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Snowshoeing near Briançon, France

PostPosted: Fri 11 May, 2018 8:37 pm
by Hallu
Hi everyone,
France has seen a record winter this year (finally) with 4-5 metres of snow at 2000 m and above. We've been having half that in the past 3 years. So I couldn't miss this opportunity, and decided to go to Briançon for Easter after seeing a few friends in Grenoble (I live in Paris now, and needed my dose of mountains). It's near my favorite mountains, the Queyras, but I've never been to the mountains around Briançon.

Briançon itself is a fortified city, surrounded by an additional 4 or 5 forts all around in the mountains. It's very colorful, with yellow, pink, orange and blue houses, a reminder of the Italian influence. The first day it was torrential rain so I couldn't do anything. But it meant I'd have fresh snow for the following sunny days.

The first hike I did was in the Vallée de la Clarée, a secret valley North of Briançon. I was afraid there'd be so much snow I couldn't even get to the carpark. Fortunately it was fine, the French know how to properly plough the roads. I started at the village of Névache, impressed by quantity of snow on the roofs. One roof avalanche and you're in trouble, they can even kill people. But the mountains were magnificent. I started surrounded by morning fog, which dissipated after an hour or so. A lot of insane photos to take, between the frozen trees, the chalets, the bridges covered by a good 2 m of snow, the mountains... The avalanche risk was high though, so I decided to hike to a refuge (refuge du Chardonnet), which meant I'd be on a safe part of the valley. I got lucky too because the refuge owners have their own little snow plough, so the trail was nice and compact, I only needed my snowshoes for maybe half an hour out of the 6 required to do the hike (it was about 20 kms). Not many people were tackling these snow conditions, only passionate skiers. The peaks, usualled jagged, were covered by so much snow they had harmonious gentle curves, and on the rivers the rocks were smooth domes of white. It was quite a spectacle. Hiking to a refuge also means hot chocolate at the end, which is a welcome relief. I forgot my sunglasses though which was a huge mistake.

Re: Snowshoeing near Briançon, France

PostPosted: Fri 11 May, 2018 8:40 pm
by Hallu
The next day I saw in my books another refuge in Queyras I could hike to (refuge de la Blanche). The hike was a bit shorter (17 km) and started at the splendid village of Saint Véran, full of old chalets. The hike passes through an abandoned copper mine, and plenty of chapels and oracles. Another paradise of white, so white I got sunburnt on my lips, the only place I didn't put suncreen on. I also had a cold starting up, and would be deaf in one ear for the next couple of days. It was still worth it though, and I had time to check out other villages near the Col de l'Izoard.

On the drive back through Col du Lautaret, the only mountain pass above 2000 m open all year, the road pierced through walls of snow 3 to 4 m high in places, all ploughed by machines to keep the road open. And at the moment I'm writing those lines, there's still so much snow the usual roads that should be open right now will be 2 to 3 weeks late. So if you're going to the Alps this summer, expect quite a bit of snow left on the tracks even in July, and June hiking might be seriously limited.

Re: Snowshoeing near Briançon, France

PostPosted: Fri 11 May, 2018 9:07 pm
by gayet
As always Hallu, beautiful images.

Not much more I can say really. Hope the hearing returned and the sunburn eased.

Re: Snowshoeing near Briançon, France

PostPosted: Fri 11 May, 2018 11:07 pm
by Hallu
Thanks. The hearing took around a week to return to normal (I guess the altitude didn't help) and my lower lip basically peeled away completely (never seen this) but it's better now. It was still 100% worth it though =)

Re: Snowshoeing near Briançon, France

PostPosted: Fri 18 May, 2018 12:09 pm
by north-north-west
Just beautiful. Thank you.