In our opinion, the ideal autumn destination is Écrins/Queyras. A rugged mountain world, with fast-flowing rivers, waterfalls, gentle valleys and high three-thousanders. And you can walk there peacefully!
The whole family together
Once in a while we plan a vacation with our grown children. This holiday to France was already in the pipeline but was postponed by Covid. Autumn 2021 is still the time and we travel to the foothills of the Alps. Milou and Silas are present, Pepijn will follow later in the week for a long weekend. It’s great that we can enjoy our passion, walking in nature, together.
We have chosen to spend the night in a central place. Gîte Pain du Sucre is located just outside Guillestre. Guillestre is located southwest of the Queyras, it is a pleasant town with shops and supermarkets and a number of restaurants. From Quillestre you drive smoothly towards Ceillac (about half an hour), the Italian border / Refuge Agnel is about an hour’s drive and towards Col de Izoard is also about half an hour. If you want to visit the eastern Ecrins, it will take half an hour to an hour. Briancon is an hour’s drive away. There are also a number of hiking trails along the property.
This accommodation can accommodate six people, with four people it is a pleasant stay. The space consists of a living room annex kitchen, two bedrooms downstairs and a loft with three sleeping places upstairs. Furthermore, a shower, washbasin and toilet. There is a warm stove. Outside you can sit covered or at a picnic table in the garden. The view from the grounds is truly fantastic. You overlook the mountains of the Queyras and the Ecrins, but also the rugged Gorge du Guil. The Guil flows hundreds of meters below the site. The garden and surroundings are full of beautiful trees and we feel right at home here.
If you want to spend the night with more people, you also have the option of renting the Chalet. This is a lot more expensive, but also more luxuriously furnished. It can accommodate 8 people. You can rent both accommodations via Gites.nl. Wandelingen
We have made several walks. We chose it based on articles on Oppad.nl by Noes Lautier and the guide she and Robert Eckhart wrote: overlooking the Écrins. It contains about 71 day trips and multi-day trips. It offers a clear description, a map, photos and practical information.
Glacier Noir, impressive mountain world
The first walk we make is to the Glacier Noir (2510 m). We start at the Pré de Mme Carle car park. A large parking lot where there are almost no cars. This is a popular starting point as you can also get to Glacier Blanc, another large glacier. Apparently you can go up here in the summer like in a row of people….Now we have the beautiful mountain world to ourselves!
We walk through a beautiful larch forest. The color of the Larch is phenomenal, the orange glow stands out beautifully against the bright blue sky and the gray rocks. Soon we climb up and we have a view of the beautiful valley.
The view of the glacier and the surrounding mountains gets more and more: Pic Sans Nom (3913 m), Pic de Coup de Saber (3699 m) and Allefroide Centrale (3927 m).
We continue our way via a narrow moraine ridge. There is a sign at ‘Delicate passage’! And indeed you have to pay attention here because some parts are very narrow and difficult. While you are distracted by all the beauty around you.
Once at the glacier, we enjoy the beautiful view while eating our lunch. There are worse places to picnic. We look around to see if we see chamois, but unfortunately this is not the case.
Silas pulls a little further because wanting to continue to the end, we return via the moraine ridge.
The sun is now behind the mountains and we continue a large part of the walk in the shade, it is then quite chilly (just a few degrees above zero) but luckily we get warm again from the walk.
After about four or five hours we are back at the car. This walk is 3 hours, without breaks. You ascend/descend about 640 meters and the level is T2. With lunch and photo stops you can easily turn it into a day walk!
On the border with Italy, a varied walk to a three-thousander!
Our second walk is on the border with Italy. We drive to the parking lot just past Refuge Agnel. Here we start with a bright blue sky and sun, the thermometer shows a few degrees above zero. It’s really cold! Luckily we can dress to it and we are so happy with that blazing sun.
We walk along marked trails with wires. The paths have been closed off to prevent erosion. After a few minutes you come across a sign, but we have the idea that this is not yet our exit; Col de l’Eychassier is not on it either. Later it turns out that we should have gone straight here after all….
Once on the Col Vieux (2806 m) we have a beautiful view of the Lac de Foreant and the Italian mountains. The Talliante reflects in the lake. The colors are beautiful, what an impressive place!
We walk a bit towards the lake, but then turn off to the left to avoid having to descend completely. Here we find our way along narrow paths. We eventually arrive at a frozen stream and a small lake. We climb up and find the official path again. Milou spots a white weasel here, which quickly flashes between the rocks.
Once at the Lac de L’Eychassier (2875 m) we have lunch and have a view of the Pic de Foreant (3081 m). Here we see a chamois climbing the rocks on the other side. He jumps effortlessly from rock to rock!
After lunch Silas, Joost and Milou walk to the peak in half an hour. Here they enjoy a magnificent view! In the meantime, I am having fun downstairs taking pictures and videos of them and spotting a honey buzzard.
Once back down we walk via the Col de l’Eychassier (2917 m) back to our car. We look back on a very nice varied walk. Beautiful mountain lakes, rugged mountains, frozen streams and wildlife, a nice package!
You can do this walk in 3.30 hours, you ascend and descend 685 meters and the level is T2. It took us about five hours, including breaks and climbing the Pic.
To the reflecting mountain lake Lac de Souliers, with ascent of the Crete de Tronchet
Today Pepijn, our oldest who lives in Istanbul, arrives, so we take a slightly shorter walk.
This walk already has a great start because we see a number of chamois from the parking lot! We overlook the Col de Izoard and the Casse Déserte. We start with a pleasant walk through the forest. The path goes up gradually and every now and then we have nice views of the mountains around. Unfortunately the weather is not so nice, but luckily it is dry. And the exciting gray clouds also have something, especially when we get higher.
