Monte  Rosa

Diaries of a Monte Rosa Circuit

Phil Nixon summarises his diary entries on a tour that incorporated part of the Grand Tour of Monte Rosa and most of the Tour of Monte Rosa with trekking companions Chris Whitford and Brian Tunbridge. Enjoy the adventure as you travel with them. There are also many references to transport links and other services which would-be trekkers should find useful, as well as a route summary at the end.

Monday 18 August - The Journey Out

Despite some heavy traffic on the M42 we arrived at Birmingham airport in good time for our flight to Geneva. We purchased our rail tickets at Geneva Airport Railway Station. I was very impressed with the efficiency of the service: we even had a printout of the schedule, complete with platform numbers. The 1536 train from Geneva to Martigny arrived at 1705, giving us precisely 18 minutes to walk to platform 50 in order to catch the 1723 which arrived in Le Chable on time at 1749.

We were met at the station by the owner of the establishment that Brian had booked, who reported that her hot water system had broken down and that her friend would look after us instead. She drove us uphill to a house in Cotterburg, just up from Villette, where we were given a whole floor to ourselves. We thought lightning was about to strike twice, as the water also failed at our new B&B: workmen were digging up the road, but we were promised that water would be restored by the time we got back from dinner.

We had a pleasant walk down to Le Chable, in fine weather, and had steak and chips at the bar at the back of the Hotel Post.

The B&B cost 50CHF/€45 each.


Tuesday 19 August - Le Chable to the Cabin de Chanrion (2462m)

We got up at 7am and after a good breakfast strolled down the road and bought lunches for two days at the small supermarket in Villette. We purchased tickets at the tourist office and took the 0945 bus to Mauvaison. The final part of the journey was quite steep and passed through several tunnels: we arrived at Mauvaison (1860m) at 1030, and it was time to gird up our loins and begin the walk. Initially we took a path to the road and then through a tunnel onto the crest of a dam, from where we had good views up and down the valley. The path then wended its way through a series of tunnels on the east side of the lake before emerging onto open country. We then climbed steeply until we struck a rising traverse that eventually took us to the Col de Tsofeiret at 2630m. On route we stopped for lunch by a carpet of wild flowers, including eidelweiss.

There was a cool wind on the col: the descent, which would have been tricky, had been made easier by the installation of steps and a rail. The path crossed a stream, by means of a substantial bridge, and shortly after reached the Cabin de Chanrion. The cabin was fairly full, so it was as well that Brian had reserved us places. We were allocated places on the top tier of a 20+ place matratzenlager that was almost full.

Ascent: 865m
Descent: 250m
Weather: Very good in the morning but it clouded up in the afternoon with a cool wind at times. There was a period of rain after we had reached the hut.
Stayed at Cabin de Chanrion C.A.S. (86 places).
Total cost 169CHF/€156. Bus tickets cost 13.80CHF/€13 each.

1A  Dscn1960  Rothorn From  Chanrion
La Serpentine from the Cabin de Chanrion on the border with Italy

Wednesday 20 August - Cabin de Chanrion to Ollomont (1356m)

After what seemed an early breakfast (we were actually the last to eat) we left the hut at 0730: it was misty as we descended into the temperature inversion and cold enough to need a fleece jacket. We crossed a stream by means of a bridge at about 2250m and started uphill. After about 10mins we caught up with an Italian woman, who had been staying at the hut, and a herd of large black Herens cows that had just been milked: the noise from the bells was quite deafening. As the cows were following the path we cut across country to get ahead of them. The path up to the col was straightforward and we stopped on the Fenetre de Durand (‘Italian frontier, 2797m) to take in the view.

We then started to descend to Ollomont and shortly after noon stopped near two lakes for lunch. We dropped to Balme de Bal (2128m), By (2050m), Farinet (2009m) and Glacier (1549m). We followed the road to Ollomont, at 1356m: however it turned out that the Youth Hostel was back up at Vouce, and we had passed within 100m of it. We took the opportunity to ascertain the shop opening times and buy a cake for tea.

The Gran Baita hostel, although described as a Youth Hostel, was not of the regular type; it took us some time to find the management, with whom Brian had reserved places. It was run by Belgians who normally had music groups staying.

