Tour des Combins
Tour des Combins
Tour des Combins
Tour des Combins
Tour des Combins
Tour des Combins

Tour des Combins


Trip Overview

A fabulous Alpine trekking experience on this week long trip in the Swiss and Italian Alps. We will be exploring an area less frequented by walkers, as we walk round one of the most famous 4000m (13,120ft) peaks in the Alps, the Grand Combin. This trip has always had rave reviews with our guests expressing surprise at the wildness and variety of the terrain. 

Highlights

  • Glorious high mountain views of the Pennine Alps
  • Walk beside the Glacier de Corbassiere
  • Stay at the famous Grand St Bernard Monastery
  • Swiss and Italian mountain refuge hospitality
  • Less hikers than many other routes
  • Views of Mont Blanc and the Gran Paradiso
  • Exceptional final day visiting the Lacs de Fenêtre

We travel through high alpine meadows where the edelweiss grow, and climb to the Col du Grand St Bernard to the monastery which is home to the famous St Bernard dogs. The terrain is remote, varied and offers spectacular views of the French, Swiss and Italian Alps. Join us on the Tour des Combins!


My father and I thoroughly enjoyed our time on the Tour des Combins trek led by Julia. Superb organisation, spectacular views and a very knowledgeable guide meant we had nothing else to think about apart from enjoying the trek in the beautiful Swiss countryside. The accommodation was in good quality mountain huts with excellent food provision, meaning we were well rested and fed throughout the week. The trek itself was wonderful, with sweeping views of the Alps whilst on some of the quieter trails away from the crowds. If you're looking for an accessible, yet spectacular week away from the crowds, I'd highly recommend the Tour des Combins. 

Itinerary

  • house
  • airport
  • On the evening before we start our walk your guide will meet you at your hotel in the Swiss village of Bourg-St-Pierre, in the Canton of Valais. They will brief you on the trip ahead and answer any questions. The village of Bourg-St-Pierre is small, but steeped in Napoleonic history and worth visiting if you arrive early. Two small shops are close by for any last minute snacks for lunches that you might require. 

  • Starting at Bourg-St-Pierre, in the heart of the Swiss Pennine Alps, we pick up our footpath right behind our hotel! We will make a gradual ascent, nice and easy for day one, through wild flower meadows to the alpage of La Coeur at 2233m (7324ft). We cross a col and traverse the mountainside along a lovely balcony trail offering superb views along the valley overlooking the town of Orsières. We then reach the Cabane du Col de Mille our overnight stop which was completely re-built in 2015. The Cabanne which sits at 2427m (7960ft) offers a fabulous viewpoint next to peak of Mont Rogneux, an area where wolves have been know to inhabit and are being monitored by a Swiss conservation project. We are likely to arrive early afternoon so there is time to climb the little neighbouring peak of Mont Brûlée which reaches 2572m (8436ft). Here you can explore the abandoned Swiss military bunkers and enjoy fine views of the valley.

    Ascent: 1220m (4001ft) Descent: 375m (1230ft) Distance: 12.8km (8 miles) Duration: 4h00-5h00

  • We begin today with a descent traversing round Mont Rogneux. It is always a pleasure to start our day high in the mountains and we will hope for a good sunrise. This morning we aim to visit the Cabane de Brunet for lunch before heading up an impressive gorge to the toe of the immense Corbassière glacier, one of the largest in Europe. In 2014, a new 240 metre (787ft) suspension bridge was put in place over the moraine enabling walkers to cross with dramatic views right onto the glacier. We then make a short but steady climb up to the recently built Cabane de Panossiere where we spend the night. A beautiful situation for the evening, with views of the mountains and the Grand Combin and good chance of viewing ibex parading on the hillside.

    Ascent: 1160m (3804ft) Descent: 1000m (3280ft) Distance: 16km (10 miles) Duration: 6h00-7h00

  • A long, but satisfying day climbing over the highest col on the trip, the rocky Col des Otanes at 2806m (9203ft). From here the views of the surrounding glaciated Swiss peaks are incredible, with the Grand Combin now in full view. First climbed in 1857 by three local hunters, the peak looks very imposing. Looking towards Geneva we also have a ‘window’ view of the seven spires of the Dents du Midi. We descend this impressive rocky mountainside to the Lac de Mauvoisin at 1976m (6481ft), a dammed lake with incredible waterfalls. We can stop for refreshments at the historic Hotel Mauvoisin before we climb through the tunnels in the dam and begin our traverse along the lakeside meadows passing ancient farm dwellings. A good day for spotting the iconic edelweiss flower and chamois! A final short climb takes us over the Col de Tsofeurent, 2630m, before reaching the Cabane de Chanrion, a traditional stone built mountain refuge.

