Pralognan-la-Vanoise, Pralognan or Pralo’ for short, is a “gateway” to the Vanoise National Park and one of my favourite bases there is the Hotel Grand Bec.
Pralognan nestles in the valley surrounded on all sides by high mountains. There is only one way in by road, summer or winter. In winter the village is literally at the end of the road and the only way on is by foot on skis or snowshoes. In summer you can drive up to a car park near the hamlet of Prioux or to the hamlet of Les Fontanettes. Pralognan retains a traditional village feel; unspoilt by the ravages of the ski industry.
Today’s walk took us up the continuation of the valley. Our snowshoe walk started from the camp site and we took advantage of the shelter of the pine forests as we gained height along the tumbling river Doron. Soon snow started to fall. Ours were the only tracks in the snow as we passed the hamlet of Prioux. High above the edge of the Glacier de la Vanoise appeared from the clouds as patches of sunlight spotlighted the hills. Approaching the Refuge du Roc de la Peche a lone male ibex stood sentinel, dwarfed by the huge slopes.
We entered the “boot room” at the Refuge and exchanged boots for hut shoes. Inside a hot chocolate and an omelette supplemented our picnic lunch. We were the only customers until a guide appeared on skis with a couple of clients. A great day.
The Grande Casse, the Vanoise mountain range’s highest peak at 3855m, dominates the Col de la Vanoise, today’s objective. We “cheated” by making use of two chairlifts to gain Les Barmettes saving around 500m of ascent from Pralognan. Avalanche transceivers on and checked we left the skiers behind us and soon entered the “heart” of the Vanoise National Park itself. The mountain side to the left attracted our attention and we soon made out numerous ibex feeding on the south facing terraces. Onwards and upwards, as we roughly followed the line of the summer path, the ancient “Route du Sel”. Our only company a couple of ski mountaineers. We reached and crossed the snow and ice-covered Lac des Vaches; a picturesque spot in the summer beneath the imposing rock face of the Aiguille de la Vanoise.
The glaciated Grand Couloir on the Grande Casse drew the eye as we reached the area of Lac Long, not far from the Col de la Vanoise itself. After an inspection of the slope leading towards the refuge the decision was taken to have our picnic surrounded by the wild grandure of the mountains surrounding us.
Four other days, all different, but each special in their own way, completed the week. A visit to the valley of Champagny-le-Haut was rewarded with a flying display by the Bearded Vulture. Setting off from Chamberanger took us up through snow-covered alpine pastures and pine woods to reach a little alpine hut looking out over mountains stretching away in the distance. Passing through the old, almost-abandoned village of Montcharvet underneath Le Dent du Villard. Discovering the lower slopes of the Dent du Portetta high above Pralgonan.