Steep but rather short climb above the Val de Bagnes through lush green alpine meadows covered in colourful wildflowers will bring you to the postcard-perfect emerald green Lac de Louvie and its charming wooden hut.
Hiking from Fionnay to the Louvie hut
Huffing and puffing, we finally reach the hut. The ascent from Fionnay is steep, the path narrow, the day hot, and the views magnificent. The blue summer sky, the snow-capped peaks, a mountain lake, and a wooden hut with a flag of Valais fluttering in wind, an idyllic cliché, postcard-perfect image representing the beauty of the Swiss Alps.
Just a couple of hours ago we were parking the car, and right now we are in the middle of the Alps, above the Val de Bagnes. This is probably the shortest hike we have ever done. The yellow sign to the Louvie hut indicated a time of 2 hours.
Starting from a small village of Fionnay, the trail goes across some bushy terrain punctuated by a few streams. Then the real climb begins. It’s summer, and yellow, pink, purple and velvety blue flowers make the green slopes look like a floral carpet. There are marmots. Many marmots. We don’t see them but they are easily identifiable by their shrill cries. The path is easy but the ascent is steep, the sky is blue and the bird’s eye view of the plain with the village of Fionnay and its retention lake is gorgeous. This promises to be a wonderful day!
We continue up the steep slopes along hairpin turns. I stop occasionally to catch my breath and take some photos, an excuse I use an embarrassing number of times. As we get nearer the rocky outcrop, the winding turns become tighter. Long chains have been added in the rocky portion, not that they are really necessary but mainly to reassure the hikers with vertigo. Little by little, Lac de Louvie is seen below the hut of the same name. After a series of meandering turns and a stream crossing, we finally reach the little Louvie hut, where we are going to stay overnight.
The Louvie hut
Charming. This would be the most accurate definition of this small wooden hut. It’s perched at 2,250 meters above a small lake, Lac de Louvie, which gave its name to the hut. Among other Swiss huts, some built over 100 years ago, the Louvie hut is a “baby”. It was built only in 1997. During the 20th century, irrigation works were undertaken in the valley, including the construction of the small dam that gave rise to the Lac de Louvie. At the end of the 1960s, the canteen built for the workers employed in construction works became the first Louvie hut. In 1997 the current Louvie hut was built to replace the workers’ old barracks.
Once inside, we trade our hiking shoes for a pair of Crocs and drop our backpacks in the dormitory. A moment later we sit down at the picnic table outside. After a hard day of hiking, the best part is food, wonderful, hearty mountain food. Fondue, Valais platter, polenta, cheese crust, or “croûte au fromage” in French, we have a classic choice of Swiss dishes, exactly what you would expect from a mountain refuge at altitude. But here they have something different. I order trout, which comes from the lake. The place is famous for fly-fishing for rainbow trout and namaycush, or cristivomer in French, commonly known as lake trout, native to Canada. From June to November, you can even buy a daily licence to fish. The fish is tasty, and it tastes even better at the altitude. My fish attracts an affectionate cat. His name is Chips, and he isn’t a guest. He is part of the Louvue hut’s team.
The fondue that our friends ordered is equally special. Usually, Swiss fondue is made with two kinds of cheese – gruyere and vacherin. But here they also use a local cheese making fondue a bit different. Even my husband’s omelette looks special. It comes decorated with blue alpine flowers!
A bottle of local wine, tasty food and spectacular views of the emerald green lake and the Grand Combin of over 4’000 meters high, for us it’s enough to spend the whole afternoon on a sunny terrace. We take a not very well hidden pleasure from watching other hikers arrive heavily panting. The flow of people doesn’t subside. The hut keeper, Claudia, is a perfect example of multi-tasking. She is able to take phone calls for reservations, check people in, make fondus, serve beer, wine, and whatever beverages she has, show the hut to the guests who have just arrived, and cook dinner for the same guests.
The Swiss huts have rules, and at 7pm we go inside for dinner. The communal dining room is already buzzing with the sounds of hikers talking, laughing and swapping stories of their hikes over a bottle of beer or a game of cards. It’s mostly French but we hear some English and Dutch. After all, Switzerland is famous for hiking, and for a reason.
