The Tour des Muverans - practicalities

This is a spectacular walk round an Alpine massif. It is one of the toughest walks we've done. We did it in late August 2012 which turned out to be good, as most people are back at work and the refuges are pretty empty. One day it snowed (which can happen at any time, apparently) and we had to bail out. Good boots are essential; some of the walking is on scree. When you walk round a massif (the path is at around 2000 metres) you cross a series of cols radiating out from the centre. Plenty of variety, but plenty of ups and downs too, some of them quite steep. The paths are not objectively dangerous, but the sheer scale of the surroundings could intimidate some. In addition to our photos, there is a YouTube video (not by us) which gives a good idea of the scale. First on the video there are some Ibex, and then the snowfields below the Col de la Forcla, and the surrounding rocks. (They are going round the opposite direction to us.)

A knowledge of French would be useful, for emailing the Refuges and also for socialising in them.

1. Walking days
The official version is four days. We took five, and were glad we did, though this makes two of the days quite short. It's 52 kilometres, but it's the ups and downs that really count, not the alongs.

2. Getting there and away
You have to get to Les Plans-sur-Bex, which is a 20-minute bus ride from Bex. We went by train, Eurostar to Paris Nord, RER two stops to Paris Gard de Lyon, TGV to Lausanne, then Lausanne to Bex; it can be done in one day with an early start. Flying to Geneva could connect you up with the train system.

Since the first day is shortish, you could stay in Bex and take a morning bus to Les Plans, but Les Plans is much prettier.

3. Books & Maps
www.tourdesmuverans.ch has a PDF leaflet in English, which is a very good introduction to the tour, and has useful contacts for the refuges (who generally expect you to pre-book).

We used Lonely Planet's Walking in Switzerland, which has details of the walk as well as other practical details. We took the route description with us on the walk, and were entertained by Clem Lindenmayer's euphemisms for the sweat and effort of it all ('sidle', 'corkscrew', 'the route eases', etc). On the other hand, when he says a view is 'stunning', it really is.

The map is Suisse Rando no 272T. It's 1:50,000, which we found was quite detailed enough.

4. The route: Prices quoted are of August 2012, for a double room or dormitory space.
The signage is the best we've ever come across: signs, and GR paint marks. However, when it snowed on day 5 and the snow began to cover the path we turned back, signs or no signs.

Day 1: Les Plans-sur-Bex to Anzeindaz. (spelled Anxeinde on the map)
4 hours walk. 12K. About 850m ascent.
Drinks/lunch at Pont de Nant, Le Richard or La Vare. We stayed at Le Refuge de la Tour, Anzeindaz, B&B: 54F per person. You can arrange demi-pension.

Day 2: Anzeindaz to Gîte de l'Alpage de Dorbon.
3.75 hours walk. 10K. About 500m descent & 500m ascent.
Lunch at the lake above Derborence. Stay at Gite de l'Alpage de Dorbon. (It's called Refuge La Chaux on the map; the signs just say 'Refuge Dorbon').

Day 3: Gîte de l'Alpage de Dorbon to Gîte de Lui d'Août.
About 8.5 hours. 12K. About 600m ascent & 600m descent.
Lunch at the Cabane Rambert, stay at Gîte de Lui d'Août.

Day 4: Gîte de Lui d'Aout to Cabane du Demècre.
4 hours walk. About 9K. About 500m ascent, 300 descent & 200m ascent.
Lunch at the Col de Fenestral, stay at the Cabane du Demècre.

Day 5: Cabane du Demècre to Les Plans-sur-Bex
About 6 hours, 14K, 486m of ascent. Lunch at the Refuge at La Tourche.
This day is only theory to us. Because of the snow, we took the lower path from the Cabane, to L'Au d'Arbignon, then tried to climb to Rionda but were stopped by ice and snow. We bailed out down the road below Morcles and got a lift to Bex, where we took the bus to Les Plans and stayed at La Tsalouna.