This year we're camping in the neighbourhood of Briançon, the highest city of France, deep in the French Alpes. Briançon is close to the Parc National des Ecrins and the Vallée de la Clarée. As such we are ideally located for hikes in the Ecrins, in the vally of the Clarée, but also in Queyras Regional Natural Parc. As long as the weather is good we can hike as much as we like. There are more hikes possible in this region than we can walk in the three weeks we are here.
Our first hike was to the Refuge (mountain hut) de Glacier Blanc. The hike starts at the parking place near the Maison du Parc. The drive there from Briançon is an adventure in itself. The small road climbs 600 meters through a small forested valey till it reaches the broader plain called Pré de Madame Carle.
From the parking lot the glacier itself is clearly visible. The Refuge du Glacier Blanc is somewhere up there too, but it's not visible from the parking lot.
From the parking lot you forst walk to the Torrent du Glacier Noir along a broad path that clims only a little. Once across the Terrent the steep climb negings. From the parking lot to the Refuge is a 700 meter climb. At times the path is really steep and in several places you have to use your hands as well.
As the path is rather steep you quickly gain height and the view across de Pré de Madame Carle becomes better and better.
After a while you get a nice view on Glacier our. Unlike Glacier Blanc, which consist of pristine white ice, the ice of Glacier Noir is covered in morainic debris, giving it a dull gray appearance. Hence of course it's name.
The higher you get, the better the view on Glacier Blanc becomes. The climb is not really difficult, but it has its challenges and it is certainly fatiguing.
A beautiful spot along the way is the water fall you initially cross under, then climb along and finally cross above where it is just a streem in a meadow.
The small meadow above the waterfall gives a beautiful view on Mount Pelvoux. Of course, the mountain is visible during the whole climb. However, the meadow, the little stream and the slope to the left, frame the view on Miunt Pelvoux in a way that makes it really spectacular. It is such a spectacular mountain to look at, that it is not hard to believe it is the second home to the gods (after Mount Olympus).
From that meadow it takes a last steep climb to finally reach Refuge de Glacier Blanc and, in our case, go a little beyond it. The terras around the Refuge is small and a little crambed with all the hikers reaching it. Climbing a little bit further provides much more room the have a refreshing and much deserved lunch.
From there it needs a climb of another 300 meters to reach the glacier. Though initially we planned to indeed make that final climb, we decided against it. The terrain looked really difficult and we're (perhaps needlessly so) cautious when hiking with our two children.
Besides the spectacular views there is another reason to make this hike. The landscape is the natural habitat of the Alpes marmot. Since it is a popular hike the marmots in this area have become accostumed to humans. It is almost inevitable you see several of them during the hike. And that is a great incentive for children to continue with this fatiguing climb... 😀
(All images were made by me during our hike up)