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Cabane d'Orny, Cabane du Trient

Two huts are contained in the program of this high class excursion: Orny (2826m, 9272ft) and Trient (3170m, 10400ft). The panorama of the latter is really exceptional, especially at sunset: a glacier plateau surrounded by granite needles. Despite the many people, it is worth considering to spend one night there.

Cabane du Trient

1 - Cabane du Trient

The departure is in Champex, in the Val Ferret. If you have read my other hiking stories, you should know that I truly love this valley. Although Champex is slightly more developed than the hamlets at the upper part of the Val Ferret, you cannot say that there is a mass tourism at that place.

It is necessary to take the Breya lift. Without this installation, the total climb would amount to 1700 meters (5577ft), which would make this tour particularly exhausting. I know what I am speaking about: once I had to do without a lift due to late season closure. I categorically advise against going up under the lift, but I can also describe an interesting compromise which is to take a one-way ticket and come back down the Col de la Breya and the Val d'Arpette.

From the upper station of La Breya (restaurant), you take a path that goes very high above the Combe of Orny. During the first hour, it is broad and easy to walk on, and you gain little altitude. This is fortunate, because the slopes off to the side are very steep. The void beneath is especially impressive at the beginning. As we enter the combe of Orny, the latter closes itself. Do not forget to admire the Grand Combin behind you, on the other side of the Val de Bagnes.

The trail in the Combe d'Orny

2 - The trail in the Combe d'Orny

After an approx. 45-minute walk you pass the fork of the narrow path of Col de la Breya, which I will describe below. Then, after an hour you get to the torrent of Darbellay, at an altitude of 2464m (8084ft). And after 1:15, you arrive in a plain where you usually come across some groups of climbers who go hiking up the routes already traced in the nearby cliff.

The tough climb that follows lasts only 15 minutes. At that point you are on the moraine of the Orny Glacier. The glacier below seems unfortunately to be melting down rapidly! The mountain that looks unclimbable because of its very smooth face is the Clocher du Portalet. You can see it very well on the road to the Cabane de Saleina. A last slope up and you reach the Cabane d’Orny. Total time: 2:10, breaks included.

Cabane d'Orny

3 - Cabane d'Orny

You can enjoy a break at the cabin or at the edge of small lake just behind it to look at the Portalet. I am not speaking of the Clocher, but the face rising up to 3344m (10971ft), of whose base is on the other side of the glacier. Glaciologists at the University of Fribourg have taken that mountain as an example of the melting of glaciers and global warming. Their study, unfortunately not online any more, tells about permanent rock falls from the Portalet face, a phenomenon that has increased in recent years. During my 45-minute break, I could witness it: stones falling off the weathered face. I even saw the fall of a huge rock which was as big as a house!

The 2nd leg of the route towards the Cabane du Trient changes completely. This is the area of snow ... although with this heatwave, one wonders if the word is still appropriate. Past the lake, it climbs up the Orny glacier névé. We are walking on snow for approx. 45 minutes. The route is so popular that there will certainly be traces on the right side of the snow field, and most of the time even other hikers and climbers to follow. However, it remains a glacier: one must under no circumstance venture off the route. And do not hesitate to abandon in case of unsettled weather or if the condition of the glacier looks bad.

Hiking in the snow makes you breathless. This is related to altitude, not to the terrain, as the slope here is relatively gentle. At a place, arrows painted on rocks are telling us to leave the snowfield and to climb at the base of the Pointe d'Orny instead. Note that you may very well continue in the snow, where there is an alternative route (we will do that for the descent). But let us trust the marks and go at the right side. It's very steep here. Fortunately the arrival at the cabin is now imminent. We reach it 1:15 after having left Orny (i.e 3:35 in total).

The Trient glacier

4 - The Trient glacier

The Trient glacier in the 90s

5 - The Trient glacier in the 90s

I leave you alone during a short paragraph so that you can enjoy the panorama of the plateau of Trient and les Aiguilles Dorées.

For the descent, I follow two climbers who have the good idea of turning right down the snowfield instead of taking the steep path in the boulder. Although the snow is extremely wet, it is an easier way to lose these hectometres of altitude.

It took me 45 minutes to reach Cabane d’Orny, then 1:40 till the Breya cable car. I have been particularly slow on this section, for hiking on the narrow trail across steep slopes made me nervous. Chains were put recently in some passages.

I mentioned before the Col de la Breya as an alternative route for the descent. At point 2390 of the map, you can choose to take the tiny path that climbs up in the grass and under rocks. It is quite faint and makes you wonder where you are going. It also requires greater caution, at least until the pass. The pass is a narrow opening in the craggy range, which brings you down the other side, in Val d'Arpette. On this side it has become less steep and zigzags through screes, then across shrubs, and finally reaches a road. Following it, we arrive at the Relais du Val d’Arpette, just before the village of Champex. I won’t give any time indication for this option, because I don’t have it in mind. It is not much longer than using the cable car, and more interesting.

Here are the opening hours of the Breya cable car in summer 2003: opening at 8:30, closing at 17:00. So please plan your hike according to this schedule if you intend to use the installation.

Readers' comments:

From: Jiri Masik
Sent: 9-Aug-2013

The lift to La Breya is not operational for the time being and there is no hint when it will become available again. (...)

Indeed, the lift was badly damaged by a fire in September 2012 and stayed closed during 2013. Visit the chairlift's website if you plan to use the installation for this hike.

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