Mont Vélan 3722 m Alpinism
Mont Vélan can be placed in the same category as the Aiguille du Tour, the Aiguille du Chardonnet, the Aiguille d'Argentière and Mont Dolent: the outward appearance is impressive, the size of the mountain is considerable, but it is not a four-thousand-meter peak, and is outshone by a more powerful neighbor - in this case the Grand Combin. Its exterior follows the climatic laws of practically all the mountains in our latitudes: the south consists of rock, the north is glaciated. The summit of Mont Vélan consists of an almost flat glacier cap. On older maps this is still listed as 3731 m. On today's newest maps the height reads only 3722 m. The difference must be floating around somewhere in the Mediterranean.
The fact that Canon Murith of the Hospice du Col du Grand St-Bernard - a recognized botanist of his time - climbed the mountain for the first time in the company of two locals, long before the Golden Age of alpine development, is incredible.
The various starting points include: Bourg St-Bernard, Cabane du Vélan, Refuge Chiarella, Bivouac Savoie and Refuge Champillon. The name comes from the Patois "velan", which means evil - heavy - dark. Think villain! This name is an allusion to the seemingly unapproachable exterior. The locals call it "Le V'lan".
Laurent-Joseph Murith with the hunters Moret and Genoud, August 31, 1779 (W-Face and P. 3681).