Native of Lourtier, a village at the bottom of Val de Bagnes linked to Aosta Valley by the passes of Crête Sèche Pass and Fenêtre de Durand, I was rocked to sleep, small shepherd (sëportyoeu) at Bonatchiesse, by the stories which our elders told of the contentions which the people of Bagne had with the Valdaostans (the z’Otans) in particular with the lords of Quart. And I always wanted to go and see the other side of the mountain. At the end of the 1960s, I did the tour of Mont Blanc, the mother of all our tours created at the beginning of the 1950s. That gave me the idea of creating the Tour des Combins. After the reconnaissance of the itineraries, which took me some years, I finally explored the country of the Otans.
And in 1973, the Martigny-Orsières railway company published a hikers’ 1:50,000 scale map where I traced the “Tour du Gran Combin” with a basic 5-day route and a 4-day mountain route passing by Col d’Annibal and Col de Lâne. Some 9 hour stages and no signs. Real trekking! The present Tour des Combins, the 3rd version, was inaugurated in 1966 (typo in English version; correct date is 1996).
At the beginning of the 1990s, with the help of a group of friends from Novara, Vercelli, Aosta and Valais, began the adventure of the Tour of Monte Rosa which was inaugurated in 1995. After that, we talked with our Valdaostan friends on how to link the Tour of Monte Rosa with the Tour of Mont Blanc through the Tour des Combins, in order to enhance this marvellous area of the Valais Alps, the Pennine Alps.
In the summer of 1999, with Palmira Orsières, we tested the feasibility of the idea checking the route from Chanrion to Breuil, from Prarayer (Valpelline) to Arolla. The villages of Bagnes, Bionaz, Evolène and Valtournenche agreed to play the game, to create, improve and signpost the paths on their territory. But to create all that, you need means. In 2002 thanks to the far-sightedness of Elviro Favre, Valrando and the Gran Combin Mountain Consortium an Interreg procedure was signed, Rando sans frontières, “the liaison of tours as an occasion to create a great excursion area between Mont Blanc and Monte Rosa, in order to promote long-lasting tourism and to make people aware of the heritage of our Valais, Valdaostan and Piedmontese mountains.”
After some meetings the COPIL (pilot committee) of Rando sans frontières, I realised that we could do much more than a simple liaison, be more ambitious and create a real trek across the Alps. This proposal wasn’t always clearly understood but thanks to the intuition and tact of Luigi Cortese, the support of Brigitte Pitteloud and Nicolas Mettan, it was possible to modify the initial project and envisage the creation of a great trek. In 2002, we inaugurated the Tour of the Matterhorn and at the same time, Arthaud published an illustrated volume “Le Tour du Cervin” by Mario Colonel. (Note that Mario Colonel has published an article on the Tour du Cervin in the SAC revue, Les Alpes, June 2002.)
In June 2004 we inaugurated the Tour du Saint Bernard and in August 2004 the Tour des Grands Barrages.
In August 2004, a jury, presided over by Bernard Attinger, the architect of the Valais Canton awarded 1st prize for the creation of the Alptrekking logo to the Seghesio-Grivon Studio of Aosta.
Also, in August 2004, all the ingredients were there for the creation of the great trekking of the Alps we had been dreaming of for so long, Alptrekking. After some problems, due to slow comprehension for some modifications of the initial project, in the summer of 2005, the technical commission could finally get down to work and create the topographical guide, brochure, web site, panoramic panels, signposts etc. The Alptrekking product today is at your disposition.
Alptrekking is an Italian-French-Swiss trek of over 35 days framed by the most famous 4,000- metre peaks of the Alps: Mischabels, Monte Rosa, the Matterhorn, Weisshorn, Zinalrothorn, Dent Blanche, Combins, Mont Blanc etc.
Alptrekking goes from the Col of Monte Moro to the Col des Montets, takes both from the north and the south the outer stretches of the six tours and after each pass visits the valleys which descend down the Alps: the mountain and the life of the valleys. Alptrekking is a boon for amateur hikers, to trek in the Alps, a boon for the economic and tourist development of the valleys crossed. I hope much pleasure will be derived by experienced hikers who will do the tour in one go, those who will take some years and also to those who will mentally walk while leafing through this topographical guide and those who will go by car to explore the marvellous valleys visited by Alptrekking.