Easy Hiking Peaks

glacier du tourChamonix and it’s valley claim to be the world capital of alpinism. Rightly famous for cliff bound jagged peaks, the play ground for experienced climbers and ski mountaineers made more isolated by steep fast moving glaciers laced with hungry crevasses one may think that hikers will be excluded from the summits. The good news is that this is not 100% true.

Presented in this post are our favourite hiking peaks, some easy with lifts to near the top others full days expedition that will leave you exhausted.

Mont Buet 3099m

This magnificent walk to a gorgeous peak is everything a hike mountain route should be. Long, varied and good chance of spotting lots of wild life. The route runs through the Bérard valley, a gem of undeveloped simplicity. This may not be an easy route as per the title but is entirely on established footpaths. Challenging but achievable. The normal way up starts at the hamlet of Buet. The first couple of hours follows the turbulent Eau Noire river, do spend a moment at the Cascade de Bérard, look into the Farinet caves the other side of the river if you lynx have the time. The river side path is moderately slopes and well shaded. After 2 hours the refuge La Pierre à Bérard (1924m.) Book in for an overnight stay if you want to do the walk over 2 days. A heard of bouquetin (European mountain Ibex) are in this area. Being a part of collection 6 nature reserves spanning the Franco-Swiss border they do not particularly fear humans so it is possible to get close to them. From a greater distance you can see marmots, golden eagles, bearded vultures, deer and every to.come you rest cheeky little alpine choughs will appear as if from nowhere. During bird migration seasons the Berard valley is one of the major routes over the alps. For the very lucky, so far we are not included, lynx have recolonised the area, so walking quietly may bring a reward. After the refuge the character of the walk changes again, moving through around a series of small cliffs, slabs and plateaus without ever being scary. This section ends at the Col de Salenton (2526m.) From here up there may be some snow fields even into mid-summer. The path becomes consistently steep for what seems like forever over scree slopes until near the summit when like magic it brainwashed again. This last section provides easy walking on a flattish shoulder from where more and more of the Alps become visible. You will soon enough be able to take in the 360 degree view, the whole Mont Blanc range, Dents du Midi and Bernese Oberland peaks dominate. There is just so much to look at, it is incredible. Return is via the same path. Or if you have legs of iron another path leaves to the North. This return offers a much more challenging path, the first section on the Crête de la Mone des Eves is airy and steep with plenty of cables and steps for assistance. A second real summit, Cheval Blanc (2831m) is reached with a little more climbing. The decent follow the Swiss border (fossilised dinosaur footprints on the north east slopes) and then into the Tre les Eaux valley. The path joins the Bérard a little above the cascade, from there it is back to the start. WARNING, the return via the Cheval Blanc adds significantly to the effort and challenge.

Aiguiellette des Houches 2285m

This walk is much easier than Mont Buet. Much of the time you will have the contrasting spectacle of the high glaciated granite faces of the Mont Blanc range to the south and the towering limestone cliffs of the Fiz to the north-west, villages in the Chamonix valley and the entirely empty Diosaz gorge. fiz cliffs Start at Le Bettey, above Les Houches, take the well maintained path signposted ‘Aiguillette des Houches.’ After a couple of km take the Ruhr hand path which zigzags up the Pierre Blanche ridge to the summit. especially when above the tree line take time to enjoy the view point which will really show the landscapes created by the different geology and development. Near the summit a path descends the south side towards the Chalets de Cailloux then quickly back to the car park. Alternatively drop into the north facing Carlaveyron cirque and up gentil slopes to the refuge Bel Lachat for a snack. To get back to the car take the GR5 path south past the Merlet mountain zoo. Signs will direct you back to Le Bettey on a path that more or less follows the contours back to the start. A half day walk of varied pleasures. This is a definite must do, picking a nice sunny day will add to the experience. This mountain has options for some mechanical assistance which helps increase the ease.

Aiguilette des Posettes 2199m

A half day walk of varied pleasures. This is a definite must do, picking a nice sunny day will add to the experience. This mountain has options for some mechanical assistance which helps increase the ease. Firstly how to do it without the lifts. Park at the large car park just before the Col des Montets (or take the bus to the Col) then walk a short distance down the road toward Chamonix. You will quickly see the signpost for “l’ Aiguillette des Posettes”. This path winds through red larch forests then open ground. As the vegetation thins the path becomes steeper and feels more ridge like without ever getting too scary. To your right the developing view of the Tour glacier and it’s crown of coloured granite peaks is a feature of the walk. After an hour or so the path becomes less steep and the feeling of being on a ridge more pronounced without ever becoming a knife edge. This flatter section leads all the way to the peak with a view that is more than 360°, all the way around plus down into the Vallorcine and Chamonix valleys. This is another part to savour. From the summit continue down the line of the ridge and very soon you will be in the meadows still used as summer pasture. At junction near the Col des Posettes head right. This leads down easy laths on the edge of what is a winter ski area. You will past near a couple of farm building that been converted into cafes at Chalets de Balme and later at Chalets de Balme. A few hundred metres further on is a modern restaurant near the top of the gondola lift station. A well maintained path leads down to Le Tour village where more refreshments are available. We recommend the Passon restaurant and the adjacent burger/sandwich place also called Passon. To find the path back to the start cross the river and take the first track on the right which leaves the car park. Follow the signs for Col des Montets. To enable more people to enjoy this route consider some lift assistance from Le Tour or Vallorcine. From the top of the Le Tour gondola lift follow the well maintained farm track that climbs gently on the left to the Chalets de Balme. Do the rest of the route in reverse. The lift from Vallorcine takes you even higher up. From the top follow the rough 4×4 track up for half a kilometre before the track signposting you to the peak. Hikers can return via the track up or carry down to the Col des Montets. Turning right on the road will soon bring you to the path that runs along side the stream which can be followed all the way back to the lift station car park.

