A long time ago there were naturalists, botanists, geologists and friends of nature who walked all over this valley, particularly through the "Pas-de-Cheville" mountain path.
During the 1960’s, the valley became accessible to motor vehicles and a regular post bus was introduced for the summer. The valley became very popular with visitors during the summer and autumn seasons.
As well as the wild beauty of the region, there were natural catastrophes, legends and popular beliefs. One is the Roman of Ramuz who in a myth has a dramatic destiny. All these events contributed to the renaming of a virgin forest with a lake at its foot. The access road is unique and impressionable and takes us back to the origin of nature, which gives us an unforgettable trip in this valley.
A little bit of history
Two large landslides dominate the story of Derborence.
On the 23rd September 1714, a huge part of rock detached itself from the face under the summit of Diablerets, at a place called Derotchieu and this can still be seen very clearly today. The biggest part of these rocks landed mainly on the left side of the river and afterwards it spread out on the right side until the "Vallon de Cheville" 1500 meters below. It spread in the shape of a cone between the pastures of Derborence and the Godey, over 1800 meters wide. The largest part of the rock fall stayed at this point and a certain amount went through the narrow part of the valley and stopped at about 1100 meters, having slid over 5 and a half kilometers in total.
It has been estimated that the thickness of this rock fall between the Godey and Derborence is around 100 meters. According to the testimony of a local priest from Ardon, fifty five chalets and fourteen people were buried under the rubble and only five people were saved. He came up to the site two days after the catastrophe, to exorcise the "Devils of the Mountains". A second rock fall happened at the same place in 1749. The mass of rocks slid down more on the right side and here started the formation of the lake of Derborence. The people, who were staying in this mountain area during the summer months, could see the rocks gradually beginning to fall, and therefore they decided to leave early and were able to lead their animals to safety. This time 40 chalets and alpine huts were buried, but no human lives were lost.
Animal & Plant life
The valley of Derborence has two different climates: in the lower part the climate is continental, dry and hot like the Central-Valais and the upper part has a climate humid, almost Atlantic like the Lower-Valais. The humid air mass penetrates underneath the mountain chains of Diablerets, passing through the Pas de Cheville.
The flowers and the forests that can be observed in the valley are the results of the two climates. The virgin forest of Derborence can be seen in its full glory from the terminus of the road. You will find the forest at the foot of Verouet, where the rubble composed of siliceous and chalky rocks has formed a hill.
In 1959 the community of Conthey and owner of this region sold this territory of 50 hectares to the Swiss protection of Nature, who then made it into a nature reserve. Like this, the virgin forest, a unique Swiss phenomenon, has been completely protected.
The variety of animals in Derborence is particularly interesting because since 1911 a federal and cantonal district protection was established. Hunting is forbidden over the 152 square kilometers of this reserve.
In the valley of Derborence, hares and stone martens are very common. About 500 chamois, ibex and deer can be found in the lower forest and there are colonies of marmots on higher ground.
As for the birds, let’s mention first the Royal Eagle (there are 5 or 6 nests in the valley), likewise you can find the biggest nocturnal birds of prey, the eagle owl. We can observe the ptarmigan and the little wood grouse, also evident are the "chocard à bec jaune" a type of alpine crow and the large raven. The aspic viper is common as is everywhere in the mountains, but is not as easy to find.