We ended up with a seven bed room and balcony to ourselves. The evening meal was a traditional Belgian dish: chicken and mushroom vol-au-vent (without the pastry) and chips!

Ascent: 705m
Descent: 1440m
Weather: There was a temperature inversion below the Chanrion hut and the valley was filled with cloud. It was fine all day with a cold wind on the col.
Stayed at the Gran Baita YH in Vouece (1392m) just north of Ollomont.
Cost 25€ each.


Thursday 21 August - Over the Col de Brison (or Breuson) (2492m)

Grand Tour of Monte Rosa Guide Section 2.2

The bill when we paid it was amazingly cheap: the cook was more concerned with covering the costs of the laundry – the food was essentially free. The owner of the hostel rang ahead to the YH at Bionaz.

We walked down the road to the shop at Ollomont (1356m), where we bought our lunch, then set off from the church up a lane that eventually turned into a steep zigzag path through woods. Emerging from the woods we passed a high farm where the custodian pointed out the path to the Col de Brison. At a conveniently sited seat and table at about 1780m we paused for a well-earned snack before tackling the final steep pull up more zigzags to the col (2492m), which was not as narrow as the guide book would have had us believe.

We stopped directly above our starting point in Ollomont to admire the view, which was extensive, and have lunch. The descent to Close was fairly straightforward: we paused at the derelict farm at Sucheaz to take photographs before reaching the main road by the old hotel at Close (1457m): unfortunately we were too late for the 1645 bus to Bionaz and the shop in Oyace, so after watching the bus go by we walked down to Oyace, did our shopping and then repaired to a bar to wait for the 1855 bus.

At La Batise YH (a real one!) the owner was waiting for us, but after showing us round disappeared into the night. After cleaning up we cooked our food which was accompanied by a bottle of wine. The YH was a recent conversion and was well appointed.

Ascent: 1165m
Descent: 1140m
Weather: It was fine all day with a fair bit of cloud Stayed at La Batise YH at Bionaz.
Cost 20€ each (B&B plus use of kitchen).


Friday 22 August - Bionaz to Prarayer (2010m)

We had a stroll around the village and took a few photographs before setting off, following a path across fields before joining the road by a house that was being renovated. We continued along the road, taking care to avoid being mown down by passing cyclists: the road was precipitous in places.

We arrived at the dam (1960m) of the Lac des Places de Moulin, where there was parking, toilets and a snack bar. We walked along a broad path beside the lake to the Refuge at Praz Raye (Prarayer), passing many folk en route. We stopped for lunch on a promontory near a chapel about 1km short of the hut, before arriving during the hut’s lunch period, so we had coffee on the tables outside overlooking the lake while we waited for the boss to take us to our dormitory.

Thoughts of an afternoon stroll up to a viewpoint towards the Dent d’Herens north of the hut were curtailed when a terrific storm came through and water forced its way through gaps in the balcony door and into the dormitory.

So we took the opportunity to review our plans for the next few days and decided to make for the Rifugio Barmasse the following night. We chatted to a German social worker who was doing a series of long walks: he was aiming for Cervina the following evening.

Ascent: 480m
Descent: 105m
Weather: Mixed sunshine in the morning but heavy rain in the afternoon.
Stayed at Refugio Prarayer 2010m (50 places) at a cost of 40€ each including wine and coffee.


Saturday 23 August - Prarayer to Paquier

Grand Tour of Monte Rosa Guide Section 3.1

We headed up the valley to a bridge and then followed a path down the opposite side of the stream to the lake, where we noticed some fishermen. Just before the Torrent de Valcorniere we turned steeply uphill to the restored farm at Valcorniere. The path through the valley rose gently until it was time to turn east for the steep ascent to the Col de Valcorniere (Valcournera) at 3072m. Fortunately the path was well waymarked, and steel steps and ropes had been fixed over awkward or exposed sections of the steep rock band. The final section entailed picking over rubble, although there was the occasional waymark. We were fortunate to be ascending early in the day, as we were in shade for the first third of the climb.

After lunch on the pass we began the descent, helped by a fixed rope that made descending the loose rubble less precarious. We stopped briefly at the Perucca-Vuillermoz Hut, where we observed ibex.

