Chavanne Vieille

Today we hiked up to Chavanne Vieille, a really old shack sitting right by a gully on the edge of remnants of Glacier Taconnaz. One thing I’ve observed in our hikes is a lot of these shacks exist historically as a shelter for climbers or most likely trekkers or skiers when caught in bad weather.

The interesting thing about this route today is it is also a skiing route with a high level of difficulty and a very avalanche prone area. Couloir Trappier is a route used by some skiers descending in the winter time. It’s about 35 degrees down so more than triple black diamond, eh!

There is a ladder at the end of the Couloir Trapper supposedly which is common in the French Alps mountains. Those are quite scary, remember the ladder up to Col des Rognes? Yikes. Col des Rognes is on the other side of Couloir Trapper. So, with a ladder it is likely that climbers must use it as another route to climb up to Refuge d’Aguille de Gouter – the hut right above Tete Rousse where we camped a couple of weeks ago. I’ll try to dig up some info about that, which is really interesting.

Couloir Trapper is named after a skier – Pierre Trappier, who made the first descent in 1982. Pierre and his wife died while climbing the “bootpacking” or that ladder section in 2008. There is a plaque up the top in his memory.

The climb up to Chavanne Vieille was really steep as well as the descend back down to Le Grange. We hiked through a few to many gullies and crossed a few to many creeks – one was raging.  One thing about hiking with my hunny is that he keeps me calm in really terrifying situations.  I don’t know how he does it but I just listen and do as he says.  His demeanor is calm and extremely focused on what exactly we have to do.  My job is really to do exactly what I am told.  In situations such as climbing up a ladder with a view of a big drop on a mountain, icy glacier melt crossings, brutal storms, snow storms, dehydration…what ever we endure, somehow my hunny keeps me focused to survive the elements.  In the end of each event, I realize I am capable of surviving some very tough situations in the mountains.

(Photo Credit: camptocamp.org) Winter Image

We started our hike up from Les Houches, right after the first bridge before heading down to the train station.  There is a trail there that immediately starts climbing following the glacier melt river on the right.  A long fireroad until the junction which was very hidden.

Along the way throughout the hike we saw a lot of mushrooms in this section of the mountain.  It’s hard not to stop and admire them.

I’ve never seen so many colored mushrooms in one hike!  The rain this week really made them bloom and some were scattered on the trail it was hard to miss.  The variety of mushrooms in the French Alps simply amazes me everytime.

We made it up to the old shack.  It’s built in just rocks with windows and doors.  I peaked in and saw just a bunch of wood and empty cans inside the shack.

We continued on the very narrow and bushy trail towards a gully.  Slippery and steep we lost our way but found our way a few minutes later.  The dense bushes covered the trail pretty good.

We had to cross a couple of bigger creeks and it was so beautiful as the glacier melt ran down the rocks.  We were actually on top of a waterfall as we saw later after heading down the trail a bit.  We were still looking for the hidden glacier…

There is was, the small glacier covered up with rocks and dirt.  It’s the remnants of Glacier Taconnaz so at one point in time, the glacier was lower.  The creek passed through a tunnel looking glacier.  We followed a very narrow and once again bushy trail heading down.  Stopping somewhere on the trail, we looked back and saw the waterfall where we were right above it earlier.  Pretty cool.

More bush whacking and attacked by some stingy leaves.  Gully after gully we traversed down the steep trail.  It’s very steep for about half a mile then eventually connected to a more pleasant wider trail then to a really wide fire road towards Les Grange where we were just a couple of minutes before the bus came.  Great timing!

It’s always so much fun exploring new trails in the French Alps and learning more about certain trails.  There’s always a story behind every trail.  This one did not disappoint.

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