50 YEARS OF LES ARCS: Click on the photo for an instant briefing

Monday, 26 May 2014


This month's Alpes Magazine devotes almost the entire issue to the GR5 trail, also known as La Traversée des Alpes, an epic 607km walk from Lake Geneva to Nice.  It takes 30 to 45 days, depending on your state of fitness and how quickly you want to go. The official start is at the border village of Saint-Gingolph, which is divided into French and Swiss components.  According to one local: "The English take the London-Geneva-Lausanne leg by train, and then cross Lac Léman by boat, before staying the night in St Gingolph".

Some way down the route (stage 9 to be precise) the path reaches the Tarentaise, rising from the valley floor, under the Vanoise express and into Peisey-Vallandry territory.

This marks the gateway to the Vanoise National Park (website here).

The Tarentaise resorts are always going to struggle to attract summer visitors over and above local day-trippers, proprieteres looking to get their money's worth and cyclists/motorbikers en route for the grands cols.  But the walking, once you get away from the ski lifts, is very good:

Porte de la Vanoise (1)

Porte de la Vanoise (2)

Here's my feeble attempt at a translation of the Alpes Magazine account of the GR5 route through the Tarentaise:

"What a pleasure it is this morning to cross the Isere - still youthful and impetuous - on the descent from the Grande Aiguille Rousse.  After the bridge, the GR5 splits into two for the climb up to Peisey-Nancrois.  Which route to take?  The direct way via Montchavin?   Or the path via Landry?  Consultation of the guide-book and much scratching of heads ensues.  Montchavin is chosen.  The result: two hours of (occasionally steep) walking, until we end up at the Moulin (1264m).  We then enter the Ponturin valley through a mixed forest of oaks, maples and sycamores.  Then follows the refuge de Rosuel, gateway to the national part.  It's ideally situated below the snowcapped slopes of Mont Pourri and the dome de la Sache.  The area around the refuge is a cross-roads for walkers.  You have to say that the possibilities are endless.  There's something for everyone - the Lac de la Plagne, col de l'Entrepote, chapelle des Vernettes, lac de l'Etroit, site of the lead and silver mines.  And there's aso the via ferrata des Bettieres and organised donkey walks and horse riding.  And that's without forgetting the climb to the col du Palet which awaits us the next day.  That night, la gardinenne of the refuge fuels us up for the next day - vegetable soup, reblochon casserole with crozets and lardons.  It's just what we need given what lies ahead."  

For more on summer in Les Arcs click here.

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