Taking the high route variant via Fenêtre d’Arpette guarantees today will be one of the most demanding hikes of the entire TMB, climbing to a height of 2,665 metres. We can only recommend this hike in good weather conditions, for those who do not suffer from vertigo as the upper section of both the ascent and descent is boulder-strewn, steep and loose and if you are not a solo walker. For the easier traditional TMB route, please see the separate entry ‘Champex to Trient via Alp Bovine’.
Soon after leaving Champex and choosing the high route variant, you will get your first glimpse to a wall of mountains crowned with a jagged row of craggy peaks, and you will question how you can get through. The climb passes through a variety of beautiful landscapes; first, come the pine forests, then the alpine meadows, and finally the barren and boulder-strewn scree slopes of the upper section, and the same is true in reverse for the descent.
The 1,300 metres of climbing will all appear worthwhile when you finally reach the tiny gap in the mountains of Fenêtre d’Arpette. Gazing through this ‘window’ into a new valley you will see rows of mountains extending to the horizon and the chaotic and crumpled body of the Trient Glacier.
We do not recommend embarking on this route if you are a solo walker. 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.
***If you have been booked into a hotel in Martigny you will be required to catch a bus at the end of your walking day, see your itinerary document for more details.
Points of Interest
Bisse du Trient
After passing Café du Glacier the trail continues along a well-made gravel path with a gradual decline. During the last decade of the 18th century this was a railway line constructed to bring ice from the glacier to the Forclaz Pass, and from there distributed across Europe to destinations such as Paris. At the peak, 20 – 30 tonnes of ice were exported daily. A small irrigation ‘bisse’ runs beside the path sometimes in a ditch and other times on an elevated wooden channel.
The Trient Glacier is 4.3km long and covers an area of nearly 6km2, and can be split up into the upper section or ‘plateau’ where the ice is 100–150 metres deep, and the ‘tongue’ which extends into the valley, nearly 1,200 metres lower in elevation. During summer meltwater from the glacier feeds the Trient River.
Food and Drink
Between Champex and Trient there are few opportunities to buy food or drink so be sure to bring enough provisions with you.
You will pass Relais d’Arpette after 2.2 kilometres and the lively Café du Glacier after 11 kilometres. Both offer opportunities to buy food or drink.
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.