Val Claret to the Refuge de la Laisse

We have a choice of three routes to cross the Vanoise. There is the GR5, the lower and longer GR5E, or the higher and remoter GR55, which is the one we have chosen. It is about 2 days shorter than the GR5 and will take us to Modane in 4 walking days with a day off in the middle at Pralognan.

The little red and white markers of the GR route, were initially a bit obscured by the skiing and downhill mountain bike paraphernalia, and it was necessary to resort to the map!

Once we’d gained a bit of height, though, we gained a delightful path traversing flowery hillside towards the Col de la Leisse. The chic urban sprawl, where had spent the night was very quickly behind us (our apartment was next to the ‘Blue Girl Disco, which didn’t seem to be operating).

The weather so far on this year’s trip has followed a definite pattern: cool and clear in the morning, gradually warming up and being hot by late morning, and then clouds bubbling up in the afternoon, which may or may not produce rain. Today was obviously going to be different. First thing there was a cool breeze, which got stronger as the morning went on and by 10am it had clouded over and rain was not far off.

As we gained height the landscape became more barren, until we were walking through a sort of moonscape, albeit a moonscape increasingly marked by old snow. Only the bravest of flowers were venturing through the scree.

After the col, on our way down, the rain inevitably came, and it didn’t hold back- shards of icy rain with a bit of hail mixed in blowing straight at us.

At one stage we found ourselves in the flat base of a valley but struggling in deep glacial mud, before realising that the snowfields at the side would be much easier.

Although dramatic, today was another quite short day, and because we hadn’t been hanging about, we were at the refuge by lunch time. We opened the door and discovered that apparently everybody within a 15 mile radius was taking shelter inside, but we squeezed in and we able to eat our picnic lunch in the dry. We have now been shown our beds in the dormitory by the extremely nice family who look after this remote place.

Soup and beef stew for dinner, we imagine


Just before the weather turned really nasty and phones were put safely in dry bags.

The crowded refuge

The weather cleared in the evening

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