Walking in the mountains of this area is a very enjoyable and rewarding experience. There are many tracks and footpaths, often signposted, marked on local maps, scale 1:25,000. All mountain walking though, both on marked tracks and elsewhere, presents challenges. Choose your route carefully, bearing in mind the experience and skill level of the group; keep an eye on the weather; be appropriately equipped; know of access issues on your proposed route; and, in the event of an emergency, know how to provide or obtain help. If you are unsure, secure the services of a trained Accompagnateur or Mountain Guide. Mountain walking in winter should always be undertaken with caution.
We have included 5 itineraries to whet your walking appetites
Height Gain: 790m , Time: 5 hours , Difficulty: 2
From the N94 at Roche de La Rame take the turn in the centre of the village signposted to La Lauzet which goes up the side of the stream. Continue on this road following signs for La Lauzet as it becomes a dirt track. It climbs up on the right hand side of the stream through the forest, it crosses over the stream and back again before coming to the hamlet of La Lauzet where the valley opens out and flattens out. Park here by the little lake.
Cross the stream and continue on the forest track as it contours around at a high level above the River Durance. After about 750m you pass a hut in a very sunny spot that has been recently renovated. The track climbs steadily, then after about 2km there is a path downhill which is signposted Puy les Ruines. Shortly after this, the road becomes a path and climbs more steeply through the open wood. It then descends steeply through the wood to meet the Torrent de L’Ascension. It crosses the stream and climbs steeply up the side of it. The path is rocky and mounts in short zigzags but is without any real difficulty.
After about 300m of climb the path traverses around to meet the plateau of L’Alpavin. If you wish to see the Cabane, cross the stream where you join it as a babbling brook and go a short distance up the other bank. Here is a hut and some sheep folds. The path is now must more gentle as it undulates over the grassy plateau. The lake is difficult to see until the last moment but with its greeny-blue waters and scree slopes beyond worth the wait. The boulders on the far side provide vivid examples of freeze-thaw action.
To continue the walk, follow the path past a disused weather station and two smaller lakes, Lac Escur and Petit Lac Escur. The path stays on the right hand side of both lakes and continues southerly up a valley to the Collet du Peyron. Towards the top, the path takes long zigzags over the scree, it is not difficult though some may find a ski pole or walking stick makes it feel more secure. From the Col at 2465m there are fine views of the lakes and the cirque in which they are set.
The path down is easy to follow but once again starts steep and rocky. After about 1/2km, the natural line of descent down the valley has been broken by a huge landslide. Turn right to cross above the head of this. The path continues in this direction and enters the woods. Here it becomes a forest track once more, but has suffered from water erosion. Paths to the left of the main track make easier walking. You emerge about 750m from your car, turn left by the hut you saw earlier and continue down the forest road to La Lauzet.
Height Gain: 250m , Time: 3 hours , Difficulty: 1
From Argentière, take the road to Vallouise La Casse, turn left over the bridge, past the Maison du Parc. At the junction, turn left and start just before the bridge, Pont de Gérontoire.
This route makes use of the ancient paths and old roads that connected the villages before the advent of the motor car and metalled roads. This walk ascends the postman’s path which was kept clear in winter by the inhabitants of Puy St. Vincent, who went down it with snow shoes and shovels to ensure that the post got through. It is mostly wooded and follows several small streams, so is a good walk it you are feeling the heat or if the mountains have their heads in the clouds. It is a particular favourite of ours on misty autumn days when the colours of the trees and fallen leaves are magnificent.
From the parking take the new road that climbs to Puy St. Vincent. On the third bend take the path. After 200m take the path to the right and continue up through the woods. The path joins the road in the village of Puy St. Vincent. Have a look around, the chapel of St. Romain makes a good vantage point for a picnic. Redescend the steps but this time turn right to follow the irrigation canal that traverses parallel to the road but well hidden by wooded banks. Descend the old road which initially veers east. Then follow the track as it turns to the west and descends through the woods to bring you out on the first hairpin on the road 100m from your car. If you continue bearing eastwards, you will descend to the fields that run down to the River Gyronde. Here a dirt road will lead you east, upstream back to Vallouise emerging just between your car and the Maison du Parc. In July you will normally find martagon lilies flowering in shady spots along the path.
