Hi everyone, and welcome to the second post in the series from my summer visit to Méribel. Last time it was all about using two wheels, whether on a road bike or mountain bike. This time I was slipping on the hiking trainers/boots. As mentioned in the previous post, August this year was an incredibly hot month in France. In the city of Grenoble not that far from Méribel, ten days in a row had daytime temperatures above 35 degrees centigrade, which was a new record. Several times I experienced 38 and 39 degrees when popping down the valley to do a weekly shop.
Thankfully it didn't reach these figures in resort or higher up the mountain, but it was stifling all the same. Although not a great look, a lightweight floppy hat was the go-to piece of headwear. One of our favourite hikes is to aim for the wonderful Refuge du Saut on the edge of the Vanoise National Park. The River Doron features strongly and you can see on the above photo that the colour of this water is milky. This is caused by the melt water from the Glacier du Gebroulaz at the head of the Méribel. There's a lovely cooling breeze that comes off this glacial melt by the way!? If you ever make it to the top of the Mont Vallon in winter on the ski lift, you get a wonderful view of this beautiful glacier. If you are a comfortable red piste skier, I'd strongly recommend a trip up the Mont Vallon bubble for this view, as well as the ski back down again.
Finding the route for this hike is pretty straightforward. It starts from the edge of the village of Méribel-Mottaret, and passes the beautiful Lac de Tueda. Then there's a section that I call the 'Gut Buster' that's quite sharp and gives you a great workout, for about 30 to 40 minutes. At the top of the 'Gut Buster', after a deserved flapjack and guzzle of water, you continue south towards the Refuge du Saut.
On the way there but slightly out of sight is the iconic tiny Lac des Fées (the Fairy Lake), well worth taking the trouble to sniff out.
As skiers, most of us will have our favourite ski pistes. You know these pistes, we search them out the first couple of days of a ski holiday. This hike to the Refuge du Saut is our equivalent when hiking. A classic Méribel summer treat.
Another hike that we took was above the quaint ski resort called Pralognan. As the eagle flies, it's only the other side of the Courchevel Valley, but it feels like a different world. It only takes about 50 minutes to drive there from Méribel, which is what we did (with the air-con on full blast). Pralognan is sometimes described as a mini Chamonix. This area is also on the edge of the Vanoise National Park, and has several glaciers including the Grande Casse which is visible from our 3 Valleys ski area.
There's a hike from the Refuge Les Barmettes (a mountain restaurant in the winter) that is a popular route up to the stunning Lac des Vaches. This lac has a row of steeping stones which allows you to cross. And guess what? It is soo pretty it will knock your hiking socks off.......
Harriet and I started this hike just after 8.30 am due to the high temperatures, and initially thought we would turn back after having a snack overlooking the lac. Whilst we were relaxing, I took a look at the IGN map (the French equivalent of an OS map), and noticed we weren't 'that' far from reaching the Refuge de la Vanoise. I was last there during a ski touring trip fifteen odd years ago. I remember the area being incredibly pretty. I was torn between suggesting we head up there, or play it safe with the high temperatures and turn back to head home and beat the heat.
Well, Harriet was happy either way, so I decided to risk it. Unfortunately this meant we were hiking through the 'Death Zone' of between midday and two o'clock. Although we took shelter for a cooling drink in the brilliant Refuge, the heat and strong sun took a vicelike grip on me, and I was a bit too close to having heat stroke on the way back to the car! A stunning walk, that was rescued by Harriet when she provided an emergency can of Coke from her rucksack. Not to mention the soft drink and huge bowl of cooling ice cream at the Refuge Les Barmettes.
That'll do for now regarding the fantastic hiking. I'll post again soon and include some of my favourite photos that I took whilst on holiday, including some of these cheeky chaps. Do come back soon, and in the meantime don't forget to Live With Passion. Martin.