Alpine Pass Trail – Week 5

A new week began and sadly it was the last one. The trail has come to an end and what an end it was. I couldn’t imagine a better end for my hiking summer! But let’s begin where I ended on the last post.

Day 29 – Cabane Brunet to Grand St. Bernard

I slept very well that night. Breakfast was at 7 o’clock, so I got up shortly before and packed everything. The nice thing about sleeping in a hut is you’re so fast with packing. I wasn’t used anymore to get up that early. The breakfast buffet was alright, but not outstanding. When I looked out of the window the sky was clear and I saw glacier mountain tops! I started hiking around quarter to eight. Firstly it went on road downhill to go just after uphill again. It was nice to start hiking early again because I love hiking in the morning! I didn’t see any other person the whole morning and also very little the whole day. The trail to Col de Mille was kinda flat and there were nice views down to the valley. After a steep ascent to the pass, the views were incredible!! I made a short snack break to enjoy the view 🙂 I was really good on time, I could already see the village I walk to. The stage was only to the village of Bourg St. Pierre. The trail down there leads first on the mountainside overlooking the whole valley, just amazing! I listened to music and was in the flow. I saw the town of Champex Lac where I walk through in a day. Instead of going straight to Champex Lac, the trail went over the Pass of Grand St. Bernard into the Valley Ferret. In Bourg St. Pierre it was only 2 pm and I wasn’t sure to call it a day or not. It would be a short day, so I continued without really knowing were to camp. I also wanted to test out how far I can go in a day. The weather was better than I expected. Dark clouds were covering the sky, but luckily no rain. So I continued walking towards the Pass of Grand St. Bernard. The trail markers said 4 hours to the Pass, but I aimed for less. Normally the time on the markers is quite good calculated and often I was faster. Out of Bourg St. Pierre, the trail followed a dirt road up to a dam, which took me about an hour. I was sweating a lot because of the uphill and the warm temperature. My shirt started to smell bad… It has been already some days since I washed my stuff. The trail went on slightly uphill and always in sight the road that leads up the pass. My motivation wasn’t so high because of that. But I hiked on and on. The scenery around me was beautiful. I walked by some cows and crossed the road a few times till I was at the pass. It took me longer than I thought and I was really tired when I finally reached the pass. On the Grand St. Bernard Pass is a very historic Monastery located and the famous Saint Bernard dogs are from there! Because I didn’t reserve anything I had to ask if I could sleep there. The monks were nice, we drank tea first and then he showed me around. I showered and washed my stuff until dinner was ready. At dinner, I met a guy who walked the red Via Alpina. He didn’t speak much English and I don’t speak French at all, so the conversation was only little. I would have loved to ask him more about his hike. It was one of these moments, where I wished I would speak french. After dinner, I went straight to bed. I was so tired! 

