Dwight Peck's personal website

Summer 2005

Hiking in the Parc National de la Vanoise

You may not find this terribly rewarding unless you're included here, so this is a good time for casual and random browsers to turn back before they get too caught up in the sweep and majesty of the proceedings and can't let go.

A few days free, and hikes to be hiked. Where shall we go?

We turn at once to our Ira Spring and Harvey Edwards, 100 Hikes in the Alps (Mountaineers Press, 1979), flip to pages 38-39, grin and head for France. The circuit of the Aiguille de la Vanoise (hike number 13), in the Vanoise National Park (France's first national park, which set the standard for all those to come), is a classic walk amongst stunning scenery in the mountainous Savoie region of France south of Lake Geneva (Lac de Léman).

First, let's get settled. In Champagny-en-Vanoise, as it turns out.

Now we're in Champagny-en-Vanoise on a drizzly Thursday in August, and this is the Hotel Les Glières which we found on the Web (website) -- our Hike Number 13 begins in Pralognan but that town was full up and Champagny, just 15 minutes away up another side valley above Bozel, looked great, and turned out to be great. The Hotel Les Glières is a newish two-star with reasonable prices, an excellent host, good rooms with great views, and a perfectly satisfactory restaurant -- there's someone now, scrutinizing the restaurant menu on the street in front of the place.

Zoom in.

Oh, that's Kristin, before we've even unpacked the car. Kristin studies menus as others do the Quran or the Book of Revelations (and learns much more from them).

Can't wait to get started

Champagny lies at about 1250m overlooking Bozel 400m below, but up behind the village to the east is a wonderful hanging valley some 7 km long, and the paved road ends here at the trailhead of Le Laisonnay d'en Bas (1572m).

This would make a great setting off place for hikes up to the northeast, and there are two small summer villages on the way, Champagny-le-Haut (of course) at 1476m and Friburge at 1510m.

Kristin has Saturday's hike all picked out . . .

there, La Grande Motte (3653m) . . . but alas the weather came in and we didn't get to have a go at it.

That's the chapel in Friburge -- we're headed down for dinner now (enormous, delicious local potato and cheese specialties that we couldn't get half through, excellent inexpensive wines, and tiny little French beer bottles at prohibitive prices).

Friday -- It's time for Hike Number 13, and there's the refuge at the Col de la Vanoise -- but that's another story.

Following which, we're back in Champagny to have a look round at the tasteful lighting effects on a drizzly evening.

Champagny is much like many another 1200m village trying to make it as a ski and sports resort -- in many ways the villages themselves are all very much the same, with new, nicely designed hotels, shops, and discos and lots and lots of expensive second homes standing empty most of the year. It's tacky and easy to laugh at, but, first, some of us LIKE tacky Alpine ski resorts in general, in measured doses, and second, Champagny is quite well done -- no sprawling salmon-colored stucco one-story hacienda-style rancheros with huge wrought iron gates at the head of the drive, no murderously rectilinear grey concrete condominia. Though the village's obligatory Irish pub didn't look very Irish from the outside.

The baroque church of Saint Sigismund (who?) stands on a rainy evening (and other times as well) on a little hillock in the lower village (Champagny-en-Bas) . . .

. . . but the upper village is where the neon is. Champagny's website is very informative, though somewhat overeager.

The church of Saint Sigismund itsownself -- we tried to get in to see its famous "two retables and a magnificent glory beam", but there were people in there praying and what not and blocking the whole place up.

Saturday's hike from Champagny-le-Haut didn't happen, as it was raining in a disspiriting way, so we went to see Chambéry instead, where it was not raining and everything was closed anyway. That's here.

And we're very sorry to leave Jean-François Millot and his Hotel Les Glières, and rainy Champagny-en-Vanoise, but one of us has to go back to America and the other has to go back to work, equally unlovely prospects.


Col de la Vanoise hike

Chambéry visit


Feedback and suggestions are welcome if positive, resented if negative, . All rights reserved, all wrongs avenged. Posted 7 September 2005, revised 20 March 2008, 29 August 2014.

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