Haute Route Day 9 – Cabane de Moiry to Zinal


Stage 9 traverses back down the Val de Moiry to the foot of the lake before climbing to a pass and descending into Zinal. We got our standard early start and descended back down the switchbacks to the trail leading along the moraine. Along the way we were lucky to spot more ibex walking along the hillside above us.

The path towards Zinal splits before reaching the parking lot, instead taking a high traverse along the valley and above the lake. Unlike the previous day, the forecast was good and the sun was out with blue patches of sky all around. However, some precipitation had fallen the night before dusting the upper slopes with frost and traces of snow.


(photo by Anne Archambault)

We traversed along the trail, taking in the incredible views down the valley towards the dam and the even more incredible views back up the valley to the glacier, hut, and mountain peaks. Below us the glacial lake was a brilliant turquoise in color. Above, the careful eye could make out both ibex and chamois moving about the rocks.


(photo by Anne Archambault)

The trail traverses to just above the dam at the end of Lac de Moiry before climbing, slowly switch backing along a road at first and then much more directly, up to the Col de Sorebois. As we reached the col, we found that while our side of the pass was very much in sunlight, the other side of the pass was completely obscured in fog. Rather than breaking for lunch, we decided to head down and hope for better weather lower down.

It wasn’t long before breaks in the clouds rewarded us with some pretty incredible views of the mountains waiting for us on the other side of the valley. As Anne pointed out the small break in the clouds, I gasped with amazement at the jagged peaks emerging from the whiteout.


The descent from the pass was relatively non-descript. We hiked along a path that at times was a two track road servicing the ski area and others a small trail that cut between switchbacks in the road. Ski lifts crisscrossed above making the place feel more urban than most of what we’d experienced along the way. We descended to the Sorebois cable car station where we grabbed some seats on the deserted terrace and had lunch overlooking the valley below us.


(photo by Anne Archambault)

The rest of the path down was a grunt. The trail switchbacks in open meadows at a relatively aggressive grade before entering trees and heading almost straight down the mountain. There are few trails I’ve been on that have been so tiring on the descent and I was very glad to have my poles to steady my walk and help preserve my knees. After what felt like hours the trail finally leveled out near the base of the valley and traversed above the river to a bridge where we finally crossed into town.


(photo by Anne Archambault)

Zinal is a sizable village with an ATM, restaurants, a couple grocery stores, and a collection of outdoor and gear shops. The hotels here were reasonably priced and provided bus passes for transit up and down the valley should the need arise. Anne and I were happy to have a little extra time during the day to wash clothes, enjoy the warmth of the sun, and relax.

Since we weren’t sure who among our party was going directly to Gruben versus Hotel Weisshorn, we organized dinner at the Hotel Europa where all of our travelling friends got a table together and enjoyed what we hoped would not be our last evening together as a group.


Total distance: 10.67 mi
Max elevation: 9327 ft
Min elevation: 5446 ft