Day 30 – Grand St. Bernard to Champex Lac

I slept like a baby all night. But in the morning I woke up to the noise of the other people in the dormitory. Some people were already packing their bags an hour before breakfast… I have no idea what they did for an hour! I tried to enjoy a few more minutes in bed and finally got up when I heard music in the hallway. It was not just any music, it was music from Enya. Somehow it fitted so perfectly to the atmosphere of a monastery! Before I went downstairs, I packed my things. At the table, I felt exactly like yesterday. The other hiker and I sat together with some monks. The conversation started, but unfortunately without me. All in all, it was a nice experience to stay there! Sure, very unique 🙂 The monk was not there when I wanted to pay, so I went to Italy on foot! Haha, that’s also very cool about this place, because it’s right on the border with Italy! The weather was beautiful in the morning. After a short stay on the other side of the lake, I went back to pay and finally started hiking. It was already after 9 am when I started for the first pass. The path led through bits of gravel slightly uphill. About one hour later I was on the pass and enjoyed the view. From here I could already see the next pass at the same elevation, but I had to go down and up again first 😉 I knew that the weather should not be so good in the afternoon, so I went on. The descent was steep and through loose gravel. I walked slowly and carefully to avoid falling, which can happen very easily in this terrain. On the ascent, to the second pass, I took a short snack break. After two hours of hiking, I was already hungry. The view from the pass was beautiful! I could see again the mountain range I saw the day before, only today it was right in front of me 🙂 The descent was steep again and through loose gravel. The dark clouds were getting more and more and so I walked past these three beautiful lakes. Since I got into a thunderstorm I am very careful with the weather. A little further down beside the path I had lunch on a flat spot with a view over the valley. Many people were on the trail today, the road was not far away. Soon after I walked on a dirt road and then on a road that led me to the village. It started to rain a little bit and I packed my camera in my backpack. In La Fouly I bought some snacks in the grocery store and then I went to a restaurant for coffee and cake! The weather didn’t get any better, so I stayed there for some time and called my family. In the restaurant was the cutest dog ever, I just had to pet him! When the rain stopped, I continued walking until I found a small hut not far from the village. I decided to spend the night there. Here I was protected from the rain and didn’t even have to put up my tent. I cooked dinner and some people wandered by. Now the Alpine Aass Trail is on the famous Tour de Mont Blanc. The shelter had no door to close and so I found some wood to put in front of the entrance. I was a little bit afraid that someone would come, although I know it makes no sense. Falling asleep was quite a challenge here… 

Day 31 – La Fouly to Champex Lac

I have to admit that I did not sleep much that night. During the night there was a thunderstorm and around 5 am the first people passed by with their headlamps. More and more people passed by, so I got up and had breakfast. At about 8 am, I started hiking. Surprisingly, the path was quite flat for a while! But the weather was not the best, after one hour it started to drizzle and I put on my rain jacket. It was a really cold morning, but I continued walking in my shorts. When I looked back, I saw the storm coming closer and closer! In a small village, there was a small restaurant, where I had a coffee to warm up and sit out the bad weather 🙂 I also checked the bus connection to Champex Lac in case the weather would not change. I was glad that it did, so I kept on hiking! Now on the Tour de Mont Blanc, I saw many other hikers, almost too many haha. The way up to Champex Lac was well maintained, I was not used to such a beautiful trail. It reminded me of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT)! I guess that is because I am now on the Tour de Mont Blanc. I was wrong, as I found out later. When I arrived in Champex Lac it was noon and I was hungry. So I was looking for a restaurant. I found a nice one and arrived just in time because the warm kitchen just opened! I ordered a quiche (a small paté with goat cheese and tomatoes) and a side salad. My stomach was always looking forward to a nice meal from the city 🙂 After a walk by the lake through the village I went to the campground. The reception was closed, but a sign said that you can put up your tent and check in later. There were other hikers, so I chatted with them. The couple I chatted with were from France and of course, they were hiking the Tour de Mont Blanc. I took a shower and washed my shirt. While I dried my shirt, I laid in the shade and relaxed. In the afternoon I went to the bakery near the campsite for coffee and cake. Today was a short hiking day, which is also very nice from time to time. When I came back, the campground became more and more crowded and there were other tents everywhere beside mine. I checked in at the reception and bought a beer and a bag of chips which I ate while cooking ramen. Also in the evening, more people came and the campground became full. Tomorrow was my last day on the trail, crazy! So I went to bed early and also because it started to rain.

