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A tour around the Tour du Mont Blanc - Day 8, Champex to Col de La Forclaz

Descending towards Trient with the Fenetre d’Arpette and the Glacier du Trient behind.

A beautiful and varied day today. Initially descending through some pretty Swiss hamlets before climbing steadily through the forest to gain a high vantage point above Martigny with excellent views up the Rhône Valley.

Depending on which route you decide to take there could be quite a difference in the time today. If you are on the Bovine route then look to walking for around five to six hours for about sixteen kms, with 750m of ascent and 700m of descent. However the alternative route over the Fenêtre d’Arpette is a much more serious undertaking and will take more like seven hours with about 1200m of ascent.

Overview of today's choice of route. The Fenêtre d’Arpette route is in blue.

Bovine route

Follow the road out of Champex through the hamlets Champex d’en Haut and Champex d’en Bas. Take a sharp left turn (signposted) and traverse through some beautiful woodlands until you reach Plan de l’Au where you can buy some welcome refreshments.

Carry on through the trees with the path getting slightly steeper. After a while, there is a short descent followed by a fairly steep climb until you reach the tree line. From here, there is a short traverse until you get the Alp Bovine which serves some magnificent local food!

The end of the Bovine path at the Col de la Forclaz.

A short rise beyond Bovine, takes you to the gradual descent through larch and pine woods before reaching the Col de la Forclaz. If you decide you would rather stay in Trient it is only another 30 minutes further.

Fenêtre d’Arpette Route

This is a serious mountain crossing and should only be attempted in good and settled weather. It is a physically demanding day with steep and exposed ascents and descents.

From the west end of the village, follow the road to the left fork for Arpette, then walk up beside the piste before climbing pleasantly through some woods to reach Arpette (1627m).

Continue on the track which slowly climbs through open woodland, crossing the stream several times and ascending up the side of the moraine. After a short level section, the path again heads up and right, climbing higher in to the mountains.

The Fenêtre slowly reveals itself as a narrow gap in the ridge line above. After negotiating some boulders, where the faint track is marked by small cairns, there is a final steep and loose path before finally arriving at the Fenêtre d’Arpette (2665m).

Here you are rewarded with amazing views over the Trient Glacier and it’s hard not to spend time staring at this amazing sight before you. It’s worth scrambling up a short distance to the left to avoid resting in the actual pass, which is narrow and can get quite busy.

The descent is straightforward but care must be taken not to dislodge loose rocks onto parties below. The ever present Trient Glacier adds to the atmosphere and you can sometimes witness ice fall from the snout of the glacier, which is quickly receding.

After around two hours of descent you reach the buvette at Chalet du Glacier and the end of the main descent.

To reach the Col de la Forclaz, follow the path for approximately foty five minutes to the col.

Have a fabulous day.

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