Summer is a busy time here in Chamonix, France. Tourists are flocking up the Aiguille du Midi cable car—climbers, too—and guides are running clients up the Brévent and Flégère lifts on the Aiguilles Rouges side of the valley. To escape the chaos, I’ve found that the Bérard Valley, the next valley over from the Chamonix valley, is a good place to find some less-spoiled territory. Sure, there are a bunch of hikers going up here to summit Mont Buet, but there are no lifts zipping people up to where they want to go, so everyone is doing it the slow-sane way, on foot.
My sister and her friends came to visit for a week, and I promised we’d spend a few days out in the mountains. I didn’t want to miss a chance to get them out in the Bérard Valley, so we hiked up one afternoon and set up a bivouac above the Refuge de la Pierre à Bérard (after treating ourselves to beers at the hut, above right). There’s no camping, technically, allowed in this area since it’s part of the Aiguille Rouges Nature Preserve, but we justified a short stay, as we planned to climb from our bivouac to the Mont Buet summit early the next morning. We woke up to clear skies and this gorgeous sunrise after two nights of rain:
Above the Refuge de la Pierre à Bérard, the trail gets steep. Maybe an hour or so of zig-zagging up some rocky terrain like this:
We continued along this rocky alpine trail, spotted a herd of mountain goats, and then reached the super-scenic Col de Salenton, which is perhaps the half-way point to the Mont Buet summit:
The rocky-grassy bits gave way to a steep scree field, which we switch-backed up for another forty-five or so minutes:
My sister, Trent, and I climbed this in late-summer conditions (end of August), so we didn’t have any snow to deal with. But I climbed this same peak one time in June and had a much different view from the top. Snow and ice covered the peaks in all directions, and from the top, I could see out over the Aiguilles Rouges and get a glimpse of the Mont Blanc massif in the distance:
We didn’t have quite such a spectacular summit view without all of the snow this time, but it was still a fantastic climb, and we were all happy to be huddled together on the top:
That afternoon, we walked all the way down the valley and were out eating dinner at Trois Ours in Vallorcine that night to celebrate the end of a good adventure with fondue, rosé, and an over-abundance of boiled potatoes.