The Champex-Lac fort is located south of Lake Champex and is one of the two large forts that guarded the military zone of Grand-Saint-Bernard corresponding to the territory of the municipality of Bagnes. The Val d’Entremont, the valley leading to the Grand-Saint-Bernard pass and Italy were the strategic axes of the system.
The shooting zones
The fort overlooked the Orsière region as well as the Val Ferret. The latter is strategically much less important than the Val d’Entremont because it does not have a road pass to Italy. The other large fort is the one at Commeire, which watched over only the access to the Grand-Saint-Bernard and could fire up to the height of the Toules dam. In addition to the forts of Commeire and Champex-Lac, dozens of defensive military structures, such as small bunkers or mined structures, were scattered throughout the area.
Built from 1941 to 1942, Champex-Lac Fort was an artillery fort composed of 8 105 mm guns and 2 75 mm guns. It could accommodate a troop of 150 men in tunnels nearly 600 metres long in total.
The National Redoubt
In addition to blocking access from the Grand-Saint-Bernard Pass, the Champex-Lac fort was part of an outpost protecting one of the three pillars of the national redoubt (réduit national in french): the Saint-Maurice fortress. The other two pillars were located in the Gotthard and Sargans. The national redoubt was a withdrawal system that would have enabled the Swiss army, in the event of an invasion of its territory, to resist in fortifications in the Alps.
The fortress of Saint-Maurice was made up of the forts of Dailly, which is the largest fort in Europe with its more than 20 km of tunnels, Savatan, Scex and Cindey.
The disaffection of Swiss military forts
The Champex-Lac fort has been militarily disused since 1999 and has been open for visits for a few years by the Proforteresse association, which now owns it. All the other military forts in French-speaking Switzerland are now also abandoned because they no longer respond to today’s threats. Indeed, conflicts have now moved into the electronic domain and at the military level, the forts could be destroyed in a few seconds by missiles fired thousands of kilometres from the targets.
A large gravel parking lot is available above the entrance to the military fort.
The visits take place several days a week in summer with a guide. Please refer to the visit schedule on the Proforteresse website. The visit path is divided into two parts:
- The soldiers’ cantonment with, for example, dormitories, refectory, kitchens, technical rooms, air filtration or electricity producing engines.
- he war zone with an ammunition room and the parts in which the guns were located. Unfortunately, there are no longer any original guns left but only parts recovered after hitting by the Proforteresse association.
It should be noted that part of the fort cannot be visited because of its unhealthiness. Nevertheless, the visit of the Champex-Lac fort remains interesting with the explanations of the guide who will help to understand the goals and living conditions of the soldiers in the fort.
The other forts that can be visited
In addition to the Champex-Lac fort, four other military forts can be visited without reservation in French-speaking Switzerland.
The Pré-Giroud fort is the one that is kept in the best condition with all its weapons and equipment at the moment the troop left it.