    Ascent: 1100m (3608ft) Descent: 1150m (3772ft) Distance: 15km (9.4 miles) Duration: 7h00-9h00

  • This morning we leave the Cabane and head down into the valley to what seems like a cross roads of glaciers where we will cross the river to gradually ascend beside the Glacier de Fenêtre to the Fenêtre du Durand at 2797m (9174ft).  The description 'Fenêtre' is often used in French speaking areas to describe a high narrow pass, in other words a 'window' to the next valley. At our Fenêtre we will now be on the border of Switzerland and Italy. We can stop and enjoy the views back to the Cabane de Chanrion with the snowy peaks of Mont Blanc de Cheilon behind. We then cross the border into Italy and descend to lush summer grazing grounds where we have plenty of opportunity to see marmots at work and play. Following an ancient irrigation channel, known as a ‘bisse’, we contour around the valley and end the day with a steady climb up to the Cabane de Champillon, which was re-built in 2004. The Cabane which sits at 2375m (7790ft) is also known as the Refuge de Letey. 

    Ascent: 1485m (4870ft) Descent: 1500m 4920ft) Distance: 26km (16.3 miles) Duration: 9h00-10h00

  • An easier day as we make our way through Alpine meadows to access the Col de Champillon at 2709m (8885ft) where on a good day it's possible to view not only the Grand Combin but also Mont Blanc, in France, and the Gran Paradiso, in Italy! We then begin our descent through meadows along the river bank with the Italian villages of Etroubles and St Oyen below us. Etroubles is believed to be the Roman winter garrison for the troops on the pass. This valley was crucial to both Roman and Napoleonic armies and their control of the trade routes. Our trail stays high and contours around with a final short descent to reach the cobbled streets of St Rhemy a village offering a final stopping point to Pilgrims before they reached the famous Grand Saint Bernard Monastery. From St Rhemy we will take a short bus transfer to wind our way up to reach the Col Grand St Bernard, 2469m (8098ft), and the border back into Switzerland. The pass has been used by armies, pilgrims, and traders for over 3,000 years as a means of crossing the Alps. Saint Bernard de Menthon opened the Hospice in the 900's to provide a safe haven for travellers and it is here the iconic Saint Bernard Dogs earned their legendary reputation as rescuers of travellers lost in snow. The Hospice is still operational and this is where we will spend the night as the guests of Brother Frederick and his colleagues. There will be time to visit the Hospice Museum and Saint Bernard Dog kennels.

    Ascent: 830m (2722ft) Descent: 1600m (5248ft) Distance: 17km 10.6 miles) Duration: 6h00-7h00

  • Today, if the weather allows, we will take a variation on the Tour des Combins. This will involve gaining further height, taking in some spectacular scenery, which gets us right off the beaten track. We first climb to the Fenêtre de Ferret which sits at 2698m (8849ft), where we are greeted with a stunning view of the Mont Blanc massif. A short descent takes us to the Lacs de Fenêtre, some of the most beautiful lakes in the area. From here we climb on an ancient mule track to the Col de Bastillon reaching 2753m (9029ft). It's a steep short section of path but on a track so should not provide any difficulties. After gaining another stunning view from the Col de Bastillon we descend past more lakes to rejoin the traditional Tour des Combins route and follow the footsteps of Napolean down the Roman road. We have then come full circle to reach our starting point a week ago at Bourg-St-Pierre.

    Ascent: 600m (1968ft) Descent: 1350m (4428ft) Distance: 15km (9.4 miles) Duration: 6h00-7h00 

    If the weather is not so good, then we will take the normal Tour des Combins route from the Monastery. This leads straight down from the Col and follows the ancient route made famous for harbouring Napoleans armies. The trail meanders through meadows and along by the Bourg dam to reach the old customs house and the cobbled streets of Bourg-St-Pierre.

    Ascent: 0m (0ft) Descent: 1350m (4428ft) Distance: 10km (6.3 miles) Duration: 6h00-7h00 

    The leader will make a decision on which route to take depending on the weather conditions and suitability for the group. 

  • Today is your departure from Bourg-St-Pierre. 

We always aim to complete the proposed itinerary, however it may be necessary for our guides to adjust the daily itinerary based on the weather conditions, group safety and enjoyment.

Accommodation

We always aim to accommodate our guests in well-situated, clean, characterful, family run accommodation. In many cases we have known the management for years, and it’s like visiting friends. Our suggested accommodation, listed below, is subject to availability at the time of booking. We have given details of our favoured venues and those we intend to use. If unavailable we will book alternative accommodation of a similar standard.

