Welcome to our GR5 blog.
After completing Alta Via 1 through the Dolomites last summer, I suggested to Judith, my long suffering wife, that our next venture might be to walk from Lake Geneva to the Mediterranean through the French Alps. To my surprise, she immediately said yes. But there was a condition. We weren't going to do this long walk like everybody else- we were going to do it our way, with our own special rules. What could this mean? Were we going to hop? Only walk at night? Take in the actual summit of any peak over 3000m? No, the challenge set before us was to undertake this walk 'without too much effort'.
The GR 5 (Grande Randonnée cinq) actually starts in Holland, but the bit we are interested in is the Grande Traversée des Alpes, starting on the shore of Lake Geneva and ending at either Nice or Menton, depending on choice of route. Estimates of the walk's distance seem to vary dramatically, I suppose because there are a number of variants possible, and going steeply up or down hill there are a lot of zigzags, which makes measuring distance problematic. But it is something like 725km (450 miles). That distance doesn't naturally lend itself to a 'without too much effort' approach, but I'm afraid that distance is not the main problem. Even the most casual observer will notice the 3 dimensional nature of the Alps, with some very big hills (or deep valleys, depending on viewpoint). The walk involves something in excess of 40,000m of ascent and descent. That's 131,250 feet, or 41 ascents of Scafell Pike, or Everest from sea level 4.52 times.
The more I thought about it the more appealing the without too much effort condition was. If anything it was going make things easier. One thing it wasn't going to make easier, though, was the planning, and it was necessary to revise our approach to 'without too much physical effort'. As carrying camping gear would be an immediate fail on the effort clause, we had to investigate suitable accommodation. The essential guide in English is Paddy Dillon's published by Cicerone Press, and it has been a vital part of the planning. Paddy, though, seems to have the opposite approach to us and is quite happy to put in vast amounts of physical effort. Often it is possible to shorten his days by staying somewhere else at the end of the day, but sometimes we will have to leave the GR5 and make an alternative route.
At our pace, we don't have nearly enough free time to do the whole route in one trip, so this will be a project that will take several years. The first leg starts on 7th August 2017 and we shall walk as far as Chamonix, with our son, Edward (17). I will post progress here, when time, energy and mobile phone connection allow.