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Trip – A week in Grimentz

    Grimentz

    Photo: Grimentz.

    Rankings

    • Prettiest village: Grimentz.
    • Best view: Cabane du Mountet; almost surrounded by glaciers.
    • Most Valais moment: popping to the bakery at 6:30am and noticing that among the selection of essential useful items in the fridge like milk and orange juice that there was also a selection of white wine. (the stereotype for the region being that they are rather fond of their wine as you might have guessed)
    • Biggest little annoyance: Farmers in this region don’t like to put gates in their electric fences. Meaning quite a bit of crawling under or awkwardly hopping over electric wires.
    • Ohrwurm: Back to the teenage years.

    Plan

    A tradition I have started since home office and COVID is 2 weeks of work/fun in the Alps without having to take any holiday time. A break from the same 4 walls and a good way to see some areas which require a longer journey to reach and would need more than just a weekend to be worth the trip normally.

    I left the MTB at home and just took hiking boots this time. In part because Grimentz seemed a bit limited, and also as I planned to hike back over the ridge into canton Bern.

    Goals:

    • See some of the French speaking part of Valais which is a bit of a gap in my map (and if possible improve my awful French a little bit).
    • See some of the Bisse – the water irrigation channels of Valais. These are one of the icons of the canton and some of them are built in impressively insane locations. SwissInfo article and a useful resource for finding hikes.

    When

    15 July – 23 July 2022.

    Where

    The French speaking part of Valais. An area I have passed through from time to time, but never properly seen any part of it beyond Sion.

    I had been wanting to do the Val d’Herrens at first. Arolla was my ideal spot, but on closer inspection it would have been a bit too remote (doable, especially with a bike). I couldn’t find any accommodation that suited my needs so I jumped one valley over (I went and did that in 2023, based out of Evolène).

    The Val d’Anniviers hadn’t really shown up on my radar. At a glance on a map it doesn’t look as impressive as the neighbouring valleys, but it was stunning. I would be happy to go back and explore some of the other corners that I didn’t fit in this time.

    Grimentz

    I was aware that Grimentz was meant to be one of the prettiest villages in Switzerland so took that as my base.

    • It is indeed very pretty. The dark aged wood combined with the bright red flowers in every window is very distinct and attractive.
    • The actual historic core is quite small (as in you have walked every bit of it in 5 minutes small). There is quite a bit of sprawl of holiday chalets around the village, but it does do a decent job of keeping everything in the same style and reasonably subtle.
    • It has enough shops for all your needs; including a COOP supermarket which is open everyday during season, a few bakeries and a butcher. Plus there are enough Sport shops and restaurants to support the tourist industry.
    • It is a little bit touristy, but a very muted level of touristy. There were usually a few people walking around taking photos, but never anything close to crowds. Most of the old town area is just normal buildings with almost no businesses which is a nice touch. Only one shop was purely tourist based but even that was more local handicrafts rather than generic tack at least.
    • Staying in Grimentz included a Val d’Anniviers guestcard which included free bus travel in the upper part of the valley and discounted cable car rides.
    • There are two cable cars going up different sides of the valley from Grimentz, and a (very infequent) bus up to the Moiry dam and Zinal. Otherwise getting around is doable but a bit of a pain with public transport. To get down to Sierre or to most other parts of the valley you need to change at Vissoie which acts as the hub for the valley. Still there was plenty enough for me to fill my time with.
    Grimentz
    The old core of Grimentz.

    Accommodation:

    • Airbnb – 30585078. 1250 CHF for 8 nights (156 CHF per night).
    • Located about 5 minutes walk out of the village centre and 10-15 minutes from the supermarket.
    • The decor was very 1970s inside (a true authentic Swiss experience), but with a well stocked kitchen and it was comfortable enough. The flat was on the ground floor against a hillside so was a bit cave like – however given the heatwave that was actually something of a blessing and it helped me to stay cool during the hot days.
    • The main selling point for me was the location and view. It was very quiet on the edge of the village, there was a fantastic wide view over the valley and mountains from the terrace, and I could open the window and listen to the sound of a cascading stream during the still of the night.
    Grimentz Airbnb
    Part of the view from the chalet.

    Activity ideas:

    • Cable cars to Corne de Sorebois (closed for building work that summer) and Bendolla.
    • Zinal and beyond up to the glaciers.
    • Up the valley to the Moiry dam and glacier
    • I would have liked to have gone over the passes like the Forcletta pass or Col de Torrent. Not least as those are some of my missing parts of the Tolkien route. The problem is that I would either have to double back at the pass, or go down into the next valley where the connecting transport to get back to Grimentz afterwards would take ages and require a massive amount of faff.
    • I had wanted to come back down taking the bus to Niouc and then crossing the awesome looking Niouc suspension bridge. It seems you can cross the bridge for a 5 CHF charge, but the connecting footpath was closed at the time.

