A superb circular walk crossing three cols and the border into Italy and back. There are amazing and changing views throughout. Recently upgraded with signage as a locally important route and marked as 210 on the Swiss side of the border, 103 or 13a on the Italian side.
Described here in a clockwise direction as the Col du Bastillon is better in ascent than descent.
Calculated time is computed with the distance, the height difference, and an average speed of 2.2 mph. For an intermediate walker, this time includes small breaks.
There is plenty of parking available at the Grand St. Bernard Pass. We drove past the hospice, crossed the border into Italy and parked on the right behind the closed hotel, just before the statue of St. Bernard.
(D) From the car park, walk past the statue of St. Bernard and the Roman remains of the temple of Jupiter. Follow markers for 103 on the ancient footpath which leads down to the road.
(1) Cross the road and continue along the footpath passing signposts where the Via Alpina turns off left. You will now pick up route 13A. Continue along the path to cross the road again, walk up and behind the restaurant and continue up (possibly passing old patches of snow) to reach the Fenetre de Ferret. This col is like a window, the views of the Mont Blanc Massif open up from here but if you want to see Mont Blanc itself you will have to climb the short hill on your left or continue up to Tete de Fenetre.
(2) Ahead of you are the Lacs de Fenêtre and a rocky ridge on the right running down from Pointe de Drône. Rejoin the path and walk down to the Lacs de Fenetre. As you descend the broad ridge, the lake on the left will offer great photo opportunities and from the right angle, it looks heart shaped. If it is not windy, it is worth going down to the lakeshore the get some photos of the mountains reflected in the water.
(3) Rejoin the path and continue to the third lake. Cross it at the end via stepping stones which make up a dam wall. Just before the stepping stones, take the small path to see where the stream from the lake goes. Into a sinkhole beneath a short outcrop of rock.
(4) The rocky ridge up on the right looks impassible and at first it is hard to see where the Col des Bastillon goes. Follow path 210 up through the scree and take the left to a right rake which cuts through the crags. The rock is on the loose side, although the rake is quite broad. Surprisingly, this section was not equipped with a hand chain (2019) so please take care, particularly if wet and if passing people coming down.
(5) From the top of the Col des Bastillon the views ahead of Mont Velan and the Grand Combin open up. The path is much easier angled on the way down into the delightful pasture around the Petit and Grand Le, where you might pass between a large herd of cows. Descend into a shallow valley, cross the stream and continue to a junction in the path, wee signposted with markers bolted to a large boulder.
(6) Continue on route 210 and take the path upwards and through the scree to the Col des Chevaux. The path is never steep but climbs in broad sweeps, it is easy to imagine pack horses being taken this way. Remember to look behind you as the higher that you ascend the more that you Mont Dolent as it become visible behind the Col des Bastillon.
(7) The Col des Chevaux is a great place to get some photos of Mont Dolent and again there is a small raised section on the left where photos might be better from. In one direction, you have Mont Delent and the Mont Blanc Massif and in the other direction the western end of the Pennine Alps with Mont Velan and the Grand Combin. Follow the path downhill to where it joins the road on the Swiss side of the Grand St Bernard Pass just before the hospice.
(8) Walk along the road, taking care, to pass beside the hospice. If you have time, you can visit the kennels and the museum. (Free entry if you are staying in the area and have bought a Pass Saint-Bernard)
(9) From the kennels/museum walk back along the road to the car park (D/A).
D/A : km 0 - alt. km 0 - Car park
1 : km 0.33 - alt. km 0.33
2 : km 2.39 - alt. km 2.39
3 : km 3.56 - alt. km 3.56 - Lacs de Fenêtre
4 : km 4.29 - alt. km 4.29 - Stream
5 : km 5.89 - alt. km 5.89
6 : km 7.81 - alt. km 7.81
7 : km 9.34 - alt. km 9.34
8 : km 11.67 - alt. km 11.67
9 : km 11.93 - alt. km 11.93
D/A : km 12.42 - alt. km 12.42 - Car park
This walk can be done in either direction. I would recommend the way described as it is better to ascend the Col des Bastillon rather than descend it. Also for those with old and worn knees, the descents are easier and do not jar.
We did this walk the day after a very wet and stormy day. Thus the bigger mountains in the Mont Blanc Massif and the Western Pennine Alps still had cloud burning off them and it was not until mid afternoon that these peaks were free from cloud. (Worth noting if you want cloud free photos)
We took advantage of a large flat boulder just above the Patit and grand Le to sit and eat out sandwiches and enjoy the views.
You will be at or just above 2700m when crossing the cols so take appropriate clothing and check the weather forecast before setting off.
When we did his walk someone in trainers was slipping their way down the rake from the Col des Bastillon. Please make sure you are wearing appropriate footwear with a good sole unit. I would recommend walking boots or good approach shoes as a minimum. Early in the season, when there will be more snow patches then boots will be essential.
Refreshments are available at the Grand Saint Bernard Pass but nowhere else along the route.
If you are staying in the area the 'Pass Saint-Bernard' will get you free access to the ski lifts at Champex and Fouly and free entrance to swimming pools, museums ((8)) and some activities. You will also get discounted entrance into other museums. In 2019 it was 39 CHF per person but we got great value from this during a two week family holiday based in Champex.
Hikideas and this author cannot be held responsible in the case of accidents or problems occuring on this walk.
Enjoy the stunning views.
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N.B. this route is outlined on Openmap which doesn't have the details of our fine IGN maps. Before being able to get your hands on a Swiss map, which are more precise, the route and GPS layouts will be handy for this pleasant trek.
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The GPS track and description are the property of the author.