A fun scramble to a summit above 3000m in a Dolomite like setting.
Θ CCW Loop
When driving from Chamonix to Zermatt, I would always notice this one big mountain towering over the Rhone Valley. Annoyingly, it was a blank spot in my Swiss geography knowledge. Just ahead of the first snow, I decided to investigate.
My friend Vanda, along with her dog Kira, were easily talked into a scouting mission with the promise of a fun scramble to a summit above 3000m. We car camped at the trailhead above the town of Ovronnaz to be in position for an early start the next day. A soft, grassy forest road turned quickly into a single track that follows the Bisse de Patier, a narrow canal built long ago to water the fields and vineyards outside the mountain village. Bisse trails are consistently great running trails, this one was no exception and so we started the day in my favorite way with a slight uphill winding through the forest with glimpses of our destination looming above us. Half an hour into our warm up our pleasant cruise abruptly ended and we were faced with a super steep 500 meter climb. Once on top of the grassy Plateau Tsanrion, we could see our goal, the Grand Muveran, and at the base of its broad wall, the Cabane Rambert.
We started up, but with the knowledge of a turquoise lake tucked away in a rocky basin, we decided to make a detour for a visit. Dogs aren't overly impressed by summits, but they do love a swim. Her reward would come earlier than our's.
A runnable traverse with a steep 350 meter climb led us over the Pas de Chamosentse into a grey, rocky landscape dotted with small yellow flowers and the small lake. Kira swam laps while we kept going on the trail towards the Col de la Forcle. From there it was a quick, short descent to reconnect with the direct trail to the Cabane Rambert. In 2018, a modern extension was added on and the interior is now a hip blend of new and old. From the patio's lounge chairs, the line-up of 4000 meter peaks is impressive; The Mont-Blanc Massif, Grand Combin, Dent Blanche, Matterhorn, Weisshorn and many more. All this with the ubiquitous freshly baked torts.
Behind the hut are Dolomite-like vertical rock faces that do not seem trail friendly, yet somehow, that was where we were headed. Once we got going, we discovered the trail follows narrow ledges dotted with blue, red, sometimes green dots. And, lots of cairns. The crux comes early on the wall with a steep, 6 meter section of climbing graded T5+, that requires getting through some loose rock with exposure. Once past this, it's back to traversing ledges to the summit.
In descent, reverse the steep rocky scramble back to the hut. Then, it's mostly on nice single track and some forest roads back to the parking lot. Best of all, it's almost all running.
While you are in Ovronnaz, be sure to also hit the Dent de Morcles run.
Start: 46.1978019, 7.1664979
- This tour is perfect for cooler temperatures. Or, in the fall when higher peaks are already buried in snow and a sunny south facing tour is just what’s needed. Be aware that early in the season, or after heavy rain, you might not be able to cross the Grand Tsene river at the end of the Bisse de Patier. If so, reroute through Loutse.
- If you don’t want to descend the last 600m into town, stay high at the trail split below "Le Pessot"and traverse to the Jorasse Station where you can take the chair lift down to Ovronnaz.
- Interested in a longer trip around the whole massif? Consider the Tour des Muverans.
Stretching the legs after the steep Pas de Chamosentse.
Vanda and Kira on the last steep section before getting to the hut.
Ibex like rugged terrain, we saw lots of Ibex.
The maze of short scrambles and narrow ledges that lead through the steep rock to the summit.
Letting it flow on the way back to the valley.
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