Phil's Hiking Resources

Glacier Fest: Chamonix & Valle d’Aosta – June 2014

This year the two of us went to Chamonix and Valle d’Aosta (Italy) for two weeks high glacier trekking.

Week 1: Chamonix

Glacier Practice on Mer du Glace

Glacier Practice
on Mer de Glace

The first week we based ourselves in a fantastic little apartment in Chamonix Sud (details below).

Day 1:  Mer de Glace (2000+m): crazy ladders, glacier skills & crevasse rescue practice day – full details and more photos here… 

Distance: 10km – Duration: 7hrs – Ascent: 550m – Descent: 550m

Day 2: Vallée Blanche Traverse (3500+m): high altitude glacier trek and scary Aiguille du Midi snow ridge – full details and more photos here…

AdM Snow Ridge

AdM Snow Ridge

Distance: 6km – Duration: 3.5hrs – Ascent: 350m – Descent: 670m


Day 3: Le Brévent (2525m): Awaking to very poor weather, we sat out the morning gently acclimatising in the Aiguille du Midi (AdM) cafe. Finally we took a cable car up to Planpraz and walked up to Le Brévent via Col du Brévent in the afternoon once the weather improved.

Distance: 3km – Duration: 1.5hrs – Ascent: 510m – Descent: 55m


Day 4: Refuge des Cosmiques (3616m): As our plan to go up the Argentière Glacier was scuppered by the lift not running, we decided to return to do the up-hill version of the Vallée Blanche Traverse by taking the AdM cable car, then a 2nd cable car across to Helbronner, and setting off back from there.  We also stopped in at the Refuge des Cosmiques on route for lunch.  The final ascent of the AdM snow ridge became rather interesting as a blizzard closed in on us.

 Refuge des Cosmiques & Aiguille du Midi

Refuge des Cosmiques & Aiguille du Midi (AdM)

Distance: 7km – Duration: 5hrs – Ascent: 735m – Descent: 385m


Day 5: Glacier des Pélerins (2400m): We took the Aiguille du Midi cable car to its half-way stop at Plan de Aiguille.  The plan had been to cross the Glacier des Pélerins and the Glacier des Bossons to the Refuge des Grand Mulets for lunch and back. However there was significant fresh avalanche and rock fall on the Pélerins so we sacked it off and walked down to the valley from the old disused Gare des Glaciers cable car top station. The views of Glacier des Bossons were fantastic as were the alpine flowers on the descent.

Glacier des Bossons

Glacier des Bossons

Distance: 6km – Duration: 7hrs – Ascent: 390m – Descent: 1640m


Day 6: Refuge Tete Rousse (3167m): We took the early bus to the Bellevue cable car from Les Houches to connect with the first Mont Blanc train to Nid d’Aigle. The plan was to walk up to Refuge du Goûter and back to catch the last train down. We arrived at Refuge Tete Rousse in good time overtaking many groups on the way up, however the Grand Couloir was filled with deep snow and we decided this would slow us down too much. Instead we had lunch at the Tete Rousse and had great fun descending the steep snow off the end of the little glacier back down to the station and then we walked back down to Bellevue which lived up to its name.

Refuge Tete Rousses

Refuge Tete Rousse

Distance: 8km – Duration: 6.5hrs – Ascent: 825m – Descent: 1430m


Day 7: Refuge du Requin (2516m): The plan had been for a 3 day hut to hut expedition around the Mer de Glace: Montenvers to Refuge du Requin to Refuge du Couvercle (via Ref. Leschaux) and back, as described here. However the weather forecast was not good – so instead we just walked up to the bottom of the Requin ladders for a quick look and then went to stay in Courmayeur two days earlier than planned.

Refuge du Requin

Refuge du Requin

Distance: 20km – Duration: 6.5hrs – Ascent: 675m – Descent: 675m


Week 2: Valle d’Aosta – Italy

We transfered to Courmayeur via a Savda bus through the Mont Blanc tunnel, and checked into the Hotel we used as a base for a second week.