We dropped down the path, which was protected by chains in places, to the Bivouac Maneti (2804m) where we stopped to look inside. We continued down past a waterfall and along a path on steep ground to the Lac de Tsignanaz (Lago di Cignana) at 2157m. We walked along the rim of the dam to the Rifugio Barmasse (2170m).

Unfortunately the refuge was full and they could only offer mattresses on the floor: a big disappointment. So we continued on to Paquier, in the Valtournenche valley. The path, mainly through woods, was steep in places: eventually we came out on the side road at Valmartin. We carried to the Hotel Millifiori, at the south end of Paquier. Enquiries were made and within minutes we had beds for the night, much to our relief. We had been out for just under 10hrs.

Ascent: 1195m
Descent: 1600m
Weather: A fine day with a cold wind at times
Stayed at Hotel Millifiori at Paquier, cost €50 each plus extras: total €164

X  Dscn2292  Mattmark Lac
The Mattmark lake, looking down valley towards Saas Fee

Saturday 23 August - Prarayer to Paquier

Grand Tour of Monte Rosa Guide Section 3.1

We headed up the valley to a bridge and then followed a path down the opposite side of the stream to the lake, where we noticed some fishermen. Just before the Torrent de Valcorniere we turned steeply uphill to the restored farm at Valcorniere. The path through the valley rose gently until it was time to turn east for the steep ascent to the Col de Valcorniere (Valcournera) at 3072m. Fortunately the path was well waymarked, and steel steps and ropes had been fixed over awkward or exposed sections of the steep rock band. The final section entailed picking over rubble, although there was the occasional waymark. We were fortunate to be ascending early in the day, as we were in shade for the first third of the climb.

After lunch on the pass we began the descent, helped by a fixed rope that made descending the loose rubble less precarious. We stopped briefly at the Perucca-Vuillermoz Hut, where we observed ibex.

We dropped down the path, which was protected by chains in places, to the Bivouac Maneti (2804m) where we stopped to look inside. We continued down past a waterfall and along a path on steep ground to the Lac de Tsignanaz (Lago di Cignana) at 2157m. We walked along the rim of the dam to the Rifugio Barmasse (2170m).

Unfortunately the refuge was full and they could only offer mattresses on the floor: a big disappointment. So we continued on to Paquier, in the Valtournenche valley. The path, mainly through woods, was steep in places: eventually we came out on the side road at Valmartin. We carried to the Hotel Millifiori, at the south end of Paquier. Enquiries were made and within minutes we had beds for the night, much to our relief. We had been out for just under 10hrs.

Ascent: 1195m
Descent: 1600m
Weather: A fine day with a cold wind at times
Stayed at Hotel Millifiori at Paquier, cost €50 each plus extras: total €164

3B  Dscn2054 Valcorniere
The steep ascent of Col de Valcormiere

Sunday 24 August - The Ascent to the Theodul Hut (3317m)

After the strenuous previous day we had a leisurely breakfast before walking up the road to the centre of Paquier. I took the opportunity to have a stroll round the town and take a few photographs. Then we took the bus to Cervina, where the helpful gent at the Tourist Office booked our accommodation for the next two nights, at Theodul Hut and Refugio Ferraro at Resy.

After shopping for three lunches worth of food, some maps and postcards we took the Cable Car to Plan Maison (2548m), where we had our picnic and took in the scenery. The views of the south face of the Matterhorn and the Dent d’Herens were terrific.

We continued by cable car to the Station Cime Bianche (2812m), where our day’s walk began. Initially the way followed wide paths made by various tracked vehicles involved in skiing. We paused at the Capelle Bontadini (3042m): although pleasant from the outside, inside as it was being used as a store for equipment. We continued up on a smaller track which was well way-marked over rocks and arrived at the Theodul Hut at 1550.

We took a walk along the top of the pass in order to take in the view and take photographs. Although it was fine there was a cold wind and we were pleased to get inside and order a litre of teewasser.

We were allocated a small room to ourselves. The facilities were somewhat basic: three toilets (only one lockable) and one tap for washing. The service for dinner was rather slow but the view was spectacular, with the Matterhorn just outside the window. I took the opportunity between courses to photograph the sunset.

