The Haute Giffre: Waterfalls, Wildlife and Flowers

23 June 2017 | 0 comments

This area is only a valley or two to the west of Chamonix, and discovering it has been a joy.

Lac d’Anterne (and my boots)

It’s where my International Mountain Leader assessment will be in August, so I’m exploring avidly, and learning so much. It’s great to have been here in June, the waterfalls are in spate, and the flowers a riot of colour.

I hiked up to the Refuge des Sales, so that I could see all the waterfalls along the way. The ibex were out and the young were playing at fighting on the rocks.

Young ibex play fight

Stayed at Camping du Pelly, beneath the glacial cirque that is the ‘ Sixt Fer a Cheval’. Such welcoming and friendly people. Next day I faced the scary cliff that is the ‘pas du Boret’ turned out to be not too scary at all, lots of helpful fixed equipment. Lovely coffee on the deckchairs at the chalet du Boret, perched on the cliff above, then on the Refude de la Vogealle, and then, couldn’t resist a little romp through the snow to Lac de la Vogealle.

So nice I succumbed to a selfie moment. Back down via ‘le Bout du Monde’ which really lives up to it’s end of the world name, and, through a thunderstorm, to le Pelly.  When it didn’t stop raining the next day, packed up the soggy tent and scuttled off back to Cham to dry out.

A couple of days later, and Claudia has arrived, also keen to do assessment practise. So this time, a trip up Point Angolon, an airy ridge walk, and then back to pick up our ridiculously heavy rucksacks for a trudge up to the col de la Golese. We had planned more, but had completely messed up with the packing and just couldn’t lug the sacks any further. And we found this most awesome spot to camp.

A pass famous for it’s migrating birds and smugglers, used by invaders in times gone by, it had quite a history. Today I also solved the mystery of the white/red/white markers and numbers on the trees, looking a bit like GR signs, but not quite. They are commune boundaries, definitely not path markers.

Next destination was to get over Pas de la Latte, so having taken our silly old packs to Refuge Boston, we set off with renewed energy and a whole lot less weight. We so nearly made it to the top, it’s a steep ascent of about 1,000m, but some 150m from the top we were faced with a pretty steep snowfield with a menacing looking cornice at the top. Our about turn meant our day became a spectacular 30km, with yet more ascent. Glad to collapse in the refuge.

Undeterred out third day out was to refuge Folly, and then Lac du Chambres, more snow, with fabulous ‘sledging on rucksack covers’ opportunity. I got to do it twice having lost a trekking pole on the way down first time. I think this was also the day of spotting the tiny little hummingbird. What a treat.

Our grand finale was the loop: Lignon – chalet d’Anterne – Lac d’anterne (more beautiful frozen water, but this time with fishermen) Col d’anterne, Chalet Moede d’anterne (up tents) Lac du Promenaz and ladders and steep stuff – Chalet Moede d’Anterne overnight (violent thunderstorms with much lightening, the refuge guardian said he’d take our payment of three euros in advance in case we didn’t survive the night – seriously though he also said to go inside if it got too bad.

Climbing up through the Derochoir above Servoz

As usual I slept through a lot of it) and finally the spectacular return trip over the Derochoir, steep rocky pinnacles – then all the way down ‘Sales’ again.

We did other stuff too, cant’t fit it all in here, discovering how the locals despise the poisonous Verdatre (false hellebore) and love the giant yellow gentian – and sampled the alcoholic results, and came across a serious nest of vipers – Claudia will be sending me photos, I just wanted to get out of there). I learnt about the lady’s fingers plant getting rid of it’s excess salt and making  it’s leaves stronger as a result. I learnt about the creeping willow which looks absolutely nothing like the willow I know. What a wonderful couple of weeks, thanks so much to Claudia for spurring me on and keeping me going.



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