On the weekend du visite, Saturday, September 13, 1986, Jean-Frédéric Rosselet and I aimed for the Dent de Morcles, in fact two summits—our destination, the Grande Dent de Morcles at 2968 metres, and the Petite Dent de Morcles at 2929 metres.
We travelled by train to Bex, from there ascending with a yellow-with-red-stripe PTT Swiss post bus up through le Bévieux and Frenières to les Plans at 1101 metres, the turnaround point for the bus.
We commenced our hike turning right, up four hairpin bends in the trail, then levelling out for a bit, a little north of and below Pointe des Savolaires, 2294 metres, passing through a few wire gates, over wood stiles, across meadows, meeting two milk jerseys with bells clang-clanging as they munched on grass.
Soon we passed through the hamlet of Javerne, 1666 metres, and turning south for a now steeper ascent for the Croix de Javerne at 2097 metres, marked with an approximate two metre wood cross with carved lettering. We were rewarded with a magnificent, albeit overcast, view of the region.
Somewhere a little further along we stopped in on a hiking refuge, the overcast sky clearing for mostly blue, clotted with cloud here and there. We each purchased a bowl of tea to go with our pain de Vaud, jambon fumé, and soft stinky cheese known as Tomme.
Satisfied and rested up, packs hoisted, and away we went, soon coming upon the Grand Vire, a horizontal path across two steep combs, the path thinner and less secure with some loose shale and rock in numerous places, even erased by erosion in a few spots, picking our way along until we met the foot path at the base of a chimney.
Now it was a very steep and narrow climb, yellow painted arrows showing the way up on a very tiny path, zig-zagging up the very steep, rocky couloir. It was built by the Swiss Army many years ago. On occasion rocks the size of grapefruits accompanied by plentiful smaller stuff would come down, necessitating gymnastics, forcing us to duck under overhangs or pull our full backpacks up over our heads. Luckily we could usually hear the tumbling well in advance. The sun was receding westward, with it a significant temperature drop, still no summit in sight through the top of the chimney quite far up.
In the half dark we finally came out on a crest and quickly and easily to the left for the awesome summit, somewhat level in places. Our reward was a magnificient 360° view in the evening glow. The morning was to reward us with even better.
Supper was heated on a primus burner—freeze-dried pasta with white cream sauce, buttered bread, a shot of white wine each, then black coffee.
It was necessary to sleep fully clothed despite the sleeping bags rated -15° and all-season, it was so cold at that altitude.
We were greeted early with a glorious sunrise over the Alps, the rose and orange colours sweeping westward peak by peak. At this height one could see pretty much all the Swiss ranges, the northern Italian, and probably even some western Austrian peaks, too.
After a breakfast of black coffee and oatmeal porridge, we packed up and decided to head northeast a little, checking out the ridge toward the Dent Favre, 2917 metres, and a somewhat closer view the Petit and Grand Muveran, 2820 and 3051 metres respectively.
By now we had slowly warming sun, the cloud shreds increasingly scattered.
Now we made down the northern slope and curving westward over the ridge leading to the Pointe des Martinets, 2638 metres, eventually coming upon yesterday’s Grande Vire and turning right to a crest and then down a grassy comb to a marked path soon passing the old military barracks of Rionda. Jean-Frédéric told me of a network of tunnels throughout these mountains, constructed in the name of national defense, all as a result of the famous “Reduit Concept” developed by General Henri Guisan in the summer of 1940. Recently I read that it was about 23 kilometres of tunnels! Some tunnels and fortifications throughout the country were abandoned in the 1990s.
It was another good hour until we reached the La Tourche hut with its beautiful view. From here we descended the old military trail to Le Crêtelet and the path to Les Martinaux, followed by about twenty bends in the road down to the hamlet of Morcles and another thirty tight hairpin bends leaving this little mountain road at Lavey les Bains for the road to St-Maurice.
At the train station we rested about 40 minutes for the next local train. The only others waiting for the same train was an old farm couple, leather-faced from decades outdoors in all weather, sporting traditional costumes from their village, wherever that was—Jean-Frédéric said they were in the Valaisan style with subtle variations in the details, specific to their village and valley. They must have been off to some special event or celebration because one did not see anyone wearing regional costume in daily life anymore.