Col de la Forclaz to Champex via Fenêtre d’Arpette, Walker’s Haute Route Stage 3

The highlight of today’s hike is the climb to the Fenêtre d’Arpette (2665m) with fabulous views of the Trient glacier. In old photos it looks like the trail is nearly on top of the glacier. As it recedes, however, it’s becoming increasingly distant. Still it’s one of the more spectacular sights on the Chamonix to Zermatt route.

Day 3 – Col de la Forclaz to Champex via Fenêtre d’Arpette

Based on the Cicerone guidebook, “Chamonix to Zermatt: The Classic Walker’s Haute Route,” by Kev Reynolds

Distance : 14k

Elevation Gain: 1160m

Elevation Loss: 1199m

Time: 10 hours with frequent photo stops and a 30 minute break for lunch

We begin by retracing the 50 minute walk along the canal to Chalet du Glacier, a nearly level track, slightly uphill heading in this direction. It’s quiet leaving at 7:30 as we’re the first ones on the trail.

Once at the snack shop, Chalet du Glacier, we start the climb up to Fenêtre d’Arpette. For me, not yet used to the altitude, it’s a long 4 hour slog to the pass. The first part of the trail is through the brush and the occasional stand of trees before becoming completely exposed higher up. The way is generally well graded but there are steep sections as well as stairs built into the trail. Nearing the top the trail becomes steeper and rockier.

As you climb the views of the Trient glacier become better, with the top of the glacier coming into view as you near the pass. However, the glacier nearly disappears behind a rock outcropping once you reach  the pass.

As we near the top there are more and more hikers coming from Arpette. Around noon seems to be the busy crossing hour with many stopping for a lunch break at Fenêtre d’Arpette.

After lunch (1PM) we head down into the Arpette Valley. The first section is a long downhill, about 1300 meters, on a steep slippery dirt track. Once down the next section is a tedious boulder scramble where the route is not always clearly marked.

When the boulders finally diminish the valley walk remains rocky with the occasional rock scramble.

Note that we did no find water until we were at least an hour and half to two hours down from the pass.

Soon after a farm comes into view in the far distance the trail runs along a water source with stands of pink flowers in late summer. There is still another 2 hours or more to go heading through the brush, then down a road to Arpette and continuing alongside a creek and a canal to finally arrive in Champex.

Sleeping and Dining in Champex, Switzerland

Unfortunately our stop for the night, Hotel Alpina, was on the other side of town. A long walk along the lake after a hard day, but not inconvenient as the following day’s route begins at the trail just beyond to the hotel.

Hotel Alpina turned out to be one of the better finds on our two weeks in the Alps. The Swiss style chalet room was comfortable and spotless with balcony views overlooking the valley.

Marlene, the charming host, speaks the kind nice clear French that makes you feel like your rusty high school French is practically native fluent.

We booked the room with demi-pension. After the previous night’s experience I was worried that demi-pension might be a mistake, but here it was perfect.

The well thought out meal started with a beautifully cooked cod sandwiched between crispy wafers on a bed of eggplant puree and garnished with a red pepper sauce and spicy micro greens.

For the main a well-executed duck breast with its jus, garnished with grapefruit and accompanied by a ring of perfectly formed and cooked vegies and a lentil custard, more lentil than custard.

For dessert, apricots on rice pudding topped with soft billowing egg whites. The apricots were a little too tart but otherwise it was a perfect meal.

Breakfast was as good as dinner. A generous basket of rolls and croissants, yogurt, orange juice, cheese, ham, coffee made to order and the option of eggs cooked to your liking.

August 27, 2019

For links to all the posts in this series see the Chamonix to Zermatt page.