Plampinet to Briançon

Last night’s was a good meal. We sat at a table with in English couple, who were doing more or less the same walk as us as a single trip, and a Dutch couple who, like us, were splitting the walk, but had walked all the way from Holland! We spent the evening exchanging tales of the walk and refuges.

The meal was Mushroom risotto and the final part of the preparation was done in front of us. The food was stirred in a huge hollowed out cheese wheel so the scrapings of the cheese melted into the risotto. It was very good.

The guidebook suggested 2 different routes to Briançon but both were very long days. Looking at the map revealed the elephant in the room not mentioned by the guidebook- we could just walk straight down the Vallée Clarée between the 2 official routes that go high on either side. Having had 2 quite long days and some extra curricular activity yesterday on the Aiguille Rouge an easier day was tempting and we had already decided to go this way, when we heard that the official GR5 route had been badly damaged by landslides. Both the Dutch and English couples decided that they liked our plan and would go that way too. What could possibly go wrong? It had looked fine from the Aiguille Rouge yesterday.

Valllée Clarée from the top of the Aiguille Rouge

As I understand it, the problem on the path we finished on yesterday and on the GR5 was caused by a lot of late season snow which all melted very quickly when summer came and brought a lot of mountain down with it. Unfortunately this problem also affected the Vallée Clarée.

As the English couple left I joked that if we met them coming the other way we would know there was a problem and after half an hour of easy walking that’s exactly what happened. They said they didn’t fancy going on because the path went into the river and they were going back a short distance to a bridge to cross the river and walk along the busy road instead. The road was unappealing so we went on for a look and sure enough the path did disappear into a deep and fast flowing river.

We gradually understood what had happened: a lot of mountain had fallen down flattening trees, obliterating the path, and most crucially completely changing the course of the river.

We thought that we would give it a go and try to proceed on the non-road side of the river. I think the road might have been easier as our route involved one wade through freezing water, and an hour of thrashing though scree and steep dense forest. More than once I resorted to crawling under branches pushing my bag in front of me.

One of many such chutes

Eventually we were able to scrabble down a steep slope and emerge on to a very ordinary riverside path and remove various large bits of vegetation from each other. All good fun I suppose, but a little more interesting than we had envisaged for our easy day.

We did see one other group during that adventure, but this is so surreal I hesitate to mention it because it is unbelievable. Attempting to negotiate the valley were some people with a team of dogs pulling a sleigh on wheels. When we saw them the sleigh was floating, the people were chest deep in water, and the dogs were swimming, all tied together to prevent them from being swept away.

After the difficulties, we still had a bit to go, 10 miles maybe, but now all easy and pleasant and flattish if a little hot at this relatively low altitude.

Briançon was reached by the dramatic Asfeld Bridge spanning a dizzyingly deep gorge.

We have an absolutely lovely apartment here for 2 nights, so a day off walking tomorrow.

2 thoughts on “Plampinet to Briançon

  1. All looks amazing! How very intrepid you both are! Not sure I believe your tale of crazy swimming sledging, people and dogs…are you sure you weren’t hallucinating??!🤣🤣😁. Enjoy your day if rest and stay safe!

    Dawnx

    Like

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