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Lapis de Tsanfleuron - geological trail in the Sanetsch area

· 1 review · Hikes · Wallis
Responsible for this content
Valais/Wallis Promotion
  • Col du Sanetsch.
    / Col du Sanetsch.
    Photo: Jochen Ihle, CC BY, Wandermagazin SCHWEIZ
  • Sunset at Sanetsch pass.
    / Sunset at Sanetsch pass.
    Photo: David Carlier, CC BY-ND, Valais/Wallis Promotion
  • Blick vom Sanetschpass auf die Lapis de Tsanfleuron
    / Blick vom Sanetschpass auf die Lapis de Tsanfleuron
    Photo: Delia Inniger, Community
  • Blick vom Sanetschpass auf die Lapis de Tsanfleuron
    / Blick vom Sanetschpass auf die Lapis de Tsanfleuron
    Photo: Delia Inniger, Community
Map / Lapis de Tsanfleuron - geological trail in the Sanetsch area
2100 2250 2400 2550 2700 m km 2 4 6 8 10 Col-du-Sanetsch SAC Hütte - Cabane de Prarochete Restaurant

High-altitude hike from the Col du Sanetsch (2,252 m) across an other-worldly landscape of sculpted rock formations below the Tsanfleuron Glacier. Refreshment stop at the Cabane de Prarochet.

difficult
11.5 km
3:30 h
440 m
471 m

The Lapis de Tsanfleuron is an expanse of exposed rock below the Tsanfleuron Glacier that has been sculpted by the forces of nature to create a landscape of haunting, other-worldly beauty. In the upper stretches, covered until recently by ice, the rocks are smooth and rounded, polished by the action of the glacier. Lower down, the rock has been freed from the glacier for thousands of years, and the limestone has been eroded heavily, revealing the forms typical of a karst landscape: deep fractures caused by the folding of the rock, twisting fissures sculptured by flowing water, and sinkholes. In between the two zones, hikers find the moraines – piles of rock debris – that the Tsanfleuron Glacier deposited right up until 1850, more than 2 km from its position today. The ensemble is almost unmatched in Europe.

The hike follows a broad loop across this lunar landscape. The trail begins at the Col du Sanetsch, initially heading straight up the valley towards the glacier before turning south to the Cabane de Prarochet (2,556 m), built by the ski club of Savièse. Staffed from mid-June to mid-September, this refuge makes a good half-way stop for refreshments; from here, hikers can see the ski lifts of the glacier, the distinctive rock pinnacle of Tour St-Martin (known also as La Quille du Diable, the “Devil’s Skittle”), as well as many of the 4,000-metre peaks of Valais.

The trail then leads along the southern side of the Lapis de Tsanfleuron all the way to the hamlet of the same name, before climbing through flower-filled alpine pastures back up to the col.

 

Highlights:

  • Spectacular drive up (by car or postal bus) from the Rhône valley
  • Les Lapis de Tsanfleuron – karst landscape of sculpted limestone
  • Cabane de Prarochet – welcoming mountain refuge near the foot of the glacier

Author’s recommendation

Bring binoculars for a chance to observe the rare bearded vulture.

Difficulty
difficult
Technique
Stamina
Experience
Landscape
Altitude
2555 m
2113 m
Highest point
Cabane de Prarochete (2555 m)
Lowest point
Plan de la Fontaine (2113 m)
Best time of year
Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Nov
Dec

Safety information

Use of the trails and the information on this website is at hikers’ own risk. Local conditions may entail changes to routes. Valais/Wallis Promotion accepts no liability for the accuracy and completeness of information on this website.

 

For all hikes:

  • Bring a map. Download full description of this route including large-scale map by clicking on «Print» icon, top right of this page.
  • Use marked trails only, and observe all signposting – for your own safety, to safeguard grazing animals and to avoid disturbing wildlife.
  • Close gates after passing through.
  • Please be considerate to other trail users, and to the plants and animals.
  • Do not leave any waste in nature. 

For mountain hikes:

  • Take extra care protecting yourself from the sun at altitude. UV radiation can be exceptionally strong, even in cloudy weather.
  • Plan hike carefully: take into consideration fitness level of each participant, weather forecast and season.
  • Weather conditions can change quickly in the mountains, without warning. Appropriate clothing is therefore essential, along with adequate supplies of food and water. In uncertain weather, turn back in good time.

For high-altitude hikes:

  • Inform others of the route you plan to take. Whenever possible, avoid going alone.
  • Do not venture onto glaciers without a mountain guide.
  • Take note of the warning signs that point out the constant danger in river beds and along watercourses below dams and reservoirs: water levels may rise rapidly without warning.

Equipment

We recommend: 

  • good footwear
  • clothing suitable for the weather: always carry a waterproof jacket
  • hat or cap
  • sunscreen
  • bottle for water
  • picnic
  • camera
  • binoculars (optional)
  • hiking poles (optional)
  • printout of this hike (click «Print» icon, to download)  

For certain walks:

  • Swimwear

Tips, hints and links

More information about the destination:

Start

Col du Sanetsch (2252 m)
Coordinates:
Geographic
46.331513, 7.286214
UTM
32T 368093 5132309

Destination

Col du Sanetsch

Turn-by-turn directions

From the Col du Sanestch, follow the yellow hiking trail signs pointing to the Cabane de Prarochet. The first section of trail heads straight towards the glacier, before turning left towards the refuge, visible on the horizon. Note the waymarks painted on the rock and the many cairns.

From the refuge, follow the yellow pointer to Tsanfleuron; look out carefully for the painted waymark signs on the rock, as the trail is easy to lose. From the hamlet, the trail leads back up to the col, below and to the left of the road.

Public transport

Train to Sion. Postal bus to Chandolin-près-Savièse; change onto postal bus to Col du Sanetsch. One connection a day on high season, and only during weekend from mid-august. Find full timetable information at www.cff.ch.

Getting there

A9 motorway to Sion.

Driving from the west: exit junction 25 (Conthey), follow signs for Conthey and then Sion. After 2.7 km from motorway exit, at Pont-de-la-Morge, turn north up the valley of La Morge, following signs for “Col du Sanetsch”.

Driving from the east: exit junction 26 (Sion-Ouest), follow signs for Sion. After 800 m, turn left, following signs to Conthey. Follow this road for 2.6 km; at Pont-de-la-Morge, turn north up the valley of La Morge, following signs for “Col du Sanetsch”.

Parking

At the Col du Sanestch (free of charge)
Arrival by train, car, foot or bike

Book recommendation by the author

The tourist office in Conthey has got brochures and information material about hiking in the region.

Author’s map recommendations

 SwissTopo maps 1:25’000: 1286 St-Léonard

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Comments and ratings (1)

Delia Inniger
2018-08-13
Die ehemalige Gletscherlandschaft rund um die Lapis de Tsanfleuron sind sehr eindrücklich.
Reviews
Done at
2018-08-03
Blick vom Sanetschpass auf die Lapis de Tsanfleuron
Blick vom Sanetschpass auf die Lapis de Tsanfleuron
Photo: Delia Inniger, Community
Blick vom Sanetschpass auf die Lapis de Tsanfleuron
Blick vom Sanetschpass auf die Lapis de Tsanfleuron
Photo: Delia Inniger, Community

Reviews
Difficulty
difficult
Distance
11.5 km
Duration
3:30 h
Ascent
440 m
Descent
471 m
Loop Scenic With refreshment stops Geological highlights Faunistic highlights Insider tip

Statistics

: h
 km
 m
 m
Highest point
 m
Lowest point
 m
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