Illustration lines montagne

A Swiss armed forced history

The origins of the Patrouille des Glaciers date back to the Second World War (1939-1945).

The 10th Mountain Brigade was ready for its mission: to defend the south-western part of the Swiss Alps.

Birth of PdG
Fatal patrol accident
Back to the race

The idea for the PdG took shape just before the outbreak of war: two captains of the brigade, Roger Bonvin, future Federal Councillor, and Rodolphe Tissières, National Councillor and future founder of Téléverbier SA, were the initiators.

The troop had to prove its commitment in a very special kind of patrol race. The organizers had selected a legendary route, already dubbed the “Haute Route” at the time, between ZERMATT and VERBIER. This route, which normally took four days to complete, had to be done in one go.

The competition took place for the first time in April 1943 – the “Patrouille des Glaciers” was born.

Unfortunately, in the spring of 1949, the third edition was marred by a tragic accident. A military patrol disappeared into a crevasse on the Mont Miné glacier between ZERMATT and AROLLA, only to be found eight days later. The euphoria of the early days was followed by images of desolation on the news. The mountain regions were devastated, and the then Federal Military Department banned the event.

This ban remained in place for over 30 years.

Basile Bournissen, Rodolphe Tissière & Roger Bonvin
Patrouille des glaçons à Tête Blanche, ©Claude Gluntz

In 1983, the concept and idea of taking over the organization of the Patrouille des Glaciers was approved by the army's head of instruction, corps commander Roger Mabillard. He entrusted the organization to Adrien Tschumy, commander of the 10th Mountain Divison. From then on, this unique competition, held in the high mountains, took place every two years.

On the night of 5th to 6th April 1984, 187 patrols set off from ZERMATT and AROLLA to VERBIER. Every effort was made to ensure the safety of every part of this high mountain race. This responsibility was clearly assigned to the army command and has remained so to this day.

From 1986, it was also open to the participation of women's patrols. In 2006, the number of participants was so high that the command decided to organize two departures from ZERMATT, a measure that had long been taken in AROLLA.

A three-man rope team
Capitaine Camille Bournissen, Lieutenant-colonel René Martin & Divisionnaire Adrien-Tschumy ©Claude Gluntz
Women's patrols took part for the first time in 1986.

The Patrouille des Glaciers has grown steadily since then, organizing the world ski mountaineering championships on its route several times and reaching its maximum size in 2022, with a pause in 2020 caused by the pandemic.

In 2024, two major events will crown this edition. On the one hand, it will mark the 40th anniversary of the resumption of the Patrouille des Glaciers, and on the other, it will host the long-distance world championships, which will take place during the Z2 race.

The collaboration between the Swiss Army and the Foundation Patrouille des Glaciers confirms the determination of both parties to ensure the long-term future of the Patrouille des Glaciers.

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Commandement de la Patrouille des Glaciers
Rue du Catogne 7
1890 Saint-Maurice (VS)
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Fondation Patrouille des Glaciers
Rue des Casernes 40
1950 Sion
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