As you ascend a series of switchbacks from Refuge des Mottets, the verdant pastoral slopes of the Vallée des Glacieres, which echo to the sound of cowbells and the shrill whistles of marmots, demand your attention with every twist and turn of the trail revealing something new. On almost any other day this climb would be the highlight of the walk, but today that prize goes to the Col de la Seigne.
The Col de la Seigne forms the Alpine frontier between France and Italy. As you straddle this border with a foot in each country, the panorama of mountains that greets you will leave an unfading image in your memory of the Tour du Mont Blanc. You are on the southern fringes of the Mont Blanc massif, so looking north reveals a jagged assortment of peaks, glaciers that cling to the steep and rocky slopes and waterfalls that plunge into the valley. It is from this dramatic viewpoint that you must tear yourself away to descend into Italy.
... but don’t fret, the descent remains spectacular. Those craggy peaks you looked at from afar will soon loom directly over you as you wander beside an icy stream that threads through the valley in fractured channels and collects in still pools and lakes to provide a crystal reflection of the surrounding mountains.
We have split the Refuge des Mottets to Courmayeur section into two days to avoid a long one, so this track goes to La Visaille from where you can take a bus to Courmayeur. You can return to this majestic valley tomorrow, re-energised and ready to appreciate it in full.
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.
Points of Interest
Just below Col de la Seigne on the Italian side you will pass La Casermetta Museum. Inside is a scale model of the Mont Blanc massif and information panels which explore the environmental, historical and cultural significance of the Mont Blanc region.
More information available here: http://www.autourdumontblanc.com/en/index.cfm/casermetta-espace-mont-blanc.html
Monument to the November 1st Plane Crash
Plaques, flags, and an information board close to Refuge des Mottets remember an incident from November 1946, when an American bomber plane crashed into the Aiguille des Glaciers just below the summit. 8 crew members were lost, and were only repatriated to the United States in the 1970’s when they emerged from the ice.
More information available here: http://www.b17montblanc.org/en/historical-facts/overview.html
Shuttle bus from Les Chapieux to Les Mottets
If you are staying in Les Chapieux you can take a shuttle bus to Mottets. The shuttle from Les Chapieux to Mottets operates from approx. beginning of July to the end of August. Specific timetables are not available until the start of the summer season. For more information, please visit the following website closer to the time of departure: https://en.lesarcs.com/move-around/bourg-saint-maurice.html
June/September: When the shuttle is not operating, you should plan on walking. Alternatively, Taxi Besson are now offering a shuttle service between Les Chapieux and Les Mottets, by reservation. Call them the night before or ask your accommodation to do this. Places are limited and payment is direct to the driver: Taxi Besson: http://www.taxi-montblanc.com/ Tel : +0033450936207
Bus from La Visaille to Courmayeur
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
Food and Drink
Between Refuge des Mottets and La Visaille there are few opportunities to buy food or drink, so be sure to bring enough provisions with you. Refuge des Mottets can prepare a packed lunch for you. You will pass Refuge Elisabetta and Caban du Combal after 7.9 and 11.5 kilometres, respectively.
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.