    Cost

    • Accommodation: 1250 CHF.
    • Transport (with a half-fare card): Ignoring the trips out and back the only real cost was cable cars thanks to local buses being covered by the guest cards. Maybe 30 CHF or so total
    • Food: Supermarket/bakery costs (250), eating out (40 CHF). 290 CHF.
    • Total: ~1570 CHF (174 CHF per day over 9 days).

    The accommodation could have been cheaper. I wanted somewhere quiet and private where I could relax on a balcony/terrace with a nice view. If I had taken somewhere more central with less privacy then it would have saved a fair bit of money.

    Otherwise costs were kept fairly low. I had two meals out and only a few coffees. I am surprised by the supermarket costs, but I think bottles of Valais wine might have counted for a fair chunk of that….


    Daily Notes

    Day 1: Arrival

    From my home in Solothurn it was scenic train ride down through the three lakes region, alongside lake Geneva and then up Valais to Sierre to catch a bus up the valley.

    From Sierre the main road up the valley was closed so the bus took a diversion via Vercoin instead, this was very scenic and somewhat enlivened by the fact this smaller side road had clearly not been intended for large Postbuses and two-way traffic.

    I spent 30 minutes waiting for the bus to Grimentz in Vissoie which acts as the transport hub of the valley with all the bus routes joining together here. It wouldn’t make a bad base for that reason, but it doesn’t have much in the way of shops for supplies and isn’t very interesting (the 30 minutes I spent there was enough to see the whole place).

    Picked up the keys from the agent, and then wandered around the village and got some supplies.

    Took a walk out of the village along the Route des Follatires which had some fantastic views up and down the valley once you clear the forest.

    Day 2: Corne de Sorebois and Lac de Moiry

    Key Information

    Route: La Vouarda (cable car) – Corne de Sorebois – Lac de Moiry – Alpage de Torrent – Grimentz

    Length: 14km, + 480, -1580m

    Date: 2022-July-16

    My original plan had been to go to Zinal and then hike to the Cabane Du Grand Mountet (I did that the next day instead). This meant taking the bus back to Vissoie and then another to Zinal (there is a direct bus, but it only runs a few times a day). Due to a street festival the Zinal bus had to go back via Grimentz and take a small connecting road to Zinal. So an hour after I got on the first bus I went back past my starting point. A slow change I can deal with, but wasting an hour is just annoying.

    I decided to go with a change of plan and walk back to Grimentz via the scenic route over the Corne de Sorebois.

    In my rush I saw a cable car on the map and jumped off at the wrong stop in Mottec. A tiny village which did have a cable car, but only for industrial use. This meant a 45 minute walk up the valley to the correct cable car at Zinal. It was at least a very scenic and quiet walk.

    Finally reaching the correct cable car in Zinal I headed up to the top station which puts you out with just a short climb up the the Corne de Sorebois (2895m). The summit is as good as any viewpoint I have seen in the Alps: sitting high up at the point where the valley splits it had a prominent view of glaciers, endless peaks, and a clear view back down the valley.

    Corne de Sorebois hike
    Looking over the Moiry lake from Corne de Sorebois.
    Corne de Sorebois hike
    Looking down the valley from Corne de Sorebois.
    Corne de Sorebois hike
    Glaciers from Corne de Sorebois.

    I dropped down the other side of the mountain and descended to the Lac de Moiry dam. I don’t normally like dam lakes with their dead-zones around the edge, but being just below a glacier this one is filled with glacial flour and is very a striking shade of blue.

    My plan had been to head up to the Basset do Lona and then down to the Bendolla cable car above Grimentz (again I did that a few days later). I wasn’t sure of my condition, I had Covid earlier this year and whilst it wasn’t terrible my fitness (and more importantly confidence) had taken a hit. I went up as far as the Alpage de Torrent which had a fantastic view along the lake and up to the glacier, then decided to play it safe and head down via the floor of the main valley

    This was not as dramatic as it would have been above but was very pretty going through a mix of meadows and forest alongside the stream. The road is close to the path at the start but being a dead end it was very quiet.

    Corne de Sorebois hike
    The valley path from the Moiry dam to Grimentz.

    Day 3: Hike to the Cabane du Grand Mountet

    A tough but stunning hike (probably best done as two more relaxed days with an overnight at the Cabane really).

    See this post for details.

    Cabane du Mountet hike
    Approaching the Cabane du Grand Mountet.

    Day 4: Start of the working week

    I had to do some work and it was too hot to want to go out during the day (other than a little walk through the village to the bakery very early in the morning).

    Once the sun had passed over the ridge in the evening I took an evening walk up to Le Chequett and watched the light change with the sunset before dropping back down via Crehe (6km, +/- 530m). A beautiful viewpoint with nothing around but the sound of cow bells and marmots whistling at me.

    Day 5: More Work

    The hottest day of the week. My plan was simply to work and wait out the heat.

