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Valais Walking Circuit

Listed under Walking in Switzerland.

  • Photo of Valais Walking Circuit
  • Photo of Valais Walking Circuit
  • Photo of Valais Walking Circuit
  • Photo of Valais Walking Circuit
  • Photo of Valais Walking Circuit
  • Photo of Valais Walking Circuit
  • Photo of Valais Walking Circuit
  • Photo of Valais Walking Circuit
Photo of Valais Walking Circuit
Photo by flickr user Jeff Pang
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This was supposed to have been the opportunity for me to complete the remaining part of The Haute Route but it was not to be - I got out voted (one of the problems of living in a democratic society!)..

Part of our group of 19 camped in the tiny village of Pralong (highly recommended with an excellent restaurant on site) whereas those more in tune with warm beds and hot showers stayed in a hotel in Scion. Miraculously we all arrived at the barrage at the north end of Lac Dix within minutes of each other. (Incidentally this was, when constructed, the highest dam in the world and I believe still remains the third highest)

We cheated a little and caught the cable car to the top of the dam where we set off along the vehicle track to the head of the lake.

Here steep ground led up to glacial moraine (fixed chains on the steepest part) and this led after a few hours to the Dix Hut. The facilities and food here were excellent and I cannot recommend them highly enough.

An early start (0600) was required to avoid poor snow conditions later in the day. We descended fairly steep ground to the Glacier de Cheilon before climbing gradualy then steeply up beneath the Pointes de Tsena Reifien. These are best given a wide berth as we were accompanied by the sound of regular stone fall – most of us opted to wear helmets.

Just before the Col de Serpentine we turned east crossing steep snow to the Col de Brennay and on to the Pigne d’Arolla (3769m). It is essential to take a bearing to locate the correct col even in good visibility! By now the sun had softened the snow and the descent to the Vignettes was grim in thigh deep conditions!

The exposed rocky ridge leading to the hut is best described as interesting and most of our group opted for the less exposed (but just as hazardous) snow path to the north of the ridge.

Next day we had planned to reach the Chanrion hut via the Col de Brennay but we couldn’t face the tedious ascent at the start of the day! We opted for the “easier route” along the Glacier d’ Otemma although this does involve a rather tedious climb up Alpine pasture at the end of the day.

We had several cavers in our group who couldn’t resist a look in the tunnels below the snout of the glacier but these were found to be rather short (or flooded) and are not recommended.

On our final day we had planned to return to the Dix Hut via the Col de Lire Rose. We set off in fine spirits but in heavy rain accompanied by claps of thunder. As we approached the col the weather worsened and we were forced to retrace our steps rather than cross the final two glaciers in hazardous conditions. Electric storms in the Alps have no respect for climbers and we guessed that the snow bridges on the glacier would have been softened by the heavy rain and rather warm conditions.

A mainly downhill walk of around two hours in torrential rain and very strong winds ended at a hostelry where we took advantage of its offerings. Sadly we were now in the wrong place but thanks to the incredibly punctual Swiss ‘bus and train services we were reunited with our respective tents and hotels later that evening. A rather damp night followed but after a days drying out we managed to finish off our trip with a quick ascent of the Breithorn- suitable compensation for not completing our circular walk.

Written by  Ralph Johnson.

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