is a different kind of alpine hiking but wholly pleasant.
There is another café stop at Plan d l’eau, where omelette and coffees were imbibed. In fact this day on the TMB is more about sitting in cafes punctuated by walking. From here there are views of the Dents du Midi and Lac Leman.
The last part of this TMB day is through satellite villages approaching Champex, full of chalet farms with bright flowers in their window boxes. The meadows are being cut and laid flat and the scent of grass and flowers is that of summer. Despite this being a relatively easy day I was still plenty tired by the time I plodded in to Champex, perhaps because of the heat.
Champex Lac is absolutely heavenly. I walked around the lakeshore before dinner – this takes about half an hour, past the cigar-chomping fishermen. I wished I had packed a swimming costume to take a dip in the lake – the weather was certainly warm enough. Dark forests rise steeply around and white-capped peaks are on view at either end of the lake. This is a ski are in winter.
I stayed at Pension en Plein Air, from the windows and terrace of which you can see over flower meadows to the lake. The meals here were basic but plentiful (spaghetti bolognaise) and the dormitories comfortable.
I walked down to the lake again after dinner to watch the golden light and the mountains reflected in the calm lake.
By Natasha von Geldern
Here is my day by day account of hiking the TMB:
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