Day 5 Saturday 20 August Le Châble to Cabane du Montfort

Many of the Haute Route guided treks suggest getting the cable car up to Les Ruinettes followed by a short walk to the Cabane. It would be quite easy to get to Montfort from Champex if you don’t have a leisurely lunch and take the cable car. Reynold’s guide said the walk is quite nice so that is what I decided to do. A 1600 metre climb would also test my knee.

Le Châble has a modern centre adjacent to a river but once you get into the rambling side streets there is a mixture of new houses and old wooden chalets. One old wooden chalet was resting on saddle stones

After winding my way between chalets I took a path that ran steeply up through the village of Fontenelle. Someone had built a ramp to allow their cat access to a catflap in an upstairs window

I continued to gain height and reached a small mountain road. I followed the road to the chapel of Les Verneys

I continued down the road for a couple of hundred metres and then turned on to a path that entered woodland. The path climbed steeply but continued in the general direction of the valley, presumably to curve around the cliffs that I had seen yesterday. Every so often there were gaps in the trees allowing me to see the valley.

Looking down the Bagnes valley

The path flattened out and I continued for about 2km to a path junction. Here I turned steeply uphill. The climb seemed to go on forever but eventually I emerged into a clearing by some chalets. The path curved round to the west and contoured around the valley to another junction where I turned steeply uphill again to reach the hamlet of Clambin

I stopped at a restaurant here for lunch. On a clear day Mont Blanc is visible but it was hidden in the cloud today. So much for meteoswiss forecast for the cloud to clear by 12:00. There were good views to the ski resort of Verbier and down to the valley. This was a popular place and it was soon full. I had a delicious duck salad and a beer. The salad was huge, it would have fed Angela and I. Of course I managed to finish it. It was expensive though, the bill was 28€.

I returned to the trail and continued steeply uphill. For the next few kilometres the path went alongside a very narrow and steep mountain bike track. There were a lot of bumps and tight turns. The bikers attempting it had a lot of safety gear on including full face helmets. I will stick to walking.

Eventually I arrived at a ski run. Something must be wrong! There is no snow, I have no skis and I am going uphill. I took the ski run up to a path junction. Visibility was poor here because I was in the cloud. I took a path that ran alongside a bisse (artificial water channel) on a fairly level course.

There was the sound of cow bells coming out of the mist. Then I could hear drum beats. A little further and techno music filled the air. I mused on the idea that the cows were having a rave. Back in the real world, there was a dance music festival, an annual event, at the base of one of the Verbier ski lifts below me on the east side of the ski area.

The cloud finally started to lift showing the grassy mountainside that I had been walking across. Soon the path began to climb again, gently this time, and I had my first view of the refuge of Montfort

The mountain huts are very variable. Some are unmanned and just offer shelter, a bit like a Scottish bothy. The ones I will stay in are all staffed and offer dormitory type accommodation, food and usually a fantastic view. Washing facilities are variable. Montfort does have showers but at a cost of €6 for 2 minutes. The food is usually wholesome and plentiful, apparently it is brought up by helicopter.

Inside of Cabane du Montfort
Looking towards Mont Blanc at dusk

Walking in the alps is popular the world over and there is isually an international clientele. Today these included an English group with small children who had just walked up here for the night but most were doing the Haute Route or part of it. I met a Maltese man who did a lot of trekking and was partly camping and partly staying in huts. I would see him on and off for a few days. I also met Felix (German), a software guru, and Thora, an Icelandic viola player who live in Amsterdam. We would see each other continually over the next 10 days as they were doing the same Haute Route stages as I.

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