Day 32 – Champex Lac to Le Chatelard

Today began a very special day, my last full day of hiking on the alpine pass trail, and with it the end of my hiking summer 2020! I slept well last night. It rained almost all night and my tent was soaking wet in the morning. I overslept a little and packed my things quickly. I had breakfast in the shelter before the reception. I started hiking at about 7.20 am, ahead of most of the others. My plan for today was to walk 1.5 stages so that I could reach my final destination. I made this decision because of the weather. It should be sunny and warm today and tomorrow, and then it should rain. So I planned to camp the last night in a very special place, but more about that later! Firstly it went downhill on a dirt road. It’s always bad to go downhill first because you know that it will surely go uphill again 😉 And so it was! In the beginning, the road was only slightly uphill. When the road ended, a very steep and stony trail led uphill, and the condition of the trail was really bad. Yesterday I thought that the trail on the Tour de Mont Blanc was well maintained, but I was wrong. I climbed up a trail with loose gravel and it sucked! In front of me, one guy even pushed his bike uphill. I thought it was impossible to ride down here. When I asked him why he was doing that, he said he was going to meet some people and take pictures with his bike… Funny fact is that I was faster than him when he pushed his bike up there 🙂 Soon some other mountain bikers came down the trail and stopped in front of me. The one guy told me that today there will be a mountain bike race on this trail. I had about one hour to reach the summit before the race started. I was glad that the guy told me about it. Otherwise, it could have been pretty dangerous. I hiked further and had a break just before the summit. It was perfect timing and the perfect place to watch the mountain bikers descend! They rushed down past me at high speed. It was not such a good trail and they just rode down as if nothing was wrong… Crazy, but cool to watch! I was walking further when many people already passed me. It was just a little bit uphill and then downhill to Col de Forclaz. The hike there was mostly through the forest and pretty steep downhill. On the pass, it was almost noon, and I continued walking because I had not even covered half of today’s mileage. I walked down to the village of Trient and had lunch there. I hoped to buy some snacks there, but there was no store in sight. So I ate everything I still had in my food bag. I can tell you, it was not much… During the meal, I also dried my tent 🙂 After the break, the last ascent was waiting for me. It was getting hot and I was sweating so much while walking uphill. I was in a hurry somehow, because I wanted to catch the last cog railway from Le Chatelard up to Lac d’Emosson. I had to climb 700 meters of elevation gain to get there, and about the same amount of elevation, I had to go down again on the other side. The path was steep, first in the forest, and then exposed to the sun. On the way there I set a new personal speed record. I covered 700 meters of altitude in 1.5 hours! I was impressed and also a bit proud of myself 🙂 Up there I could see the Lac d’Emosson on the other side of the valley. I was emotional for a moment, I made it back here! The place where I left the track after the rockfall incident. I didn’t give up, I changed the direction of the trail, and here I am back again. The last part was all downhill. On the ridge, it was quite windy, but as I continued downhill, the wind was not so strong anymore. I was flying walking downhill and very good on time! It was a steep descent, but nothing could have stopped me now! Walking through the village Le Chatelard was like going home. I was the happiest girl in the world! I made it, hell, yes!! It was only 4 o’clock when I went up to the Lac d’Emosson. I was the only one going up there, and it felt so cool that everyone else went the other way. When you go up there, you first take a cog railway, then a mini-train along the side to the mini funicular. I had everything to myself! In the restaurant, I ordered a big croute (slices of bread topped with cheese, tomatoes, and onions) and a big beer! Damn, was I hungry 😀 A friend gave me a tip for a great camp spot. It was next to the restaurant, on a hill. From here you should have a great view of the Mont Blanc! But in the evening the sky was cloudy and it even rained on me. I was hoping for tomorrow morning! In the evening I was texting with friends and enjoying my last evening 🙂 Today was a long day and I fall asleep as soon as I was in my sleeping bag! 

The next morning was one of the most magical sunrises I have ever seen! I woke up when I heard someone passing by my tent. Then I immediately went outside in my Puffy. What I saw was breathtaking! The sky was orange and the clouds were below me and I had the full mountain panorama! What an ending!

2 Replies to “Alpine Pass Trail – Week 5”

  1. Hello Johanna!
    Thank you so much for your stories about the Via Alpina in these strange times that many of us haven’t dared to travel to the Alps and hike themselves – like me. I have enjoyed your nice reports – and of course your wonderful pictures. You mentioned the “cutest dog ever” – I agree and I love the picture of that white fluffball!
    I wish you all the best for the time to come and I hope to read any post by you in the future!
    Best regards from the Netherlands.

    1. Hi Pauline, thanks for your kind words! I’m glad you enjoyed reading my blog 🙂 Hopefully, you can enjoy the Alps very soon again!

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