Map used: 1:50,000 Arolla hiking map, 283T
After a week in Arolla I moved to Evolène on the 30th of July, which opened up a new set of possible exploratory trips. On the 1st of August I went from Evolène to the Col de Torrent, returning the same way. Evolène is quite a bit lower than Arolla (roughly at 1,300 meters while Arolla is at about 2,000 meters) and the Col de Torrent is at about 2,900 meters, giving a climb of about 1,530 meters and a round trip distance of about 17 kilometers. This was my most challenging hike so far.
View Evolène to col de Torrent in a larger map
From Evolène to Col de Torrent
I followed the road south (towards Les Haudères) for a short distance, then took a path that climbed, at times very steeply, up the eastern wall of the valley towards Villa, which I reached in about an hour. Villa is the most northern of the three villages above the valley, La Sage (where many Haute Route trekkers spend a night) is the middle one, and La Forclaz, where the route to the Col du Tsaté starts, is the most southerly.
From Villa a cobbled road leads up as steeply as the path had, and then it becomes a track. That track winds high up the mountain, reaching the many chalets of the vaste Alp Cotter, and is marked on one of my maps as a mountain bicycle path. It seems that many of the chalets here are rented to vacationers, as many of the cars had foreign license plates. At times the route follows the track, at others it used paths to cut the very long switchbacks, and at all times it was unambiguously marked.
At an elevation of about 2,000 meters there is a very sharp hairpin turn in the road, with a clear signpost. The Tour du Val d'Hérens route continues straight ahead (north) headed towards Volovron, while the route to the Col de Torrent heads east towards a collection of houses. Here our trail leaves the road for good, and starts a moderately steep ascent. The ascent is through a lovely alpine pasture, with gentle pastoral views in the foreground and the impressive mountains in the background.
At about 2,500 meters there is a delightful small (tiny might be a better adjective) pond where I stopped for lunch. Then onward and upward! The last 150 or so vertical meters to the col were a bit difficult; the trail was very steep on slippery slate.
I met a few groups of hikers on the col, and one group was going north along the ridge to the nearby summit of Sasseneire (a 3,000 meter peak with no trail). After enjoying the views on both sides I descended. On the descent I had wonderful views both of the mountains to the west and the surrounding meadows. It was a hike worth celebrating; strenuous and with great views. A half bottle of champagne seemed the appropriate reward for my hard day's work!!