After the forest we come to a rougher part. It is open countryside overlooking the Cote Belle (2854 m) and Crete de Tronchet (2592 m). We walk to the mirrored Lac de Souliers (2492 m), where unfortunately some fishermen make it difficult to take pictures without people. But that should not spoil the fun. We enjoy our hot tea and coffee and take it all in.
It does get chilly when we sit still longer, so we decide to climb the Crete de Tronchet. We climb up via a steep path and in no time we have a view of the surroundings. Here we see that the weather is slowly changing….there is a little more blue in the sky! Nice to see how the environment changes as a result.
After the view we walk down at a leisurely pace. Just below the top there is quite a bit of loose grit and stones, so I take it very easy and use my sticks well. This walk would also be suitable for children, but for this part I find that less obvious. Once firmer ground under our feet we walk back smoothly.
Silas takes beautiful images with his drone and to our surprise the sun also shows up. How lovely! We return via the same route. If you have more energy and time, you can extend this walk by, for example, climbing the Pic Ouest de Cote Belle or expanding it with the Tour de Souliers.
You can do this walk in 2 hours and 10 minutes. You ascend and descend 380 meters and the level is T2. It took us about three and a half hours including the ascent and breaks.
The weather changes…..
Today we actually want to go to Ceillac to do the Crete des Chambrettes. Once at the starting point, I don’t think it’s such a good plan. It’s raining and I wonder if it won’t snow on top of the mountain… besides, I don’t like this, quite challenging walk, because there is, among other things, a ridge in the route. Is that wise with these weather conditions? It’s pretty cold. The kids don’t have rain pants either…so we decide not to go. Somewhat disappointed we drive back and decide to drive to Col de Izoard, so that Pepijn can see the area.
Already at Arvieux we see that it is starting to snow and we encounter cars under the snow. Once on the way up we get more and more trouble with the snow. A snowplow passes us and the man explains that we are not allowed to continue because the Col is closed!
We return to the Gîte, have lunch there and plan the campaign. We decide to go to the Col via Briancon to walk in the snow.
It is still raining at Cervieres, but at Laus, a little further on, the precipitation turns into snow. Here we can easily park and start several cross-country and snowshoe trails. We enjoy walking in the snow here. What a present! It is a real winter wonderland! Didn’t expect the weather to turn like this.
After a lovely fresh afternoon we return to our house. Turn on the stove, have a glass of wine and play games.
Via Ferrata at Ceillac and Tour de Cinq Cabanes….or not
Pepijn rented a Via Ferrata set for Milou yesterday afternoon in Guillestre. He has his own set with him and together they are going to do a Via Ferrata at Ceillac. Milou has never done this before, but thinks she can…and it is!
Fortunately it is dry and they have the route to themselves. It is a nice varied route and they enjoy the view and the challenging parts!
In the afternoon we want to do the Tour de Cinq Cabanes. The starting point is near Clement sur Durance, accessible via a jeep road through a beautiful valley. According to the guide, the road is particularly bad in the last part, but we notice that the road has been badly affected by the heavy rain of recent days. Every time we go very carefully through the potholes and over the many bumps, but some are just way too deep. We finish about 3 kilometers before the starting point and park there.
We decide to go to the starting point in the hope of being able to do something of the actual walk. But the road goes up quite steeply so once at the starting point we can no longer do the walk unfortunately. There just isn’t enough time. Pepijn and Silas still walk to the first large waterfall, while we quietly walk back. Name games and a break with a warm cup of tea make the afternoon pleasant, but we are disappointed.
The last day…in the dream valley of Dormillouse
The next day it rains incessantly at first, but it becomes dry around noon. We drive to the Vallée de Freissinieres. Here Pepijn does a challenging and long Via Ferrata, while we continue to the parking lot. A short walk to Dormillouse and to Lac du Fangeas starts at the car park. Silas and Joost do the latter and go up at a decent pace. Milou and I take it easy and walk for 45 minutes to Dormillouse. This village can only be reached on foot and is quite closed, especially in winter.
The walk to Lac du Fangeas runs through a narrow valley. Two rough rivers run here. Most of the trail itself runs through a stream! Once at the lake, Joost and Silas have magnificent views of the mountains such as Le Piquet (2750 m) and Pic de Rochelaire (3108 m). The lake itself is a bit disappointing, but the surroundings are great!
Milou and I walk towards the village but first make a loop around it. We cross the river Torrent de Chichin and climb a little higher. At first it is still beautifully clear with a sun, once we reach the village we see that a huge cloud shrouds everything in mist! We walk through the village. Near the church is the old school building, which is now a gîte. A flock of sheep grazes right through the village and our path continues through the flock again….a farmer shows us the way, in an unmistakable (and not too friendly) way.
Satisfied we return to the car, where Joost and Silas also arrive not much later. At the gîte, Pepijn also appears to have had an exciting afternoon. Nice to end this week like this!
Back home…. the Col du Lautaret
In recent days we have seen that several mountain passes are closed. We drive via Briancon to Grenoble and are very relieved that the Col du Lautaret is still open. Where we had a view of the glaciers of the Ecrins on the way there, we now see snow everywhere! A beautiful view.
We drive back to the Netherlands in one day. We left at 8 am and 14 hours later we are back home. A tough day, but doable. We can look back on a wonderful week. The Écrins and the Queyras are both regions that I definitely want to discover again in the future. There are still so many walks I want to do there! In short, our visit leaves you wanting more! Oh revoir!