Straddled between Switzerland and Italy, the Tour des Combins (TDC) offers six days of alpine hiking around the Combins massif which stands at an altitude of 4,314 metres. The proposed route provides a setting with many contrasts, close to the high mountains.
Good physical stamina is needed to tackle this strenuous and challenging trail. It will let you discover extraordinary landscapes – from the Brunet mountain hut to the Great Saint-Bernard Pass, you’ll enjoy the thrill of reaching an altitude of 3,000 metres and will cross five valleys that straddle Switzerland and Italy.
ROUTES AND ACCOMMODATION:
Bourg-St-Pierre is the largest village that the TDC passes through. Its Saint-Charles bridge (Charlemagne), ancient steeple, milestone (Roman perioéd) and extremely well-preserved old houses are well worth a visit before heading off into the mountains.
Passing the chapel at Lorette, le Creux du Mâ, Boveire d’en bas, le Coeur and Erra, the trail crosses alpine pastures and is relatively easy, allowing hikers to enjoy views of the full length of the Entremont Valley.
At Col de Mille – at the end of this first stage – there is an excellent hut with 59 beds which opened in 2015. The incredible panorama will astound you.
Distance: 12 km
Time required: 4 hours and 30 minutes
Altitude difference: +1100m / -250m
THE COL DE MILLE HUT
Passing through the Col de Mille, you enter the territory of the municipality of Bagnes, which is one of the largest in Switzerland (282 km2). Straight in front of you to the north, the resort of Verbier stretches right to the foot of Pierre Avoi. The TDC trails gradually heads north-east to reach La Treutse, standing at an altitude of 2,092 metres, after about an hour. There is an unobstructed view of almost all the villages that make up this municipality with a population of 7,800. Heading east, the path lined with blueberry bushes and arolla pines takes you to the Brunet hut.
Distance: 7.6 km
Time required: 2 hours 30 minutes
Altitude difference: +300m / -670m
Heading south-east, the path – sometimes climbing, sometimes descending – leads you to the Sery walkway built over a narrow gorge and “la Maye” is then easily reached. A steep zigzagging climb takes you to the 200-long walkway crossing the Corbassière glacier and stream. You then arrive at the FXB hut in Panossière after just under an hour on an easy path.
Distance: 7.4 km
Time required: 3 hours 15 minutes
Altitude difference: +820m / -290m
ALTERNATIVE ROUTE FOR THE PANOSSIÈRE HUT
The Panossière hut can be reached passing through the Col des Avouillons.
Distance: 7.5 km
Time required: 3 hours 40 minutes
Altitude difference: +940m / -400m
After passing along the moraine on the left side of the Corbassière glacier, there is a short but steep climb to Col des Otanes which, at an altitude of 2,870 metres, is the highest point on the TDC. There is a fascinating panorama here in this cirque of rock and ice where the Grand-Combin overlooks the magnificence of one of the most beautiful parts of the Alps. After descending for an hour you come to La Tseumette. On this grassy verge you can marvel at the peaks of Mont-Pleureur and La Ruinette. The imposing 250-metre-high concrete wall of Europe’s highest arch dam can be seen at the bottom of the valley. The descent continues to Mauvoisin.
Distance: 6.4 km
Time required: 3 hours 45 minutes
Altitude difference: +270m / -1060m
The trail leads to the dam which you cross and a good path takes you to the “Ecuries du Giétro”, which are heritage-protected buildings, and you then cross the picturesque Tsofeirë plateau to finally reach the Chanrion hut.
Distance: 10.6 km
Time required: 3 hours 50 minutes
Altitude difference: +905m / -290m
The Panossière – Chanrion alternative route. From Pazagnou you continue on the left bank passing through Les Rosses, La Tsessette and Le Lancet.
Distance: 17.6 km
Time required: 7 hours 45 minutes
Altitude difference: +1460m / -1630m
Setting out from Chanrion, you pick up the next section of the route, heading down the gently undulating hills of the mountain pastures until you arrive at the Grand Charmotane bridge which you cross. After an initial climb, which is quite steep, the slope gradually becomes gentler passing sometimes grassy, sometimes rocky parts until an easy path takes you to the Col de Fenêtre (Fenêtre de Durand). You now turn your back on the Upper Val de Bagnes and Valais and will see the lush alpine pastures of Ollomont in front of you. In the distance to the west, you will see the Col de Champillon which you will pass through on the next stage.
From the Col Fenêtre de Durand, the well-marked path firstly passes over scree before entering a section strewn with large rocks before eventually reaching the mountain pastures of Thoules. The trail follows the alpine pasture route as far as Lombardin and a few metres further on drops down into the grasslands before reaching the alpine pasture of Balme de Bal. From Balme de Bal, the TDC trail continues along the alpine pasture route as far as the bottom of Conca di By where it leaves it to follow the path ascending to Ru de By. The trail follows Ru de By heading south and passing through alpine pastures to reach Néan. From Néan the trail leaves the Ru de By heading up to the alpine pasture of Pessinoille and then onto Tsa de Champillon from where it takes you to the Letey à Champillon hut.
On the section between the alpine pasture of Balme and Néan, the following places can be reached:
Ollomont: 1 hour 30 minutes
Doues: 1 hour 40 minutes
Allein: 2 hours 30 minutes
Altitude difference: +1095m / -1120m
Distance: 19.8 km
Time required: 8 hours 20 minutesé
From the Letey à Champillon hut, the path climbs the rather steep slope leading to the Col de Champillon.
It then descends the length of the valley before arriving at a small building in ruins. It heads right to drop down towards the Menouve Valley passing alongside the ruins in the Pontier damon mountain pasture before reaching the Pointier desot mountain.
From the Pointier desot alpine pasture, the trail heads right following the alpine pasture route before joining another path. Head right and then turn left after around 300 metres until you reach the alpine pasture at Combe Germain. Here a path on the right climbs up to Ru d’Eternod. Bear left in a southerly direction through a beautiful forest of larches and you will arrive at Montagne de Barasson. From Montagne de Barasson a path leads to the forest trail which drops down to Saint-Rhémy de Pointier. The villages of Etroubles and St-Oyen can be reached in 1 hour 40 minutes.
Difference in altitude: +460m / -1250m
Distance: 15 km
Time required: 5 hours 30 minutes
At Saint-Rhemy, the TDC crosses the main road in the village. Heading out of the village, a short section passes along the road for motor vehicles from the Col du Gd St-Bernard leading to a path on the right which climbs to the former hospital building in Cantine de Fonteinte.
From Cantine de Fonteinte, the trail crosses the road twice before continuing through the pastures.
After crossing the road for a final time, you reach the Col du Gd St-Bernard passing through the Plan de Jupiter.
Distance: 6.3 km
Time required: 2 hours 50 minutes
Altitude difference: +870 / -30
COL DU GD ST-BERNARD
After leaving the pass, the trail drops down into the Combe des Morts and passes through Hospitalet. After the alpine pasture in La Pierre (vaulted barn dating to 1707), the achievements of the modern era become apparent with the start of the road tunnel and the Toules dam on the left side of which you pass along. Bourg-Saint-Pierre, the final destination on this stage of the Tour des Combins, is now very near.
Distance: 12 km
Time required: 4 hours 10 minutes
Altitude difference: +200 / -1045
The end of the hike
Leaflet to download here