Date: 15th of July, 2007
Distance, Elevation Gain/Loss: 15.2 km, 958/844 m
Map Used: 1:50,000 Martigny hiking map, 282T
After spending a day and a half in Champex I started the first stage of this year's Haute Route trip on the 15th of July. It was a short stage, from Champex up the Val Ferret to La Fouly. It could easily have been done by bus (many of the Tour du Mont Blanc hikers I had dined with at the Pension en Plein Air had done that, in the opposite direction). I found it an easy and enjoyable way to get into the rhythm of the trip
View Champex to La Fouly in a larger map
From Champex to La Fouly
The Pension en Plein Air is very attuned to the needs of hikers, so they serve an early breakfast (6:30 AM as I recall). By 7:30 I was on the road, on a beautiful, if rather warm, day.
Champex is situated on a balcony high above the Val Ferret, so the first part of the trip was downhill, reaching the valley at the tiny village of Issert. From there it mostly follows the Drance de Ferret upstream. It is about 15 km; the low point (at Issert) has an elevation of 1,050 m, the high point (at La Fouly) of 1,600 m, and you should probably add in a couple of hundred meters for the many ups and downs along the trail.
There were a few good views of Champex high above the valley (better ones next day!) as well as of the wall of low mountains (below 3,000 m) that form the east wall of Val Ferret, separating it from the Val d'Entremont. On reaching La Fouly there were excellent views of the Mont Blanc range; Mont Dolent, Tour Noire and the Aiguilles Rouges de Dolent between them.
This is a stage on the Tour du Mont Blanc, so I met, and greeted, a large number of hikers all going in the opposite direction. As it was a Sunday I also met several runners training for the August North Face Ultra Tour du Mont Blanc. I had met a few the night before at the Pension. I also met the opposite: a group that had a mule carrying their luggage! I was later told that several guided groups use mules to make life easier for their customers.
I reached La Fouly shortly before noon, and headed to my hotel. Before leaving the States I had made a reservation at the Hotel Edelweiss. I had intentionally reserved a room in a three star hotel as I felt I needed some pampering before what was planned as a multi-hut trip. I was at least moderately disappointed; I believe that the hotel had one star more than it really deserved.
After checking in I explored the village. Just beside the hotel was a restaurant that had a menu (written on a slate board) that seemed attractive to me (I cannot remember what was on it), so I went in and had a leisurely lunch. Then back to the hotel to shower and do my laundry (I had hiked for a couple of days in Champex). By the time I was ready to go out again the supermarket was open (remember, in switzerland all shops close from 12:00 to 14:00!) and I got provisions for the next day. I also made a few phone calls, reserving space at the huts I expected to visit in the next few days. I also noted that there was a chair lift that operated for the first fifteen minutes of every hour, but decide to hike the whole way next day.