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Rifugio Bonatti to La Fouly

Hiking route · Mont Blanc and La Thuile
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  • Rifugio Bonatti
    Rifugio Bonatti
    Photo: Josiah Skeats, Macs Adventure
m 3000 2800 2600 2400 2200 2000 1800 1600 1400 18 16 14 12 10 8 6 4 2 km Grand Col Ferret Refugio Walter-Bonatti Alpages de la Peule Rifugio Elena La Fouly Bus Stop

After climbing Grand Col Ferret wave goodbye to Italy and the dramatic eastern slopes of the Mont Blanc massif and descend into the green pastures and valleys of Switzerland, finishing in the idyllic Alpine village of La Fouly.

difficult
Distance 19.8 km
6:30 h
925 m
1,349 m
2,542 m
1,599 m

Today’s walk initially continues high along the slopes of Italy’s Val Ferret with a gorgeous proximity to the giant mountains of the Mont Blanc massif. You could be forgiven for feeling a sense of sadness that you must leave this dramatic valley, but just over the hill of Col Grand Ferret lies Switzerland and the surprises she has in store! Before passing over Col Grand Ferret and dropping into Switzerland, take a moment to look behind; the valley appears like a deep moat protecting the mountains, and in the distance is Col de la Seigne which you passed several days ago, and beyond which lies France. 

It is funny the way a border - an arbitrary line on a map - can change everything. There is no ‘Welcome to Switzerland’ sign but it’s not necessary; as you descend into the valley you’ll find wooden chalets overflowing with flowers, ATM’s that dispense the colourful currency of Swiss Francs, hills which reverberate to the chorus of cowbells, Swiss flags that flap proudly in the wind, and a host of other subtle, exciting changes that remind you you are somewhere new.

Author’s recommendation

We recommend the high route from La Peule (described in the guidebook as the alternative). It offers lovely views and avoids the small portion on the road that the regular, signposted route follows. However, please note that the start of the path is not always obvious and it may seem like you are heading "off track" at the beginning (especially if the field is a little muddy and cattle have graze there). 

The signposted route will take you down to Ferret where you can catch a bus to La Fouly should you wish to shorten the walk slightly. 

Profile picture of Josiah Skeats
Author
Josiah Skeats 
Update: July 10, 2022
Difficulty
difficult
Technique
Stamina
Experience
Landscape
Highest point
2,542 m
Lowest point
1,599 m

Track types

Asphalt 0.17%Nature trail 3.92%Path 26.18%Road 4.26%Unknown 65.45%
Asphalt
0 km
Nature trail
0.8 km
Path
5.2 km
Road
0.8 km
Unknown
13 km
Show elevation profile

Safety information

There are several river crossings. There are always stepping-stones available but these may be slippery, and especially when wet. Take extra caution on these crossings.

Some of the path is along rocky steps; be careful as these may be slippery, especially when wet.

There are some exposed edges; be sure to read instructions carefully, stick to the main path, and don’t wander close to the edge. Use handrails where provided.

In early spring/summer there may still be patches of snow. Walk around where it is possible, and otherwise place your feet carefully and use walking poles if you have them.

This route is above 2,500 metres so bear in mind you may feel a shortness of breath and additional muscle fatigue associated with the altitude.

Tips and hints

Points of Interest

Grand Col Ferret

The Grand Col Ferret (2,537 metres) separates Italy and Switzerland and also forms the boundary between the Mont Blanc massif and the Pennine Alps. If you are walking the traditional Tour du Mont Blanc without embarking on any of the high route variants then this pass is the highest elevation you will reach.

 

Refuge La Peule

As well as welcoming walkers with refreshments, this isolated refuge is still a working dairy farm (you may even hear the jangling cowbells to prove it!), which allows a fantastic opportunity to experience local farm life and even taste some of the local produce!

