Photo: View from the summit looking towards Dent Blanche and the Matterhorn.
A long climb up to a fantastic viewpoint in Valais.
Route: Evolène – Pic d’Artsinol (2997m) – La Meina – Lanna – Evolène.
Length: 21km +/- 1740m
For more hikes in Switzerland see my list of hikes.
Season: Summer – Autumn. At the start of July after a year of poor snow there was still snow at the top,
Arrival/Departure: Bus to/from ‘Evolène, Village’.
Supplies: Evolène has shops and restaurants, but on the route there is just a cafe/restaurant at Lanna and a cafe at the upper cable car station.
Alternate routes/shortcuts: A much easier option is to take the chair lift at Lanna, which runs from July to mid-September and saves 750m of height gain/loss. Reducing the route to 10.6km, +/m 880m. 15 CHF one way, 20 CHF return.
Exposure/Hazards: Nothing of note beyond standard mountain paths. There are no exposed sections, and the ridge up to the summit is wide and gentle. The biggest hazard would be the climb onto the ridge if it was still covered in snow.
- The signage was a bit hit-and-miss (this was a running theme in the Val d’Hérens). Some signposts didn’t show all the branching options, and markers across open ground were rather sparse. There were are few times on the way up when I couldn’t see where the path was supposed to be, or what I thought was the path just left me (going down via the cable car station was much clearer road and path the whole way). Have the SwissTopo app on your phone and download a map of the area for offline use.
- It was very quiet. I only passed 4 other hikers the whole time (grant. Despite turning into a lovely day the chair lift was running empty.
Notes along the route
The Pic d’Artsinol is actually visible from Evolène as you set off. Or would be on a clear day. The weather forecast had called for a cloudy start turning into clear skies later in the morning. I took the gamble that I could have a cool climb most of the way up and then enjoy clear views at the top.
From Evolène it was down past the sewage treatment works, across the river, and then up up up through the forest. The start is quite steep and there isn’t much of a view – but it would keep the sun off on a warm day at least.
After passing through the little farming hamlet at Le Vernec there is a short section of forest (including a meadow with no route markers) and then the path clears the treeline into open meadow and the views really open up. Especially of the end of the valley with the glaciated Pointe de la Vouasson/des Darbonires.
There is some ski infrastructure here, but it is mercifully very limited and unobtrusive. Just one little lift in this part of the valley and another on the way down to La Meina afterwards.
The path carries on up through the meadow. After joining a brief section of gravel road and passing through a gate I lost the path twice and had to figure out where it was by GPS and SwissTopo. Much to the surprise of a few marmots whose homes I wandered through. The terrain was very gentle so this wasn’t dangerous at least.
After passing a little pond the climb up to the ridge begins. This is short but was by far the steepest part of the route. It is worth the effort for the views that open up of the next valley and beyond, which only get better on the last push to the summit.
The top of the Pic d’Artsinol is stunning with a 360 degree view over most of Valais (including the Matterhorn peeking out) and Mont Blanc. I didn’t get quite the clear conditions I was hoping for with cloud hugging the sides of the mountains, but I was above the cloud which has it’s own beauty (and isn’t all that common to experience in summer).
I spent about an hour at the top admiring the view (and hoping the clouds below would burn away). I had been wanting to get a good view of the Grande Dixence dam to see how big it is, but all I got was a glimpse of the lake and upper part of the dam.
I took the other path back down to Evolène via La Meina and Lenna. This is about 2km longer but provides more open views – so was well suited to a descent in the sun.
The first section down to the upper chair lift station at La Meina is on a gravel road which is a bit boring (impossible to get lost on that at least). There is a restaurant there but it didn’t look overly tempting so I just carried on down.
From La Meina the path dives down through a series of little alp hamlets and stretches of forest.
I stopped at the La Petite Auberge de Lannaz in Lenna. They had raclette cheese grilling by an open fire, but having walked down in the increasingly hot sun I went for ice cream and a cool drink instead.
The final section back into Evolène from Lenna is along a quiet but slightly tedious bit of road.