Contrasts of the Vanoise

A few days ago I returned from a 10-day solo trip to the Vanoise Range in the French Alps. Normally I would have been completing the second year of my ‘International Mountain Leader’ training during those weeks, but due to shitty Belgian administration problems I have not been able to participate to the 2 final weeks of internships in the Alps… I decided to drive to the mountains anyway and try to make the best of it myself.

I’m in full preparation for my big Greenland expedition which starts in 3 weeks, so I don’t have time to write an extensive trip report now. Let’s just have a short look at where I went!

Tour de la Vanoise in 3 days

I started my trip with the most classic multi-day hike in the area, the Tour de la Vanoise – a splendid 75km loop around the Glaciers de la Vanoise. After a snow-rich spring and so early in the season, I did not encounter a lot of people yet on the trail, and snowfields where very abundant once above 2300m. On the way, I made a few detours to climb summits: the Pointe de la Réchasse (3212m) and the Pointe de l’Observatoire (3015m).

Lac des Vaches

Lac des Vaches

Crossing Col de la Vanoise

Crossing Col de la Vanoise

Climbing on the slopes of Pointe de la Réchasse (3212m)

Climbing on the slopes of Pointe de la Réchasse (3212m)

On the summit ridge of Pointe de la Réchasse (3212m)

On the summit ridge of Pointe de la Réchasse (3212m)

Morning views from Mont de la Para (2787m), where I spent my first night under the stars

Morning views from Mont de la Para (2787m), where I spent my first night under the stars

Morning descent towards Lac de la Roche Ferran

Morning descent towards Lac de la Roche Ferran

Lacs des Lozières, on the way to Refuge de l'Arpont

Lacs des Lozières, on the way to Refuge de l’Arpont

View up the Doron Valley, Grande Casse (3855m) in the back

View up the Doron Valley, Grande Casse (3855m) in the back

Plan d'Amont, on the way to Col d'Aussois (visible in the back)

Plan d’Amont, on the way to Col d’Aussois (visible in the back)

Solitary male ibex on the way to Col d'Aussois (2916m)

Solitary male ibex on the way to Col d’Aussois (2916m)

Solitary male ibex on the way to Col d'Aussois (2916m)

Solitary male ibex on the way to Col d’Aussois (2916m)

Solitary male ibex on the way to Col d'Aussois (2916m)

Solitary male ibex on the way to Col d’Aussois (2916m)

Pointe de l'Echelle (3345m) as viewed while climbing to Col d'Aussois (2916m)

Pointe de l’Echelle (3345m) as viewed while climbing to Col d’Aussois (2916m)

Thunderstorms coming in during the descent on the north side of Col d'Aussois (2916m)

Thunderstorms coming in during the descent on the north side of Col d’Aussois (2916m)

A night on Levanna Occidentale (3593m)

After a rest day, I crossed towards the Southeastern part of the Vanoise, parked the car in Bonneval-sur-Arc, and hiked up the beautiful upper part of the Arc valley towards Refuge du Carro. My final goal of the day was the summit of Levanna Occidentale (3593m), one of the highest peaks on the French-Italian border you can climb without glacier skills and equipment (and solo). Crampons and an ice axe are necessary however early in the season to cross the snowfields lingering between the Col des Pariotes and the summit.

I climbed the summit late in the afternoon in horrible wet snow. Cumulus clouds embraced the summit until shortly before sunset, but eventually the skies clearled about an hour before sunset to give a splendid spectacle with views ranging all the way to Mont Blanc, Monte Rosa, the Matterhorn, Gran Paradiso, the Ecrins Range, and Monte Viso. I slept about 50m below the summit on an improvised bivy made with flat stones. The next morning I was on the summit again for a stunning sunrise!

