Weekend Wander: Parc National de la Vanoise
We bought a van! After the inaugural trip went awry (and ended at the mechanics) our second attempt went much better. Since fitting out the van into a camper will be an ongoing project, at the moment it's just an empty T5 panel van with the seats removed. So we popped an inflatable mattress in the back and drove the 2h15 to Parc National de la Vanoise.
We actually decided to go and visit this area after my husband saw a photo on Instagram by the Savoie Mont Blanc tourist office. After finding out the rough coordinates of where the photo was taken, we went off for a hike in attempt to find it. And we did!
For this area you need the IGN map Les Trois Vallées Modane, Parc National de la Vanoise, 3534 OT. The closest big town is Pralongan-la-Vanoise where we camped, and you can pick up any supplies you need there. We started from the car park at the Pont de la Pêche (1740m) in the vallée de Chavière (south of Pralognan-la-Vanoise via Les Prioux). From the car park you can either follow the right hand trail which is part of the GR55, or the left hand trail which we decided on. In some of the local tourist info it's described as sentier 39 (though not marked as such), and it leads to Montaimont, which isn't much more than a cute collection of barns.
We then proceeded down towards the river and found the Instagram view we had been looking for.
From here you can head to the Refuge du Roc de la Pêche, for a drink or lunch (or stay overnight), but we settled down in the meadow below with a lot of cheese and bread and a view of the Génépy glacier.
We headed back to Montaimont, and from there picked up the left hand trail signposted as the Cirque du Genépi (sentier 40, then 41). The right hand route (42) is probably quicker but much steeper, and through a lot of vegetation - this is the route we descended down.
The trail leads you up towards the glacier. There were hundreds of crickets jumping around our ankles - literally hundreds - much more than I had ever seen or heard before. They varied in size, shape, colour and noise, and I think I counted about six different types. One in particular was very loud and sounded like a sprinkler system. So it was a fairly noisy walk.
We didn't follow the whole Genépi circuit - which continues a gradual ascent, and then descends to join the GR55, eventually passing the Refuge du Roc de la Pêche, and ending back at the car park. We made it to about 2200/2300m, and turned off to a path on the right (sentier 42 if you have the local tourist brochure) to descend down into Montaimont.
I think the whole route would be worth doing, but we had set off fairly late in the day, and neither of us was particularly up for anything too strenuous. As it is, we walked a fair few hours but it was a nice gentle ascent. I believe the variation we did is called Plan des Bôs.
After the walk we headed back to our campsite and got excited about our first night in the van.
The following day we rounded off the weekend with a ride on the téléphérique du Mont-Bochor in Pralognan, and ate a huge lunch of diots (local sausage) and crozets (local pasta) with the obligatory cheese and wine, at Pachu 2000, the restaurant on Mont Bochor.