A walk to the Hospice at the Grand Saint Bernard pass is an experience that should not be missed. It was recently made temporarily “famous” by Ed Leigh from Ski Sunday, when he was asked what his favorite adventure from the 2012 series was he said that it was his overnight stay in the hospice. I’m not surprised. I’ve always found it a very moving experience. The first hostel (hospice, I don’t think it is a Monastery, that’s down the valley) was set up by Bernard of Methon 1000 yrs ago. It is the easiest way across this bit of the Alps, there is evidence the pass has been in use since the Bronze Age.
The hospice was only ever set up as a shelter and rescue post run by 4 monks. It’s a very inhospitable spot but as the only crossing point it was used even in the depths of winter. Apparently there was quite a trade in guiding services, not only is the path threatened by avalanches but in those days bandits too. The Hospice provided guiding for free and mountain rescue when required, also free lodging and food. The tunnel was built in the late 50’s that bypassed it, this messed up the main reason for the existence of the Hospice so now it has turned itself into a refuge for walkers and ski mountaineers and a “retreat” for religious teaching. It can cater for over 100 people, in addition to the Monks in residence there are other staff there too. Their motto is something like “Welcome, safety, nourishment” and you still get free tea. It’s funny but although certain aspects of the hospice are thoroughly modern (there was a very professional audio visual presentation after dinner – where I gleaned these facts) they still will only let people stay who have arrived under their own steam. So no “tourists” can stay in the summer! Only people who have toiled over the mountains to reach them.
A really brilliant spot. Worth a few days stay –Not too expensive either at 50 euros a night for a bedroom, dinner and breakfast.
You can book on +41 27 787 12 36, you will need to call between 1000-1130hrs and 1500-1730hrs.
The pictures that I took here are from a trip I made there in March 2012 with Lady Collum. At 70 years old Lady Collum did not find the walk strenouous and had energy for an “extra” hike on the second day. My youngest daughter has walked the couple of hours to reach it in the winter too and 6 years old! So I guess that makes it suitable for the young and the old!
And a link to the Google map