Our trip fees are based on two people sharing a room. If you are travelling on your own your booking will be based on a twin bedroom sharing with someone of the same gender. 

However, on many of our trips single rooms are available on request for a supplementary fee. We recommend booking as early as possible to secure a single room as these are always limited in number. Please contact us for details.

When at Bourg-St-Pierre and the Grand St Bernard Monastery, accommodation is based on two people sharing. Other accommodation during the trip will be in high mountain refuges. The refuges on this tour are remote and in some cases only offer non-segregated dormitory style rooms. Many good friends have been made this way! The refuges themselves tend to be full of character and serve tasty local dishes. They are always situated in stunning locations and the chance to enjoy a beer or glass of wine while watching the sun go down and the ibex playing on the mountain-side can provide a really special mountain moment.

Please also note that in the Cabane de Chanrion running water is not available so you should budget for bottled water on this night. In all of the other refuges on the Tour des Combins fresh drinking water is available and also hot showers. Due to the nature of the accommodation on this trip in small hotels, in often tiny villages, we cannot offer a single supplement.

Hôtel Bivouac Napoléon, Bourg-St-Pierre

The Bivouac Napoleon was built by the parents of the current owner, Martine, in 1960. Marine runs the hotel with Claude, who also juggles many professions such as carpenter, organic farmer and hotelier. HIs farming operation provides the restaurant with premium lamb meat. The accommodation is in twin bedrooms with en suite facilities. 

The hotel is ideally located for the start of our Tour des Combins as it is right beside the trail! The hotel also has a lovely modern spa which is great to come back to. 

Cabane du Col de Mille

Refuge

This Cabane was entirely re-built during 2014, and now offers 59 places in 7 dortoirs. It is perched high on a Col and offers incredible evening views and sunsets when the weather is right. It has showers available. The guardians are Odile and Pierre-Elie, and as with many high mountain refuges it is a family concern. 

 

Cabane de Panossière

Refuge

The Cabane de Panossière is situated at 2641m (8662ft) in the heart of the Combins massif in the Valais Alps. It is in a stunning location beside the glacier and is the climbers base for ascents of the mighty Grand Combin and its neighbouring peaks. Accommodation in the Refuges is always in dormitory style, and where possible we secure small dorms just for our group. There are showers at the Panossière which offers some lovely views!

 

Cabane de Chanrion

Refuge

The Cabane is situated in a lovely position offering great mountain views. The area is rich in flora and fauna and you may see ibex or chamois this evening. The accommodation is in dortoirs, this is the French word for dormitory. It is a very traditional style hut and you will now doubt be rubbing shoulders with seasoned mountaineers. 

Cabane de Champillon

Refuge

The mountain hut “Champillon-Adolphe Letey” was opened on July 2005 and was named after the Mayor of the Doues municipality, Adolphe Letey. He was the Mayor from 1951-1990 and was a strong believer in developing tourism in the area. The hut is high on the mountain above the “Tza di Champillon”, where the local practice of cattle transhumance is still flourishing. 

Transhumance simply means the seasonal movement of the people with the livestock. In other words the people move up the mountain to spend the summer months with their herds, and then in the autumn they move back down for the winter months. The views from there, expecially of Ollomont valley and Lower Valpelline, are stunning.

Grand St Bernard Monastery, Summer

Mountain Lodge

Offering shelter and respite to travellers for over one thousand years, the Grand St Bernard Monastery is a truly special place to stay. Situated on the Grand St Bernard pass at 2469m (8098ft), it is on the frontier between Switzerland and Italy. Our accommodation will be twin bedrooms in the Auberge de l'Hospice which is part of the Monastery. In the summer months the Grand St Bernard dogs are kept in kennels at the Col, while in the winter months they descend to the valley for warmer accommodation!

 


  • The Swiss Alps are easily reached from other European and worldwide destinations by road, rail, coach or plane. The closest international airport is at Geneva. Bourg-St-Pierre your meeting point is in Switzerland and can be reached by train, bus or private car from Geneva. For train information please consult the Swiss train timetable. From Geneva airport you will be aiming for the town of Martigny where you will change to take the Grand St Bernard Express train to Orsières. At Orsières you will need to take a bus to Bourg-St-Pierre. The full route can be chosen on the Swiss train site, i.e. from Geneva airport all the way to Bourg-St-Pierre. Or you can consult the Swiss post bus service for the final leg from Orsières to Bourg-St-Pierre.  

    Please contact us if you need further advise on your specific travel requirements.

