After a bus drops you back to the trail there’s a little backtracking on yesterday’s route before you begin breaking a fresh and increasingly scenic path overlooking Mont Blanc’s southern face. You finish in the hub of Courmayeur which has a wide selection of shops, restaurants and distractions from the trail!
We have split the Refuge des Mottets to Courmayeur section into two days to avoid a very long one, so this track starts right from La Visaille (where you caught the bus yesterday) and fills in the gap to Courmayeur.
Although this walk is mostly downhill, there is still a significant climb of around 800 metres to reach the ‘balcony’. ‘Balcony’ is a good way to describe the footpath which remains mostly flat, hugging the exposed, steep southern slopes of Val Veni. On the far side of the valley captivating views of Mont Blanc’s jagged southern peaks and of the glaciers de Bruillard and de Fréney which appear as if they might slide from their precarious slant at any moment. Your gaze is sure to be turned left, digesting this veritable feast for the eyes.
Courmayeur marks the low-point of the trip since leaving Les Houches and therefore your first glimpse of it will be from high above, with a long descent and endless switchbacks required to reach it. If you are lacking energy, want to protect your knees, or just want to avoid this descent, you may be able to take a chairlift or gondola down, depending on summer opening times. Lift schedule available here: https://www.courmayeurmontblanc.it/pisteimpianti?n=62260
Tuck in to some hearty Italian food upon arrival in Courmayeur; their mastery of delicious pizza, pasta and wine might be the rejuvenation you need!
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 2,400 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
As you walk the first few kilometres from Val Veni bus stop towards Caban du Combal, there is a good chance you will encounter walkers with adzes protruding from swollen backpacks and a rope thrown jauntily on top. This is the main route to climb Mont Blanc from the Italian side; if they are walking in your direction they may just be setting out, but if they are coming towards you ‘congratulations’ may be in order!
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
Just before reaching Courmayeur you will pass the hamlet of Dolonne which is physically separated by the Dora Baltea river. This hamlet has retained its character, and you will stroll on cobbled streets scarcely wide for one car to pass through, let alone two. The houses are constructed in typical alpine style from wood and stone, and you might even stumble across an old wash house or communal bread oven, dating to the village’s historic roots.
Bus from Courmayeur to La Visaille
From the beginning of July until the beginning of September, a bus operates between La Visaille and Courmayeur.
Buses leave about every hour and operate approximately between 8:00 and 21:00. You can purchase a ticket from the driver which will cost a few euros.
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 -> Courmayeur/Val Veny
Cable Car / Chairlift from Col Chécrouit to Courmayeur
You can avoid the long steep descent from Col Chécrouit to Courmayeur by taking the chairlift and cable car.
The timetables for the lifts will be available at the start of the summer season and can be found here: http://www.lovevda.it/fr/base-de-donnees/5/remontees-mecaniques/courmayeur/telecabine-dolonne-plan-checrouit-et-telesiege-plan-checrouit-maison-vieille/4343
A one-way ticket costs approximately €10 for the cable car and €5 for the chairlift.
Food and Drink
Between La Visaille and Courmayeur there are few opportunities to buy food or drink, so be sure to bring enough provisions with you.
You will pass Caban du Combal, Refuge Maison Vieille and Refuge Le Randonneur after 2.7, 10.2 and 10.9 kilometres, respectively.