Tour of the Vanoise
- 6 days guided hut-to-hut trekking in the Vanoise National Park, France.
- See ibex, chamois and perhaps a Bearded Vulture.
- Benefit from Mark’s local knowledge of the Vanoise.
- Alpine flowers and wonderful views.
D1 – Arrival and settle into the hotel. A chance too, to explore the village of Pralognan nestled at the foot of the surrounding mountains.
D2 – A gentle day ascending to the Col de la Vanoise (2516 m) from Pralognan-la-Vanoise along the ancient trading route; the “Route du Sel et de la Fromage”. Walking through the village from the hotel we start climbing slowly between old stone houses. To our right is the waterfall of the “Cascade de la Fraiche” thundering between steep rocky walls. The strengthening sun warms the pine woods and the smell of pine resin rises to meet us. At the Barmettes we cross the stream that tumbles down the steep walled valley and we cross the boundary into the heart of the Vanoise National Park. The route onward is bounded by low, dry stone walls. The “shark’s fin” of the Aiguille de la Vanoise imposes itself to our right. Soon we reach the very shallow Lac des Vaches. We cross on it’s stepping stones amongst the reflections of the surrounding peaks. It makes an idyllic picnic spot to taste fresh bread, local cheese and meats. Onwards into the high mountains, glacial moraines bearing testimony to the glaciers that shaped this awe-inspiring landscape. Passing the moraine below the Grande Casse and the shores of Lac Long we soon arrive at the broad Col de la Vanoise and the refuge Felix Faure, named after the 7th French president. The col is a magnificent, breathtaking place. For those with energy to spare there’s a chance to explore the area around the col and may be spot ibex, chamois or find the emblematic edelweiss.
Time: c. 4 hrs Ascent: 1100m
D3 – Col de la Vanoise – Refuge de l’Arpont. Early morning light accompanies us as we descend gently past small lakes. Immense scree slopes rise up to our left to the Grande Casse as we pass Lac Bond and the Lac du Col de la Vanoise. To our left the Pointe de la Rechasse marks the eastern extremity of the Glacier de la Vanoise. Ahead lies the entrance to the Vallee de la Leisse and the Vallon de la Rocheure. The ground steepens and we pass an ancient fortification guarding this strategic point. Steps, hewn from the solid rock, bring us to a junction in the path. We traverse round the rocky hillside still above 2300m and reach the Lacs des Lozieres. The Glacier du Pelve moraines provide a change of scenery and we cross a torrent issuing from its snout. Above us now the Dome de Chasseforet (3586 m) and below a deep cut gorge that leads down to the village of Termignon in the Maurienne valley. Turning a corner in the path we come across the Refuge de l’Arpont (2309 m) and a welcome from Valerie, the guardienne.
Time: 5 hrs Ascent: 550m – Descent 750m.
D4 – Refuge de l’Arpont – Refuge de la Dent Parrachee. Today’s walking is dominated by La Dent Parrachee (3697m) whilst opposite we look across the valley of the Haute Maurienne and the Italian frontier. In summer the Col du Mont Cenis provides a road crossing into Italy and the town of Susa. The flanks of the Dent Parrachee are traversed passing old shepherd’s huts and we may well come across large flocks of sheep. These flocks, watched over by their shepherd, are brought up into the mountains for the summer months before descending in the late autumn to warmer climes. A small plateau leads to a switch-back descent amongst spare pines. Eventually we arrive above the village of Aussois and two lakes, the Lac d’Amont and Lac d’Aval. There are several refuges in this area but my preferred is the Refuge de la Dent Parrachee (2517 m). Franck, the guardian, is the master of ceremonies and presides over his hut ably assisted by Kapitan, a Nepali Sherpa. The refuge is the stepping off point for mountaineers climbing the higher peaks and glaciers including the Dent Parrachee. The terrace in front of the refuge has a wonderful panorama for a pre-dinner drink.
