Situated amidst green pastures with a small mountain lake and splendid views over the Val de Bagnes, the Marcel Brunet hut is one of the rare mountain huts in Switzerland that can be accessed by car. This cosy, traditional hut offers a mountain experience without requiring any fitness level.
The degree of appreciation of the place is often proportional to the efforts made to reach it, especially in the mountains. Our typical hiking day is between 4-8 hours of walking on a steep, slippery trail, with droplets of sweat on the forehead, muscles warmed up, shoes covered in mud, an almost empty bottle of water and a way too heavy backpack. The last efforts bring us to the hut full of hikers, equally exhausted. Inside, there is, of course, fondue and a bottle of Fendant, which tastes like a Moët & Chandon.
Here, at the Marcel Brunet hut, it’s different. It’s one of a few huts in Switzerland accessible by car. The only effort you will make is to bring your backpack inside the hut from the car park, right in front. For our friends, who aren’t used to hiking, it’s a chance to experience the mountains without any physical effort. For us, this concept feels strange. But it turns out we will appreciate it.
In the morning, we head up to the Val de Bagne in Valais. The road first takes us through the forest before emerging onto alpine meadows. When we reach the hut, a group of walkers have a fondue outside. The terrace of the Marcel Brunet hut offers a splendid view of the Val de Bagnes mountains with its snow-capped peaks and the Combin glacier (Petit Combin).
We go for a walk around the hut, and a 360-degree view of the Alps makes us forget that we came by car. At 2’103 meters, this is an oasis of coolness. The place is popular with cyclists and families with children and dogs on a leash.
We spend the evening peeking out the window and marvelling at the mountains turning gradually pink and purple. The craziness of our busy life becomes a distant memory. Soon we exchange stories of our adventures with other walkers. We learn that the Marcel Brunet hut was built in 1930 and named in memory of the former president of the Geneva Mountain Federation, who died in an avalanche in 1928 while descending from the Mont-Fort hut. The hut followed the fate of Marcel Brunet. It was swept away by an avalanche in 1937 and was rebuilt in 1942 in a safer place.
The long-time regulars tell us to try their freshly baked fruit tart. It’s delicious! Later we try their Génépi, a herbal liqueur made from the Génépi aromatic plants from the genus Artemesia growing high in the mountains. With its rich botanical flavour, Génépi can be an acquired taste. For me, Génépi is very much a taste of the Alps, an after-dinner quaff. I am not the one to turn down a boozy sample. After all, Génépi was long consumed for medicinal purposes.
We try Absinthe from Val-de-Travers, now legal after almost a century-long ban. This green liquor has a mystic air, a touch of the supernatural. And, of course, we drink Abricotine, the famous eau-de-vie from Valais made from locally grown apricots. The choice outweighs our drinking capacities. Gazing at the starry sky, we decide we won’t set the alarm for tomorrow morning.
The hearty breakfast gives us enough energy to last us through the day. The sky is blue, and the alpine flowers are blooming. They grow everywhere, even where there are only stones! We decide to explore the surroundings and start with a small mountain lake with crystal clear waters, just a short distance away. Then we continue walking behind the hut. Come here in the right season, and you will feast on blueberries. The calm reigning at this altitude reminds us of where we are. I let my mind go where it wants or rather to no place at all, and it feels great!
Access: The Marcel Brunet hut is located in the Val de Bagnes in the canton of Valais in Switzerland. It’s accessible by car from Lourtier (only in summer; at the end, the road is unpaved but in good condition). In winter, access is possible with snowshoes or sealskin ski. Coming by car, follow the road Martigny – Verbier to Châble and then direction Mauvoisin. After the village of Lourtier follow the signs to the Marcel Brunet hut (15-20 min). Coming by train, get off at Martigny, take a regional train to Châble and then a taxi to the hut or walk from Lourtier for 3h (or 2h from the parking Barmasse located between Lourtier and Fionnay).
Accommodation: The Marcel Brunet hut located at 2’103 m. In summer, the Marcel Brunet hut located at 2’103 m is open from mid-June to mid-October, and in winter from mid-December to mid-April. Accommodation is in dormitories with mattresses, pillows and blankets. For hygienic reasons, all visitors are required to bring a light sleeping bag. The hut offers half-board (evening meal, overnight stay, breakfast). Reservations required.
Additional information: The Marcel Brunet hut can be a starting point for several hikes.
1. The FXB Panossière hut. Located at 2’641 m near Corbassière Glacier at the foot of the Grand Combin mountain range, the hut is open from late June to late September. You can reach it via: 1) La Maye by crossing an impressive suspension bridge 190m long and 70m high near Becca de Sery (2h40) or 2) Avouillons Pass (3h30, more difficult).
2. Cabane du Col de Mille located at 2’473m at the foot of Mont Rogneux par La Treutze, 3h.
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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.