Hikes for loners

and independent types


In short:


Links (click on flag):

  • English The same tour, hiked and described by Dmitry Yakunin on his website Around Lausanne.
  • Français Balcon de Fully et Tour du Grand Chavalard, by Markus Jaton.
  • French Report and pictures on Randomandie.ch.

Tour du Grand Chavalard, Col de Fenestral

The Grand Chavelard is a wide fortress of 2899m (9511 ft) that guards the bend in the Rhône valley. This very sunny walk is intended to be a circuit. On the way, it visits the Lacs de Fully and the Cabane de Fenestral. If you do not have time for the whole circuit, the walk along the balcony path from l'Erié towards the Lacs de Fully and back makes a worthwhile shorter walk.

[Translation and additions (italics) courtesy David Lauder, Nov-2005]

Cabane du Fenestral, Dent de Morcles

1 - Cabane du Fenestral, Dent de Morcles

I chose to leave Erié, at approx. 1860m (6102ft). To get there by car from Fully is already an expedition in itself. This is why it seems to to me more reasonable to go up from Ovronnaz. In Ovronnaz, turn left, by the Migros shop (sign post to "Chiboz-Fully"). Soon after the tarmac ends, take the left fork signposted to "Chiboz-Fully". This gravel road goes slightly downhill and through a short tunnel before reaching a junction where the right turn climbs up to l'Erié.

Without car, do not start the hike at Erié, as it is too isolated, but take the Bougnone chair-lift from Ovronnaz. The route is the same, except that the circuit begins and ends at a different place. Having parked at Erié, one takes the path which leaves at the level the last hair pin bend the road. It is rather narrow and in 40 minutes, it leads to Lui d'Août, 1959m (6427ft). According to a sign, the chalet serves food during the summer months. As I passed there in October, it was closed. Doing this route so late in the season allowed me to avoid the great heat. On the other hand, I had to move on grassy ground, and even in snow at the pass of Fenestral. Fortunately there is no difficulty on this route.

Rhône valley and Grand Combin

2 - Rhône valley and Grand Combin

30 minutes later, one reaches other chalets, those of Petit Pré. The mechanical installations of Ovronnaz are very close. It is here that you will join the circuit if you chose Ovronnaz rather than Erié as the starting point. One goes up a small, pretty valley and passes round the edge of the marshy plateau of Euloi. All around, the mountains with beautiful silhouettes, in particular the massive Dent Favre and the Tête Noire, towards which one heads.

After about 2 hours of walking, the ascent to Col de Fenestral begins. The upper two thirds were done in 30 cm of snow. There is no point in describing this ascent in detail, particularly as it must be different without snow. It seemed to me gentle and easy, that is all that I can say. Having arrived at the col (3:15 from Erié), one discovers there on the other slope the impressive Dent de Morcles and the Lacs de Fully. In the distance, Mount Blanc, the glacial cirque of Trient but also very distant summits like Gran Paradiso, the only Italian 4000m peak.

After a short stop at the Cabane du Fenestral, one sets out for the descent from the pass. In spite of snow and mud, it proved to be quite easy although not well marked. In fact most of the descent is on the last section before the lake.

Avoid going down to the large lac de Fully. It is better to keep to the left and to go directly to the Lac Inférieur (junction with a wide path and houses). There one almost immediately takes a path which goes up on the left. There is no sign because it is short cut. If one stays on the wide path a little longer, there will be a steep climb a few hundred metres further on. One passes a spot height of 2133m on the Carte Nationale. In this way, one crosses over from the eastern face of the Grand Chavalard to the southern face. From here, while seeing cliffs falling vertically towards Fully, 1600 meters below, one realizes of the particular situation of the lacs de Fully.

Ascent of the Col du Fenestral

3 - Ascent of the Col du Fenestral

South face of the Grand Chavalard

4 - South face of the Grand Chavalard

Finally one follows a wide path which will bring us back to Erié while passing under the Grand Chavalard. This bristly southern face with multiple towers is most impressive. One could speak of a cathedral. Fortunately the path is wide because it trasverses above precipices that go right down to the level of the Rhône valley. Furthermore, from this extraordinary balcony one sees the river as well as the motorway. The sounds of civilization are not far away. Opposite, the Grand Combin rises as well as some other Valais peaks. The arrival at the Erié car park marks the end of the circuit, 6 hours after starting.

Summary of the stages of the circuit and the times taken (indicative):

Elapsed time Location Time
  L'Erié 10:15
0:40 Lui d'Août 11:05
1:10 Petit Pré 11:25
  Pause 20 minutes  
2:10 Bottom of Col du Fenestral 12:45
3:15 Col du Fenestral 13:50
4:35 Lac de Fully 15:10
5:55 L'Erié 16:30

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