Date: 18th of July, 2007
Distance, Elevation Gain/Loss: 12.7 km, 1,002/1,367 m
Maps Used: 1:50,000 Martigny and Arolla hiking maps, 282T and 283T
Cabane Brunet Coordinates: 587 268 / 97 656
The previous evening my fellow guests at the hut had been discussing the possibility of going over Mont Rogneux on their way to the Cabane Panossière. I followed this conversation with great interest. I had read that Mont Rogneux (3084 meters) is one of the few 3,000 m peaks in the Valais accessible to hikers, and had also concluded that it is possible to go east from its summit to the Cabane Brunet. The trail from the summit eastwards had white-blue-white blazes (alpine trail) according to a trip report I had read, and during the conversation I was told that the initial descent from the summit involved about 100 m (vertical!) of loose scree, a type of footing that I am most uncomfortable on. Also I was tired, so much so that I was considering the possibility of skipping Mont Rogneux completely. The obvious solution was to go to bed, and see how I felt next morning.
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Cabane de Mille to Cabane Brunet, with ascent of Mont Rogneux
I woke up in much better shape, and after breakfast felt ready to give Mont Rogneux a try. The weather was great, and the previous evening's sprinkles had dried completely. My plan was to go with my new companions to the summit, and then evaluate the difficulty of going down the scree slope. If I decided not to go down that slope I would return to the Cabane de Mille the way I had gone up, and take the classical route to the Cabane Brunet along the northern flanks of Mont Rogneux (part of the Tour des Combins).
I started before my companions as I expected to be slower than they would, and I really did not relish the idea of attempting the summit alone. The climb up was not too bad; the trail certainly did not seem to deserve its "alpine trail" label. There were steep sections, and several areas that were steep with bad footing (crumbling rock or scree), but all in all the ascent was not too bad.
After about 1½ hours I stopped to rest and wait for my companions, who had not yet caught up with me. Together we continued to the first (false) summit, at 3,032 meters. There were spectacular views in all directions from here, the massif of the Mont Blanc to the west, the Combins group to the south, and wonderful mountains that I was not familiar with to the east. My companions were much more knowledgeable, and I envied the ease with which they identified many summits!
The trail ends here, and the way to the summit is up an unmarked, but obvious, ridge over large rocks. Two things slowed me down: I am uncomfortable, hence slow, on this type of terrain, and yesterday's tiredness was returning. I fell behind my companions and soon decided to turn around. i shouted a farewell to them, and we wished each other a safe trip.
There were a few tricky spots on the descent, but all in all it went well. Shortly before rejoining the traditional route I stopped, sat down, and had a snack. This was my fourth consecutive day of hiking, and I felt tired. The hike to the Cabane Brunet should have been easy; about 7½ km mainly downhill on good trails. But I was tired, and the ups and downs seemed endless.
The weather was good, the views down into the Val de Bagnes were excellent, and I passed an alpage with a delightful little lake. Still, all I could think of was how tired I was. My original plan had called for two more days on the Haute Route before going to Evolène, where I would spend the next week. That was clearly beyond my ability. I decided that next day I would stop in Fionnay (nearest village in the valley) and reconsider my plans.
The Cabane Brunet is an unusual "mountain hut", as there is a road, open to the general public, going right up to the hut. So in mid-afternoon there were many groups of day trippers who had driven up from the valley. They included several young families with infants. Normally I am very tolerant of crying babies; but I was tired and must confess that I was quite irritated by the unexpected noise. A beer on the Cabane's porch, with good views of one of the peaks of the Combins, restored my sense of humor, and in any case the families all left well before dinner time.
Shortly after the families left we got a few sprinkles, and like the previous evening they increased until I went in. Later a full-fledged thunderstorm developed, with the thunder echoing from one mountain to the next. Impressive sounds, even though no lightening was visible.
Because of the ease of access, the Cabane Brunet is run more as a café restaurant than as a mountain hut. For dinner, rather than the usual communal meal, each group was seated at its own table. We were only three groups that night: a family of four, with two very young daughters on their first hut night; two athletic young men who were combining two stages in one, and myself. In spite of being seated separately we all chatted, and after dinner the two young men joined me for a discussion of routes. Shortly after that we all went to our bunks.