Ascent: 486m
Descent: negligible
Weather: The weather was clear all day, with a few fluffy clouds and a very cold wind over the pass
Stayed at the CAI Theodul Hut (3317m), cost €37/person for half board, total €123 including drinks.


Monday 25 August - Theodul Hut to Resy (2072m)

Tour of Monte Rosa: Stage 2

We emerged from the hut into a cold morning with a dusting of snow on the veranda: the weather was looking particularly horrible in Switzerland. I was wearing a sweater and cagoule as we left the hut and only took them off when we had descended over 400m.

Passing the upper cable station at Cime Bianche we ascended the Col Nord des Cima Blanches (2981m), where construction of further skiing facilities was in full swing.

It was most pleasant to drop from the despoiled skiing area to the verdant Ventina valley. We stopped for a snack near the Grand Lac and again for lunch further down. At Fiery it not only started to rain, but routefinding got more difficult. After checking our directions at the small bar at Fiery we set off uphill, passing a sign that indicated the route to Resy. We then missed a turn to the right, and although we didn’t lose any height we walked further up the side valley than was necessary.

The woman on duty at the Rifugio Ferraro didn’t speak any English, and so we waited for her superior. I did however notice that there was a booking for three people in the name of ‘Dan Bridge’. We were eventually shown to a six bunk room which we had to ourselves. The showers were excellent and we were able to get some washing done.

The manageress proved to be an outgoing, well-travelled lady who spoke several languages: she telephoned ahead for us to the Rifugio Guglielmina. The evening meal proved to be one of the best of the trip.

[Comment from Cicerone – the Guardienne of the Ferraro hut gave us a fantastic welcome back in 2005. A great Juventus fan I recall!]

Ascent: 505m
Descent: 1710m
Weather: It was cloudy with light snow to start with but the weather improved and then deteriorated again. We walked in light rain for the last hour to the rifugio before was a fine evening.
Stayed at the Rifugio GB Ferraro at Resy (2072m), cost €135 including drinks.

5  Dscn2174 Path To  Resy
Path from the Theodul Hut to Resy

Tuesday 26 August - Over the Paso del Rothorn (2689m)

Tour of Monte Rosa: Stage 3 variant

After an excellent breakfast we took the main trail towards the Colle de Bettaforca. At the bottom of the ski lift we consulted three maps, which gave three different road configurations! After puzzling for a bit we struck out on the road to the Paso del Rothorn. We passed some lakes, which gave attractive, photographic reflections of the Monte Rosa Massif. At the ski station by Lac Cierciero we had great difficulty in working out where the path went. Eventually we walked on down the road and after about 150m noticed a path off to the left: we walked along the path for a few metres, looked back and there was a TMR sign only visible from one direction!

From that point the path up to the col was very well marked: in fact the path looked as if it had been recently constructed. We rested at the top of the col before continuing over the pass, having lunch about halfway down.

We joined a gravel road and walked down to Stafel for ice cream and to post our cards. Then we started up the track towards the Col d’Olen, with the intention of taking the cable car for the upper section, but it occurred to us that we might arrive too late, so we went down to the ticket office to make enquiries, and decided to take the lift all the way to the top: while the lower section may have been quite pleasant the upper section passed over a lot of skiing debris.

The top station, Paso de Salati, was in mist and it was quite cold, so we spent a few minutes donning fleeces and cagoules before a 10min walk down to the Rifugio Guglielmina. Alberto spoke good English and was able to deal with our enquiries, and an assistant rang ahead to reserve places at the Rifugio Pastore.

The evening meal was held in the dining room in some style. After dinner the mist cleared and I was able to go out on the terrace to admire the stars and the lights of distant cities.

Ascent: 790m 
Descent: 1180m 
Weather: There was a clear start to the day with cloud build up in the afternoon. The rifugio was in cloud when we arrived. 
Stayed at Rifugio Guglielmina near the Col D’Olen, cost €50 each plus drinks


Wednesday 27 August - Col d’Olen to Rifugio Pastore (CAI) (1580m)

Tour of Monte Rosa: Stage 4

There was very good light at the start of the day and we spent some time both before and after breakfast taking photographs. We had stroll over to the Col d’Olen to look back on the previous day’s route and take pictures of ibex.

