Tour du Rateau d'Aussois
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Tour du Rateau d'Aussois
VILLARODIN-BOURGET

Tour du Rateau d'Aussois

Fauna
Flora
Pastoralism
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This hike will allow you to discover the high mountains before gradually bringing you back to your starting point by a long panoramic trail through the alpine pastures and forest.
After zigzagging through the alpine pastures, you will be surprised to meet a mineral landscape specific to the high altitude. Ÿet by venturing further into these places, you will discover all the riches of the bright shimmering flowers and a discreet but ubiquitous fauna. This itinerary is filled with opportunities to see the fauna, perhaps leading you to encounter the ibex, surprise a ptarmigan or a mountain hare or see a bearded vulture.

28 points of interest
History

The Orgère valley

Orgère, where barley was grown. In past centuries, the need for pastures, hayfields and cultivated land on flat or slightly hilly areas forced man to deforest, even at high altitude. The right bank of the valley, presenting a gentler profile, was the most exploited. The rocks which clutter the plots are regularly placed in heaps, to form mounds of stones which still remain in the valley. Used during the summer, the valley was brought to life by about fifteen families and their little flock.
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Fauna

The red deer

As a result of hunting and logging, the deer had all but disappeared from the Savoy forests. Reintroduced between 1958 and 1973, it has adapted remarkably well to the mountain environment to form a fine population. In autumn the mating season gives rise to spectacular fighting between males, but it is the raucous and powerful cries of the deer that bring the valley to life. Taking advantage of the peacefulness of the place, the animals bellow practically all day long.
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Fauna

The small tortoiseshell

The small tortoiseshell is the first butterfly to land on the flowers which are barely out of the snow. The caterpillars feed only on nettles. They can be seen on their leaves piled into bundles with their two yellow bands on their backs. The butterfly, on the other hand, is orange in colour, inlaid with ebony and hemmed with a ring of blue spots around the edge of the wings.
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Flora

The colours of autumn

If you get the chance, do this hike in the autumn. The mélézin is adorned by beautiful golden hues. The large-fruit fireweed opens up to release a multitude of seeds surmounted by silky-white snow like threads. And higher up the ubac, the bilberry moors take on a beautiful red hue. Under the effect of the first frosts the alpine pastures are adorned with pretty warm colours that contrast sharply with the white of the first snows covering the summits.
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Fauna

The black grouse

Inhabiting the upper limits of the alpine forest and the fields of bilberries and rhododendron, the black grouse is also known as the black cock. Very discreet, thanks to its brown homochromatic plumage, the female is very difficult to spot. With its black plumage and its lyre-shaped tail after which it is named, the male is much less so. Especially in the spring, at daybreak when the cocks engage in spectacular courtship displays alternating between combat and intimidation when they coo and hiss powerfully.
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Architecture

The chalets

"When most of the flat areas, more suitable for building chalets, were occupied, it was necessary to build on the slope, in areas more exposed to avalanches. Some chalets therefore had to be built with a specific architecture in order to resist avalanches: semi-buried, oriented in the direction of the slope and protected by a protective promontory called a ""tourne""."
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Fauna

The marmot

The alpine look-out will often see you before you see her and will signal your presence by a shrill cry, unless she wishes to warn her fellow-mates of the arrival of an eagle. Ever-present on the lower part of the route, often curious, she will delight hikers, both old and young alike, who visit the valley. Most importantly, do not feed them! Food which is not suited to them will harm their health and their survival.
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Flora

Mountain arnica

A true burst of sunshine, this yellow flower, daisy-like in appearance is rather common in the sub-alpine moorlands and grasslands. Best known for its medicinal properties, used in anointing, arnica is very effective in the resorption of haematomas. But be careful not to ingest this pretty flower as it is dangerously poisonous, even fatal.
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Fauna

The alpine ibex, a survivor

It is the Vanoise National Park’s signature species, which was at the very heart of its creation. Having practically disappeared from the entire Alps region, only a very few small population clusters remain in France in Maurienne, including one at the foothills of the Aiguille Doran. Thanks to the creation of the National Park and then the long-term endeavours to protect and reintroduce this species, the ibex has managed to recolonise many of the mountain ranges in the French Alps.
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Fauna

The rock ptarmigan

The rock ptarmigan, a relic of a bygone glacial age is perfectly suited to life in the high mountains. Its plumage changes completely over the seasons so it can blend in perfectly with its environment. From an almost pristine white in the winter, it gradually turns a grey-brown in the summer much like the screes it inhabits. Its confidence in its ability to remain invisible makes it a fierce animal. As a mainly flightless bird, evolution has covered its talons in feathers to prevent heat loss, allowing it to move over snow without sinking.
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Pass

Col de la Masse

At the summit of the track, the Col de la Masse offers a 360° panoramic view with the Écrins, the Meige and the Pelvoux to the south, the Pointe de l´Échelle to the north, the Vanoise glaciers and the Dent Parrachée to the north-east, and right at the bottom, to the east, the Albaron!
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Flora

