Dwight Peck's personal Web site

Weekends at Salanfe

The "other side" of the Dents du Midi


Mid-July 2007, Kristin's visiting, and we're looking for a venue with nice quiet mountain views in the twilight hours.

You may not find this terribly rewarding unless you're included here, so this is a good time for casual and random browsers to turn back before they get too caught up in the sweep and majesty of the proceedings and can't let go.

After excellent long weekends in recent years at Iffigenalp, Engstligenalp, and Tanay, this time we're headed for the auberge (inn) at the Lac de Salanfe on the far side of the Dents du Midi. Teny's packing up and Kristin's ready to go in the little car park near the campground at Van d'en Haut (1394 metres) in the narrow Vallon de Van, which is up a narrow mountain road above Salvan in the Swiss canton of Valais, which is up a semi-narrow mountain road above Martigny, the ancient crossroads between the river Rhône and numerous valleys up to Verbier, the Col du Saint Bernard, the Col de la Forclaz, etc. and etc.

Friedrich Nietzsche the Volkswagen is resting quietly behind Kristin's left shoulder. Awaiting our return four days hence.

The auberge at the Lac de Salanfe differs from some scenic mountain weekend hotels in that you need to walk there, straight up, carrying all your cosmetics, reading material, evening dress and/or dinner jacket, extra wine bottles for the hotel room, and several changes of underclothing. And your meds.

We've just passed a young couple courting whilst practicing their rock climbing, and some of the extra books and magazines for the evenings on the terrace at Salanfe are beginning to seem superfluous and self-indulgent.

From a little buttress about halfway up, not long before Happy Hour, we gaze back down at the Vallon de Van and the car park.

Next come the "escaliers".

We're making our way through a stairway system thoughtfully laid on through the cliffs. We're probably at about 1700m now and we've been tossing a few Victorian novels over the side into the ravine.

Finally, the dam at the Lac de Salanfe (1950m), with the Cime de l'Est of the Dents du Midi in the centre background.

The auberge at Lac de Salanfe, as we straggle in with tongues hanging out. The plateau of Salanfe was a big flat alpage and pasturage, first mentioned in the 14th century, with a considerable amount of primitive industrial mining (chiefly for arsenic) high up on the southern hillsides between 1904 and 1928 (709 tonnes of arsenic and 53kg of gold).

And then they built the dam -- it went into service in 1952 and is supplied by an underground funicular rail line from Miéville on the banks of the Rhône.

Here's the hotel, seen from the chapel on a hillock just above it, with (in front of it) something to do with the funiculaire. As we choose to believe that we are too old for sleeping in 50-bed dortoirs, or dormitories, we've booked the room just upstairs on the far right. Joe and Teny are two doors down to the left.

(It feels awkward to be on the far right of anything, but seen from the other side of the building, of course, we were comfortably on the far left.)

The chapel, and the building at the top of the funiculaire works. That's where the waiters and waitresses, high school students from Martigny, stay when they're up on the mountain (more of them on weekends, obviously).

The chapel

The Lac de Salanfe, with the Tour Sallière looming above. Sallière (3219m altitude) is the pointy peak left of centre, Le Dôme is to the right, and L'Eglise (the "church") is at the right end of the massif.

The narrator has passed through this way only a few times before, once in 1985 running from Champéry to Salvan with two of daughter Marlowe's uncles, again in January 1989 in lots of snow, and lastly in September 1991 -- after marching a bunch of high school boys up from Champéry to overnight at the Cabane du Susanfe, proceeding to the Dents du Midi summit the next day and depositing them at the auberge de Salanfe, he had a good hour-and-a-half run around the lake and up to the Col d'Emaney (snowy low point on the horizon), but cracked a couple of ribs dashing back down in the twilight.

The Col d'Emaney (2462m). Where we're not going on this trip.

The dinner crowd at the auberge de Salanfe. We feel that we didn't need to bring all the fancy evening wear.

Teny and Joe being cuddly

The Tour de Sallière across the lake, and the wide delta below the glaciers at the far end

The lake from our room, after one of our hikes a few days later. An extremely hospitable environment.

Hiking enthusiasts contemplating trips to this region may be pleased to view the next few pages, and let anticipation grow.


Feedback and suggestions are welcome if positive, resented if negative, . All rights reserved, all wrongs avenged. Posted 4 August 2007, revised 02 November 2013.


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