Glacier Corbassiere and Grand Combin - Hiking in the Alps


posted on 20th of july, 2007

Recently I have joined the most popular weekend activity during summer here in Switzerland: hiking. With the Alps in such a close range, within only an hour car ride to bases above 2000m altitude and the amount of published literature on hiking trails, no wonder everybody does it...

We started about a month ago with a several light trails, one from Morgins up trough the forest to Savolaire Farm, a nice observation point for the famous Dents du Midi mountain range (left image). Dents du Midi range is visible even from the Leman (Geneve) Lake, towering above Chillon Castle, one of the most famous swiss landmarks. Another same easy route lead us to Creux-du-Van (right image), near Neuchatel, a huge round vertical wall of 160m height in the ancient Jura mountains, renown for the dinosaur fossils discovered here.
With a group of mostly Romanian students, last weekend we undertook a more difficult trail in the heart of Alps, around Grand Combin (4314m) massive. We started off from Lausanne around 9 o'clock and reach the Brunet Cabin (~2100m) around 11 after a last stage of a few kilometers of impressive mountain road, where my old Opel Astra was put to extreme tests. We started off in a hurry to catch up with another group which woke up earlier on the steep trail leading to the pass of Avouillons (~2600m altitude). Two hours and a half of continuous climb we manage to catch up with them right at the highest point of the pass. During this stage, our eyes got used with the green of alpine meadows, but once over the pass, a huge glacier appeared in front of our eyes, where white, gray and black colors dominate.
Corbassiere Glacier is one of the biggest in Europe, and starts from the massive of Grand Combin (4314m), the snow covered mountain in background. Grand Combin is formed of 3 main peaks: Combin de Valsorey (4184 m) in the east, Grand Combin de la Tsessette (4135 m) in the west, and Grand Combin de Grafeneire (4314 m), the highest peak, in between. Another peak is visible on the right of the picture, which although looks bigger is only 3716m high and is called Combin de Corbassiere.
After having a snack on the highest rocks of Avouillons pass, we started the descent to the glacier - short and enjoyable. At the glacier base we found two small ponds and small snow covered areas and so we started a snowball fight. Some guys ever attempted a bath in the freezing water of the glacier lakes...
From here, there was a trail going over the glacier to another refuge, but as you need special skills and gear to traverse a glacier, we headed down along it on a rough and difficult trail. It took us another 3 hours with small breaks and many ups and downs to find our way back to the Brunete cabin. During our last hour of hiking, our water supplies run dry and we were forced to drink from a small mountain river we found on the way. The excessive heat slowed us down even more... but we finally reach the starting point around 6pm, thirsty, hungry and tired. Lucky, at the cabin were still serving food and drinks and we enjoyed another hour of sitting and laughing along some beer and swiss traditional food. By the time we decided to head back to Lausanne, the sun lost intensity and the wind stopped, so just before we took off, I have managed to get a perfect mirror reflection of the Alps in a pond just besides the Brunet cabin (right image).
I still have a few images from this excursion that I have not yet uploaded, but hopefully I will find the time to do it in the next days, and color a little bit more this article.
The same route that we took was marked on Swissgeo by another person hooked on this kind of activities, an can be checked here.

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Photo credits: Mihai-bogdan Lazar.

About me

Visited places: EUROPE - Austria [Hallstatt, Innsbruck, Salzburg, Vienna], Belgium [Antwerp, Brussels, Leuven], France [Annecy, Besancon, Chamonix, Colmar, Dijon, Grenoble, Honfleur, Loire Valley, Lyon, Nancy, Nice, Metz, Monaco, Mont St-Michel, Paris, Puy-en-Velay, Strasbourg], Germany [Baden-Baden, Frankfurt, Hohenschwangau, Lindau, Munich], Hungary [Budapest, Szeged], Iceland, Italy [Camogli, Como, Florence, Genoa, Milan, Pisa, Portofino, Rome, Siena, Sirmione, Turin, Trieste, Venice], Luxembourg [Luxembourg], Netherlands [Amsterdam, The Hague], Portugal [Lisbon], Romania [Arad, Herculan... [Read more]

(Bogdan)
Lausanne, CH

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