Date: 8th of August, 2008
Distance, Elevation Gain/Loss: 14.0 km, 755/805 m
Map Used: 1:50,000 Martigny hiking map, 282T
Several friends were participants of a group doing the Tour du Mont Blanc, and as I know the organizers of that group tour I asked to join them on the last day, going from La Forclaz to Champex. They were doing the Tour clockwise, opposite the usual direction. I took the bus from Sion to La Forclaz, arriving at the Hotel du Col de la Forclaz early in the afternoon. I took an walk along the Bisse du Trient, which is the start of the more difficult route to Champex, over the Fenètre d'Arpette. By the time I was back at the hotel the group had arrived.
Sitting outside before dinner we watched what looked like a major storm approaching from France, and by the time we were having dinner it reached us. Few things equal the spectacle of a big mountain storm: thunder, lightning and torrents of rain! As the night was cold, the innkeeper strongly suggested that we avoid the Fenètre d'Arpette, fearing that it might be icy. Instead he recommended that we take the lower Alp Bovine route, the classic foul weather alternative.
View La Forclaz to Champex in a larger map
The route is entirely wooded, with a maximal elevation of 2,040 meters. It is pleasant, passes through some nice meadows, and has one excellent view down to Martigny in the Rhône valley. We had lunch beside a pleasant stream, and then there was a steep and rocky descent. That led to the valley floor, where we had to climb (gently!) to Champex. The Pension en Plein Air was closed when we arrived (they close from 12:00 to 15:00) so some of us went to a neighboring pâtisserie here we had pastries with our beers!
Reynold describes this stage thus:
This route is the bad-weather alternative to the more demanding Fenêtre d'Arpette crossing, but it should not be assumed that it is an uninteresting walk. Far from it. It's a green and pleasant way, among forest and pasture and with good views down into the Rhône valley and across to the Bernese Alps that rise on the northern side.
I would agree; it was pleasant but by no means memorable!