You may find the following answers helpful.
The accommodation on the Tour of the Vanoise is predominantly in mountain refuges ( or huts). The first and last nights of the tour are in a comfortable hotel in the village of Pralognan-la-Vanoise. You can find out more about what it is like staying in a mountain refuge by reading my article.
Booking & Payment
No, it’s very unusual for a mountain refuge to accept credit cards. They are usually not connected by a normal telephone line to the outside world for authorisation to take place. You will need to take cash with you or a cheque book in the currency of the country i.e. a Euro cheque book in France.
Guiding & Tour Information
No, I don’t offer self-guided trips. I believe that you will miss out on a major part of the experience. Being with a locally based walking guide will enable you to learn far more about the local environment and culture; a really valuable part of your holiday. I often help “facilitate” interaction with other walkers, farmers and hut guardians that you would find it difficult to match on your own.
To try give an indication of the suitability of a particular tour the following levels may help.
How hard a particular tour or trek will be depends on a number of factors including: height gained; distance; the type of terrain; the number of consecutive days spent trekking; the weather.
For advice on the “grade” of any of the tours and activities please contact me for more information.
The size of the group is stated in the “Tour Details” section of each trip description.
Some trips require minimum numbers in order for them to operate. You are strongly advised not to book flights or make other arrangements until I have confirmed that the trip will definitely go ahead having achieved minimum numbers.
To really enjoy your trip it is best to make sure you are physically and mentally prepared.
Walking is an endurance activity so it is best to train with similar endurance type activities: walking, jogging, cycling, swimming. If you are able try to do some regular trips to the hills for some walks.
Remember that you are likely to be in close proximity to the other members of the party during the day and in the evenings (if staying in huts) so be prepared for the “group” aspect of the tour.
To walk or trek the Tour of the Vanoise you will normally need to stay in several mountain refuges. The majority of the refuges do not open until the second half of June; the exact date depending on the refuge. So this limits when you can start the trek. Remember camping in the Vanoise National Park is banned except outside certain refuges between certain hours.
Meals & Diet
Camping or bivouacing is strictly regulated in the Vanoise National Park. As a general rule camping is not allowed in the Park however there are some limited exceptions.
As of (June 2015) you can camp at the following mountain refuges:
- Refuges de la Dent Parrachee
- Refuge du Fond d’Aussois
- Refuge du Carro
- Refuge de la Gliere
- Refuge du Col du Palet
- Refuge de la Valette
- Refuge des Lacs Merlet
- Refuge de l’Arpont
- Refuge de la Femma
- Refuge de la Leisse
- Refuge du Fond des Fours
The following conditions all apply:
- Only lightweight tents that do not allow your to stand upright
- In the designated (by the hut guardian) area within the capacity of the area.
- During the summer period, when the hut is “managed” by a guardian and between 1st June and 30 September
- Between 19h00 and 08h00.
- For one night only.
- You must make yourself know to the hut guardian before pitching your tent.
Yes, the French railway system is very good, especially the high speed, TGV, trains. From Paris to Chambery can be as quick as 2 hours 30 mins.
In the winter there is a direct train from London to Chambery, Moutier or Bourg St Maurice. You don’t need to change in Paris.
For more information look at the Eurostar website or the SNCF website.
How to get to the French Alps?
For those of you travelling from the UK your travel options are: air, train, car or coach.
The airports serving the Northern French Alps include: Geneva (in Switzerland), Lyon, Chambery and Grenoble.
Geneva airport is right on the French-Swiss border and is only a 30 minute drive away from Annecy. Don’t forget to drive on the Swiss motorways you will need to buy a “vignette” (sticker) or you will face an “on-the-spot” fine. Geneva airport has a very good range of flights from all over the world. To get to France without a car there’s an excellent coach service, Ouibus, that goes direct to Grenoble via Chambery.
Chambery airport, located at the end of the Lac du Bourget, offers a wide selection of flights during the winter ski season (from December to April) but very, very little at other periods of the year.
Lyon St Exupery airport, on the east side of Lyon, is close to the motorway heading for Chambery and co-located with the TGV (high-speed train) station. There’s plenty of parking. From here either hire a car, catch the train to Lyon and then onwards or use a coach service like Altibus.
Grenoble airport is not very close to Grenoble itself ( around 45 km) on the motorway between Grenoble and Lyon.
The Eurostar train from London, St Pancras offers a great, environmentally friendly option to get to the Alps. In the winter (at the time of writing) the “snow train” runs non-stop to the Alps, with the final destination Bourg St. Maurice in the Tarentaise.
In the summer you will probably need to change trains in Paris crossing from the Gare du Nord to the Gare de Lyon. From here you can catch the TGV ( Voyages SNCF) to Chambery before using local or regional trains.
If you choose to drive from the UK the distance from Calais to Albertville is c. 938 km using the A6 or A39 motorways. Non-stop the journey to the French Alps and the departments of Savoie and Haute Savoie, will take about 8hrs 30 mins. The cost of the peages (motorway tolls) will add around Euro 90,00 the cost of the journey (at the time of writing). To keep up-to-date on the latest travel information on the French motorway network look at the Bison Fute website and tune your radio into 107.7 FM.
You should be at the meeting point no later than 18h00 ( 6 p.m.) This is to allow time for the journey to your accommodation and dinner. So please book your flights or other travel arrangements accordingly. Don’t forget to allow time to pass through passport control, baggage reclaim and customs.
For private groups or individuals the meeting time is flexible. Please discuss with me.
The climate in France is varied. In the Savoie, French Alps region it is “continental” in nature: warm/hot dry summers and cold, dry winters. Temperatures may reach the mid-30’s centigrade during the day; although in the mountains with temperature decreasing with height it is cooler and there’s usually a breeze. Corsica, in the Mediterranean, is hotter and dryer. A hat, sunglasses and suncream are essential.