Three treks in the Valais that were not meant to be

Lac de Moiry from the Sassenaire ridge

Lac de Moiry: all three treks pass along its dam

Last year the planning of the by now traditional annual hiking trip ended up being a bit complicated. First, I wanted to tackle the Gran Paradiso, but no one wanted to join me. Then I had to get through three routes for a trek in the Valais, before finally settling on a fourth one. Although I never hiked the three discarded routes, I think they are still great trip options.

1. Tour of the Matterhorn

The tour of the Matterhorn is a circular trek around the iconic Swiss mountain. We initially got lured into thinking that we could do the trek in the six days we had available for hiking by Lonely Planet (if we left out the last hike to Täsh). However, on closer inspection the Lonely Planet trek seemed a bit crazy.

Although the Lonely Planet trek doesn’t fully complete the circuit and makes use of the bus to skip one day of walking (from Villa to Arolla), the route still seemed too ambitious when compared with the information in Kev Reynolds’s Walking in the Alps (9 – 10 days to complete). Maybe the LP itinerary is doable with just day packs, though I am still puzzled by the discrepancy between Lonely Planet and Kev Reynolds when it comes to the need for glacier equipment.

Tour of the Matterhorn

A reasonable route for hikers carrying all their equipment including glacier gear could look like this:

Day 1: St. Niklaus (1, 116 m) – Gruben (1, 818 m)

Day 2: Gruben (1, 818 m) – Zinal (1, 675 m)

Day 3: Zinal (1, 675 m) – Evolène (1, 371 m)

Day 4: Evolène (1, 371 m) – Arolla (1, 968 m)

Day 5: Arolla (1, 968 m) – Rifugio Prarayer (2, 015 m)

Day 6: Rifugio Prarayer (2, 015 m) – Breul-Cervinia (2, 006 m)

Day 7: Breul-Cervinia (2, 006 m) – Rifugio Teodulo (3, 317 m)

Day 8: Rifugio Teodulo (3, 317 m) – Zermatt (1, 615 m)

Day 9: Zermatt (1, 615 m) – St Niklaus (1, 116 m) (via the Europaweg)

2. A Matterhorn horseshoe

Clouds in the Alps

Above clouds on the Sasseneire ridge: is that the Matterhorn in the distance?

When the real duration of the Tour of the Matterhorn became apparent, we decided to take a leaf from the Lonely Planet book of tricks and substitute a part of the trek with trips on public transport. This was our trek option no. 2:

Day 1: Zinal (1, 675 m) – Lac de Moiry (2, 290 m) (following arrival on public transport from Visp)

Day 2: Lac de Moiry (2, 290 m) – Les Hauderes (1, 452 m) (+ a bus ride to Arolla)

Day 3: Arolla (1, 968 m) – Rifugio Nacamuli Collon (2, 818 m)

Day 4: Rifugio Nacamuli Collon (2, 818 m) – Rifugio Perucca Vuillermoz (2, 878 m)

Day 5: Rifugio Perucca Vuillermoz (2, 878 m) – Rifugio Teodulo (3, 317 m)

Day 6: Rifugio Teodulo (3, 317 m) – Zermatt (1, 615 m) (followed by a public transport ride to Visp)

3. Across the Valais

Glacier de Moming

Glacier de Moming on the way to Cabane d’Arpitetta

Unfortunately trip no. 2 never became reality, because our friends couldn’t join us at the end. Now being just the two of us, Constantin and I didn’t want to cross glaciers on our own and so a third trip route was required. With the help of a hiking guide to the Valais, which I got from the DAV library, I arrived at route no. 3.

Day 1: Lourtier (1, 070 m) – Cabane de Louvie (2, 230 m) (arrival on public transport from Sion)

Day 2: Cabane de Louvie (2, 230 m) – Cabane de Prafleuri (2, 660 m)

Day 3: Cabane de Prafleuri (2, 660 m) – Arolla (1, 968 m) (+ a bus ride to Evolène)

Day 4: Evolène (1, 371 m) – Lac de Moiry (2, 290 m)

Day 5: Lac de Moiry (2, 290 m) – Cabane d’Arpitetta (2, 786 m)

Day 6: Cabane d’Arpitetta (2, 786 m) – Cabane de Tracuit (3, 256 m)

Day 7: Cabane de Tracuit (3, 256 m) – Zinal (1, 675 m) (departure on public transport to Sion)

When it came to it, route no. 3 also had to be adjusted. The weather was pretty bad in the Valais last year in mid August. Two days before we were planning to set off, there were thunderstorm warnings for the first two days of this route. Sometimes plans are just not meant to come true.

We decided to cancel day 1 altogether and significantly shorten day 2. In the end we spent six days meandering around the Haute Route.

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