    The sky clouded over later in the afternoon with the promise of thunderstorms to provide some much needed rain and help cool the air down, but sadly nothing happened.

    Dinner at Clair Fontaine, the only restaurant properly in the old town of Grimentz. Nice place, but I hope you like cheese.

    Day 6: Yet more work

    More work and more heat. A day of storms was expected, but in the end there was just a few drops of rain in the evening.

    I took a little walk in the evening following the La Gourgra stream part of the way down into the valley before looping back through the village.

    Day 7: Glacier de Moiry to Bendolla

    Key Information

    Route: Glacier de Moiry (bus to ‘Moiry VS, glacier’) – Alpage de Torrent – Sex de Marinda – Bendolla cable car

    Length: 18.3km, +1000, – 1213m

    Date: 2022-July-21

    I took the Postbus up to the ‘Moiry VS, glacier’ stop at the far end of the lake. It would have almost certainly been more impressive to do this hike in reverse so that I was walking towards the glacier, but the bus only runs three times a day so this seemed more prudent rather than finding myself with a long (but pretty) wait at the end. The low frequency of buses also meant the morning bus was full to bursting despite it being a cloudy weekday.

    It was actually a very cloudy start with fog completely filling the valley up to the dam. I still enjoyed some fantastic views, but clouds often blocked the more distant peaks later in the hike.

    Glacier de Moiry to Bendolla
    Walking above the Moiry lake.

    I followed the higher path sign posted as route 221 to Alpage de Torrent. A little bit of a climb at first and then fairly easy going traverse though lush meadows alongside the lake.

    After the Alpage de Torrent it turns into a rougher/rockier landscape as you reach the pass at Basset de Lona.

    I took a short diversion up to Sex de Marinda (also written as Ché de Mareinda on SwissTopo) which was the highest point of the day at 2903m. The ascent was short but steep. The views which must be fantastic on a clear day were somewhat limited by the shifting cloud, but I got a good look in each direction and had the summit to myself. Incidentally the Sex in the name is a regional word for rock.

    Glacier de Moiry to Bendolla
    Walking up to Sex de Marinda, though sadly with much of the view lost to the cloud.

    After the pass the path descends into what I assume is the Lona valley (everything is called Lona at least). This was a much harsher landscape composed of scraggy meadow with loose stones. It had a certain grim beauty – especially with cloud down.

    The last section down to the cable car was along a terrace with fantastic views across the valley.

    At the end I took the cable car down from Bondela down to Grimentz (7 CHF with guest card).

    Glacier de Moiry to Bendolla
    The rather bleak section across Lona.
    Glacier de Moiry to Bendolla
    Views over the valley on the way to Bondela.

    Day 8 – To the Roc d’Orzival and along the ridge

    A very scenic route. Climbing up to a prominent viewpoint and carrying on along a narrow ridge.

    See this post for more details.

    Roc d’Orzival looking towards the highest peaks of Valais.
    Roc d’Orzival looking down to the main valley and the ridgeline cutting across to La Brinta.

    Day 9 – Transfer to Crans Montana via the Bisse des Sarrasins

    I had considered a few options about how to do this. My original plan had been via the suspension bridge at Niouc, but the footpaths were closed. I decided to follow the Bisse des Sarrasins along the Chemin des Bisses – skipping the first section with the Postbus.

    Key Information

    Route: Mayoux – Pinsec – Vercorin

    Length: 11.5km, +630m, -530m

    Date: 2022-July-23

    This follows the historical Bisse des Sarrasins. However unlike other routes like the Bisse du Ro there isn’t actually anything left of the Bisse (and the possibility it didn’t actually exist in the first place).

    Mostly this was a pleasant walk along a forested hillside. There were some impressive wooden walkway sections alongside steep sections of cliff towards the end. Sometimes the path is really squeezed up against the rocks – at one point I had to take my bag off and crawl through a gap to keep going.

    Bisse des Sarrasins
    One of the more open and impressive sections of the Bisse des Sarrasins.

    I had hoped this route would offer a good chance to stay cool and escape the sun in the forest. This worked for the most part, but the final climb up and then the last kilometre into Vercorin was hot and then hot and exposed to the sun.

    I saw afterwards that Vercorin is also listed among the most beautiful villages in Switzerland. In my quick walk through the village to reach the waiting cable car I noticed a few pretty buildings. It seemed OK but not all that special (it was not helped in my esteem at that moment in time by the village fountain being turned off).

    I took the cable car down to Chalais then a bus across to Sierre and another up to Crans-Montana where I spent the following week doing some more hiking (a funicular runs up normally but was closed for repairs). I have only seen Sierre in passing but it seems to be a very strong contender for ugliest city in Switzerland. The train station especially looks like they were actively trying to make it as unappealing as possible. There were some prettier villages and buildings on the climb up from the valley floor at least.

    Bisse des Sarrasins
    Cliffside walkway.
    Bisse des Sarrasins
    Squeezing through a tight gap.

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