Hike from Plan de la Lai to Col des Fours & Ville des Glaciers

The hike from Plan de la Lai to Ville des Glaciers was one of the best hikes I did this summer. It starts at the Refuge du Plan de la Lai, between Beaufort and Bourg Saint-Maurice, in the Beaufortain. It then goes through the Refuge de la Croix du Bonhomme, a usual stop on the Tour du Beaufourtain, then continues to Col des Fours, before finally going down to the Vallée des Glaciers. I basically followed this itinerary (with map), with a detour to Rocher du Vent and the Roches Merles at the beginning and through the Têtes Nord and Sud des Fours near Col des Fours.

Getting to the start of the trail was a bit involved: I took the first LIHSA bus from Annecy to Albertville, then boarded a summer shuttle to Beaufort-sur-Doron, then switched again to another one which followed the Route des Grandes Alpes and got me to the Refuge du Plan de la Lai. From there, the trail was pretty straightforward. However, instead of going directly to the Crête des Gittes at the back of the Plan de la Lai, I made a detour to the Rocher du Vent: There was a great view of the Lac de Roselend and Lac de la Gittaz from there. I then followed the ridge until the Roches Merles, before going down to Col de la Sauce. I was keeping an eye out for the marmots which are numerous in the area but I didn’t see any there, just many of their holes in the ground. After Col de la Sauce, I took the ridge trail on Crête des Gittes to get to the Refuge de la Croix du Bonhomme: The Mont Blanc was visible along the way. I then continued walking until Col des Fours. From there, I made a first detour to the Tête Nord des Fours (North Head), the highest peak of the day. Then I went up on the other side of the pass to the Tête Sud (South Head). I thought I could go down to the Lac de Mya from there but I could not find a trail. Instead, I went back to Col des Fours and started down from there and made a detour through the Lac de Mya, before finally making the descent to the valley. Along the way, I saw a herd of ibexes and a few marmots (mostly a furry blur though). At Ville des Glaciers, I took the last shuttle to Les Chapieux, a bit further below in the valley towards Bourg Saint-Maurice. I had to switch to another shuttle to reach Bourg Saint-Maurice. I walked around the village for a bit before taking the train, first to Chambéry then, finally, to Annecy.

Above,in Albertville, waiting for the shuttle to Beaufort.

Above, Beaufort-sur-Doron.

Above, Lac de Roselend.

Above, at the Refuge de Plan de la Lai.

Above, Rocher du Vent (Rock of the Wind).

Above, Plan de la Lai.

Above, at the Rocher du Vent.

Above, Lac de la Gittaz.

Above, view from the plateau on top of the Rocher.

Above, Lac de Roselend.

Above, looking towards Beaufort.

Above, Via Ferrata climbers.

Above, on the way to the Roches Merles.

Above, Mont Blanc.

Above, Crête des Gittes.

Above, Aiguille de la Pennaz.

Above, at the Roches Merles.

Above, Col de la Sauce.

Above, marmot hole.

Above, Tarentaise cow.

Above, cows at Col de la Sauce.

Above, Roches Merles and Rocher du Vent.

Above, Plan de la Lai.

Above, on the Crête des Gittes.

Above, looking towards Les Chapieux.

Above, view from the summit of Crête des Gittes.

Above, Mont Blanc.

Above, Refuge de la Croix du Bonhomme.

Above, Les Chapieux.

Above, on the way to Col des Fours.

Above, Aiguille des Glaciers.

Above, at Col des Fours.

Above, Tête Sud des Fours.

Above, Tête Nord des Fours.

Above, view from Tête Nord des Fours.

Above, Lac de Mya.

Above, Tête Sud des Fours.

Above, Col des Fours.

Above, an alpine ibex.

Above, Tête Nord des Fours.

Above, Lac de Mya.

Above, marmot.

Above, Ville des Glaciers.

Above, Vallée des Glaciers.

Above, Aiguille des Glaciers.

Above, at Les Chapieux.

Above, Les Arcs above Bourg Saint-Maurice.

Above, Bourg Saint-Maurice railway station.

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Montenvers Mer de Glace

After getting back to the valley from my hike to La Jonction, it was still relatively early so I took the bus to the village of Chamonix and tried to go the Aiguille du Midi, using the ropeway. Unfortunately, it was full for the rest of the day. So instead, I took the train to Montenvers to have a look at the Mer de Glace (Sea of Ice), France’s largest glacier (7km long, 200 m thick). The Ice Cave had already closed when I got there however.

