Snowshoe hike up Mont de L’Arpille, Switzerland

Alpage de L'Arpille

Mont de L’Arpille is one of Switzerland’s classic snowshoe summits. Perched high above Martigny, it offers spectacular views of the Rhone Valley and the Swiss and French Alps. Starting from the pretty hamlet of Chez Pillet we followed a steep trail up to a forest clearing where we stopped to catch our breath and admire the white and purple crocus flowers which carpeted the ground.

woodpecker Mont de L'Arpille
We could hear green woodpeckers in the forest on the walk up to Mont de L’Arpille and also saw some tell tale signs. Woodpeckers peck on wood to forage for insects under the bark and also to mark their territory. Photo by David Thexton

The trail then continued upwards through spruce and larch forest, until it disappeared under snow at 1600m. Usually in late April there would only be snow near the summit of Mont de L’Arpille, however the Alps had so much snow this winter that I decided to take my snowshoes along just in case and I’m glad I did! After another quick break to put our snowshoes on and take some photos of the beautiful hepatica flowers nestled in between the undergrowth, we continued on a larger track up to Alpage de L’Arpille.

hepatica Mont de L'Arpille
Beautiful clusters of Hepatica carpeted the woodland floor on our trail up to Mont de L’Arpille. Hepatica is one of the first spring flowers bringing colour to the forest floor. Its brightly coloured petals attract pollinators, such as solitary bees, but hepatica also relies on insects for seed dispersal. That’s why the seeds have nutritious structures (called elaiosomes) which are very attractive to ants. They carry the seeds to their nests where they feed the elaiosomes to their larvae. Afterwards the ants deposit the (undamaged) seeds in a waste area of the nest: an ideal location to germinate! Photo by David Thexton.
Trail to Mont de L'Arpille
Time to put on our snowshoes! Photo by David Thexton

In winter the Alpage looks like a flat snowy plateau, but in the summer it is transformed into a vibrant Alpine meadow. Historically farmers in the area would lead their cattle up to the Alpage at L’Arpille each summer for them to graze and this practice still goes on to this day. We ate lunch on a bench outside one of the chalets and stayed for an hour, enjoying the warm sun and the peace and tranquillity of having the mountain to ourselves.

Alpage de L'Arpille
Not a bad view for lunch at Alpage de L’Arpille. Photo by David Thexton

Feeling so relaxed, it was hard to work up the motivation to keep going and the final push to the summit was a bit of a slog in the midday heat and the slushy snow sliding beneath our feet. After an hour of perseverance we made it to the top and I’m happy to say it was worth the effort! Although it would be a worthwile outing to walk only as far as the Alpage, you have to get to the summit of Mont de L’Arpille to get views of Mont Blanc.

summit of mont de l'arpille
Me on my last few steps to the summit of Mont de L’Arpille. Photo by David Thexton

The panorama from the summit of Mont de L’Arpille is spectacular – below you is the wide Rhone Valley and in every direction you look there are glaciers and snowy peaks including Mont Blanc, the Grand Combin and Mont Buet. To help you know which mountain is which, there is an illustrated panorama signpost on the summit which depicts your view and the names of the peaks. You may just need to find it underneath the snow!

To get down we took a slightly different route and whilst many of the tracks go in the same general direction, it’s worth paying attention in the forest as there are so many different trails that it’s easy to become disorientated.

pasque flower on trail up to mont de l'arpille
On the way back down we spotted the first pasque flower we had seen this season. Photo by David Thexton

If you do head up to Mont de L’Arpille in snowy conditions, remember that it’s important to be properly prepared. Although the route is fairly safe from an avalanche perspective, there is always a risk and so you should carry appropriate avalanche equipment and be trained in how to use it.

Learn more about avalanche safety when snowshoeing.

Want to go snowshoeing in the Alps next winter?

If you would like to go snowshoeing in the Alps next winter, you may enjoy Alpenwild’s swiss alps winter hiking adventure trip. On our week long winter tours we explore the best of the Swiss Alps, based out of luxury spa hotels. I hope to meet you next winter!

Jennifer Stretton
Latest posts by Jennifer Stretton (see all)

2 Replies to “Snowshoe hike up Mont de L’Arpille, Switzerland”

  1. Regine daly says:

    Can I please receive your newsletter,
    Thank you.

    Regine Daly

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