- Departure : Car park, Laisonnay d'en bas, Champagny-en-Vanoise
- Arrival : Car park, Laisonnay d'en bas, Champagny-en-Vanoise
- Towns crossed : CHAMPAGNY-EN-VANOISE and PEISEY-NANCROIX
Access and parking
10 points of interest
Le Laisonnay d'En HautThe hamlet of Laisonnay d´En Haut consists of a dozen stone buildings. The traditional roofs are made from lauze (stone) and shingles (wood). More recent materials such as corrugated iron and steel panels can also be seen. The houses are grouped together to use the rare sites not exposed to natural hazards (avalanches, rock falls, flooding from the Doron). This is also done so as not to encroach on the pastures intended for livestock. Note the chapel of Notre Dame des Neiges downstream of the hamlet, and the old baker’s oven upstream.
Take in the valley’s true magnificence from the Palet Pass, which provides you with views of some of the massif’s highest glaciers, with eight numbered marker posts located along the trail by the Vanoise National Park.
The itinerary, which takes around 4 hours to complete, was created and waymarked by the Vanoise National Park. The accompanying booklet contains all the information you might need as you get better acquainted with mountain glaciers.
On the itinerary: the Glière mountain hut (restaurant service and beds for the night), the high mountain pastures of the Plan du Sel and the secrets of Beaufort cheese production, and above all, no end of marmots!
You can get a copy of the booklet at the Laisonnay Reception and Information Point.
Hamlet of LaisonnayLaisonnay is the oldest and most remote hamlet. It was here that the first inhabitants (of Haute-Tarentaise) settled, after crossing the Palet Pass into the valley. It contains a dozen or so stone buildings with traditional stone slate and wooden shingle roofs and a renovated with smattering of more recent materials. Houses are grouped together in order to make use of the few locations not exposed to natural risks (avalanches, rock falls and flooding by the Doron). Notre Dame des Neiges Chapel downstream of the hamlet and the old oven upstream are both well worth a visit.
The marmotAn iconic animal of the alpine grasslands, the marmot is closely related to the squirrel, with 4 digits on the front paws and 5 digits on the back paws. The marmot lives on a family territory that the dominant adults defend tooth and claw. The marmot hibernates and lives idly for 6 months on its reserves of fat accumulated during the summer. The marmot is present throughout the entire route, but especially around the chapel of La Glière.
The green alderThe green alder, called locally as the arcosse, grows on the ubac (north facing slope) of the valley, as it prefers cooler environments. This shrub has the peculiarity of bending under the weight of the snow without breaking. It can therefore grow even in avalanche paths. The green alder between the hamlet of Bois and the Épéna glacier is the largest green alder in Europe at 7 km long. Green alder wood was once used for baking Beaufort.
Dos de l'éléphant (1,850 m)"A mica schist outcrop polished and striated by the passage of quaternary glaciers, the last great ice age gœs back more than 10,000 years. The glaciers descended to Lyon at that time, and ice over 1,000 m in thickness filled the great valleys (Grenoble). The English call these “roches moutonnées” whalebacks. The inhabitants of Champagny-en-Vanoise call this rock ""Dos de l´éléphant” (the elephant’s back)."
Mountain forms and rockThe shape of the mountains depends on its natural surroundings, particularly on the hardness of the rock. The Grand Bec and the Pointe des Volnets are comprised of mica schist. The Aiguille de la Grande Glière, nicknamed the Matterhorn of Vanoise is comprised of very hard quartzite. The Épéna - the highest limestone cliff in France, with a vertical drop of 800 m - has a very sharp but very disintegrated summit ridge. The Grande Casse, comprised of black schistous limestone, has a highly ravined sloping north side.
The Refuge Communal de la Glière (1,996m).Formerly an alpine chalet, with 2 cellars nearby, the Refuge de la Glière was extended in 2014 to provide greater comfort to more hikers and climbers. It is also accessible to wheel-chair users who sometimes come by the Joëlette. It is kept from mid-June to mid-September. The winter refuge is also open the rest of the year and the visitor is obliged to pay his passage fee in the collection box provided for this purpose. In return the visitor will find blankets, gas and dishes and a stove with firewood. Show respect for this refuge and don’t forget to pay your fee which pays for its upkeep.
View over Lac de la Glière"
This white lake, the Lac de la Glière, is not covered by ice, despite appearances. It actually dried up in the 19th century. In 1818, people lived in the ""small ice age"", a colder climatic period that began in the late 16th century in Western Europe and whose end we are now seeing. As a result, the Rosolin glacier ""licks"" the edge of the lake. Seracs, or pieces of glacier detached from the main tongue, then fell into its waters, blocking the natural flow at the outlet of the lake. The water ended up overflowing, carrying along its course the seracs, mud and rocks downstream. After this natural disaster of 1818, the lake dried up, taking on a new appearance. After draining, the sediment deposited at the bottom of the basin then came to light. The historic mountain pasture around the lake has not been affected, having been frequented since the thirteenth century."
The Dry Lake of GlièreAbove the Refuge de la Glière is an immense gravel pit. In 1818 a serac fall from the valley glacier created an ice dam on the Doron. The water accumulated upstream to form a lake several metres deep. The dam broke on the 15th June 1818, and the mass of water rushed into the valley, carrying all the bridges as far as Moûtiers. The thermal springs of Brides-les-Bains would have been rediscovered as a result of this debris flow. Following this disaster, a channel was dug to the west of the natural passage of the Doron.