A home-baked apple pie and a few schnaps to finish our meal, and we are ready for the night. Staying overnight in a hut is the quintessential Swiss hiking experience. While in many parts of the world, even in the neighbouring France, mountain huts are very basic, in Switzerland you are offered cosy beds with pillows and blankets, hearty mountain food and a warm welcome. And all in stunning remote locations.
It’s 6am, and we awake to blue sky. The hut’s rules oblige. Everyone takes breakfast at the same time, no questions asked. I feel as if I were in the Swiss army. The mornings are always tough but that night we slept tightly. We feel fortunate. Although the Louvie hut is located on the route of many mountain trails, including the famous Haute Route Chamonix-Zermatt, “Sentier des Chamois” via the Mont-Fort hut, Tour des Grands Barrages, Tour du Val de Bagnes, there weren’t many people tonight, and we slept almost alone in the dormitory of a dozen beds.
There wasn’t a single snorer. The sound of rhythmic breathing intermingled with more strident utterances is the standard by-product of the huts and the nightmare of any hiker. Or it’s the hut’s reality, depending on the angle you choose to look at it. There are no rocks to climb nearby either, so there are no people coming and going at unsane hours with their torches flashed, a usual morning routine in other places.
This morning we have time, plenty of time for short walks. And time for doing nothing but taking in the fresh mountain air, soaking up the views and enjoying Rivella, a Swiss favourite drink made from milk whey and invented by a young lawyer. We are in the heart of the Alps, among vast meadows filled with alpine flowers and the magnificent Lac de Louvie with its emerald green waters! Its glassy surface changes from deep blue to emerald green and malachite and reflects the surrounding snow-covered peaks. This is what the travel guides call an “unspoilt paradise”. The landscape is grandiose.
Walking along the lake, we come across the old barns. Built with vaulted walls and stone roofs, these Louvie stables (Écurie de Louvie) served as a shelter for the shepherds and their cows, sheep, and goats during summer. These alpine hamlets are over 200 years old, as we find out later.
Fleeing before we get anywhere near, agile chamois stay hidden. But we spot marmots and ibexes scampering around. Similar to chamois but with bigger horns, these iconic animals come close to the hut to graze on the top of Louvie. That’s another thing that makes this place unique.
Here, it’s not remote wilderness compared to other places but it’s magical and utterly beautiful.
Access: The Louvie hut is located at 2,250m in the canton of Valais in Switzerland, in Val de Bagnes. It’s directly accessible from a village of Fionnay by a steep ascent. This is the fastest and the steepest way to get to the Louvie hut. For the return, instead of taking the same path, you can go up to Col du Bec d’Aigle and go down to Fionnay through Le Dâ. You can also extend the hike by going first to Plan de la Gole. Or you can follow the Chamois Trail, or “Sentier des Chamois” in French to Verbier, to the Cleuson dam and its Saint-Laurent hut or to the Prafleuri hut and the Grande Dixence dam.e dam.
Alternatively, you can start from Verbier, in Le Châble, take the cable car to La Chaux and hike the “Sentier des Chamois” to the Louvie hut.
Hiking Time: The hike from Fionnay to the Louvie hut takes 2 hours (1h30 for the return). If you follow the evocatively named Chamois Trail, the hike takes between 3h30 and 4h30 from La Chaux.
Difficulty: Easy hiking: T2 (medium, mountain hiking), 4km, 800 meters of elevation gain.
Accommodation: The Louvie hut website is guarded only in summer (end of May/June – early/mid-October). Accommodation is dormitories with mattresses, pillows and blankets. For hygienic reasons, all visitors are required to bring a light sleeping bag. The Louvie hut also has 2 rooms for 2 people. Showers are available. Reservations required – half-board (dinner, overnight stay, breakfast).
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Written by ANYWAYINAWAY
Olga and Errol are the Swiss-Russian couple behind ANYWAYINAWAY. Passionate about unique culture and traditions, they decided to take career breaks and explore the world with the intention to expand awareness and provide new perspectives to the understanding of ethnic minority people, customs, traditions and culture. They also show the beauty of our planet and try to find something interesting in the ordinary.