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.
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.
Many people miss the high route option from Rifugio La Peule after 13.8 kilometres, but it would be a shame to miss this as it requires no extra effort, provides vastly more impressive views and continues along a footpath rather than a dirt road.
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.
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
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!
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.