We set off down a good path that eventually crossed works for a new ski area. There was a short ascent to the Paso Foric (2432m) before we dropped into the picturesque Otro Valley with its Walser houses. We had lunch near a church at 1664m before we dropped through woods to Alagna Valesia (1150m), where we shopped for the following day’s lunch and had a drink before catching the bus up the valley to the end of the road: this left us a 20min walk to Rifugio Pastore (1580m).

We had a six-bed room to ourselves; however the bathroom was a bit of a trek, particularly on a wet night. One of the assistants at the rifugio kindly rang ahead to reserve places for us at the Hotel Dufour in Macugnaga.

Ascent: 70m 
Descent: 1705m 
Weather: There was a fine start to the day with a build up of cloud as the day progressed. 
Stayed at CAI Refugio Pastore (1580m): cost €122 including drinks (just over €40 each). The bus cost €2.


Thursday 28 August - Over the Col del Turlo (2738m)

Tour of Monte Rosa: Stage 5

We passed over the bridge by the Rifugio Pastore and walked up for 4hrs, steeply at first and then at an easier gradient, on a well-constructed path to the Col del Turlo (2738m). From time to time we stopped to admire to view and identify our route the previous day: at one point we could clearly see the Rifufgio Guglielmina on the Col d’Olen, where we had stayed two nights previously.

The col, well engineered with a stone bench, table and monument, was quite busy with parties from both sides taking pictures of each other, so we had a group picture taken for posterity (does an arrangement of electrons on a chip count as posterity?). After lunch we set off down the incredibly well-engineered path, initially well-graded over steep ground until shortly after the Bivouac Lanti (2150m), when the path levelled out for just over 1km. We then dropped steeply through woods to the small settlement of La Piana (1613m), opposite La Pissa waterfall.

The path took us though woodland, crossing to the left bank of the river of a good bridge and steadily increasing in quality again. We arrived at the reservoir at Quarazza (1309m) where there was a café being enjoyed by folk on a day walk from Macugnaga. The final part of the walk continued on a broad dirt road before crossing the river into Macugnaga town centre. Our destination Hotel Dufour was easily found in the main town square which we reached at about 17:20: we had been out for over 9 hours.

Ascent: 1185m
Descent: 1440m
Weather: There was a clear start to the day with some cloud build up later in the day
Stayed at Hotel Dufour.

7B  Dscn2282  Monte Rosa Even
Evening light – Monte Rosa from Rif Oberto Gaspare 2796m close to the Monte Moro pass

Friday 29 August - Macugnaga 1317m to Rifugio Oberto Gaspare 2796m

Tour of Monte Rosa: Stage 6 Part 1

We were quite tired after a big day, so a leisurely start was in order. We bought food for two lunches, and the management at the Hotel Dufour rang the Rifugio on the Monte Moro to reserve us places.

We decided to walk to the middle station at Bill and then take the cable car to the top. After checking that this was possible we headed out of town, past the church and up a steep path that gave excellent views over Macugnaga and up to the Monte Rosa. We found the middle station at Bill deserted, and it was some time before we could find someone to take our money.

It was busy at the top, both outside, where folk were picnicking on the rocks, and in the rifugio’s restaurant, so we went outside to eat our lunch until the hut got less busy. We took the opportunity to explore the pass, view the large golden statue of the Madonna of the Snows and check the way down in the event of poor weather in the morning.

After settling into the dormitory (there were only two Frenchmen in addition to ourselves) we ascended the nearby Joderhorn (3035m). During the ascent a large ibex walked past, disdainfully ignoring us. The mountain was an unprepossessing pile of jumbled rocks which required some care: however the view from the summit was excellent in all directions and we spent some time taking photographs.

While we were having dinner a group of ibex came to lick the concrete that had been recently laid for the new toilet system: there are minerals in the cement that are good for their horns. The view of the Monte Rosa certainly makes this restaurant another room with a view.

[Comment from Cicerone – on a trip in early July 2005 we were the only three to stay in the refuge. Deep snow and blizzard conditions, and no view!]

Ascent: 700m
Weather: The weather was fine all day with some cloud build-up in the afternoon
Stayed at the CAI Rifugio Oberto Gaspare (Citta di Malnate) (2796m).

