After a climb out of Courmayeur the path remains flat, walking high on the slopes of Val Ferret with a dramatic panorama of ice and rock on your left. The trail finishes at Rifugio Bonatti which is always one of the highlights of the Tour du Mont Blanc.
The climb from Courmayeur zig-zags through pine forest which offers shade but also obstructs the views. It is only as you burst above the tree-line near Rifugio Bertone that you suddenly get a view to Courmayeur and realise how much height you have gained. Moments later, you round a corner onto the upper slopes of Val Ferret and have a stunning vista throughout the entire valley. Sweeping your gaze left you can see Col de la Seigne at the head of Val Veni; you crossed this pass several days ago, and just beyond lies France. Turning right, you can see all the way to Grand Col Ferret marking the border with Switzerland and which you must cross tomorrow. Spanning the distance between these two cols is a panorama of jagged rock and ice that makes up the Mont Blanc massif.
As you walk along the valley, parallel to the Mont Blanc massif the mountains shift slowly beside you which only reinforces how giant they are, however by the end of the day it will be the angular, imposing figure of the Grandes Jorasses that takes centre stage rather than Mont Blanc. Rifugio Bonatti perhaps offers the best possible views to Grandes Jorasses and is perfectly situated to catch those gorgeous sunrise colours hitting the mountain in the morning.
You can shorten today’s walk by taking the bus on the Val Ferret line to Bivio Rifugio Bonatti, which only leaves 400 metres of ascent (perhaps 1-1½ hours) to reach the refuge.
One of the many charms that ensures Rifugio Bonatti is consistently a highlight of the Tour du Mont Blanc is its remoteness and the absence of any road to get there. This means there is no baggage transfer to Rifugio Bonatti, so take only your overnight things with you, and you will be reunited with your full luggage the following night.
Wake up early after your stay in Rifugio Bonatti to watch the first rays of sunlight transform the rock and ice of Grandes Jorasses into a painter’s palette of gloriously golden and pink hues.
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 2,000 metres so bear in mind you may feel a shortness of breath and additional muscle fatigue associated with the altitude.
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.
Points of Interest
Walter Bonatti was an Italian climber who relished the challenge of climbing little-known and technically challenging mountains. He achieved several ‘first ascents’ including the Gasherbrum IV (the world’s 17th highest mountain), and pioneered many new routes up already climbed mountains. He was a mountain guide in Courmayeur and has a hut in Val Ferret dedicated to him. Be sure to pop inside to see some of his photos and equipment.
Duke of Abruzzi Alpine Museum
This museum was started by the Duke of Abruzzi, a titan of the mountaineering world during the early 20th century. The museum houses a wealth of documents, photos, climbing equipment and souvenirs which allow you to uncover 150 years of mountaineering history. The museum is in the Società delle Guide building in Courmayeur.
More information available here: http://www.guidecourmayeur.com/en/index.php
If you want a shorter day today you can catch the bus from Courmayeur to Bivio Rifugio Bonatti in the Val Ferret and walk up to Rifugio Bonatti. It is a 400m climb from the road.
Savda bus: Linea Courmayeur to Val Ferret
Operating daily from Courmayeur to Val Ferret via Bivio Rifugio Bonatti from the beginning of July until the beginning of September. Timetables are available at the beginning of the summer season and can be found here: http://www.savda.it/ -> click on Timetables and Prices - > Public Regional Line -> Val Ferret for Bonatti/Arnurva)
Food and Drink
Between Courmayeur and Rifugio Bonatti there are few opportunities to buy food or drink, so be sure to bring enough provisions with you.
You will pass Rifugio Bertone after 4.3 kilometres.