Hike to the Orny hut is a good introduction to the real alpine world. Located 2,811m past gaping crevasses of the Orny Glacier and surrounded by snow-capped peaks, the hut is built in a magnificent location offering a splendid panorama.
Departure for the Orny Hut in Valais
“No worries, we have families with children coming to our place,” tells us a friendly lady on the phone when we try to find out how difficult the hike is. Decision is taken, this weekend we are going to the Orny Hut in Valais. Three friends join us, including a couple, who has never hiked in the mountains before.
“Do you have a sleeping bag? You have to buy one,” I give the final instructions before our departure. “Don’t forget to take warm jackets. Even if it’s hot, it can quickly get cold up in the mountains,” I make sure to cover all the basics so that our hike doesn’t turn into a disaster. Before leaving Geneva, I make sure one more time that our friends packed everything. “You didn’t forget your jackets, did you?” I make the final check, and off we go.
Hike from Champex-Lac to the Orny Hut
We park at Champex-Lac, have a look at the village and linger on the shore of the lake before starting our hike. We are not in a hurry – the day is beautiful and the hike is easy. “Children come to our place,” we remember the words of the hut’s lady. From Champex-Lac we have two choices – take the Breya cable car or hike entirely on foot. “We go on foot, don’t we?” Errol leaves no choice. We are here to hike after all. A mistake but we don’t know it yet…
From Champex-Lac we have two choices – take the Breya cable car or hike entirely on foot. “We go on foot, don’t we?” Errol leaves no choice. We are here to hike after all. A mistake but we don’t know it yet…
The climb, which goes though larches under the cable car line, is long and monotonous, without too much interest except for guaranteeing to warm you up. Once we reach the Breya upper station and its restaurant, we begin our ascent to the Orny Hut. It starts as a gentle climb, and during the first hour we are gaining in altitude rather slowly. And we take it slowly, with frequent breaks.
Later, the hiking trail becomes narrow, steep and a bit vertiginous. A few passages are equipped with chains for a better grip. And for a deeper sensation of the mountains judging by the face expressions of our friends. For them it’s an unexpected introduction to the alpine world. We come across some groups of hi-tech equipped and brightly dressed climbers, with ice axes and crampons tied to their bags. We seem to be the only ones, who don’t carry any kind of equipment.
While the views open up, the sky becomes very cloudy. The weather changes very rapidly. The mist limits our visibility. By now the fog is too dense that my camera doesn’t focus. Thunderstorm is on its way. At one of the passages with the chains, the visibility is almost zero. The path is too narrow to stay and wait for the storm to pass. We have no choice but to keep moving forward. We put on our fleeces and Gore-Tex jackets. Our friend also puts on her “jacket”… which turns out to be something from cotton, vaguely resembling a long-sleeved fleece.
The rain pushes us to the limit. We are now completely soaked …. Our friends are freezing. But we keep walking. As if fog and storm aren’t enough, a violent hail arrives. Our jackets barely provide any protection.
After a while our friends suggest to turn back. But the problem is we don’t know if we are closer to the Orny Hut or to our point of departure. We decide to call the hut to check. “Where are you?” the lady on the phone sounds a bit worried. We are somewhere in the mountains, near a turn with big boulders… No, that doesn’t help. “Do you have walking sticks?” she keeps asking. We proudly announce to be well equipped. “Well, you have to leave them behind… Metal attracts lightning,” she says matter-of-factly. We hide our sticks behind the boulders, and decide to keep walking to the hut.
Lightning is too close; flash and bang are almost instantaneous. The trail becomes steeper before reaching the moraine of the Orny Glacier. Still no hut … With each turn we expect to see the Orny Hut miraculously emerging from the fog but our ascent seems to have no end. We are tired, we are cold and we feel our friends’ despair … This is their first hike. Maybe their last one too …
Finally, we see a silhouette of the hut. A word relief is the understatement. After our last efforts to climb a few remaining meters, we are warmly welcomed by the hut’s lady. We are soaked and numb with cold. Our friends feel like survivors, almost heroes.
The Orny Hut
By the time we arrive, everyone has already finished eating. Empty bottles are aligned on the wooden tables like the most evident testimony of the feast. But minutes later a dinner is served. The röstis, a typical Swiss potato dish best described as a cross between hash browns and a potato pancake, tastes as masterpiece of the art of cooking. Forget the wine, we go for a hard stuff – kirsch, a popular potent drink made from cherries and Poire Williams, an eau-de-vie (fruit brandy) produced from Williams pears. But the best is a portable heater provided by our friendly hosts. We all feel we could spend the night sleeping around it.
The next day when we get up most people have already left to climb the nearby rocks. We see them from the distance. Some leave the hut as early as at 4am. The place must have busy judging by the number of climbers. The first hut built in 1876 from stone accommodated 10 people. It was replaced in 1893 by a wooden hut. The current Orny Hut was built 150m higher in 1975, and its capacity was increased in 1985 to accommodate about 90 people.
We see a group of climbers with ice axes and crampons going between the crevasses towards the glacier. As for us, we take it easy. Set at 2,811m between two small lakes in front of the Orny Glacier, the place is stunning. We slowly take our breakfast and go for a walk around the lake before starting our descent. Today is a gorgeous sunny day, and the panorama of the snow-capped alpine peaks is splendid. We look at each other, and decide we would love to do this hike again.
The way back follows the same road but this time we take a cable car.
Access: The Orny Hut is situated in the canton of Valais in Switzerland, in the Swiss part of the Mont-Blanc massif. Located at 2,831m, it’s accessible from Champex-Lac by Breya cable car or entirely on foot via Combe d’Orny.
Hike from Champex-Lac by Breya cable car: 2h30
Hike from Champex-Lac on foot via Combe d’Orny: 4h30
Experienced hikers can continue from the Orny Hut to the Trient Hut located at 3’170m.
Hike from Champex-Lac by Breya cable car: T3 (demanding mountain hiking), 600m of elevation.
Hike from Champex-Lac via Combe d’Orny: T3 (demanding mountain hiking), 1’300m of elevation.
Accommodation: The Orny Hut is open all year round but guarded only in summer – from early June to the end of September. Accommodation in dormitories with mattresses, pillows and blankets provided. Reservations are required (half-board – dinner, overnight stay, breakfast). For hygienic reasons, all visitors are required to bring a sleeping bag or linen to spend the night. The Orny Hut belongs to the Swiss Alpine Club (CAS) offering a discount to its members.
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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.