The Ever-So-Charming Alps

Aug 14, 2012
Finally after being on the road for couple of weeks, we had arrived to the southern French Alps and we were all more than ready for some great outdoors.  As usual, the weather didn’t let us down and we were in for a three gorgeous hiking days! 

Over the years we have formed some absolute favorite places around Briançon, and one of them must be the Vallée de la Clarée- a pristine valley about 30km long that has endless outdoor possibilities in both, summer and winter. This time around we first drove all the way till the end of this valley past Nevache (wintertime this is the end of the road) until we reached Laval at about 2000. From there on, we hiked up to the little alpine lake Lac Rond (2446m), and continued still a bit further up to another lake Lac des Muandes (2580m). The view opening down to the lake below was just magnificent! On our way down, we dipped into the Lac Rond and had a very scenic swim: we were the only ones who dared into that cold water- although in that heat the water felt just refreshing! On the way down we treated ourselves for some cold drinks at the refugees that just happened to be conveniently next to our pathway...

The following day we decided to get to the other side of the Col d’Izoard mountain pass to the Natural Regional Park of the Queyras. The mountain pass is a well-maintained road during the summer months and turns into a cross-country ski / snowshoe / tour ski track over the winter (one of our all time favorite ski trips!). On the top we pulled over to check out the views to the both sides of the mountain- the Casse Desert on the other side with cliffier scenario and the more forestry side of Briancon. As we continued driving down on the Casse Desert, at times the road got very narrow and it didn't lack on suspense with the oncoming traffic…

The actual destination of the day was Saint-Véran, the highest inhabited village in Europe. In fact, some of the most famous photos of St-Véran are taken in winter, because of the tremendous snowfalls that can cover up the entire village. For us though, it was more about the richness of flora and fauna known to this area, and countless walking paths all around. We started off with a nice lunch picnic by the village and then started following a road leading further up the mountains. It really was an extremely hot afternoon and we kept on watering our hats to keep our heads cool- good that there were little streams on the way! At 2340m we got to the Chapelle Clausis, and although the walk had been easy, we were all pretty exhausted by the heat. We decided to get back down to the village following a path next to a river (even the river was almost dried up in that sun!), which at least partly took us through some woods and shaded areas. Here some pictures of our hot hike…

And later on the road...


Clouds on the move on top of Col d'Izoard

We still had one more day to make the best of it before leaving Briançon, and we headed down to the Écrins National Park. Talking about favorites! This national park keeps us on our toes with its peaks over 4000m, and this particular hike keeps attracting us due to its seasonal variety. I had been here few months before in June, just when the season for summer hikes had just begun- lots of flowers, greeneries, plenty of marmots out and still some snow patches. But this time around, just a few months later, the sun had burned all the meadows and the grass had a very different shade of green now. Also, no marmots in sight! On the other hand, the glacier lake on the top was now melted and Denis dipped himself in it! How insane is that? After all, the water is originating right from the glacier in front, and can’t be more than couple of degrees! Well, that sure cooled him down…

As he still managed to sweat on his hike down, he got into the second lake as well before heading down to the forest. Again, none of this would’ve been possible just months before!

Now, leaving the mountains is always the hardest part, not only has this corner of the world really grown on me (for Denis it’s always been home, obviously), but also it means we'll have to settle for Parisian outdoors for a while (for me to even call it outdoors is apparent joke for him…;)).

À la prochaine!


Serre Chevalier
(both links have plenty information for summer activities)

Vallée de la Clarée:
Nevache tourims
(local page in French / Italian)

Natural Regional Park of the Queyras:
Queyras Montagne

(the fortress)


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