Backpacking to the Auberge de Salanfe

The Auberge de Salanfe

This past Saturday morning we packed our backpacks and drove a little over an hour to a trail head in the village of Van d’en Haut. We hiked 1.5 hours up to stay the night at the Auberge de Salanfe. The Auberge is a mountain inn and something like the cabane we visited on our hike last weekend (see prior blog post). It offers a restaurant, private rooms, dormitory rooms and shared bathrooms with a shower. Guests can only walk up, but they have a road to be able to truck in their supplies. This was our first time staying in such a place, so we were super excited to see what it is like to stay in a dormitory room in the mountains with a bunch of other backpackers.

The Auberge de Salanfe, pictured at right, on Lac de Salanfe.

Upon entry, they request that you take off your hiking boots and leave them at the door. The notes attached are so groggy hikers don’t take the wrong shoes when they get up early in the morning 🙂

When you go into the dormitories and are walking around, they request that you wear slippers to keep the house neat. They even have crocs available to borrow, at no cost.
For CHF 65 each, we got a double spot in this dormitory room. The Auberge was very organized, with everyone’s assigned spot picked out ahead of time and easy to find. Our room was one of three in this building and had 9 bunk beds.
We slept up here on the top bunk. It was surprisingly spacious and the beds were comfortable. They came with a pillow and a duvet, though they request that you sleep with a sleeping bag liner for hygienic reasons. We were clearly sleeping very close to our neighbors, but the wooden partition helped to prevent from waking up and staring at a stranger 🙂
Here we are after everyone had checked in, stuff was everywhere! Part of the cabane-style etiquette is to have prepared everything for bed and for your departure the next morning before lights-out at 10pm, that way you make the least amount of noise while others are sleeping. This is helpful given breakfast starts at 4am when people are having their “alpine start” to the day!
A view of the Auberge and its terrace overlooking the mountains and lake. You can also see the balconies of the private rooms on the top level of the building pictured here. Those must be very nice rooms to have!
The Auberge comes complete with a bar. In the evening, everyone went out on the terrace to relax and have a drink before dinner. By this point in the day, it is almost entirely people staying at the Auberge. The view was beautiful. We sat and watched the clouds shift as the sun set over the mountain skyline.
The price we paid for our stay at the Auberge was “half-board” which means it included dinner, a night’s stay and breakfast. This is customary for such mountain inns and the remote cabanes. The dinner was served in a single seating at 6:45 and was three courses: a soup, main course (pictured above) and dessert (ice cream). Breakfast was simple: bread, butter, jam, cheese and muesli pre-mixed with yogurt. For a CHF 15 fee they even sell you a picnic lunch for the following day. We got one of these to supplement the food we brought, which included 2 locally made sausages, local “alpage” cheese (made from milk when the cows are spending their summer grazing in the Alps), an apple, trail mix, bread and a chocolate bar. Sooo nice for the convenience factor! The food wasn’t the best I have ever had but it was pretty good considering the circumstances.

Overall, the Auberge was in a beautiful spot and made backpacking so much easier. By offering us a bed indoors, we did not have to carry a tent, sleeping bag or sleeping pad. By  providing dinner and breakfast, we did not have to bring cooking tools or the food for two entire meals. It all really adds up in a lot of weight savings! Not to mention, the environment was really cool to be in. We were around backpackers of all ages, and everyone was in a cheerful mood having just hiked in the mountains and spent the evening hanging out with their family and friends. We were impressed how respectful everyone was of cleanliness and the quiet hours in the dormitory from 10pm – 6am. Everyone did their best to keep their belongings organized in the close quarters. Andrew and I woke up at 7am to get ready for our day of hiking and we were some of the last to rise. Most were up and out before 6am! Such a unique experience and an awesome way to tour the mountains. We are hoping to do this again soon.

Hiking

We did some hiking on Saturday after we checked in to the Auberge, but the main feature was our Sunday hike. The plan was to get up early and hike up the Dents du Midi. These are some of the highest peaks close to Lausanne, and some that we see views of ALL THE TIME. I mean, we stare at these babies every time we are driving out to the Alps for our numerous weekend hikes and ski trips and we also have a clear view whenever we go to Montreux (like for the Christmas market back in December or the Jazz Festival in July). So, it was a  goal to get ourselves to hike up to La Haute Cime, which is the only peak you can walk up without needing to use technical gear (mountaineering).

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Here’s a view of the Dents du Midi from the South and also of where our hike went. We started at the Auberge de Salanfe (1,942m) walked up to the Col de Susanfe (2,494m) which is the big pass on the left and then we hiked up that long slope from the Col toward La Haute Cime (3,257m), the highest point in the center of the photo.

For some perspective, here is an old lithograph which shows the more commonly seen view of the Dents du Midi from Lake Geneva with the Chateau de Chillon in the foreground (We visited the castle with Kim and Cody back in April and Lauren in September).

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This is a lithograph from an unknown author, dated 1890-1905. It gives a nice image of the Dents du Midi that is fairly representative of what we see all the time (when it is snowy).
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Sunday morning view across the lake toward the Tour Sallière (3,220m) before we began our hike.
We met this lovely lady on the trail. The cows in the Alps never seize to amaze us. They are nimble with their feet as they navigate the steep terrain and as you can see, their diet consists of tons of flowers and fresh grass (another reminder of why Swiss cheese tastes so good!) This gal was part of a herd hanging out directly on our trail, so we passed very closely. Look at those cute fluffy ears, don’t you want to give her a pet?
View from the Col de Susanfe on Sunday toward the Tour Sallière. We were only half-way up at this point.
Andrew on the last stretch of our hike, when the trail got incredibly steep and was on scree. This section was at times very difficult to get your foot to grab hold without slipping due to the steep grade. That’s why he’s leaning forward so much – to use his weight to stay on the trail. This made us slow down considerably (also thanks to yours truly because I get nervous in these circumstances) on the last section of our ascent.
A view from the trail into the next valley.

We reached the Col de Paresseux (3,054m), the false summit just below the actual peak, after hiking just over four hours. We tried to continue on to reach the final summit only 200m above, but there was quite a lot of rock scrambling required, we were starting to run low on time and the clouds were looking darker and more ominous – implying an increased risk of thunderstorms, which is dangerous when you are hiking above treeline. Unfortunately, we had to make the call and we turned around with 150m left to the top. We forfeited our summit 😦 We were both very disappointed, but sometimes this happens. In the end, we still get to say we climbed to above 3,000m on the Dents du Midi and had an incredible hiking experience!

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View from the mountain of the lake and the Auberge waaaay down below us

 

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We made our way back down the mountain, and continued on to get to our car to drive back to Lausanne. It was about 1,700m (5,600ft) of descent in one day and hiking from 8am-5pm meant our legs were suuuuper tired and sore. But all in all, another amazing weekend in the Alps!

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Oh, ya know, just another beautiful view along the trail
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Beautiful wildflowers all along the way!

 

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