- Day 1: Le Chargeur to Cabane des Dix
- Day 2: Crossing the Col des Ignes
- Day 3: From the Cabane des Aiguilles Rouges to Evolène
Map used: 1:50,000 Arolla hiking map, 283T
Date: 25th of July, 2008
Distance, Elevation Gain/Loss: 8.5 km, 690/800 m
Cabane des Dix Coordinates: 598 390 / 95 510
Cabane des Aiguilles Rouges Coordinates: 601 457 / 100 536
In 2005 I attempted to reach the Col des Ignes twice, first from the Arolla side, then from the Val des Dix side. Both failed, and in 2008 I made a third, successful, attempt. From Sion I took the bus to the Dixence dam, then the cable car to the top of the dam. From there I hiked to the Cabane des Dix, an easy hike I had done in 2005. Next day I hiked to the Cabane des Aiguilles Rouges over the Col des Ignes, and on the third day I hiked down to Evolène, where I planned to spend a week.
There is not much to add to my previous trip report, except that along the way I got my first careful look at next day's objective, the Col des Ignes. The trail up it was clearly visible from across the valley; it seemed to go straight up! I knew that it was hikeable, and remembered that the Col de Riedmatten, that I had hiked in 2005, was also very steep, and that I had climbed it. Still, I was uneasy; it looked confoundedly close to vertical!
Checking in, I asked the gardien about the col. He confirmed that it was no steeper (or at least not much steeper) than the col I had climbed. I felt better, but still not really at ease.
I was in a room with half a dozen climbers, who woke up one by one starting at four AM, and were not all through getting their gear together until almost five. They woke me up pretty completely, though I managed some fitful sleep before getting up at 7 AM.
View Col des Ignes in a larger map
There were very few hikers, and I was the first to leave. In 2005 the crossing of the remnants of the Glacier de Cheilon was easy, as all I had to do was follow the line of hikers crossing it. This time I was alone on the glacier. The safe way is well marked, but still every once in a while it took me some time to find the next waymark. At such times I felt very alone. I certainly did not panic, but it added to the overall anxiety level (I worried about the col until I was across it).
I had no problems with the ice; it was very rough and my boots had no difficulty holding to it. At the end of the second glacial strip there was a deep and moderately wide stream of melt water, with a large rock placed in it to facilitate crossing. Once across the glacier I climbed a rather unpleasant section of large boulders, soon reaching the trail that comes from the lake and goes to the Col de Riedmatten and the Pas de Chèvres. Instead of going south towards these two cols (the traditional routes to Arolla) I went north, towards the lake. After about half a kilometer the trail to the Col des Ignes leaves, rising eastwards.The path to the col was not steep until the end (I knew that from the map) but was over unpleasant terrain, crossing lots of areas of rockfall. There were always flat rocks on which to step (lots of work had obviously gone into this trail) but the going was obviously much harder than over a better trail. In addition the trail crossed several patches of left over snow.
Finally I reached the climb; about 85 vertical meters, of which half were merely extremely steep, the other half as close to vertical as a hiking trail can get. The footing was somewhat slippery, but not too bad (far better than the Col de Riedmatten!). I went up using all four limbs, legs plus arms via the poles. It was hard work, but as I saw the crest approaching I felt an immense satisfaction. Finally I got to the top.
I am not a travel writer; I enjoy the scenery but am not good at describing it. Suffice it to say that, as on every col, there were views in both directions (all three if you add the distant Bernese alps to the north), with spectacular mountains, only some of which I could identify, all around.
The other (east) side of the Col des Ignes was much tamer, with good footing and reasonable grades. I love that valley with the remnants of the dying glacier strewn around! Soon I was on the heavily used Arolla to Cabane des Aiguilles Rouges trail, the final 200 meters or so of climbing at the end of the trip were most unwelcome.
The Cabane des Aiguilles Rouges is at an elevation of about 2,800 meters, and has excellent views both to the high peaks to the south and to the interesting ridge of lower, but extremely pointy, peaks that separate the Val d'Arolla from the Val de Ferpécle.
We had some rain in the early evening, and as I was getting into my bunk I saw lightening through the window. I woke to low clouds, all the climbers (all had been planning on climbing the Point de Vouasson, nobody was doing the Aiguilles Rouges) had decided to abort their climbs.
I left the hut under heavy clouds that soon lifted, giving me excellent views of the mountains to the south and east. The way down is above the trees most of the way to Lac Blue, so the views were more or less continuous.
View Aiguilles Rouges to Evolene in a larger map
The short descent to La Gouille is a pleasant walk in the woods, with no views. I reached La Gouille about an hour before the next bus, and since the walk to Evolène was less than two hours I walked it. The walk to Les Haudères followed the old road, passing the interesting chapel of Saint Bathélemy. The walk along the river from Les Haudères to Evolène was uninteresting but easy.