7A  Dscn2256  Monte Rosa  Moro Pass

Saturday 30 August - The Moro Pass (2868m) to Saas Fee 1803m

Tour of Monte Rosa: Stage 6 Part 2

Shortly before 07:00 I opened the toilet window to find a group of steinbok just outside. After taking pictures of the Dufourspitze we had breakfast and were away for about 08:30. We climbed over the pass into Switzerland and then dropped over broken rocky ground, which fortunately was well way-marked, to a well defined path in the lower valley: the statue of the Madonna remained in sight for some time.

We followed the minor path on the east side of the Mattmark lake to the dam (altitude 2200m) near which we encountered a herd of multicoloured goats.

We stopped at a bench on the dam for about 15minutes: an elderly gent informed us that the prominent pointed mountain that we had seen since the previous days was the Bietschorn in the Bernese Oberland.

We took a minor path that avoided for the most part the road and had lunch in the woods just north of Eiu Alp (1930m). We eventually joined the road near a hydro electricity plant but were soon able to leave the road to join a track on the left bank of the river. At Saas Almagell 1670m we began the final ascent to Saas Fee 1803m along a well graded trail.

We arrived in Saas Fee at about 14:30 and went directly to the tourist office to enquire about hotels: the efficient young lady rapidly produced a computer printout of available hotels in ascending price order and a plan of the village with hotel locations. We opted for the Annex at the four-star Europa hotel.

After showering we took a stroll round the village, listened to the cacophony of the church bells (Chris explained that only the British knew how to hang bells correctly so that tunes could be played) and indulged in ice creams and beer. On the way back to the hotel we did some shopping for the following day’s lunch.

Ascent: 200m  
Descent: 1200m 
Weather: There was a clear start to the day followed by some build-up of cloud Stayed at Europa Hotel, Saas Fee.


Sunday 31 August - A return trip to the Langflu (2869m)

After a leisurely breakfast we headed south east out of town on the path to the Langflu, a rocky ridge in the Feegletcher. The path was very straightforward and we soon arrived at the Speilboden Café (2448m), from where marmots could be observed. These marmots were significantly overweight, largely due to being egregiously overfed by the tourists: we even saw some taking food from the hands of tourists (there must be a Swiss law against it!).

As we continued to the top of the Langflu I chatted to a Swiss woman who had learnt her English from an Australian Baptist teacher. From the top, over lunch, we observed the high level skiing below the Alalinhorn (4027m) and the rotating restaurant on the Mittel Allalin (3454m). By this time the cloud was building up and we heard a rumble of thunder so it was time to go down.

On the way back to the hotel we called at the tourist office to check that the Hohenweg to Grächen was open. During the evening it started to rain so we made our way to the hotel via the underground passage: on examining the facilities Brian seemed quite disappointed that he hadn’t indulged in the sauna and jacuzzi.

Ascent: 1000m
Descent: 1000m
Weather: The weather remained dry throughout the walk but became unsettled with a clap of thunder during the afternoon: it rained during the evening.
Stayed at Europa Hotel, Saas Fee.


Monday 1 September - The Hohenweg from Saas Fee to Grächen

Tour of Monte Rosa: Section 7

The day’s walking began with a climb through woods. Within an hour it had started to rain and we had to put on our waterproof jackets, but it didn’t rain hard enough to require over-trousers as well. We appeared to be walking between two layers of cloud, one filling the valley below and one above dropping the rain.

The path continued at approximately the same level traversing the slope: the scenery varied, sometimes through woods which reduced the sense of exposure and occasionally along a rock ledge with a steel rope for aid. At midday we reached the bridge over the Schweib Bach, where we stopped for lunch.

After lunch, in improved weather, we climbed up to the bench at Rote Beil which unfortunately was occupied. In the next basin an ibex stepped off the track to avoid us and bounded effortlessly down the slope.

At Stock the bench was empty so we took the opportunity for a break, which was just as well because the next section contained the most sustained period of exposed ledges, ameliorated with handrails and chains for security.

We eventually turned the corner to arrive at the chapel at Hannigalp and the top of the cable car. The final part of the walk took us down a dirt road to Grächen. We passed pleasant hotel by a small lake and entered Grächen by the bottom station for the Seetalhorn Lift.

