A small peak in Switzerland: Bonatchiesse – Refuge Igloo des Pantalons – Pointe des Chamois (3384m)

This hike started from Bonatchiesse (1575m) in the Swiss valley of Val de Bagnes. We spent a night at the Refuge Igloo des Pantalons Blanc (3291m) before walking across the glacier to Pointe des Chamois (3384m). There are two ways to approach the refuge: from Bonatchiesse (described below) or from Lac des Dix (the path which most people took).

Around mid-morning, we took the trail leaving from Bonatchiesse up to Écurie du Crêt (2299m). This is a sharp and long ascent. The Écurie is a great place for a first rest stop, with a bit of shade and a beautiful view over the valley.

After the Écurie, the trail to Refuge Igloo des Pantalons gets a bit murky and poorly marked. The trail is indicated as a blue alpine trail on Swisstopo, an essential app for navigation in Switzerland. The trail starts relatively smoothly by following rivers up the mountain and crossing a few short plains. The last steep section before the ridge crossing (which starts at 3148m) is chaotic and full of big rocks and boulders, so less pleasant.

At the ridge, things get quite dicey. This is not a trail for those with vertigo or without any exposure rock climbing or dealing with very exposed trails. At the ridge, we also lost the trail (the trail markings on GPS tracks and Swisstopo were no longer correct) so followed some Swiss trail runners who were not at all afraid of heights. We ended up going down on the glacier for about 2-3 meters and then going back up to the rocks where we rejoined the trail. The ridge is basically what you would expect: a nail-biting scramble up and down big blocks and rocks, hoping that none of them pop out of the wall and that you have not irretrievably lost the trail (there are some markings, but not much). There was one piece of equipment the whole way, available for a half-hearted rappel. There were places to throw up slings if you wanted to be more secure. I am still in disbelief how the trail runners were completely unfazed by exposure.

Looking back at the ridge scramble. Photo © Siena Anstis.

After the ridge scramble, which probably took us over an hour although in retrospect it was less than a kilometer, we arrived at Pointe du Crêt and took the now easy path towards the refuge. The refuge is a small round structure perched on the edge of the mountain with a single room — fifteen sleeping spaces in an arc-shaped sofa — and a huge wood stove in the middle. There was no need to bring anything when we visited, except for a sleeping bag liner and food. Water consisted of melted snow from the glacier, and there was everything you needed to cook (in true Swiss style, two groups prepared fondue, complete with white wine carried up from the valley. We also got to taste some homemade génepi which was delicious). The sunset was incredible, and worth the trip in and of itself.

Sunset from Refuge Igloo des Pantalons Blanc. Photo © Siena Anstis.
Looking at the mountains from Pointe des Chamois. Photo © Siena Anstis.

The next morning, after a hot cup of tea and porridge, we walked (roped) over the glacier to Pointe des Chamois (3384m) before returning via the same scary ridge and descending to Bonatchiesse. We left the refuge at about 5 am and made it to the Pointe des Chamois within an hour. It was an easy walk over the glacier, not too many crevasses, and an easy rock scamble to get to the top of the peak. That said, the glacier was melting a lot by the time we walked back, so leaving earlier might have made the walk a bit more pleasant.