Journey through the Alps



Montgenèvre (1850m) to Plampinet (1476m) F15

03 Mar 2015

Stage: F15

Maps: French IGN 1:25,000 3536OT Briançon / Serre-Chevalier

Time: 6.03hrs (dept 08.00 / arrive 14.02)

Distance: 17.4km (ascent 822m / descent 1156m)

Weather: clear, sunny & warm

Notes: This is a straightforward day that starts by climbing the ski runs on the north side of the Col de Montgenèvre. It is possible to follow the route of the GR5 crossing the Col de la Lauze (2520m) and Col de Dormillouse (2440m), or instead aim for the Col Des Trois Frères Mineurs (2600m) before descending the Vallon de L’opon to Chalets Des Acles (1880m). From here the trail turns west and leads easily down to Plampinet.

Accommodation: There are two options in Plampinet that are open in winter: Auberge Le Clarée and Auberge Le Cleida.

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Plampinet (1476m) to Ref de I Re Magi CAI (1765m) F16

04 Mar 2015

Stage: F16

Maps: French IGN 1:25,000 3535OT Nevache / Mont Thabor

Time: 6.04hrs (dept 08.14 / arrive 14.18)

Distance: 12.4km (ascent 835m / descent 509m)

Weather: overcast with some light snow

Notes: This stage follows the route of the GR 5 and the lower sections are well marked. Follow Nordic tracks along the valley floor to Roubion then head north up a narrow valley of the same name to Col de Thures (2194m). After pt 2061 it is not easy to find the summer footpath through the forest and the final part of the descent can be difficult through thick trees.

Accommodation: The Ref de I Re Magi is a CAI refuge open during the ski season.

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Ref de I Re Magi CAI (1765m) to Aussois (1473m) F17

05 Mar 2015

Stage: F17

Maps: French IGN 1:25,000 3535OT Nevache / Mont Thabor

Time: 9.27hrs (dept 07.09 / arrive 16.36)

Distance: 30.1km (ascent 1340m / descent 1616m)

Weather: clear, cold and windy in the morning. sunny & hot later

Notes: Follow the route of the GR5 north from the hut to Col de la Vallée Etroite (2434m) then descend the obvious valley to the ski resort of Valfréjus. There is no way of crossing the Maurienne valley on snow so we sent our skis, boots and bags on ahead by car and hiked the 15km to Aussois on foot. The crossing of the Arc River in Modane at just over 1000m was the lowest altitude point on the journey through the French Alps.

Accommodation and supplies: There are several hotels and shops in Aussois.

Alternate Accommodation option: The route passes within 1km of the Refuge du Mt Thabor (2502m) and this could be used to divide the stages differently.

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Aussois (1473m) to Ref Dent Parachée CAF (2516m) F18

06 Mar 2015

Stage: F18

Maps: French IGN 1:25,000 3534OT Les Trois Vallées

Time: 3.53hrs (dept 10.31 / arrive 14.24)

Distance: 6.8km (ascent 1113m / descent 6m)

Weather: clear, sunny & hot

Notes: This is a short and straightforward day ascending the ski pistes of Aussois. Ski resorts are not planned to assist tourers wishing to climb up the mountain and it is not always easy to find the best route. It is worth carrying a piste map as well as a cartographic map.

Accommodation: We arrived at Refuge Dent Parachée on the first day of the season and were the only residents apart from the staff.

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Ref Dent Parachée CAF (2516m) to Col de la Vanoise CAF (2516m) F19

07 Mar 2015

Stage: F19

Maps: French IGN 1:25,000 3534OT Les Trois Vallées

Time: 9.09hrs (dept 06.40 / arrive 15.49)

Distance: 21.7km (ascent 1397m / descent 1345m)

Weather: overcast and partly cloudy

Notes: This is one of the ‘classic’ days of the tour crossing the Glaciers de la Vanoise with views of the Ecrins to the south and Mt Blanc to the north. We were the first party of the season to make this crossing and there were no ski tracks. The route follows the ski trail on the IGN map. From the hut climb to Col de Laby (3324m). In firm snow conditions it is advisable to tackle any steep ground in the first section of the crossing (Pointe de Laby to Col de L’Arpont) on foot. There is some steep ground after Col du Pelve before gaining level ground on the Glacier de la Roche Ferran.

Accommodation: The new Refuge at Col de la Vanoise is a comfortable modern building. It had only been open a few days when we arrived and there were not many people staying.

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Col de la Vanoise (2516m) to Val D’Isère (1842m) F20

08 Mar 2015

Stage: F20

Maps: French IGN 1:25,000 3633ET Tignes / Val D’Isère / Ht Maurienne

Time: 8.04hrs (dept 07.16 / arrive 15.20)

Distance: 21.6km (ascent 857m / descent 1528m)

Weather: clear, sunny & hot

Notes: This was the only day on the French Alps crossing that I made a significant navigational error that led us needlessly onto dangerous ground. It had been my intention on leaving the hut to follow the GR55 trail eastwards to join the Vallon de la Leisse at Pont de Croé-Vie (2099m). The hut warden suggested a short cut that would save a little time and distance by turning NE at around 2400m. We missed the line he intended and found ourselves crossing a dangerous snow slope between bands of cliffs with axes and crampons for over an hour. If searching for this short cut it is essential to follow the line of the Ruisseau de la Vanoise to 2300m or lower before turning north. Apart from this issue this is a pleasant and mostly straightforward day. Beware of huge avalanches sweeping the Vallon de la Leisse from the south faces of La Grande Casse and La Grand Motte. To the east of Lacs de la Leisse there is an un-named pass (c3030m) between Pointe du Grand Pré and Pointe Boussac that gives access to the Val D’Isère ski area. The upper section of this pass is steep and can have firm windblown snow.

Accommodation: There are numerous hotels and shops in Val D’Isère.

Alternate Accommodation options: The Refuge de la Leisse PNV (2487m) is on the route, has a winter room, and could be used for an overnight stay. There is also a slightly longer route to Val D’Isère via the Refuge de la Femma PNV (2352m).

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David Hamilton
High Adventure
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