Trek Notes - France

High Alps Walk


This is a real Alpine walkers' holiday, exciting independent walks at a safe altitude but with a 'Haute Montagne' feel, plus the luxury of comfortable hotel accommodation every night. En route you can 'bag' the two highest peaks in the Chablais (both 2432m and both wildlife reserves). What's breathtaking is the scale of the mountains here, awesome views of snow-capped peaks in a wonderful geography lesson: Mont Blanc, the Dents du Midi, the Matterhorn, Monte Rosa, the central Swiss Alps, Lake Geneva, the Jura, the Rhône valley.

Amazingly, most of the Chablais is little frequented by walkers. The countryside is a mosaic of colourful Alpine meadows, mixed woodland and glacial tarns, crowned by dramatic rocky mountain peaks. There are wild flowers everywhere; 1,200 species, including gentian, orchids, lilies, cottongrass, campanula, saxifrage, edelweiss; and plenty of exciting wildlife too: ibex, chamois, mouflons, marmots, red deer, eagles, falcons.

The footpaths are easy to follow, with excellent signposting, and there is virtually no road walking. Part of your route follows the classic Alpine long-distance footpath, and part follows old smugglers' trails high up along the Swiss border. You stay in traditional mountain villages founded after Benedictine monks settled the valleys; the 12C abbey in Abondance is stunning, and there is a string of attractive churches and chapels along your route.  


Day 1
Arrive at Le Biot

A picturesque and tranquil village. The perfect place to relax, unwind and start enjoying your holiday.

Day 2
Le Biot to Montriond
From the ruined Cistercian abbey at St Jean, you climb to a glacial tarn; cottongrass and gentian abound here. At the Col de Crêve-Coeur (1650m) is your first view of Mont Blanc. Picnic with the marmots in the south-facing pastures at Brion. The Pointe de Nantaux (1901m) is a prime spot for eagles. Descend to our pretty chalet hotel next to the green/blue Lac de Montriond.

Day 3
At Montriond

The patron, Pascal, knows some excellent walks in the area, from a gentle stroll around the picturesque lake to an exhilarating ridge walk above Morzine (plunging views). Or get the bus (10 min) into the pretty town of Morzine.

Day 4
Montriond to Châtel
(14km/5hrs or 18km/8hrs)
The climax of today's walk is the magnificent limestone pyramid of Mont de Grange (2432m), a wildlife reserve. Around 500 chamois live here, along with mouflons and red deer. From the summit you see a huge Alpine panorama as far as Italy and central Switzerland. Then down to our comfortable chambres d'hôte, where you dine 'en famille' with Françoise and Gilles.

Day 5
At Châtel

Lots of choice of well-signed footpaths in the mountains here, and only a short walk into Switzerland is the pretty village of Morgins. Perhaps stay in Châtel, potter round the village market and choose from swimming, golf, tennis, and mountain biking. Or hire a water bicycle for a trip on the Lac de Vonnes - it's great fun!

Day 6
Châtel to La Chapelle d'Abondance
From Le Morclan (1970m) you feel you can reach out and touch the jagged teeth of the Dents du Midi, with Mont Blanc to the south and a sweeping view east of the Bernese Alps. You follow the old smugglers' route high up along the Swiss border. Down through lush Alpine meadows thick with campanula, daisies and gentian to the pretty village of La Chapelle with its famous onion-domed church.  

Day 7
At La Chapelle d'Abondance

If you're up to the challenge, the Cornettes de Bise is a must. As high at the Mont de Grange (2432m), this is one of France's few ibex reserves, with 400 in the area at the last census. More incredible views: Lake Geneva and the Jura beyond, and the Rhône valley. Or if you're feeling lazy, wander round the pretty village and relax by the hotel swimming pool.  

Day 8
La Chapelle d'Abondance to Abondance
From the Pointe de Lachau (1962m) you can see the Matterhorn, 80km away! Down to the gorgeous hamlet of Ubine, where old chalets huddle round a tiny 17C chapel under the sheer wall of Mont Chauffé. Monique will cook you a tartiflette with cheese made from the cows grazing outside. The afternoon's almost all downhill, and you're soon relaxing in the hotel's private sauna and jacuzzi.  

Day 9
At Abondance

Opposite the hotel is the 12C Abbaye de l'Assomption. The church (1275) is impressive, but it is the 14C Gothic cloister with 15C murals by Giacomo Jaquerio which steals the show. Why not also take a day trip to the 'seaside' town of Thonon and a boat ride on Lake Geneva?  

Day 10
Abondance to Le
Biot (15km/51/2hrs)
A gradual climb, past isolated farms and Abondance cattle grazing in flowery meadows, then through the cool forest at Les Follys - we spotted 7 species of orchid here - and a long descent back to the welcoming sight of pretty Le Biot. There's a fromagerie here where you can stock up on local produce to take home.  

Day 11
Leave Le Biot after breakfast.

Please note: this holiday is at the upper end of the 3-boot grading with ascents of over 1,000m on some days. In July and August ski lifts can be used to gain altitude on days 3, 4, 5 and 6 (pay locally), and of course you only have to carry a day pack. The Le Biot and Abondance village festivals take place on 22-23 June, and 17-18 August and go on late. Come and join in the fun, or choose a quieter time!
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