Above, the Réserve Naturelle des Aiguilles Rouges on the other side.

Above, train track.

Above, Aiguille du Dru.

Above, the gondola to go to the Ice Cave.

Above, instead of taking the gondola, I took the trail down to the Ice Cave to have a look at the Glacier from up close. There are markers on this trail showing how high the Mer de Glace used to be (almost at the level of the train station when it was built).

Above, the path to the Ice Cave, closed when I got there.

Above, the train station in Chamonix (right next to the standard train station).

Above, view of the Mont Blanc from the valley.

Hike to La Jonction des Glaciers (Mont Blanc)

La Jonction (The Junction) is a rocky area below the Mont Blanc where the Glacier des Bossons and the Glacier de Taconnaz meet. The first successful ascent of the Mont Blanc by Jacques Balmat and Michel-Gabriel Paccard in 1786 was made through there: The hiking trail goes past the rock formation (known as Gîte à Balmat) where the 2 men stayed at some point during that ascent. I followed this itinerary.

I boarded the first morning train from Annecy and got off at Les Bossons train station in the valley of Chamonix. I then took the lift to the Chalet du Glacier des Bossons. After a detour through the viewpoint nearby (however, the Glacier is much higher than it used to be so the view was not that great), I started on the trail through the forest. Some time later, I reached the Chalet des Pyramides. From there, the view from the trail alternated between the Glacier de Taconnaz, with the Mont Blanc on top, and the Glacier des Bossons, dominated by the Aiguille du Midi. Finally, I reached the rocks of La Jonction. When I got there, I was the only one for a bit but, during the time it took to eat my sandwich, it got really crowded. There was a great view on the Mont Blanc and the two glaciers from there. I then went down using the same path.

Above, Bosson train station.

Above, Aiguille du Midi.

Above, summit of the Mont Blanc.

Above, Glacier des Bossons.

Above, on the lift to Chalet du Glacier des Bossons.

Above, the valley of Chamonix.

Above, Glacier des Bossons.

Above, the chalet.

Above, the Aiguilles Rouges on the other side of the valley.

Above, Glacier de Taconnaz.

Above, Chalet des Pyramides.

Above, Pointe Percée in the Aravis.

Above, Gîte à Balmat.

Above, at La Jonction.

Above, summit of the Mont Blanc.

Above, Aiguille du Midi.

Above, Refuge des Grands Mulets.

Above, on the way down.

Above, Arve river.

Above, the tip of the Glacier des Bossons.

Above, on the lift to the valley.

Hike to Lac and Pointe de Tardevant & Combe de Paccaly

The Aravis is a mountain range located west of the Mont Blanc in Haute-Savoie. The area near La Clusaz has 5 Combes (Grande Forclaz, Tardevant, Paccaly, Grand-Crêt, Bella Cha) that can be traversed in one go, although the path is long and not always obvious when crossing between them, as I found out… I went there in July, with the intention of hiking 2 of them: The Combe de Tardevant and the Combe de Paccaly. On the way, I also passed the Lac de Tardevant and went up the Pointe de Tardevant.

I arrived in La Clusaz by LIHSA bus from Annecy in the morning. From the station, there is a regular shuttle service (only in July and August) to get to Lac des Confins. I had to walk on a small road for a bit before the start of the trail proper, near Chalet de Paccally. I then went up and after a while reached the Lac de Tardevant, where I paused for a few minutes. Going up again, before reaching the ridge at the end of the combe, there was a steep and rocky section. Finally, I was a the ridge with a great view on the Mont Blanc. I then made my way to the summit of Pointe de Tardevant, where I had lunch. I then followed the ridge in the direction of the Combe de Paccaly but I strayed from the correct path at some point. After finding the right path through a rock field, I reached a small pass with the Combe de Paccaly and the Trou de la Mouche (Fly Hole) on the other side. There, I got confused, since instead of something that looked like a path, there was just a very steep rock field. It took me a long time to get down to the trail that goes up the Combe de Paccaly: I had planned to go to the Tête de Paccaly but I was short on time, so instead I went down the Combe and rejoined the trail I had taken on the way up in the morning. I then took the bus back to the village of La Clusaz and strolled around until it was time to get back to Annecy.

Above, Lac des Confins.

Above, Combe de Bella Cha.

Above, Golf des Confins.

