It was a long second day walking the Haute Route, lacking the spectacular scenery and sunshine of the first day. There was still plenty of interest though, particularly in the villages and towns passed through, and the scenery by any standards remained impressive. It was another big day, walking 34km, up ~1,000m and down ~1,500m.
The main Haute Route track is over the 2,665m pass at Fenêtre d’Arpette close to Trient Glacier. However last year I crossed this from the opposite direction in perfect weather as part of the Tour du Mont Blanc. Rather than repeat this, and given the distance I had to cover, I took the faster (though still very hilly) Tour du Mont Blanc route from Le Peuty to Champex.
From Le Peuty it was a short walk downhill to the much larger neighbouring village of Trient. The clear highlight here was the colourful church, out of scale for the village as it originally served a number of the surrounding villages.
It was my first visit to a Swiss cemetery, which are impressively decorative and varied in style compared to those in the UK or New Zealand.
The hills then kicked in, with a steep walk up to 1,562m high Col de la Forclaz, crossing over a funky footbridge.
Walking from Col de la Forclaz to almost Alps Bovine involved a relentless 400m climb. I was somewhat surprised therefore to be overtaken by three mountain bikers, until I spotted that they were using eBikes… it was tough enough in many places just to walk up.
It did offer good views of the Rhône Valley though, with the sizeable Martigny below clear to see.
Between Alp Bovine and Plan L’eau I lost all the altitude I’d worked so hard to gain earlier, and it was equally steep in places coming down. Coming the other way I passed by literally hundreds of people walking the Tour du Mont Blanc, plus a few horses…
Thankfully the morning rush finished before Plan L’eau, where there were some unexpected decorations.
There were some great views just beyond it, with the relatively common sight around here of a large cross being a photographic gift.
Heading back into the woods I came out at the seemingly holiday home filled village of Champex D’en Bas. I do love Alpine architecture, perfectly suited to their environment, and always looking inviting.
From here there was the start of a lot of road walking today, the most I’ve ever done on a hike. It was a mixture of sealed and unsealed road, but it’s still pretty dull to walk along, if fast.
I finished stage 3 at Champex, with a welcome lunch of three tarts (cheese, vegetable, fruit) at Boulangerie Tea-Room Gentiane.
Walking into Champex I noticed signage for Flore-Alpe, an Alpine Botanical Garden. Visiting this was probably the highlight of the day. It’s a quite lovely place, with flowers in full bloom in July, set over a steep hillside with views of Lake Champex.
The buildings on site were also quite beautiful.
With clouds and wind Lac Champex wasn’t nearly as photogenic as when I visited while walking the Tour du Mont Blanc.
From here the Haute Route and Tour du Mont Blanc go their separate ways, though it took me a second attempt to manage this as I headed the wrong way for ten minutes (downhill unfortunately). The Haute Route is generally well sign posted and the directions in Kev Reynolds book generally clear, but it only takes one wrong turn…
The afternoon was spent wandering along a pleasant valley, though numerous villages and towns, starting by passing over Chez Les Reuse.
The track goes straight through the attractive village of Sous La Lé, where some pretty serious roadworks stumped me for a few minutes, before I figured out another way through.
The next village of La Garde was larger, with a small chapel, and sprinklers over the track that I had to run under to avoid getting too soaked…
Sembrancher was much larger again, with a sizeable church and cemetery. It was also a bit of a nightmare to find the track to leave it by, taking me sometime to figure out. It was nearly 5pm by the time I left, with another 6km to walk.
It was pretty much all paved and unpaved road through to Le Châble with little to distract other than this impressive building, which could be a pump station, and reflections on this green quarry lake.
Le Châble was home to another attractive church and sizeable cemetery.
There are no refuges in Le Châble so I stayed in a BnB, enjoying the novelty of having my own room. I had dinner at the rather nice Cantaloupe restaurant, though the atmosphere was somewhat impacted by the roadworks underway right in front of me…