Tête de Balme/Croix de Fer 2343m

This is a continuation of the same line of peaks mentioned in the Posettes which with a bit of planning can be joined to this one for a very full day walk. Start from the lift station car park in Le Tour. Head up the path to Charamillion them to the Col de Balme. The refuge does a wicked egg and chips. Just after refuge take the left hand fork into Switzerland under the south side of the Tête de Balm. Then head east along the ridge to the final ascent. The path becomes narrower (more exciting!) for a short distance, a quick scramble and you arrive at the Croix de Fer (iron cross) to look into the 1000m deep drop to Trient village. Return via the same way and over the mini summit of l’ Arolette on a path not marked on the map. Continue on the ridge to the Tête de Balme. Follow the path to the Col be Posettes. Then take the farm track back to the beginning. Use of the gondola lift and chairlift will bring you quickly and easily to the same height as refuge. Of course it is allowed, even on the way down.

Le Prarion 1969m

This may be the easiest individual summit of them all. Take the Prarion lift from Les Houches. At the top find the path that heads north to the peak. It starts in a forest of sparse conifers and climbs gently. There are a couple of sections that are a little steeper and soon the trees thin to almost nothing and you follow the broad ridge to the panoramic summit. For those of you who want to get all sweaty there is a good circular walk up via the Col de Voza and down via the Col de Forclaz. But who wants to get that sweaty?

Bec de Lachat 2447m

One walk that we particularly enjoy doing from our door is the loop up the Montagne de Peclerey to the north.east of Argentière. A stiff climb through the woods, then a leisurely traverse across high altitude pastures, drop down a meandering path towards Le Tour, then home along the contouring petit balcon nord path. By following the path straight up (not marked on the maps) just as the steep part through the forest changes to the easy part over the alpage meadows you will get to the summit. The views of the Aiguille Verte chain, Argentière glacier and Tour glacier are stunning. There is a little bit of rocky scrambling near the top which requires a steady head for heights and good control of younger party members.

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Walking on cloudy days from Argentiere

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There is nothing better than walking along a high ridge under one of those crystal skies where,  looking up from the horizon, the colour quickly deepens from the normal blue to a deep space blue and you feel you are so much closer to the edge of the atmosphere.

Unfortunately, Frigg the Norse Goddess of clouds can sometimes bestow a little too much of her blessing on the mountains. BUT all is NOT lost for your days hiking.

Low level

The easiest way is to get out of the clouds is to be below them.

Around our chalet favorite hikes on low cloud days are circular walks on the ‘Petit’ Balcon’ paths. From our doorstep we have circuits to the east and west. These paths meander just above the valley floor. Steep sections are never too long, nor are flat section long and dull. These are interesting walks of moderate intensity.

Themed walks

When there is little to see of the large scale landscape, look at the smaller things. Trails introducing history, flora and culture have been set up in several parts of the valley. None are very long but amongst our favourites are the historical walk around old Servoz village and the botanical trail in Les Houches. Each can be done in an hour and our own suggestion is to link them by taking a trail through the tall forest between the 2 villages. Together they male a full days walking.

International

Chamonix’s position near the meeting point of the Swiss, Italian and French borders is more than a geographical interest point. It is the separating point between different climate zones and the high mountains nearly always have different weather on ‘the other side.’

If we have heavy clouds from the North, pop through the Mont Blanc tunnel and explore the undeveloped Val Ferret and Val Veny. These valleys have extensive trail networks, hikeable peaks and unbelievable in-your-face views of the Mont Blanc range’s highest peaks.

When greyness looms in from the west head for Switzerland. The valleys radiating from Martigny offer every thing; Saunter around the fruit orchards and bonuses of the valley floor and lower slopes for something relaxed, stride the mellow meadows sprinkled with chocolate box cute chalets to the summit of Mont de L’ Arpille for warmer muscles or go into the wild limestone cliff landscape leading to the Fully lakes.

Gorges

Sometimes a few smudges of mist can add to the atmosphere. There are gorges in the area where the outside weather is almost irrelevant. The Diosaz starting in Servoz is pretty and interesting but an entry fee is charges. Our recommended one is just over the border into Switzerland. The Tete Noire gorge is so magical expect to catch faeries and elves if you can walk quietly enough. A few wraiths of mist in the air adds to the sense of other worldliness.

Strategy

Max on the good weather, save cloudy day hikes if the forecast is less sunny.

Select the season. June and September have a better chance for settled weather spells. Also everywhere is less crowded.