Vallorcine, also known as the Valley of the Bear from its Latin origins, is an interesting hamlet spread out over several kilometres. Originally settled by the Walser people, a Germanic tribe which moved into parts of Switzerland and northern Italy, Vallorcine reflects this heritage with unique architecture and a long tradition of wood working. Surrounded by high peaks of the Aiguilles Rouges, the Pérons Range and the Possettes Ridge, Vallorcine offers fairly remote hiking opportunities not seen in other parts of the Chamonix Valley.
It’s most climbed peak is the Mont Buet, also called the “Ladies’ Mont Blanc” as many climbers from the Golden Age of Mountaineering sent their spouses to climb the Buet and observe their progress with field glasses as they climbed Mont Blanc.
Topping out at just over 3000 metres (10,000 feet), the Buet offers a panoramic view of the surrounding peaks, as far as the Matterhorn and Monte Rosa and also, on a clear day, the Jura and ranges close to Grenoble in the Dauphiné Alps. Considered by many as the toughest non-technical climb in the valley, the Buet requires excellent fitness as the climb from Vallorcine is a nearly 2000 metre (6000 feet) vertical ascent. The ideal starting point if from the hamlet of the Buet train station which is a 20-minute, scenic train ride from Chamonix.
Caution is advised when climbing this peak as bad weather, particularly in the form of thunderstorms can have nasty consequences for hikers. Please check the Chamonix weather forecast at:http://chamonix-meteo.com/chamonix-mont-blanc/weather/forecast/morning/5_days_weather_forecast.php
The Buet is a serious undertaking and plenty of snacks and water should be taken. There are no water sources on the mountain except for snowmelt. Ideally, a very early start is advisable as the return journey could take up to 8 hours. The temperatures will also vary between the valley floor and 2000 metres higher up so gloves, wool hat and warm layers are essential. Early season, late June and early July can see several metres of snow on the higher trails turning a difficult walk into something altogether different. Please contact the Maison de la Montagne in Chamonix for trail conditions and helpful information.https://www.chamonix.com/office-de-haute-montagne,4-492959,en.html
Begin the hike by crossing the parking lot of the train station and cross the street to the Hôtel du Buet and follow the signs to the Cascade de Bérard, passing the tiny Poya tow lift. At first, the trail meanders gently upwards past the Cascade de Bérard on a narrow single track crossing the mountain stream Eau de Bérard several times with the help of wooden bridges. As the trail climbs steeply upwards, you will begin to leave the dense Larch forest behind and enter an obvious avalanche path which has stripped the mountain of trees and vegetation. In the distance, you will begin to see the tiny refuge which is often used as a base to climb the Buet in 2 days.
The refuge Pierre a Bérard is a tiny structure built against a large boulder, hence the name. This is great opportunity to buy a cold/warm drink and then begin the real climb. From this point onwards, the trail is very steep, with few trail markers other than cairns, large piles of stones and the occasional trail blaze. That said, the trail is obvious in good weather and you will not be alone in making this ascent. A short distance above the refuge, you will come across the Col de Salenton, a low pass that gives access to the back side (South side) of the Aiguilles Rouges and the Brévent and Flégère cable cars. From the pass, you begin to see where the summit is but it is a fair distance away, possible another 2 hours depending on trail conditions.
You will begin to feel the effects of diminished barometric pressure as you make the final push to the summit of the Mont Buet. There are several stone shelters which are ideal for getting out of the wind but if you are fortunate, you will have unobstructed 360 degree views of the surrounding mountains.
If you would like to avoid retracing your steps all the way back to the Buet parking lot, there is always the option of taking the Col de Salenton and dropping into the north slopes of the Aiguilles Rouges before making your way to the Refuge du Cold D’Anterne and then the Col du Brévent and return via cable-car down to Chamonix. Vertical gain 1970 metres, 18.9 kilometres