This Tour of the Vanoise is 6 day guided hut-to-hut walking holiday in the Vanoise mountains starts and finishes in the charming village of Pralognan-la-Vanoise; or Pralognan for short.
Pralognan is one of the “gateways” to the Vanoise National Park. Our first and last nights will be spent at the friendly, family run Hotel Grand Bec*** in the heart of the village. The hotel has its own outdoor heated pool surrounded by the peaks of the Vanoise.
I am the only non-French “Accompagnateur” (International Mountain Leader) to be recognised as an “Ambassador du Parc” which demonstrates my knowledge and commitment to the Vanoise National Park.
Read about this trip on Thirdeyemom’s Blog with some excellent photography.
Tour of the Vanoise – Our Route
Our route, having left the valley at Pralognan, stays high in the mountains until our return at the end of the trek. In fact having left Pralognan we do not drop below 1700m until we descend to the village on our last walking day.
Almost our entire time is spent within the heart of the Vanoise National Park, protected from intrusive development and inappropriate use. We only touch a surfaced road to cross it a vast cry from some popular treks.
Keeping us company on our trek is the Glacier de la Vanoise, a constant companion reminding us we are in the high mountains. Our first and second days see us pass below the highest mountain in the Vanoise, the Grand Casse (3855 m). Tumbling mountain streams make their way to the deep valleys below filled with melt water from the glaciers.
Our views extend to the mountains that run along the Italian frontier and southwards to the high peaks of the Ecrins National Park including the Barre des Ecrins and the Meije. The highest point on the Tour of the Vanoise is the Col de la Chaviere (2796 m) as we say goodbye to the Maurienne valley and cross back to the Refuge Peclet-Polset.
It it may be possible to climb the Col de la Masse (2923m) depending on the group and weather close to the Rateau d’Aussois (3021m).
Authentic mountain refuges
After leaving Pralognan we will spend the next five nights of the Tour of the Vanoise in mountain huts (or refuges) where the guardian and his hard-working team provide accommodation and a substantial dinner. Good wholesome cooking in a convivial atmosphere.
Staying in a refuge is an experience and allows you to experience that special feeling of being in the up in the mountains as the sun sets and the stars appear. The refuges are also places to meet fellow walkers and in some mountaineers, rising in the early hours, to climb the surrounding peaks.
Wildlife and flowers
Early in the season, after the winter’s snows melt, there’s a kaleidoscope of wild flowers. Edelweiss, gentianes, genepy, and a host of other alpine flowers carpet the alpine meadows.
The Vanoise is currently home to three pairs of Bearded Vultures (or Lammergaiers) with wingspans approaching 2m 80cm – an impressive bird!
The Vanoise is also home to an increasing population of ibex saved from near extinction in France by the creation and the protection of the Park. There’s every chance of seeing this icon of the Vanoise and knowing the best places to find them helps. The graceful and extremely agile chamois is more elusive but they too have their favourite haunts. Of course no visitor to the Alps will go home without having encountered the endearing marmotte.
Man has shaped the landscape of the park and old alpine chalets, with stone slab roofs blend into the mountainside. Agriculture continues within the park and its presence maintains the high alpine pastures, home in summer, to herds of “tarine” cows. The cows are milked where they graze and the milk goes to make the famous “Beaufort” cheese.
You will have the opportunity to watch the cheese being made at one of the farms over an open wood fire if we arrive at the right moment.