Day 8: Petit Flambeu (3440m): We took the Helbronner cable car from Courmayeur to the Vallée Blanche. However the weather was quite poor so we spent a few hours getting lost in freezing fog on the glacier and finally summitted the tiny peak of Petit Flambeu. This was more than most of the guided groups that we met had achieved.

Petit Flambeu (3440m)

Petit Flambeu (3440m) on a good day

Distance: 9km – Duration: 4hrs – Ascent: 420m – Descent: 420m


Day 9: Day trip to Aosta: The weather was poor so we went shopping in Aosta to find cheap beer and some gaffa tape to repair split crampon anti-balling plates. Nice ice cream too.


Day 10: Refugio Chabod (2710m): We took the local bus via Villeneuve and walked up to Rif. Chabod from Pravieux. We then bimbled around in the afternoon looking at the beautiful alpine flowers and the stunning views.

Rifugio ChabodRif. Emanuele Crack Fox

Distance: 5km – Duration: 3hrs – Ascent: 1020m – Descent: 130m


Day 11: Rifugio Vittorio Emanuele II (2735m): We had planned to walk over to the Vit. Emanuele across the glacier, however the weather was very poor so we took the easy walkers path (5a) around in the rain and fog. We particularly liked the semi-tame fox that lived near the Emanuele and came round for scraps in the morning.

Rifugio Vittorio Emanuele II (2735m)

Rifugio Vittorio Emanuele II (2735m) on a nice day!

Distance: 6km – Duration: 2.3hrs – Ascent: 325m – Descent: 335m


Day 12: Gran Paradiso (4061m): – for full details and more photos click here…

Grand Paradiso Summit View

Gran Paradiso (4061m) summit views

Distance: 9km – Duration: 7hrs – Ascent: 1375m – Descent: 1375m


Day 13: The plan had been to climb La Tresenta (3609m).  However, we awoke to gale force winds at 4.00am (which blew our window and door wide open) and as the weather was still awful when we finally got up for a late breakfast at 8.00am, we decided to sack our plans and descended to Pont in the valley.  We returned to our Hotel in Courmayeur a day earlier than planned and watched a live Gallic music concert in the afternoon.

Distance: 4km – Duration: 2hrs – Ascent: 10m – Descent: 800m


Day 14: Mont Chetif (2343m): We walked up this fantastic view point from Courmayeur and spent the afternoon watching huge ice séracs fall off the end of the Mont Blanc Brenva glacier. We also saw a golden eagle and some sort of red kestrel too.

View of Mont Blanc Massif from Mont Chetif

View of the Mont Blanc massif & Brenva Glacier from Mont Chetif (2343m)

Distance: 6km – Duration: 6hrs – Ascent: 1255m – Descent: 910m


Day 15: Returned home via Chamonix & Geneva


Accommodation Details:

The first week we based ourselves in a little apartment in Chamonix Sud called “Chamois Blanc 420“. This place was fantastic: good value for money, very convenient for the Aiguille du Midi cable car and surprisingly well equipped – highly recommended.

The second week we based ourselves in a rather chaotic Hotel in Courmayeur  called “Hotel Tavernier“. Very friendly staff but just a bit mental!

Hut contact details:

Refuge du Requin:
Refuge du Couvercle:
Refugio F. Chabod:
Rifugio Vittorio Emanuele II:


Transport Details:

We used Easy-jet to fly to Geneva.

We used Chamexpress for our Geneva Chamonix transfers.

We bought a 7 day pass to cover all the Mont Blanc trains, and other Chamonix cable cars.

We used the Savda bus for our return journey Chamonix to Courmayeur through the Mont Blanc Tunnel, and used more Savda buses for the return journey from Courmayeur to Pont to get to the Gran Paradiso.


Other Details:

This little backpackers hostel does a useful left luggage service in Chamonix for over night hutting trips.





Author: Phil Newby

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Author: Phil Newby