Above, looking west, with La Tournette in the background.

Above, Combe de Grand Crêt.

Above, start of the trail near Chalet de Paccaly.

Above, Combe de Paccaly.

Above, Lac de Tardevant.

Above, Pointe de Tardevant.

Above, grazing sheep.

Above, Pointe de Tardevant.

Above, on the ridge, looking south.

Above, Combe de Tardevant.

Above, Mont Blanc.

Above, path to Pointe de Tardevant.

Above, Mont Fleuri.

Above, Combe de la Grande Forclaz.

Above, summit of Pointe de Tardevant.

Above, the lake seen from Pointe de Tardevant.

Above, La Tournette.

Above, looking towards the Grand Bornand.

Above, from the Ambrevetta.

Above, surveying where I would go next.

Above, Pic de Jallouvre and Pointe Blanche, in the Bornes Massif.

Above, I realised there I had strayed from the correct path.

Above, on the path.

Above, at the pass between Combe de Tardevant and Combe de Paccaly.

Above, Combe de Paccaly and Trou de la Mouche on the other side.

Above, on the way down to Combe de Paccaly..

Above, Tête de Paccaly.

Above, Trou de la Mouche.

Above, on the trail at last.

Above, Chalet de Paccaly.

Above, Lilium Martagon.

Above, Combe du Grand Crêt.

Above, Combe de Bella Cha.

Above, lake back at Les Confins.

Above, in La Clusaz.

Above, church of La Clusaz.

Above, Combes des Aravis.

Hike to the Alpine Lake Trail in Chamonix: Lacs des Chéserys, Lac Blanc, Lac Cornu & Lacs Noirs

The visit to Lac Blanc (White Lake) is a classic summer hike of Chamonix: It is possible to get there and back using the Flégère ropeway and a bit of walk. An alternative path to reach that lake (and others in the area) by foot is to follow the Alpine Lake Trail (Sentier des Lacs Alpins): Starting at Col des Montets, it goes through the Réserve Naturelle des Aiguilles Rouges on the north side of the valley and passes by the Lacs des Chéserys, Lac Blanc, Lac Cornu and Lacs Noirs (a slight detour for that one). The other highlight of this hike is the constant view of the Mont Blanc (photo above) and the surrounding mountains. At the end of the trail, the Planpraz ropeway can be used to get down to Chamonix. Probably the best hike I did this summer!

In the morning, I took the first train from Annecy to Chamonix: I had to switch at La-Roche-Sur-Foron and Saint-Gervais. Once there, I took the summer shuttle to Col des Montets. Then I simply followed the trail. There were not that many people until Lac Blanc, which was really crowded. Then it thinned out considerably. At the end, I had to rush a bit to catch the ropeway before it closed. While down in the valley, I strolled around the village until the time for my (indirect) train back to Annecy.

Above, waiting for the bus to Col des Montets.

Above, at Col des Montets.

Above, Aiguille des Grands Montets.

Above, Glacier du Tour.

Above, Glacier d’Argentière.

Above, Mont Blanc.

Above, Mer de Glace.

Above, tow of the lakes of Chéserys.

Above, the main Lac de Chéserys.

Above, a chamois.

Above, on the way to Lac Blanc.

Above, Refuge du Lac Blanc.

Above, Lac Blanc.

Above, on the path to l’Index.

Above, Mer de Glace.

Above, sheep at l’Index.

Above, on the path to Col de la Glière.

Above, an alpine ibex (bouquetin).

Above, there is still snow there until late in the summer.

Above, Lac Cornu. From there, I made a detour to have a look at the Lacs Noirs.

Above, another alpine ibex.

Above, one of the Lacs Noirs, still covered with ice.

Above, another of the lakes.

Above, on the way to Col Cornu.

Above, Aiguille Verte.

Above, on the way to Télécabine de Planpraz (Planpraz ropeway).

Above, Aiguille du Midi (on the right) on the other side of the valley.

Above, Mont Blanc and Glacier des Bossons.

Above, on the ropeway.

Above, strolling in Chamonix.

Above, Mont Blanc.

Above, statue of Jacques Balmat and Horace-Benedict de Saussure.

Above, statue of Michel-Gabriel Paccard, who, along with Jacques Balmat, made the first successful attempt at the Mont Blanc in 1786.

Above, Arve river.

Above, railway station.

Above, Glacier de Taconnaz.

Above, Aiguille du Midi.