As you may know, we’ve recently moved to Val d’Hérens (more precisely to the village of Les Haudères) to create our own coliving space. So even though we don’t travel as much abroad as we used to, we still get to do a lot of mountain activities, since we live at the foot of glaciers and 4000 peaks.
When it comes to hiking, the least we can say is that there’s plenty to choose from in the Val d’Hérens. But if there’s one peak we’ve been eyeing, it’s Mont de l’Etoile! (or the star mountain in english) In fact, from the desks of our coworking space, we have an amazing view of this summit. So, after looking at it all day 😉 we thought we’d go and see how the scenery looks from up there! 🙂
What and where is Mont de l’Etoile?
It’s a mountain that rises to 3370m in altitude and lies between the Val des Dix and the Val d’Arolla, right next to the Aiguilles Rouges. On one side, it overlooks the village of Les Haudères (our home 😉 ) and on the other, the Vouasson glacier.
From the top, there’s a breathtaking view of numerous iconic Wallis peaks such as the Dent-Blanche (4357m), the Matterhorn (4478m), the Barrhorn, the Weisshorn (4506m), the Dent d’Hérens (4174m) and many more 😉 . So we thought we’d go and have a look at this magnificent panorama at sunrise while sleeping at the Aiguilles Rouges hut.
Hiking Mont de l’Etoile from Arolla or La Gouille
There are 2 ways to reach Mont de l’Etoile:
- From the village of Arolla via the Aiguilles Rouges hut (9kms and 1350m of elevation gain)
- From La Gouille via the renowned Lac Bleu (blue lake) (6.3kms and 1550m elevation gain)
But with a few people from the coliving, as we wanted to get to the summit for sunrise, we decided to combine the 2 itineraries over 2 half-days and sleep at the Aiguilles Rouges hut. So we set off from the village of Arolla and headed back down the following day via Lac Bleu. You can download the GPX trail and see the map of the hike below:
- Distance: around 15,5 kms
- Elevation change: about 1350m + and 1550m –
- Difficulty: The section up to the Aiguilles Rouges hut is not particularly difficult. From the hut to Mont de l’Etoile, on the other hand, we’re on a fairly easy blue alpine trail (T3-T4). Only the last 20m to reach the “real summit” are a little more challenging.
- Duration: It takes 3 hours to reach the hut from Arolla, then 1h30-2h to reach the summit of Mont de l’Etoile from the hut and 2-3h of descent to reach La Gouille.
- Infos: Whether you hike in one direction or the other, you can easily reach Arolla or La Gouille by public transportation.
From the village of Arolla to the Aiguilles Rouges hut
It’s 1:30 pm when we leave the coliving to take the bus up to the village of Arolla. There’s no real need to leave early, as it’s a maximum 3-hour walk from Arolla to the Aiguilles Rouges hut (the idea is to get there just before 6:30 p.m., dinner time at the hut).
The bus drops us off at its terminus on the post office square in Arolla. The sun is shining and we start the ascent right away, passing just below the magnificent Kurhaus hotel. As it’s not quite time for a drink yet, we continue on our way, passing under the ski lifts heading for the Remointse de Pra Gra. And of course, we remember to turn around from time to time to take in the magnificent view of Mont Collon, Pigne d’Arolla and their glaciers behind us.
After a good hour’s walk, we reach the Remointse de Pra Gra (2479m) and its few houses featuring beautiful slate roofs that can also be found throughout the valley. The hut is signposted at 1h10 walking from here.
From here, we transition into a more mineral and rocky world. We pass a small gully and above the Ignes waterfall (well known by winter ice-climbers). Down below, you can also see Lac Bleu, along which we’ll be passing the next day.
We then cross a stream coming from Col des Ignes (an interesting pass reaching a height of over 3100m, difficulty T4, which leads to the Val des Dix… for a future hike 😉 ) to continue up a good rocky path towards the Aiguilles Rouges hut, which we have already been seeing for some time.
Arriving at the hut, we are warmly welcomed by Boum and Nicole, the hut keepers. They show us to our dormitory for the night (which offers a magnificent view over Mont Collon) and kindly agree to prepare breakfast for us in advance the same evening (as we’ve planned to leave at 5am towards Mont de l’Etoile for sunrise).
After a delicious meal and a great time admiring the evening colors in front of the hut (magnificent panorama of all the surrounding mountains), we go to bed early to be in shape for the next day.
From the Aiguilles Rouges hut to Mont de l’Etoile
It’s 4:30am when the alarm goes off in the dormitory. We quickly pack our bags before having breakfast in the refectory under the light of our mobile phones. At 5am, we set off towards Mont de l’Etoile. It’s a 1.5-hour walk to the summit, and sunrise is scheduled for around 6.45am.
The path leading up to Mont de l’Etoile from behind the hut is a technically easy alpine blue trail (difficulty T3 / T4). Note also that I’ve done it before during the day and, depending on your experience, it can be quite difficult to find your way at night if it’s your 1st time up there. So if you don’t feel comfortable at night, hike up after daybreak. The scenery at the top will be just as beautiful 😉 .
Following the blue marks, the path climbs up behind the hut and passes a small lake overlooked by the Aiguilles Rouges. It’s quite an adventure to hike up in the middle of the night with headlamps on.
After crossing the stream, we climb the moraine to a well-indicated fork on the right. We pass a steep (but not difficult) section which makes us sweat a bit and take a well-deserved break on a flat spot, admiring the early morning lights.
We carry on uphill, with the Aiguilles Rouges and what’s left of their glacier to our left… We reach a kind of pass where we catch our first glimpse of the Vouasson glacier, which runs down towards the Val des Dix.
The summit of Mont de l’Etoile is right in front of us and all that’s left to do is climb the last section, which is also the steepest. Once again, nothing technically difficult, but it’s a steep climb 😉 . We arrive at the first summit (which is not actually the summit of Mont de l’Etoile) with a good time margin over the sunrise.
Note that the last 20m to the actual summit of Mont de l’Etoile involves a small, more exposed ridge that may not be suitable for everyone (if you have good footing, then no problem). But don’t worry, even if you don’t reach the large cairn at the summit, you’ll already have an incredible 360-degree view of all the surrounding peaks.
Once we’ve passed this last little hurdle, all that’s left to do is enjoy the fabulous views all around us. Before our eyes, the sun rises behind the Weisshorn, giving us magnificent views of the Dent-Blanche and the Matterhorn. Behind us, the Aiguilles rouges gradually light up… landscapes well worth a few souvenir photos 😉
Descent to La Gouille via the blue lake
After enjoying this sublime panorama for a good hour, it’s time to head back down towards Lac Bleu (blue lake) this time. The 1st part of the descent simply involves following the same path almost all the way back to the Aiguilles rouges hut. As we’d climbed at night, we discover the landscape on the way down in its beautiful morning light. It’s truly splendid!
Once down below the hut, we reach more grassy and flowery areas. On this part of the trail, we’re lucky enough to see many marmots enjoying the sunshine that has just risen. And after a good hour and a half’s descent, we finally arrive at the famous Lac Bleu. The sun has just risen above the Dent de Veisivi in front of us, and the colors of the lake are just incredible! Needless to say, this one lives up to its name!
As it’s still early, there are very few people around the lake, so we take the opportunity to have a little breakfast with a view. We’re keeping an eye on the clock, though, as we’re planning to catch the 10:07 bus and still have half an hour’s descent to the La Gouille bus stop.
The last part under the lake is a mere formality and we’ll manage to catch the bus and be back at the coliving at 10.30am, ready to tackle a day’s work lol 😉