  • Please note that you must have the appropriate insurance for your chosen activity. As we will be travelling in the mountains, you must be covered for helicopter rescue, repatriation and medical costs. For further details, please ensure you have carefully read the Insurance section of our website.

  • This trip will run once a minimum number of 5 clients have booked. We will take a maximum of 10 clients. We advise you not to make your travel arrangements until the trip is guaranteed to run.

  • These holidays are physically challenging and are suitable for regular hill-walkers who are used to extended days. These treks can involve difficult and demanding days on rough and sometimes loose terrain, as well as crossing passes that are at an altitude of up to 3100m (10,168ft). There may also be sections of path where the trail is good but exposed, however, these sections will be short. There may be the occasional day with ascents/descents of up to 1800m (5904ft). A good level of fitness and previous trekking experience is essential. You need to be able to deal with bad weather when necessary. Expect to be walking 6-7 hours per day with the occasional longer day. 

    We grade this trip 'Demanding' not due to technical difficulty but simply due to some of the days being a considerable distance. If you have any questions about the trip level please contact us.

  • This trip is 'unsupported' and involves carrying everything in your rucksack for the week. 

    Please do not be put off by the fact this trip does not include the daily transfer of luggage, as in reality it is simply a case of spare trousers and top, small wash kit, head torch, sheet sleeping bag, small towel, hut slippers if preferred, and clean socks and underwear! We are happy to talk to you about this and to reassure you that it does not have to mean a heavy rucksack. 

    It is a very satisfying experience to complete a trip 'pure' like this, carrying everything you need. Any extra luggage/spare clothes can be left at the starting hotel in Bourg-St-Pierre.

    Walking poles are highly recommended due to the length of the days. We might also have to cross snow patches and deal with steep sections of paths.

  • Summer mountain weather can vary considerably. It is generally good in the Alps with lovely days, but it can deliver everything from glorious sunshine, to rain, fog, high winds and even snow. Temperatures can reach over 30°Celsius (86°F) in July and August, but can drop to 5°Celsius (41°F) on the high passes, or 'Cols' as they are known in the Alps. Essentially you should be prepared for any eventuality. The average temperatures range from 15-25°Celsius (59-77°F) in the valleys and 5-15°Celsius (41-59°F) on the passes.

  • We feel strongly about protecting the environment and do not encourage the use of single-use plastic items. We would ask that you arrive with a ‘water bottle’ or ‘hydration system’ that can be used repeatedly. We would point out that we operate a ‘zero tolerance’ for rubbish, and would ask you to remove all your rubbish items from the mountain even those you consider to be bio-degradable. You can read our full policy here.

  • Due to the specialised nature of our trips, we work with a select number of partners to help ensure your trip reaches its minimum group size to be guaranteed to run. The companies we work with reflect our own ethos and standards in terms of the service we offer to our guests. 


Prices may vary depending on date.

2019

Sun 14 Jul - Sun 21 Jul
Code: TDC1 19
Price: £1145 Book
Sun 11 Aug - Sun 18 Aug
Code: TDC2 19
Price: £1145 Book

What's Included

  • The services of a fully qualified International Mountain Leader
  • Half-board accommodation in a 2* hotel or similar in Bourg-Saint-Pierre, based on two people sharing
  • Half-board accommodation in dormitories in the mountain refuges and Grand St Bernard Monastery
  • Transfer from St Rhemy to the Col Grand St Bernard
  • Tracks and Trails memento - a gift to take home!

What's Not Included

  • Flights
  • Insurance
  • Lunches
  • Transfers on your arrival/departure days 
  • Extra snacks, drinks
  • Bottled water at the Cabane de Chanrion
My father and I thoroughly enjoyed our time on the Tour des Combins trek led by Julia. Superb organisation, spectacular views and a very knowledgeable guide meant we had nothing else to think about apart from enjoying the trek in the beautiful Swiss countryside. The accommodation was in good quality mountain huts with excellent food provision, meaning we were well rested and fed throughout the week. The trek itself was wonderful, with sweeping views of the Alps whilst on some of the quieter trails away from the crowds. If you're looking for an accessible, yet spectacular week away from the crowds, I'd highly recommend the Tour des Combins. 
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Grade: Demanding

READ GRADE DESCRIPTION

At a Glance

From Price £1145
Holiday Type Walking
Duration 8 Days
Group Size 10
Minimum Age 17
Maximum Altitude 2806m (9203ft)
Countries Visited Italy, Switzerland
Meet In Bourg-St-Pierre, Switzerland
View all Walking Holidays

'Tour des Combins' from the sky!