After a couple of days of atmospheric cloud, alternatively hiding and revealing the mountain views that accompany you on the Tour de Mont Blanc, it was with a sense of relief that I peered through the window of our hotel in Champex on the shores of the Lac du Champex, to see blue sky and the first rays of the morning sun lighting up the tips of the rugged Swiss peaks that surround this picture perfect high mountain village.
Good weather is always welcome, but on this occasion it meant we could attempt the crossing of the Fenetre d’Arpette, the highest col on the circuit of Mont Blanc, which is only possible in these conditions. Not that the alternative Bovine Trail - a delightful wander over ridges and through traditional Swiss alpages where the clang of cowbells accompany far reaching views of Alpine peaks – is too shabby either, only that the lure of ‘highest’ anything tends to get the juices flowing. And so, after a hearty breakfast, our group set off through the quiet Champex meadows in high spirits.
Although the crossing of the Fenetre d’Apette is the toughest of the days on the Tour de Mont Blanc, the steady pace set by our guide Alex Langdon and the diverting effect of the sensational mountain scenery opening up around us, seemed to make easy work of the 1200 metres of ascent. In no time at all it felt, we were perched on the rocky arête that is the ‘window’ to the Arpette Valley.
On the other side and just across the valley, almost it seemed within touching distance, lay the Trient glacier which cascades in imperceptible motion for over 4 kilometres down the steep slopes between the Aguille du Tour and the Pointe d’Orny.
The glacier and its surrounding peaks remained in clear view as we made the steep descent into the Arpette Valley after which our attention became diverted first by some fine cappuccino available at the small charming mountain refuge which is typical of those encountered on the Tour, and then by the sensational birds-eye view over the villages of the Trient Valley as we followed the level path beside an ancient water channel to the Col de la Forclaz and the end of a perfect mountain day.