 

Transport

For bad weather transport options, please see our guide (in the "Docs" section of your Macs app, and in "My Documents" in your Macs account online)

 

Food and Drink

Between Refugio Bonatti and La Fouly there are few opportunities to buy food or drink so be sure to bring enough provisions with you.

You will pass Chalet Val Ferret, Rifugio Elena and Rifugio La Peule after 5.3, 7.7 and 13.8 kilometres, respectively. La Fouly has a modest supermarket and a variety of cafes and restaurants.

Start

Rifugio Bonatti (2,028 m)
Coordinates:
SwissGrid
2'568'505E 1'077'324N
DD
45.846817, 7.033271
DMS
45°50'48.5"N 7°01'59.8"E
UTM
32T 347292 5078908
w3w 
///picturesque.bottomless.mathematical
Show on Map

Destination

La Fouly

Turn-by-turn directions

Starting from Rifugio Bonatti, bear left to head uphill and pass above it. Like much of yesterday, this first section continues contouring along the upper slopes of Val Ferret with breathtaking views on your left, particularly to Grandes Jorasses. There are regular signposts to Col Grand Ferret and Rifugio Elena, and you can ignore vague paths which turn downhill on your left or uphill on your right. The path crosses a series of streams; stepping stones may be slippery when wet so caution is required.

At 4 km, just before crossing a stream and reaching the derelict hut of Arnuova Di Mezzo, turn left sharply following the TMB sign to begin descending into the valley. A series of switchbacks will bring you all the way down to the stream that courses through the valley. At 5.2 km turn left to pass the car park and Chalet Val Ferret on your left, then after 100 metres turn right to cross the wooden bridge and continue along the gravel road. At 5.8 km, bear right onto a footpath to begin the climb.

From Rifugio Elena the path crosses a gravel road and begins climbing up the grassy slopes. Be sure to look behind regularly to enjoy the views that unravel along the eastern side of the Mont Blanc Massif. At 10.1km you will reach the top of the col; Welcome to Switzerland! The path continues down into the valley on the other side. After 200 metres, bear right as the path forks to continue heading downhill.

After reaching La Peule, ignore the TMB and La Fouly signs which direct you to pass in front of the refuge, and instead turn sharply left following the sign to Ferret. Pass through a small fence, across sloping rutted tracks, and then through a second gap in the fence, to follow a footpath through pastureland with views to the snow-capped Mt Blanc Massif looming ahead. This route requires no additional effort but remains higher and with better views for longer, however many people will miss this option and follow the signpost. 

At 17km, after a descent through pine forest, the path forks with the right option signposted to La Fouly and Ferret. Ignore this however, and bear left to continue heading downhill and towards the river. After 300m, bear left to cross the wooden bridge, and then bear right to follow the footpath which heads slightly uphill, following the yellow signpost. After 200m, you will emerge onto a gravel road; turn left, following the sign to La Fouly

At 18.2km, bear right to leave the gravel road and head downhill through a sloping meadowtowards the river. Once at the river, bear right across the bridge, and then bear left to followthe main paved road into La Fouly. 

Note


all notes on protected areas

Coordinates

SwissGrid
2'568'505E 1'077'324N
DD
45.846817, 7.033271
DMS
45°50'48.5"N 7°01'59.8"E
UTM
32T 347292 5078908
w3w 
///picturesque.bottomless.mathematical
Show on Map
Arrival by train, car, foot or bike

Equipment

Such is the way of Alpine hiking that you need to be prepared for all seasons and weathers; sturdy hiking boots, warm clothes and a waterproof/wind-break layer are all required, as is plenty of sun-cream and a healthy respect for the sun.

Walking poles will be a big advantage on some of these ascents and descents.

Ensure your phone is fully charged; if you doubt the battery will last throughout the hike, it might be beneficial to bring a power bank.

This walk is isolated with few opportunities to buy food or water so be sure to bring enough with you.


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Difficulty
difficult
Distance
19.8 km
Duration
6:30 h
Ascent
925 m
Descent
1,349 m
Highest point
2,542 m
Lowest point
1,599 m

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