Snowy Adventure To The Grand Saint Bernard Monastery

Written by Lindsay Cannon 21 December 2008

Last modified on 30 June 2020
Snowy Adventure To The Grand Saint Bernard Monastery

It's just a few days before Julia heads back to the UK for Christmas and leaves behind the snowy alpine landscape, so off we set for a girls' ski tour along with friend Cathy O'Dowd. All in the name of research for our snowshoe holidays in Chamonix, France - where you can experience this wonderful snowshoe experience for yourself. 


adventuring to the grand saint bernard monastery

We piled into the car with a selection of maps and a general plan to get some fresh air and exercise. Heading down into the Rhone Valley from our wee mountain village, we swung right and in the direction of Bourg St Pierre in the Swiss Valais region with the intention of heading up to the world famous Grand St Bernard Monastery.

This is where the St Bernard dog has its roots and where the breed was first associated with mountain rescue. The monks at the monastery, which is on a high col at over 2,400m, were fundamental to the establishment of the St Bernard as a rescue dog. It all began with Barry who seemed to be very good at sniffing out bodies buried in the snow by avalanches, and sort of grew from there....if you want the full story you need to join us for a night at the monastery. We can snowshoe up via a col or summit and then spend the night in this historic hospice and snowshoe back the next morning.

Anyway, I digress! Today we were not so lucky with the weather as on the way up the conditions were decidedly 'Scottish' though not enough to put the three of us off. After a couple of hours the welcome sight of the monastery came into view. For over a thousand years the monks here on the pass have welcomed weary travellers and today was no exception. In winter, the only way to reach the monastery is on ski touring skis or snowshoes which gives it a wonderfully isolated feel. I must say that the cold was soon banished with a bowl of soup prepared by the Brothers. We were then greeted with blue skies and sunshine as a small weather miracle seemed to have occurred while we were enjoying the soup. We finished our day with a ski down to the car, enjoying wonderful views and a very atmospheric afternoon with mist still drifting around the tops.