The Fortress-Like Cabane.
Cabane Bertol is located at the end of Val. d'Arolla, actually after the village of Arolla: further along the valley, then up and to the east. See driving route map here. The detailed map of the walking area is at walking profile page. By car you should drive to Arolla, pass it through and park right after you exit it. If you are not 100% law-abiding, you may want to violate the "red circle" road sign barring the road right after the parking and drive up to "Illegal" parking (second red dot on the map). I noticed that good percentage of Swiss do it. This way you will avoid least interesting part of the walk and save ~ 30 min.
I do not know who designed Cabane Bertol. It could have been that there was no other way to build it. Indeed, there is not much even land around. It could also be that the architect planned it this way on purpose - to make it "special". In any case this Cabane is indeed special.
First of all it is located quite high (3311 m a.s.l.), whilst not too far from inhabited areas. It makes it reachable and suitable for one-day walks. But more interesting is the actual location of the Cabane: it stands on an abrupt cliff, which makes one think about whether it is worth while to challenge it. (see at the left).
The Cabane Bertol has an entertaining approach. Look at the picture: where do you think is the way up? In reality it is not all that bad. The cabane was recently renovated and the approach was also improved. First, you need to climb a lower ridge of gray stones (this is not difficult), then you start to walk along the wall of brown stones, passing it from the right (not visible on the picture - from the back side). This is the only challenging piece, because you have to step a very narrow path grabbing an iron chain at the height of several floors until you reach a solid metal ladder, which will bring you to the top of the brows ridge (on the picture - behind the white pole). Then you pass another, but smaller piece of "chainway" and reach that last small metal ladder, which you can see next to cabane building. That's it. After you make it once, you realize - it is not a big deal.
Before renovation it was a lot cooler. Te remnants of old rusty ladders are still visible at the back side of the cabane. In the same place one can find chains, which were previously used. Initially I did not find a new way, so I used the old one once there and back. Well even that one is still bearable, unless you feel dizzy at the height.
A few last words about the cabane itself. It is very cozy inside. The main hexagonal hall is used as a dining room, where from you have excellent views to surrounding mountains and glaciers. Guardian family - Michel and Bernardette are very hospitable and will be able to offer you hot drinks and, possibly, something more.
The route to the cabane you can see in the walking profile page. First piece, unless you took the risk to park at the illegal parking, will be along the La Borgne d'Arolla river by smooth asphalt road going up very gently. There is another tactic to tackle this uninteresting piece. At the first bridge cross the river from left bank to the right, eastern bank and walk up and forward the slope above the river. Soon path with emerge, going up and along. You can see this path on the map. Whichever of the two options you take, the routes anyway join before the steep zigzag section begins.
You will walk above the lower Arolla glacier (bas glacier d'Arolla) and will see a kind of glacier "icefall" between the upper glacier plateau and the lower glacier (see on the left) .
You will also have a good view on d'Arolla valley (on the right)
This last piece is the most difficult. It is not very steep, but steep enough. It is not very long, but long enough. All in all it makes it quite exhaustive. You already see the cabane. It created additional psychological troubles. Here it is, you think. But, alas, after half an hour you discover that it does not get seemingly closer. The upper you go the more difficult is becomes: the slope becomes steeper, the air thinner, the path gets dispersed and, finally, you start to walk in the ever-lasting snow.
Now you can imagine the mixed feelings I had, when I was standing at Col de Bertol, looking up to the rock, crowned with the building, and slowly realizing that the adventures are not yet over!
This was difficult, but certainly rewarding walk. One can spend a night in
the cabane and follow further up into the wild mountains.