Photo: Bisse du Ro.
The Bisse (basically irrigation channels) are one of the icons of Valais. Sometimes they are simply a little stream that flows alongside the footpath through a gentle landscape, at other times they are wooden pipes hanging off cliff faces in what must have been almost suicidal work to create and maintain. Many were abandoned when more modern solutions came in (or unproductive farms were simply deserted) but there has been a push to build paths along the same routes and restore/maintain the Bisse when possible.
The Bisse du Ro was replaced by a more efficient underground pipe sometime last century. The section closest to Crans has been restored and does carry some water still, but further away there are only hints left like the ditch it would have flown through.
Route: Cabane des Violettes – Cry d’Er – Er de Lens – Bisse du Ro – Crans.
Length: 10.2km, +200m, -940m.
For more hikes in Switzerland see my list of hikes.
Season: Late spring to Autumn.
Arrival/Departure: Cable car to Cabane des Violettes / various transport options in Crans.
Supplies: Restaurants at the cable car stations, otherwise nothing along the route.
Alternate routes/shortcuts: I had originally been planning to do the Grand Bisse de Lens, using the cable car to drop down closer to the start, but from my research the Ro seemed to be more impressive. In retrospect I could have gone from Crans up the Bisse du Ro and then down the Bisse de Lens before climbing back up (17km, +/- 800m). Or even have taken the cable car up to Plaine Morte and around the Rawilpass to the Bisse du Ro and Crans (24km, +600m, -2000m).
Exposure/Hazards: The start dropping down from Cry d’Er is very steep and a bit hairy at times. The route along the Bisse is basically flat, but is often rather narrow without much protection. Parents with little kids or those with a fear of heights might be a bit freaked out.
Initially it was very quiet. Just me and some marmots and gems going about their business. Even passing by the cable car station at Cry d’Er at 9:30am it was eerily empty. Once I got onto the Bisse it got busier with a steady flow of people (including families with kids, it is an easy walk out from Crans if you take the more direct there and back option).
Notes along the route
Cable car to Cabane des Violettes and across to Cry d’Er. This is a traverse with fantastic open views of Valais. I just added it on because I was staying right by the valley station for the cable car so it was more scenic than just taking the bus through to Crans.
From Cry d’Er it is a steep descent down to the Er de Lens. Mostly in meadow and forest, but there are some sections down rock faces including one section that I can only describe as a corkscrew. This was the first time that I have seen (or at least needed to use) a rope anchored at one end to abseil down.
I took a slight detour to take in the Er de Lens in its full glory. It was worth the extra few minutes to get a clear view of the impressive cliffs towering above the valley.
Dropping down to join the Bisse route there were suddenly more people about.
The Bisse du Ro footpath is stunning. Given that it was a former waterway the path is near enough flat. Not much of the original waterway remains, especially further away from Crans there is just a hint of it.
The path is quite narrow. It was a bit of a squeeze at times when the path got close to the rockface, but just required ducking down – nothing like the Bisse de Sarrasins across the valley where I had to crawl under rocks.
The mountain here is made of centimetre thick layers of shale which looks cool but also looks disconcertingly crumbly like it could all just fall apart at any time.
The Passereille du Bisse du Ro suspension bridge close to Crans was one of the most memorable parts.
The last section into Crans had some of the most dramatic views with the path following a walkway along the cliffside.
Part 2: Back up to the Cry d’Er
Route: Cry d’Er – Er de Lens – Cabane des Violettes
Length: 4km, +325m, -355m.
Continuing through to Crans I still had the whole afternoon still, so I used my day pass to go back up to Cry d’Er, walked up to Bella Lui (very steep) along the ridge to the Col de l’Arpochey and then down to des Violettes (4km +320m, -360m).
This route climbs up a hillside onto a ridge so has fantastic views. The ladder of death just before the Col de l’Arpochey was an unexpected surprise (and one that it seems you can divert around if you want).
Grabbed a dessert at the Cabane des Violettes and watched the marmots running around in the rocky area below the patio before taking the cable car back down.