Time: 7 hrs. Ascent: 1200m – Descent 100m.
D5 – Refuge de la Dent Parrachee – Refuge de l’Aiguille Doran Choices, either the “normal” route via the Col du Barbier or the high route via the Col de la Masse (2923m). Either way the scenery is stunning. Dropping down from the “eagle’s nest” of the Dent Parrachee we reach the parting of the ways a short way above the Plan d’Amont. Onwards via the Col du Barbier we share the path with the GR5 long distance path heading for the Mediterranean. Soon, for the first time since leaving Pralognan we pass below the tree line. Birds, may be a Casse-noix moucheté (Spotted nutcracker) that feeds on the pine nuts, flit amongst the trees. Once more we smell the aroma of pine resin. Finally we come out into a clearing and the welcoming Refuge de l’Aiguille Doran. You can expect to be delighted with Fabienne’s cooking that would do justice to any restaurant. At 1860m this is the lowest point on the trek before the final days walk to Pralognan (1418m).
Time: 5 hrs Ascent: 300m – Descent 600m
D6 – Refuge de l’Aiguille Doran – col de Chaviere – Refuge Peclet-Polset. We turn our backs to the south and the Maurienne as we turn uphill. Two options present themselves today either passing by the hamlet of Polset or passing the refuge de l’Orgere. If we pass the refuge de l’Orgere we pass through hayfields in the valley de l’Orgere, so-called as oats were once grown in this sheltered valley in days gone by. We cross the only tarmac that we will encounter until our final day before a zig-zag path gains height steadily through open woods. Clearing the woodline the path describes a rising traverse with the Aiguille Doran’s (3041m) spiky summit above us. The ground flattens amongst large erratic boulders and we may divert to the shores of the Lac de la Partie to enjoy our picnic. For the brave, or daft, the possibility of a quick, very quick, dip in its waters! Ahead lies the Col de Chaviere marking the watershed with the river of the Doran de Chaviere the other side. The col despite it’s altitude is easily attained although late winter neves sometimes linger. From the col you can see Mont Blanc on a clear day. A short, steep descent on less stable ground brings us to an undulating chaos of moraines. Sometimes we quit the path to seek out the preferred haunts of the ibex. The refuge Peclet-Polset is large and modern since the old one burned down in a fire. We can make a little extra excursion to see the turquoise waters of the Lac Blanc below the Col du Soufre and the Dome du Polset (3328m).
Time: 6 hrs. Ascent: 1080m Descent: 450m
D7 – Refuge Peclet Polset to Pralognan la Vanoise. Our final day is a long gentle descent alongside the tumbling waters of the Doran. The valley provides pastures for several herds of cows and a farm where there’s a chance to see cheesemaking in progress. Leaving the farm we pass the luxurious Refuge du Roc de la Peche, complete with jacuzzi. Here, if we wish, we can take the path for the Cirque des Nants, or carry on down the bottom of the valley. We reach the hamlet of Prioux and a small road, shut in winter. We take a track on the opposite side of the valley before crossing a bridge to follow a track through pine woods that brings us out right in Pralognan itself. The Hotel Grand Bec welcomes us once more and there’s a chance to relax in the pool or take a well-earned drink on the terrace.
Time: 5 hrs Descent 500m.
D8 – We say our goodbyes to the hotel after breakfast.
Duration: 6 days walking / 7 nights
Min / Max Group size: 2 – 8 (Private group departures please contact me).
Accommodation: Hotels (twin rooms); Huts – multi-occupancy dormitories.
Meals: Dinner, Breakfast; packed lunch What’s included:
- Guiding by Mark Tennent; qualified International Mountain Leader / Accompagnateur
- 2 nights hotel accommodation and 5 nights in Mountain Refuges / Huts
- Group transfer from and to Geneva airport
What’s NOT included:
- Personal equipment inc. boots, etc.
- Insurance – please see my links page.
- Drinks – except tap water.
- Tips and gratuities.