14 Aug Hiking in the Alps – Mont Buet From Vallorcine
The ten thousand foot peak of Mont Buet in the French Alps just to the North of Chamonix is one of the highest mountains in the area with a marked hiking trail to its summit. At 3099 metres (10167 feet) it is the highest peak in the Aiguilles Rouges and is a popular ascent which is usually made from the Vallorcine valley between Col des Montets and the Swiss border. This route involves no technical problems being a hike rather than a climb but does involve about 6000 feet or 1800 metres of ascent in a return trip of over ten miles so for those walkers who are feeling energetic, here’s an outline of the ascent route.
Just beyond the Hotel at Le Buet a path is seen going up into the forest marked Cascade a Berard, Refuge Pierre a Berard and Mont Buet. Follow this trail which begins as an immensely enjoyable forest walk passing the beautiful waterfalls of Cascade a Berard which are waymarked down to the right a short way off the track. When the river is crossed by a wooden bridge the path steepens up into the woods eventually emerging in a high, remote feeling mountain valley above the timberline.
Two paths head up this valley; a higher one up on the right hand slope and a lower one following the river. They make a circular nature trail and meet up at the foot of the slope leading to the Refuge Pierre a Berard so either can be taken. The valley which is within the Aiguilles Rouges Nature Reserve is a pleasant walk and a respite from the gruelling climb to come. This begins below the refuge or hut where a sign directs up the steep slopes beyond.
Once the hut is reached the going gets steeper still and I’d like to say it gets easier but it does not. At least height is gained rapidly and the views of the Aiguilles Rouges open out behind as a slope of incessant steepness is climbed. The path is obvious and the going easy if somewhat hard work. Route finding is no problem until the rocky area just below the Col du Salenton. Here the way is marked with cairns which do have to be looked for as they mark the easy way through an area of rocky shelves and steps avoiding the difficulties. In mist or icy conditions this area would be a more serious challenge.
Once above the rocks the path forks and is again marked; left for the col (seen just above) and right for Mont Buet. Now it’s a steady walk uphill following a good path with no more problems to the summit. After the initial wide slopes are crossed the ridge is attained and the views become spectacular especially across to Mont Blanc.
The ridge is wide and easy but there’s another steep haul up to the end of the Arete du Mortine where a small communications tower can be seen above. Once that is reached the wide easy angled ridge allows an easy walk to the nearby summit which is of grey shaly rock and marked with a large cairn.
The signs mark this climb as taking six hours one way so allow ten up and down. I actually took under five one way but that was after a warm dry spell of weather meaning there was not much snow to walk through. Most occasions when I have visited the Chamonix area of the Alps in the summer hiking season, there has been snow on the upper slopes of Mont Buet. Most people climbing had stayed at the Refuge Pierre a Berard which splits this long walk into two days instead of one long one.
There is another hiking route to the summit of Mont Buet; that from Lac du Vieux Emmosson (refuge) to the North in Switzerland. This first scales the peak of Le Cheval Blanc whose name means the White Horse, before tackling the airy northeast ridge which is equipped with fixed cables for safety. That route is still classed as a hike rather than a climb but is more technically demanding than the one described here. Whichever route you do the hard work is rewarded with some awesome views of the French and Swiss Alps. Enjoy!