The third stage of the Tour de la Vallée d'Illiez (TVI), Crettet-Borney to Barme, is 14.4 km long with an elevation gain of 580 m and takes approximately 4h30 to complete.
From Crettet-Borney, the route follows a gravel road towards ‘Vaillime’. This is the famous ‘Route du Lait’, built so dairy farmers high in the alpine pastures can make the daily trip down the Illiez Valley with their precious elixir. The many ski lifts we pass today are a testament to the region’s other principal industry and the fact that we are in the heart of the Franco-Swiss Portes du Soleil ski area.
As you follow this road, you will pass by the foot of the infamous ‘Swiss Wall’ – less intimidating in summer than when it is mogul-covered snowy black ski slope in winter! When you come to the Lapisa alpine dairy, you’ll want to take time for a refreshing stop and a cool drink or a delicious meal of homemade alpine specialities!
Near the restaurant, at an observatory equipped with binoculars, you might be lucky enough to spy the herds of adorable Chamois, a shy alpine goat with distinctive black and white face markings, that make their home in the Dents Blanches mountains. The TVI Tour founders thank you for leaving this place as you found it!
From Lapisa, take the small path downhill (to avoid the gravel road) to the La Poya alpine pasture, where you will take the switchback path up to the Col de Cou pass. As you climb this sunny hillside, you may see marmots at play, trundling between the many boulders that pepper the slope. At the pass, you will see the old customs outpost that marks the border with France. This building was purchased in 2020 by the Municipalities of Champéry, Samoëns, and Morzine and will eventually be renovated to become a mountain hut.
In autumn, you may want to make a detour farther along to the Col du Bretolet pass, where a bird observation and ringing station marks one of Europe’s most important migratory bird passages through the Alps.
From the border outpost, you’ll change direction and head due east on the magnificent Berroi ridge, which marks the divide between the Barme valley (on the right) and the Portes du Soleil (on the left). This is a spectacular path through a nature preserve, where butterflies forage in blueberry bushes and where you might observe the elusive Black Grouse, on the protected species list in Switzerland.
From the Incrène Cross, continue to the Col de Barme where a small oratory was built in honour of the woodcutters who were killed doing forestry work following the terrible hurricane of 1962. A steep descent from here leads to the picturesque Barme Valley, and the end of today’s hike.
Best time of year