Day Eight

Day notes

The restaurant Au Club Alpin in Champex has some rooms and a dortoir. We’ve stayed there a few times – the atmosphere is cosy and friendly and the food is excellent. The Relais D’Arpette is large and a bit impersonal by contrast, but is a better base if you’re heading for the Fenêtre D’Arpette.

Diary – Monday July 19

La Fouly – Crête de Seleina – Praz de Fort – Les Arlaches – Issert – L’Affe – Champex – Relais d’Arpette

It rained so hard during the night it woke us up. But at least it was an easy day (not too long and on the valley floor most of the way) so we treated ourselves to a lie in. After a late breakfast we headed to the supermarket for food for lunch.

The path left La Fouly through the campsite and followed the river bank beneath the Amone slabs, and the sun was again shining although it was quite humid. The path follows the riverside for a couple of kilometres before rising to hug the hillside, climbing to avoid a landslide and soon the river is quite some way below. It’s a pleasant walk though the woods, eventually descending to the Crête de Seleina (an old moraine crest in the forest) and then down to the river.

From here it is only a short stroll to the village of Praz de Fort. You have to walk back up the road towards La Fouly for a short while before the path leads off left through some beautiful old traditional Swiss villages – Les Arlaches and Issert.

Image: IssertThe villages are crammed with quaint and photogenic houses sitting on stilts with rocks at their bases to keep the animals out, so there are plenty of photo opportunities. We had planned to stop in one of these villages for lunch but all the good spots were taken so we pushed on.

After Issert the path starts the climb up to Champex. We finally stopped by a stream and as soon as we took our first bite of lunch a rain shower appeared so we took refuge under some trees and ate while the weather cleared.

Image: Lac ChampexFrom here the path gets steeper and climbs, contouring the hillside to some buildings at L’Affe where it finally settles into zigzags which climb up to Champex, situated on a picturesque lake.

If you’re going to stay in Champex, the restaurant Au Club Alpin has a dortoir and double rooms and is excellent value. The food is great here too.

We had a beer in their garden that backs onto the lake and decided on our plans for the next day.

Image: Path to ArpetteThe weather forecast was not bad but there would be cloud and possible showers. We decided to stay with our original plan and go high over the Fenêtre d’Arpette. A few phone calls later had secured us a bed for the night in the Relais d’Arpette and a room at the Hotel de la Col du Forclaz for the following evening. The Relais is a few kilometres up the Val d’Arpette – a little closer to the Fenêtre to make things easier in the morning. There’s a lovely path up to it following the edge of fast running stream, climbing towards the end. We sat outside in the evening sun soaking in the view up the valley to Les Ecandies (and a glass of wine) before the evening meal and early bed as we wanted an early start.

Even though it was a contrast after our recent tranquil stops in tiny village hotels, the Relais D’Arpette is worth considering. It is a huge and rather impersonal place full of package tours (we spotted the mule again here) and so it does lack something in atmosphere. The dining room feels very much like a cafeteria but on the plus side the food was perfectly good and our room was comfortable.

Though this wasn’t the first time, it was the most startling occasion where we’d come across people on packages who were being pushed up the mountain by their guides, despite an obvious lack of fitness and some shocking injuries. We probably saw more bandaged knees (and most of them in were in the noisy mule pack group) than we did on the whole trip put together. We were thankful that we were on our own schedule and not at the whim of a travel company.

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