Midsummer Mountains

Jun 17, 2012
We had been meeting with Stacey and Alan, the hiker couple we met back in Cappadocia, a few times during their stay in Paris and made further plans to meet up in Briancon to introduce them the Southern Alps.

I couldn’t have thought of any better place to start than the Écrins National Park, which has become somewhat a regular for us over the years; we’ve been there in every season, and every time its offering something new. This time of the year it’s thriving as the snow has melted not long ago and the sun hasn’t been burning up the flora yet. We ended up taking a zillion photos along the way (Stacey fully enjoyed the flower fields on and off camera), and we had a couple of very close encounters with bulky marmots that didn’t seem too scared of us. 

The richness and diversity of the scenery make sure that this trail’s almost guaranteed to make your hike enjoyable, as it has everything from larch forests and alpine meadows to snow-covered glacier lakes.

The following day our crew was in full figure as Denis joined us from his business trip. We drove past the Col du Lautaret (a mountain pass on the way from Briancon to Grenoble) and parked the car just below the lac du Pontet (a little lake at 1982m).

From there we started to push towards another lake called lac du Goléon (2438m) which lies below the peak its named after- Le Goléon (3427m). What started off as a walk through a lavish greenery, turned into a steeper and rockier climb as we approached the refuge of Goléon, located right next to the lake. Talking about a scenic lunch spot! 

To our surprise the lake itself was still mainly covered with snow, and we walked just a little further up that day (as it started to be really snowy after). On our way back we got some fantastic views down to the valley and the peak of La Meije (3983m) with the grand glacier of Girosse just in front of us.

Back at home we had a delicious and hefty mountain dish Tartiflette for dinner. The summer nights in mountains are pleasant, and after a hot day it’s nice to sit out on the terrace and watch the sun plummeting behind the opposite slopes. After it gets pitch dark rather quickly and the chill kicks in (a quick fix: a fluffy blanket and couple of candles). A few génépis* later, the day outdoors usually starts to take its toll and by  10pm, everyone’s always more or less ready to crash.

On our last day with Stacey and Alain we wanted to take them on our annual high altitude barbeque in Les Ayes. Every summer we tend to do it at least once, as a ‘calmer’ day between the longer hiking days. There’s actually a great spot just after the Les Ayes cottages to get your grilling on, and also couple of trails to walk around. 

After eating we got around a bit and followed the road till the Lac de l’Orceyrette (a lake about 10min from the bbq spot), and further up until the cottages of L’Alp.

Time flies when you’re having fun, especially when you fill your days with outdoor activities and great company. The next morning we had to get down to Provence, for a christening event, and so we finished our little trip down south in a typical Provencal style- a full on party!

Génépi is a digestif liqueur that's made of warmwood flowers that grow in high altitudes in particularly rocky and steep slopes. It has a greenish color to it and tastes quite sweet and strong.

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