Chalet Val Ferret – Champex
Tuesday 18th August 2020
Today was another up, up, down and up. These guys know how to do it here….lets put a long distance hike right here crossing over three countries but let’s make it tough, the steeper the better and then for an even bigger giggle let’s put in two mountains a day for them to cross, let’s throw that in for a laugh and watch them squirm and then let’s have them hiking in over 30 degree heat just for the hell of it…..and so we began our walk heading upwards as it usually begins!
Today is a long day…roughly 9 hours. But the novelty of all of it (along with all of the above) is that we need to be at our refuges no later than 6pm or they can give your bed away. Phone ahead I hear you say, let them know your running late, but it’s not always the case that we have signal. So we leave sharp, 8am as I want my bed for the night.
Straight away we head upwards, just what you need first thing in the morning. I must admit views are amazing and once again I feel very lucky even on the steep climbs. Temperatures today are pretty reasonable which helps, alot!
We climb and climb and climb steeply until we thankfully reach the Grand Col Ferret.
At 8,323 feet, the Col Ferret is about the same height as Col de Seigne a few days earlier. This would have been the highest point of our hike in TMB if we hadn’t chosen to go to refuge Robert Blanc.
Today we also said our goodbyes, addio to Italy and finally arrived into Switzerland, bonjour! Even if we did not see this border crossing we could certainly hear it as the cows rung their merry bells and welcomed us back….I did say I would re-visit!
Even although we were on a tight schedule we sat taking in the exceptional views over the massif of Combins in the East and the Italian side of Mont Blanc. Words cannot explain what we witness each day as we walk.
Mountains always do something to me; it’s hard to explain but I guess they transform my perspective, enable me to think of my own place in the world and that somehow allows my petty troubles, worries and anxieties that I sometimes carry around with me – a different kind of rucksack I guess, invisible but sometimes feeling twice as heavy than the one I carry on my back with me now – dissappear.
One of the most pleasurable things about long distance hiking is the absence of everything online. No internet (well sometimes), no emails, not having to be accountable or contactable at all times of the day. No screen time – I LOVE IT!
The walk allows the time and space to re-engage and reconnect with the world, to slow down, tune into the natural rhythms of life, which for many of us are obscured by the unnatural intrusions of modern life. I would gratefully swap the glow of my computer screen or phone for the natural orange glow of mornings first light in these mountains. Life is short and we need to slow it down when we can.
From here the first stretch has some slight elevation change as you descend back into the Val Ferret and allows you to enjoy the sweeping views of the Massif and the Val Ferret.
In Switzerland, the big mountain views are replaced by a pastoral and agricultural setting. There is a charm to the Val Ferret, with cowbells often heard and tiny villages that seem to be stuck in time…I love it.
We stop here for lunch, sitting on the grass enjoying the sun and taking the weight of our backs, but 30 minutes was all we could afford as today we were on a tight schedule!
We travelled through one of the most beautiful valleys of Valais. Although there are few big mountain views here, there are several charming, quaint villages to pass through, with amazing architecture.
And so we continue to walk and walk on relatively flat(ISH) ground for a bit, we even have a slow descent, passing by Praz de Fort before arriving at the low point of the trek in Issert. Flowers, bees and butterflies make this tiny hamlet an interesting stop before your steady descent through a forrest laden with wooden gnomes and mushrooms.
We eventually start hiking upwards to the village of Champex and its lake, which will be home for tonight…and you’ll be pleased to hear, we got our beds!