The Tour of Mont-Blanc

The “Le Chemin des Rognes” track

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The track was built as an indirect result of the infamous 1892 flooding disaster, caused by a glacial lake beneath the Tête Rousse glacier. After the event, the behaviour of the glacier was monitored, and officials carried out a risk analysis, aiming to prevent a similar disaster occurring in the future. In 1898, when it was noted that a dangerous amount of water was gathering again, it was decided to dig a lateral tunnel to encourage the new pocket of water to empty towards the Bionnassay glacier. All the materials for these safety works were to be carried by mule, but, as the old access route to Mont Blanc was unsuitable for beasts of burden, a new route was built. To all extents and purposes, it resembled a narrow road, with strong retaining walls built at the sides and levelling work carried out. This project allowed all the necessary materials to be carried to an altitude previously unreachable by track, up the north-western slope of Rognes.

Le Chemin des Rognes was subsequently used to drill into the Bionnassay and Tête Rousse glaciers between 1898 and 1900 and from 1901 to 1904. The 1912 construction of the Tramway du Mont Blanc railway line, which extended the old route towards Pierre Ronde, meant that climbers stopped using the Rognes track, and it fell almost entirely into disuse, apart from the final section, which provided access to the Tête Rousse hut.

Gabriel Grandjacques

References and Further Reading

Durier Charles, La catastrophe de Saint Gervais, revue le Tour du monde, P417
Mougin Paul, Etudes exécutées au glacier de Tête Rousse, 1906
Revue, Le Génie Civil, du 12 XI 1904
Vivian Robert, des glacières aux glaciers, Siloé

Route

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Bellevue - Baraque des Rognes

Difficulty: difficult

Altitude: 1800 - 2768 m

Duration: 3 to 4 hours

Although the new track is very well made, this is still a mountainous route, very exposed in parts. In places it is equipped with safety cables, for example in the section towards Dérochoir.

When you come to Saint-Gervais, arriving from Le Fayet, take the first road on the left near the old Le Mont Joly, and follow it up to the free Mont BlancTramway (TMB) car park. Take the train to Bellevuestation, and head for the La Chalette resort, where the path stops following the railway line and climbs the backbone of Mont Lachat, reaching the summit at an altitude of 2134 m.

From here the track carries on without any difficulties to the old encampments, before arriving at Le Dérochoir, where it becomes steeper and only suitable for serious climbers. After a final effort the roof of the forest barracks of Rognes comes into view, and a short way beyond you reach the balcony overhanging Chamonix, which offers a wonderful view of the valley bottom, the Dôme du Goûter with its new hut, the Aiguille du Midi and the Aravis mountain range.

Photo gallery

Le Chemin des Rognes