Between the monolith of Sardières and the Chappe telegraph
The scent of pine and the pale-coloured rock are evocative of the South, so much that one could almost hear the guitar of Nino Ferrer. Here the Maurienne marks the place of transition between the Northern Alps and those of the South. A walk in these adret forests is soothing, almost surprising, when the Monolith suddenly rises at the corner of a bend, leaving nothing but vertical drops. A lunch break at the Chappe telegraph invites the observer to fly over the multitude of peaks at more than 3,000 m forming the border chain with Italy. Perhaps you will spare a thought for those men charged with operating the telegraph who were stationed in this place, for days, scanning the horizon, like Giovanni Drogo awaiting the enemy in “The desert of the Tartars”.
This hike stays within the mid-mountain. The route is marked but some sections are not on the IGN map. Take appropriate footwear. The viewpoint from the Chappe telegraph overlooks the unsecured cliffs. The route enters the heart of the protected area.
Access and parking
At Modane, take the D 215 in the direction of Aussois. Once at Aussois, cross the village towards Sardières. After one kilometre, park in the car park with a cross and information signs.
10 points of interest
The mountain pineThe trail you go up crosses the old meadows now colonised by conifers, especially the mountain pine. This pine (Pinus uncinata) takes its name from its cones which carry hooks on the scales. Its dark green needles are joined together in pairs and measure 4 to 8 cm. The mountain pine favours the dry, steep slopes. Ÿou may confuse it with the Scots pine that you will also find along your way.
Avalanche paths of the BalmesŸou will notice in front of you the vast paths free of any vegetation or trees. These valleys, called Balmes, are highly susceptible to avalanches due to their inclination and orientation. The snow slides prevent the vegetation from colonising these areas. Ÿou may notice under the track to the east a multitude of trees, lying and broken. These are the stigmas of a large-scale avalanche that fell during the winter of 2012.
The winter heathThe winter heath (Erica carnea) owes its name to its early flowering (May-June) which sometimes makes it spring up from a layer of freshly fallen snow. It is a protected plant in the Rhône-Alpes region and, although very rare throughout the rest of France, is common in Maurienne. Because of its local abundance, the winter heath lines the undergrowth with its pink colour upon flowering. The winter heath is part of the family of ericaceae such as the bilberry or cranberry.
A Natura 2000 site"A 1992 European directive called the “Habitat Directive” concerns the protection of particular natural environments and certain species of fauna and flora. The forest of the southern slopes of Haute-Maurienne has been classified as a special conservation area known as ""Natura 2000"" under the ""forest and herbaceous formations of the internal Alps""."
Chappe telegraphThe Chappe telegraph is an optical signal transmission system created in 1793. Napoleon I decided to use the process between Lyon and Milan. Telegraphs were then installed along the valley of Maurienne. The telegraph only worked from 1807 to 1814, as Savoy was attached to the Kingdom of Sardinia.
The fir treeThe European silver fir (Abies alba) is quite rare in the forests of the southern slope (known as the adret) of Haute-Maurienne. The fir tree, however, finds the conditions are favourable for its growth in the small, fresh and damp valley that you cross. The rest of the forest around the Monolith is almost entirely composed of pines and spruces. The fir can be identified by its needles, which seem to grow flat along the branch. If you turn them over you will see two white marks. The bark is a smooth, silver grey. The fir cones grow upwards, unlike those of its cousin, the spruce.
The Monolithe de SardièresErosion has made way for this cargneule needle over time. There are many similar formation peaks in the surrounding forest but this one is the most spectacular. The Monolithe de Sardières looms over you at 93 metres high. This target which is coveted by climbing enthusiasts was climbed for the first time in 1957 by Michel Paquier. Several paths of varying difficulty today criss-cross its faces. The Monolithe de Sardières is in the heart of Vanoise National Park. It was at the foot of this natural obelisk that the Park was inaugurated on 26th June 1965.
CargneuleThe cargneule, a carbonate sedimentary rock, with a decayed and frequently brecciated appearance, often takes on yellow, brown or rusty hues. The cargneules form lightly stratified or unstratified masses and give ruiniform reliefs. Ÿou can see these towers before you, evocative of ancient castle ruins. The transformation of dolomite or limestone into calcite by waters loaded with calcium as a result of the dissolution of gypsum is called cargneulisation. (CaSO4 → Ca2+ + SO4-2).
The Tengmalm's owlThe boreal or Tengmalm´s owl (Aegolius funereus) is a small owl inhabiting the coniferous forests. It feeds mainly on small rodents and is essentially nocturnal. Its territorial song is a series of melancholic “pou pou” calls. The song of the Tengmalm´s owl echœs once again in the French forests thanks to the return of the black woodpecker. The black woodpecker bores holes in tree trunks and the owl loves these cavities to nest.
The deerAs 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, called “the roar” gives rise to spectacular fighting between males, but it is the raucous and powerful cries of the deer that bring the valley to life. The female deer, the hind, generally lives in a family group comprising the fawns born in the most recent year and the previous year´s generation.