The Silene acaulis

This high-altitude plant, easily recognisable by its violet colour, is particular for its cushion-like shape. This feature is particular to several high-mountain species and highly useful in resisting the cold and wind. This cushion-like flower, the oldest of which can reach more than 50 years, contributes to the creation of a micro-ecosystem which will then be exploited by other plant species, thereby contributing to plant colonisation.
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Fauna

The mountain hare

Also known as the white hare, it has a rock-brown coloured coat in the summer and an all-white coat in the winter except for the tips of its ears. Smaller and rounder than the European hare, the mountain hare also has shorter ears and a thicker coat to limit heat loss. Its wider back paws act as snowshœs which allow it to move easily over the snow.
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Flora

The alpine forget-me-not

Among the floral procession of dwarf plants covering the windy ridges, the king of the Alps predominates. Needless to say, this bright blue flower has been named the “blue king-of-the-Alps”. Its pretty blue flowers are found high up in the mountains at an altitude reaching 3,750 metres, grouped in cushion-like clusters, nestled into the rocky crevices of the exposed ridges, often in the company of génépi and androsace. This small forget-me-not can live for decades. The alpine forget-me-not was named by botanist Schrader because of its hairy, silk-like appearance. In Greek, eiros means wool and thrix, or hair.
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Fauna

The chamois

An iconic alpine animal, the chamois or “goat of the rocks” has black short hooked horns. Like the ibex, it is easier to spot with binoculars. The goats and “éterlous” (young one-year old males) like to live in large herds; the billy goats on the other hand remain rather isolated until they join the females during the mating season. In winter, the chamois yearns for tranquillity as it must save its fat reserves in order to survive.
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Fauna

The ibex in summer

In summer, the ibex climb to a high altitude to seek out the cool. Grouped by sex, the males spend most of the day resting in the shade of a rock and are only active in the evening or in the morning, when they enjoy feeding in the cool air. The females, known as “étagnes”, devote their time to raising their young on often steep cliffs, such as those located on the left bank of the descent of the Col de la Masse. If you have a set of binoculars, you can undoubtedly see the females lying on the grassy ledges, while the kids frolic without a thought for the woodpeckers flying around them.
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Fauna

The bearded vulture

In addition to its very large wingspan (almost 3 m), the bearded vulture also imposes itself by its fire-coloured breast as an adult. In fact, its breast is stained by bathing in the ferruginous spring waters. Other peculiarities: it feeds on the bone marrow of dead animals. To get to the marrow, it carries the bones in its talons and drops them over rocks to break them, which is why it’s called the bone-breaker. A very large glider, it is not uncommon to see it passing over the mountain pasture of Barbier as it takes advantage of the thermal currents of the southern slope.
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Pastoralism

Goats and sheep

On this alpine pasture of the “mauvais berger” goats and sheep are to be found. The goats are dairy cattle that descend the pasture every evening to be milked. Their milk is used for the local production of cheese. The lambs and sheep are sent to the meat industry. The lambs are born around March and grow all summer in the alpine pastures. Only the breeding ewes are kept in the sheepfold for winter. The Mauvais Berger flock consists of animals from several different owners. Pooling the flocks means the costs of herd care are shared.
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Pastoralism

The patou dog

The natural return of the wolf has wreaked havoc on pastoral practices. In order to protect their flocks, breeders have put in place protective measures: the presence of a shepherd to monitor the sheep as well as the establishment of enclosures. To complete this measure, Pyrenean Mountain Dogs (Patous), used secularly, have been reintroduced to the mountain pastures. The word patou designates the dog’s protective role and not its race. The dogs generally used are Pyrenean Mountain Dogs. The patou protects the herd against everything he considers a predator, one of which is the wolf.
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Fauna

The wolf

The wolves inhabiting the valley come from Italy and hence are called Abruzzo wolves. They are distinguished by their white mask and black line on the tibia. The wolves live in packs of 2 to 5 on average. The wolf is a carnivore which feeds mainly on ungulates such as deer or chamois. Only the dominant pair of the pack breeds. The cubs are born in a den in late spring. Although the preferred habitat of the wolf is the forest, it ventures into the alpine pastures in search of easy prey such as flocks of sheep.
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Pass

Col du Barbier

After a short rising section, the Col du Barbier reveals the entire lower Maurienne Valley, with a view of the Aiguilles d´Arves, but also over all the summits of the left bank of the Arc taking in the Sarrazins, the Grand Argentier, the Pointe de la Norma and the Aiguille de Scolette.
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Viewpoint

The Vallée de l'Arc

Arriving at the Col du Barbier, a small detour of a hundred metres to the south will offer you a view overlooking the valley of Maurienne, crossed by the River Arc. In front of you, the horizon will be blocked by the border mountains range with the magnificent Aiguille de Scolette (3,506 m). To the south, you will see the three characteristic teeth of the Aiguilles d’Arves. At the bottom of the valley, the strange balls of ONERA (National Office for Aerospace Studies and Research), the largest European wind tunnel, testify to the industrial activity of Maurienne.
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Fauna

