|A chuff soars from the summit of les Cornettes de Bise, the highest summit of the Haut Chablais|
After many years of clambering over high mountains and trekking some of the world's classic routes, it's easy to get complacent about the hills.
So, the plan was to do some easy walking in the pretty alpine region of the Haut Chablais, the area just south of Lake Geneva (Lac Leman) with mountains a little over 2400m in height close to the French-Swiss border. A few hours a day, then a well-earned beer or two to rehydrate.
I hadn't reckoned on a heatwave (31C by 09:00 at 2000m, peaking at 34C a few hours later), nasty little biting flies known locally as taon, numerous paths wiped out by landslides (heavy rain accompanied the usual snow melt back in May), and a number of tracks now closed off by farmers and new ski lift and piste development. Châtel might be a paradise for skiers and mountain bikers, but walkers seem to take second-fiddle right now...
Ah, did I just mention mountain bikers? Yep, guess who was walking during the annual Pass'portes de Soleil three day event? The mountains were teeming with MTB riders, who, it is fair to say, were extremely careful passing us foot-driven types, flashing past with a cheery 'bonjour' as they careered down the mountain. Hmmm. And three helicopters seen during the day of my climb up Mont de Grange meant that some of them didn't complete the weekend either.
But, cosseted with the travel arrangements made by Headwater, the expert walking holiday company, with great family run hotels and luggage moved from point to point as I circumambulated the region, I was up for the challenge!
The first few days were spent walking from Les Gets to Lac de Montriond, and then on to Châtel. My route took in the summit of Mont Chéry 1826m (and, no, I didn't use the ski lifts...), steeply down to the Col de l'Encrenaz, and then down to the lovely little Hotel les Sapins, at the western end of Lac de Montriond. A good warm up, followed by a ridge route called the 'Super-Morzine,' albeit with a punishing descent through the forest later in the day.
|On the ascent of Mont Chéry 1826m, Mont Blanc dominates the skyline|
|The remainder of the first day's walk seen from Mont Chéry, the valley above Montriond, bounded by Pointe de Nantoux to the north (left of centre)|
|Lac de Montriond|
|Lac de Montriond seen from the Belvedere (overlook at 1618m) off the Super Morzine trail|
|Mont de Grange, which shares the accolade of Haut Chablais's highest summit with the les Cornettes de Bise, at 2432m|
|On the start of the climb to Mont de Grange, looking east to Dents du Midi and Mont Blanc|
|The steepest section of the summit path|
|Summit views, Mont de Grange 2432m|
|The Eiger. Mönch and Jungfrau seen from the summit of Mont de Grange|
|The final descent path into Châtel closed due to landslides, adding a 4km diversion|
|Châtel - a wonderland for sightseers, skiers and mountain bikers. But many paths for walkers closed and diverted here now :-(|
|Mont de Grange seen from above Châtel|
|Route along the Swiss-French border seen from Le Morclan 1970m|
|Alpine flowers in abundance, late June|
|Traverse of the Pointe des Ombrieux 1978m|
|East face of Mont de Grange seen from the Swiss border|
At higher elevations, the route takes you up through outcrops of limestone, steep but never difficult, with the alpine route markers (white/red paint flashes on the rocks) helping you find your way up through the crags and avoiding some banks of old snow. This is a great summit, with airy views down to Lake Geneva, the Rhone valley far below, and a vast array of French and Swiss peaks.
|Lac d'Arvouin at 1663m|
|Tricky little section of path between the Col du Serpentin and the Col de Vernaz|
|Mont Blanc still commanding attention, from the approach to the Col de Vernaz|
|Col de Vernaz 1615m, seen from the first zig zag path on the ascent of les Cornettes de Bise|
|Alpine glory on the approach to les Cornettes de Bise|
|The climb up to the summit of les Cornettes de Bise|
|The final rocky section of the path to the summit|
|Summit views from les Cornettes de Bise|
|Chuffs patrol their domain|
|Sunset from la Chapelle d'Abondnace|
From here I explored the high alpine pastures and forests around the Pointe des Follys, although the taon were out to get me that day, and my final big walk took me over to St-Jean-d'Aulps via the Col de Tavaneuse 1997m, followed by a very long descent down gravel tracks and then one of the steepest forest paths I have ever encountered, demanding knee surgery and a lot of beer at the other end ;-)
In summary, this is a great area for walking, as long as you choose your routes carefully. Paths are changing rapidly due to MTB and ski route development, so check with your hotel and local tourist information office before you set off. Definitely put the Mont de Grange and les Cornettes de Bise on your 'must do' list though!
|les Cornettes de Bise seen from the approach to Col d'Ubine|
|Col d'Ubine 1694m below the north face of Mont Chauffe (2093m)|
|The Pointe de Lachau ridge to the left of the Col d'Ubine|
|Descent from the Col de Taveneuse 1997m, looking at the north face of the Pointe de Nantaux|
|View back to the Lac de Taveneuse from the Col de Taveneuse|
|This was a VERY steep forest descent to St-Jean-d'Aulps from Brion - the photograph does not do the steepness justice as it's foreshortened, but I won't be coming down that path ever again!|