The hamlet of l'Ecot, one of the best preserved traditionnal mountain villages in France

The hamlet of l’Ecot, one of the best preserved traditionnal mountain villages in France

The hamlet of l'Ecot, one of the best preserved traditionnal mountain villages in France

The hamlet of l’Ecot, one of the best preserved traditionnal mountain villages in France

Hiking up the Upper Arc Valley

Hiking up the Upper Arc Valley

The summit of Levanna Occidentale (3593m) as seen from Refuge du Carro

The summit of Levanna Occidentale (3593m) as seen from Refuge du Carro

The clouds break about one hour before sunset

The clouds break about one hour before sunset

The Glaciers des Sources de l'Arc as seen from the summit of Levanna Occidentale (3593m)

The Glaciers des Sources de l’Arc as seen from the summit of Levanna Occidentale (3593m)

Gran Paradiso (4061m) as seen from Levanna Occidentale (3593m) at sunset

Gran Paradiso (4061m) as seen from Levanna Occidentale (3593m) at sunset

Bivy high on the slopes of Levanna Occidentale during evening twilight

Bivy high on the slopes of Levanna Occidentale during evening twilight

Sunrise from Levanna Occidentale (3593m), view on the summits on the French-Italian border of the southeastern Vanoise

Sunrise from Levanna Occidentale (3593m), view on the summits on the French-Italian border of the southeastern Vanoise

Sunrise above the Po Valley from Levanna Occidentale (3593m), Levanna Centrale (3619m) to the right

Sunrise above the Po Valley from Levanna Occidentale (3593m), Levanna Centrale (3619m) to the right

Sunrise from Levanna Occidentale (3593m), view towards the Mont Blanc (4807m) range

Sunrise from Levanna Occidentale (3593m), view towards the Mont Blanc (4807m) range

Levanna Centrale at sunrise, as seen from Levanna Occidentale (3593m)

Levanna Centrale at sunrise, as seen from Levanna Occidentale (3593m)

Morning views from Levanna Occidentale (3593m)

Morning views from Levanna Occidentale (3593m)

The summit of Levanna Occidentale (3593m) as seen from my bivy spot

The summit of Levanna Occidentale (3593m) as seen from my bivy spot

Descending Levanna Occidentale (3593m) on hard morning snow

Descending Levanna Occidentale (3593m) on hard morning snow

Descending along the upper Arc River

Descending along the upper Arc River

Cirque des Evettes

Cirque des Evettes

A splendid summer evening in the Vallonnet Valley above Bonneval-sur-Arc

A splendid summer evening in the Vallonnet Valley above Bonneval-sur-Arc

Daytrips on Pointe de Lanserlia (2909m, Vanoise) and Dent des Crolles (2062m, Chartreuse)

During my transits, I made some bike tours and two shorter daytrips up Pointe de Lanserlia in the Vanoise, and the beautiful Dent des Crolles in the prealpine Chartreuse Range near Grenoble.

Evening on Dent des Crolles (2062m) in the Chartreuse

Evening on Dent des Crolles (2062m) in the Chartreuse

Evening on Dent des Crolles (2062m) in the Chartreuse

Evening on Dent des Crolles (2062m) in the Chartreuse

Summit views from Pointe de Lanserlia, an isolated summit in the Vanoise

Summit views from Pointe de Lanserlia, an isolated summit in the Vanoise

Descending the South slopes of Pointe de Lanserlia (2909m)

Descending the South slopes of Pointe de Lanserlia (2909m)

A 75km support run for Karel on Tour des Glaciers de la Vanoise

And, last but not least, I ran and speedhiked the magnificent Tour des Glaciers de la Vanoise (75km, 4200m D+) in a single go. It felt like the most origonal way to support Karel Sabbe on his epic Quest for the Crest expedition, by spending a day on the trail like and with him.

No pictures, but you can view a log of my run here

Karel is currently trying to set a new speed record on the Pacific Crest Trail, a 4200km trail through the rugged mountains of the USA’s west coast, from the Mexican to the Canadian border. To do so, he has to run about 80km per day for 52 days straigth. Karel has now survived 24 days of scorching South Californian deserts and the High Sierra Range, and is well over 1850km into his trip, pretty much on schedule. If he makes it, his performance could well be one of the greatest athletic accomplishments in human history.

As a friend, I am extremely exited following Karel’s crazy journey. What is more, he is not just one of these record junkies, but just combines his passions of running, wilderness and exploration (together with a good dose of training and sheer talent) into one mighty adventure.

Highly recommended to follow Karel on Strava, Facebook and his website

Godspeed mate!

2 thoughts on “Contrasts of the Vanoise

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s