We immediately sought out the tourist office, where the helpful assistant printed out a list of hotels in price order. We selected the Sonne, which was cheapest, rang them using the free phone service and within minutes had a reservation. During the evening I used a timetable we picked up in the tourist office to work out a schedule to get us to Geneva Airport.

Ascent: 995m 
Descent: 1180m
Weather: The weather was initially fine but turned to rain for the rest of the morning: by lunchtime it cleared and we had a relatively clear afternoon
Stayed at Sonne Hotel, Grächen, cost 225CHF (€208) per night plus extras.


Tuesday 2 September - Hannigalp cable car station to Seetalhorn top station.

After a leisurely and filling breakfast we made our way to the town square, and while Chris and Brian bought lunch I went into the tourist office to check on the times for our journey to Geneva. I asked the assistant to check that I had correctly interpreted the timetable; after a brief look at my efforts she asked me by what time I needed to be at Geneva Airport, tapped some info into her computer and produced 5 viable journeys.

She then pointed out that all I had to do was go to the Post Office, where I could buy one ticket that covered me for all the different buses and trains.

On paying for the cable car we were delighted to find that for 14.99CHF (€14) there was a special day pass for unlimited ascents and descents on all the cable cars from Grächen: the 1cent change was in the form of a sweet. On arrival at Hannigalp we were please to be able to see the top of the Matterhorn sticking up at the top of the valley.

We dithered a bit finding the path, suspecting that it had been buried by the new ski routes: we would have been better off with one of the diagrams from the tourist office. Eventually we made our way to Furgge ridge, which afforded good views of both valleys and the Bernese Oberland: it was nice to see the view that we would have seen the previous day had the weather been better. On occasions we were able to look down on to the previous day’s path.

We followed a well-defined path to the top station below Seetalhorn (2864m), where we stopped for lunch by the large cross. Shortly before 1400 we entered the top station, sat down in a gondola and waited for something to happen. A few minutes later the machinery whirred into action and we were transported rapidly back to Grächen.

On arriving back in Grächen we had a coffee (and in my case apfelstrudel) in an open air café in the main square. Suitably fortified, we then went to the Post Office to buy the bus/train tickets to Geneva Airport, at 82CHF (€76) each.

After returning to the hotel for showers we had a stroll round the village and took photographs.

Ascent: 785m 
Descent: 60m
Weather: There was a misty start to the day but it was clear by the time breakfast was over: the rest of the day was fine and sunny with bit of cloud building up in the afternoon
Stayed at Sonne Hotel, Grächen.


Wednesday 3 September - The journey home

We strolled into the main square to sit in the sun until it was time for the post bus, which departed as scheduled on the stroke of 1009 and arrived at St Nikolas punctually.

While we waited for the train Brian and I strolled into town to see the hotel that we’d stayed in four years previously. The train for Visp arrived punctually at 1117. On arrival at Visp we walked to the appointed platform and checked the timetable for our next train: for a moment we thought that the tourist office had failed us – but we were simply reading the arrivals board instead of the departures. The train departed from platform 4/5 as ordained by the SBB Computer on the dot of 12:07.

The journey to Geneva was uneventful and we had good views as we travelled by Lake Geneva. We checked in our luggage, went through passport control and after a late lunch in one of the airport cafes were finally confined in something resembling a cattle pen, with insufficient seats for all on the flight, people were lying on the floor and sitting on the stairs. We landed back at East Midlands Airport after a lumpy flight.


Tour of Monte Rosa Statistics

Tmrtable 1

For those who prefer Imperial measures:

Total Height Gain 36,593 feet
Total Height Loss 46,986 feet
Total Distance 106.26 miles

The distances were measured from maps at a scale of 1:50,000 and do not allow for all the bends and zigzags, so we may have walked up to 25% more.

Maps

Swiss Sheets – scale 1:50,000

5003 Mont Blanc/Grand Combon
5006 Matterhorn/Mischabel
293 Valpelline
294 Gressony

Guidebooks used

Tour of Monte Rosa by Hilary Sharp (Cicerone)
Grand Tour of Monte Rosa: Vol 1 – Martigny to Valle della Sesia by Christopher John Wright (Cicerone)

Map of  Italy

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