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Col du Grand Saint-Bernard details

MichaelC

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Aug 2017: Le Puy to Santiago
Nov 2018: Kumano Kodo (part)
2021 (?): Via Francigena, Aosta to Rome
I know the Col du Grand Saint-Bernard isn't passable until early to mid June. What I don't know, though, is what exactly this means in practical terms. If the pass is closed, what is the last stop in Switzerland for walkers, and where in Italy do you start again? Or do you bus to St. Bernard for the night, then take a bus to Italy the next day?
 

Galloglaigh

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Lycra tribe.
CF (2017/8), VF (2018/9), Old Way (2020), VFnS (2020), CP (rebooked) (2021), VdT (ToDo)
You can bus it to the Hospice (the last stop in Switzerland) on certain days. The timetable can be found here


More information here


For example, today there is the Bus B 211 2109 leaving at 9:25 from Orsieres arriving at the Hospice at 10:15

Or you can walk. They love signposts in Switzerland

And going down to Aosta, there are plenty signs too.
 

kazrobbo

Tassie Kaz
Camino(s) past & future
CF 2012
CP 2015
St Olavs Norway 2016
88T Japan 2017
PWC/VF 2019
Israel 2020 X
Wales CP 21?
KK?
VdlP?
I know the Col du Grand Saint-Bernard isn't passable until early to mid June. What I don't know, though, is what exactly this means in practical terms. If the pass is closed, what is the last stop in Switzerland for walkers, and where in Italy do you start again? Or do you bus to St. Bernard for the night, then take a bus to Italy the next day?
Depends on how important the Pass is to you. I knew with 100% certainty from the outset I wouldn't be able to reach it on foot early May 2019...so I just 'let it go'. The road was closed so bussing up to the Hospice was not an option.
The Pass is a major component to some ... (@timr will probably weigh in here; he is also a wealth of info & I believe has posted a 'resource' on the topic) but it wasn't crucial for me. If it was, I would've chosen a different time of year to walk.
For non "à pied" alternatives; I walked to Bourg St Pierre, stayed overnight & caught the bus through the tunnel alighting at Saint-Oyen, just over the border in Italy.
If exercising this option, check the bus schedule carefully; there was only one bus & it didn't run everyday when I was there last year. Also make sure you have enough Swiss francs for the fare; the driver will not accept Euro's (despite being listed on the bus website...) nor are card facilities an option. I very nearly came a cropper but was rescued by other CHF-wielding walkers! 😟
Happy planning. 😊
👣 🌏
 

MichaelC

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Aug 2017: Le Puy to Santiago
Nov 2018: Kumano Kodo (part)
2021 (?): Via Francigena, Aosta to Rome
Thanks. All this is super useful. The Pass sounds insanely cool, but I doubt it will be open when I'm looking at starting - sometime in May. My current plan is to start in Aosta and walk to Rome ... but I would love to start in Lausanne if I can find the time. It sounds like walking as far as Bourg St. Pierre is generally fine, and then one would bus to the other side.

I should note I'm from the tropics. Walking in snow is not an option. I don't even own warm enough clothes to consider it.
 

timr

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Several and counting...
@MichaelC you will certainly notice the cold! I had been living almost on the equator for many years before I did it! The pass is 'insanely cool' in more ways than one. ;) ❄ You will see in my notes I went twice - even in July, it snowed during the night.
In simple terms if you are starting from Aosta in May, you are too early.
But have a wonderful trip.
Buon Cammino. Tim
 

jl

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances('05, '07), Aragonese ('05), del Norte / Primitivo ('09), Via Tolosana (Toulouse '05), Via Podiensis (Le Puy '07), Via Lemovicensis (Troyes '09), VF ('12), Winter Camino ('13/'14) Cammino d'Assisi ('14) Jakobseweg (Leipzig - Paris '15) San Salvador/Norte ('15) Ignaciano ('16) Invierno ('16)
I crossed Gran San Bernard on May 31st. Having said that, I stayed a couple of days at the Hospice. When I give talks about the VF, and indeed about anything to do with pilgrimage, this is the place where I tell people I have never felt more "loved". The care given me, an injured pilgrim, along with the compassion and medical support and the beauty and peace of the hospice made for a very special experience. I couldn't have timed it better. I had one patch of snow to cross on the way up to the pass from where the path joins the road. Had I had both confidence (snow scares me), and snow shoes, I could have followed the path, but instead I followed the road, walking between walls of snow to the hospice. The road was set to open on that weekend (and so no such things as buses!) so there were plenty of people working and preparing for this. With the road closed it was very safe walking on it as there was no traffic, and likewise on leaving the pass the road was still closed, and so again it was quite safe road walking until I reached the point where the path went off road and down the slopes. I had about 500 metres of snow to cross at the border. Surveyors were working on exactly where the road had to be cleared as I was leaving and so I was not alone, and being a warm sunny day was confident that I would be safe. Apart from that the monks had also given me strong encouragement and support. Just for you interest I am from a very hot climate and am not at all used to snow so I treated every patch of snow with great respect, but managed it quite safely. My post about this is here: http://janetleitch.blogspot.com/2012/05/like-napoleon-i-crossed-alps.html
and the pictures below tell the tale

P1110246aResize.jpg
Surveyors preparing to clear the road
P1110258aResize.jpg
The hospice, Gran San Bernard
P1110275aResize.jpg
Heading down the road in Italy and after the Pass
P1110296aResize.jpg
Leaving the snow behind.
 

evanscl

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Oct 2016
We walked up to the col from bourg st pierre on 18th june last year. There were still patches of snow across parts of the path, we crossed some but the last bit was such that we had to walk the final bit on the road with traffic coming by - not ideal but it was ok and we had nice chats with motorcyclists and cyclists who had stopped for the spectacular views. I was nervous crossing some stretches of snow, thinking they might give way under my feet but using poles gave me confidence. The worst patch was descending the following day but we could have retraced our steps and gone down the road if i really decided i wasnt going to risk it - there were people skiing down some of the gullies. I am not a brave soul but felt quite proud of myself doing that, though my walkng partner wasnt the least bit concerned so it depends on your view.
We stayed overnight but there is very little at the pass, it was the walk up and the descent which was the best bit. We stayed then at etroubles before moving on to aosta, in fact stayed just beyond there at chatillon. The walk to aosta was great too, walking alongside the ru’s, the old irrigation channels. For me being in the mountains was wonderful, especially as you then enter the po valley and flat landscape for some days.
If you can walk from lausanne then do, the swiss bit of the vf was lovely, walking along the lake then through wildflower meadows.
Have a wonderful time.
 
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