The ibex, a species under strict surveillance

The ibex continues to be studied in depth, especially the females in order to better understand their reproductive dynamics. To achieve this, every spring the animals are captured by means of a hypodermic gun equipped with an ear loop and radio collars. Captured animals are also subject to several biometric measures and blood sampling to assess the health of the population. A large number of these catches is carried out on the Barbier Alpine pastures, as the site is highly populated by the species in spring and throughout the winter.
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Pastoralism

Sheep on the summer pastures

During the summer grazing period you will be able to see the sheep on the alpine pastures. This ancient pastoralism, evident in the stone ruins still standing in Estiva, still continues today. These flocks of sheep, reared by farmers in the valley, gradually climb from the village of Villarodin-Bourget by following the evolution of the growing grass.
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Know-how

The alpine chalets of Barbier

Witness to the intense agricultural activity that went on not so long ago, the alpine chalets also reflect the ingenuity of the peasants who were forced to build their chalets with local materials, mainly stone, due to the scarcity of wood at high altitude, covered with lime plaster and a lauze roof. These buildings, such as the chalets of Barbier, often merge into their environment where the walls take on the colour of the local stone.
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Fauna

The rock partridge

"Unlike the other two mountain galliformes, the rock ptarmigan and the black grouse, the rock partridge is a thermophilous species (a warmth-loving species), which explains its presence on the sunny slopes of the Maurienne. Barataval (rock partridge) in Provençal means ""door latch"" or “clacking windmill”. The rock partridge is named after its song which resembles the sound of a latch. The best months to hear the bird are April and May when the male marks its territory at the break of day."
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Architecture

Chapel of “Notre-dame-des-Neiges”

During the summer, it was difficult to get down to the village for church services. Chapels were therefore built on the mountain pastures. The lauze roofing and architecture of the building show us how local materials were once used, with the sparing use of wood. In order to avoid mountain hazards such as rock falls and avalanches, the religious buildings such as oratories or crosses figure prominently on the mountain.
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Refuge

Refuge de l’Orgère

Acquired in 1969 by the Vanoise National Park, former residence of EDF workers, the Refuge de l’Orgère is one of the 4 “refuges-portes” (gateway shelters) of Vanoise National Park.
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Description

"Park at the Orgère car park, end of the road. Then take the old EDF track, located at the bottom of the car park. Follow the route for “Col de la Masse”. Pass a concrete bridge that straddles the Povaret stream to reach the foot of the Aiguille Doran. Continue along the trail, cross a wooden footbridge to cross the Masse stream, then continue on this winding trail until you reach a crossing. Turn left as indicated by the sign ""Col de la Masse"". At the pass, you can descend by the same route and shorten the journey time. The more adept can also reach the summit of the Rateau d’Aussois by a sparsely marked and steep path. Otherwise, continue the circuit by a relatively marked descent path and reach a vast sloping ledge: the Plateau du Mauvais Berger Then follow the sign for ""Col du Barbier"" and continue through a terraced path, passing through the Col du Barbier and chalets. Then go back down through the forest, then after a sloping ledge still in the forest go up slightly to return to the Orgère valley. Pass in the vicinity of the restored chalets, come to a stone bridge allowing you to cross the Povaret stream. Continue on, then cross a group of buildings, including a chapel on your left. Follow the markers for the discovery trail and climb through a Scots pine forest by a winding path. Come out on to a road, climbing back up to reach the car park where you departed."
Departure : Orgère car park, Villarodin-Bourget
Arrival : Orgère car park, Villarodin-Bourget
Towns crossed : VILLARODIN-BOURGET, AUSSOIS

Altimetric profile


Recommandations

Is in the midst of the park
The national park is an unrestricted natural area but subjected to regulations which must be known by all visitors.

Information desks

Maison Cantonale<br>9 Place Sommeiller<br>73500 Modane,

http://www.cchautemaurienne.com/

info@cchmv.fr

04 79 05 26 67


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43 route des Barrages<br>73500 Aussois,

http://www.aussois.com

info@aussois.com

04 79 20 30 80


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Maison de La Norma<br>73500 La Norma,

http://www.la-norma.com

info@la-norma.com

04 79 20 31 46


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Transport

"
Rail connection to Modane. Information: www.voyages-sncf.com
No public transport between Modane and Orgère car park.
Suggested hitchhiking organised in the Haute-Maurienne valley. Information: www.rezopouce.fr
"

Access and parking

From the exit of the A43 motorway, take the direction of Modane. At the Freney roundabout, take the RD 106 towards the Refuge de l´Orgère which is signposted. After a 30 minute drive, pass the Refuge on your right to access the car park.

Parking :

Orgère car park, Villarodin-Bourget

Accessibility

Two disabled parking spaces, certified “Accessible Tourism” for the 4 types of disability.
Emergency number :
114

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