Pastureland below Isérables which we hiked up through

Link to detailed route page and map click on route title 


Riddes to Isérables Hike

  • Distance 7.166 km
  • Time 1 h 47 min
  • Speed 4.0 km/h
  • Min altitude 552.000 m
  • Peak 1,140.000 m
  • Climb 709.000 m
  • Descent 708.000 m
October 10, 2020 4:36 pm

Earlier in the summer we took the cable car up from Riddes (with our bikes) and saw a footpath from the base up to Isérables. Both of us fancied doing the hike sometime and today was the day. We did have another hike in mind up the Evolene Valley but decided that as it was overcast we would save that for another time.

Not the fastest start as we are renovating the woodwork in the flat and needed to get some painting done before we headed out. As it was our timing was perfect as we arrived at the Auberge le Mont-Géle in good time for lunch.

We parked just by the playing fields where the La Farne river emerges from the cleft. Our hike, up the old mule track which used to be the only link between the village and the valley, took us up the steep Eastern slopes of the Gorge. Rising quickly and seeing the Rhône Valley spread below us was very satisfying. We were pleasantly surprised to find that info boards had been installed along the trail describing the moths and butterflies that are found in the area.

Just after our banana 🍌 stop about half way up, we came across a viewing platform. Perfect timing as we caught  the cable cars crossing below us. Mike took an outstanding photo, which we even shared with our waiter at lunch. Magnificent was his reaction!

On the slopes just below Isérables we passed some old wooden farm buildings (raccard granaries). An interesting fact sheet said traditionally these were used to store cereal grains and were constructed in a simple manner on a bed of small stones with rustic wood panels, slightly separated, allowing good ventilation. They tend to be supported on top of  wooden stilts. A circular stone slab, forming an overhang, is intercalated between the stilts and the granary to prevent rodents getting in. A fire destroyed many of these some years back but those that remain have been renovated and now are used for various purposes, including storing hay for the cows in the winter.

Renovated raccards just below Isérables

I did not know until today that Isérables derives its name from sweet maples (érable) which grow on the slopes and were turning colour with the onset of Autumn and our recent cold weather. It is a fascinating town and here is a link to a black and white video made in the 60’s of the village:

The menu de jour looked tasty and excellent value so we both opted for that. Very tasty chicken and vegetable broth followed by Tiramasu (I was in seventh heaven – Mike declined). Partnered by a small bottle of local wine, very enjoyable. Inside was full so we had to sit on the terrace, the sun came out and it was lovely and warm. Really lovely lunch and our waiter was charming.

Did a small loop on the way back before rejoining the trail we took up. This took us up to the cross overlooking the valley where  Mike obliged me by balancing on a small cliff so I could get a fun photo! 

One other interesting fact we learnt from an educational panel was that there was a (very) distant time when Isérables basked on the soft beaches bordering the south of the Valais ocean – accounts for all the exposed folded and transformed mudstone we passed on our way up.

An excellent walk, why did it take us 15 years to discover this? See below for a compilation of our photos from the hike.