Lac de L’Eychauda
Height Gain: 500m , Time: 5 hours , Difficulty: 1, 2
From Vallouise take the road to Pelvoux. At La Poet en Pelvoux, take the D421T signposted to Chalets de Chambran and Eychauda. In the summer you should be able to drive up to the Chalet de Chambran at 1720m.
From the Chalets continue on the track that follows the Eychauda stream up the valley. Ignore the GR54 which turns off left to the Col de L’Eychauda and continue up the valley over a footbridge and in to the National Park. Continue following the path up the valley and through screes until it steepens at the rock bank. Here the marks of the receding glacier that formed the lake are obvious. Either follow the path that zigzags up the right side of the stream without difficulty or take to the rock slopes on the left. These require sure feet and a head for heights but are without technical difficulty
Both routes bring you out over the final rock bar to a view of the milky waters of the glacial lake. Return down the path.
If you wish you can considerably extend this walk by ascending the Col des Grangettes (2684m) and from there over the Pas de L’Ane to join the GR54. This will lead you over the Col de L’Eychauda (2425m) and back to the path junction 30 minutes above the Chalets de Chambran.
Height Gain: 720m , Time: 5 hours , Difficulty: 1 (with short pull of 3 aided by a cable)
From Briançon take the RN91 road to the Col du Lautaret, go through Monetier, and park at Pont De L’Alpe on the right hand side of road. Note the Auberge des Amis on left for future references
From Pont De L’Alpe follow the stream up on its right bank to the track and continue up this track to the hamlet of L92Alpe de Lauzet. In the 19th Century there were 20 occupied chalets. The chapel is the site of a pilgrimage with a mass celebrated there on July 16th each year
At the end of the village, cross the stream. Ignore the path to the shepherd’s hut but continue to the right up the grassy valley under the Arêtes de Bruyere. Look for climbers traversing the ridge above you. Keep on the path up the valley and on up the screes. Particularly in October and November, the rutting season, look out for ibex. These magnificent animals were hunted to extinction but were reintroduced in the 60s and appear to be doing well in the area
The screes lead to a sloping rock face which you can scramble up with the help of a cable to come out at the Grand Lac (2282m). Follow the right bank of the lake and take the path that zigzags up the grassy slope to the Col (2440m). From the Col follow the path downhill under the Arêtes de Bruyere, cross the stream and continue down on its left bank. A path climbs to the Col du Chardonnet and its old graphite mines (worked from 1450 until 1930), but leave this for another day. Continuing down, you come to the track for the via ferrata (perhaps tomorrow!) and the path leads you back to the chalets of L’Alpe de Lauzet and thence to your car and perhaps a well-deserved beer or chocolat chaud at the Auberge you spotted earlier!
Les Tenailles de Montbrison
Height Gain: 630m , Time: 4.5 hours , Difficulty: 2
From the D4 which runs from Les Vigneaux to Prelles, take the dirt road which climbs to Bouchier 500m north of the village Villard-Meyer. Just before the village turn right, park 300m further on, on a grassy open area.
Continue to follow the dirt road as it traverses at a high level above the River Durance. After “La Blétonnée” at a turn in the road it crosses a stream. Turn off left and follow the left bank of the stream up the valley. In 20 minutes, take the left fork and continue between large blocks up the beautiful valley towards the scree slopes below the Tenailles de Montbrison. Follow the path to the left up to the plateau and the Croix de La Salcette
From here a small path initially leads SW then follows the ridge south towards Le Bouchier. At a high point on the ridge follow a wider path through the woods down to your car. These woods are popular with locals looking for toadstools in autumn. Bouchier village is worth wandering around and the Chapel is a fine vantage point. The Observatory of Briançon operates from Bouchier and this might be a fine end to a summer afternoon’s walk. Reserve on:
Le Pas du Loup 04 92 23 09 27 or 06 75 47 77 33 http://lepasduloup.free.fr/index.html