Accommodations - La Chapelle
d'Abondance to the Chamonix Valley
La Chapelle d'Abondance
There are many lovely, fairly priced hotels in La Chapelle d'Abondance,
which is only a 3 hour hike from the Refuge of Bise and less than
5hours from the Dent d'Oche. If you wish to stay in a hotel, and
eat a multi-course dinner for not too much money, this is a good
town to do it in. A gîte d'étape is available as well.
Where in the world to sleep the next night?
The next day presents a lodging problem for purists who do not want to stray from the GR5. The first refuge on the GR5 is at the Col de Bassachaux, namely the Refuge de L'auberge de Haute Bise, open from mid-June to mid-September (tel. 04 50 76 73 74, gardian at 06 88 37 97 40). It is a 7 hour walk from La Chapelle d'Abondence. If you are researching this refuge on the Internet, be sure to put quotes around "Haute Bise" to avoid confusion with the Refuge de Bise.
If this seems too many hours to walk, or if the weather is uncooperative, there is a fine Refuge at Trebentaz, open from mid-June to mid-September (refuge 04 50 73 26 17, guardian 06 07 19 49 34). It is a 3 to 3 1/2 hour walk from la Chapelle d'Abondance, branching off the GR5 on a trail to the left at Sur Bayard. The next day, from the refuge, it is about a 4 hour walk to the Col Bassachaux. Thus virtually no walking time is lost, and very little extra elevation is required.
Beyond Bassachaux, there is a very basic Swiss refuge at 8 hours 20 minutes from La Chapelle d'Abondance, or you could continue on to a nice hotel in Les Crosets, 20 minutes off the GR, and a 9 hour walk from your start. Remember, these times do not include rest stops and meals, and are for average walkers. Start early, and with a forecast for good weather, as you will eventually be walking on exposed ridges.
When I was doing this part of the GR5 for the second time, my
easygoing friends insisted on taking a taxi, from La Chapelle d'Abondance to the
Col de Bassachaux (where we had an omelet before setting off), saving
over 6 hours of walking. We then walked on through Switzerland to
the Hotel-Refuge of the Mines d'Or in about 5 hours.
Savor the day walking in Switzerland
walk from Les Crosets in Switzerland back to the French border at
the col de Coux is one of the highlights of the GR5. On dirt roads,
next to lush green meadows filled with flowers, you watch cows grazing,
their over-sized Swiss cowbells clanking, amid a scattering of huge Swiss farmhouses.
At La Pierre you can see a cowbell collection, and watch cheese
being made. You won't want to hurry this part of your vacation.
A most pleasant place to stay
Whichever lodgings you chose the night before, it will be enjoyable
to spend the next night at Les Mines d'Or hotel-refuge-restaurant,
with some private rooms and some dormitories, and which has good
food, good fishing and charm. It is a 6 and 1/2 hour walk from Plaine-Drance or Tinderets,
and about 3 hours from Les Crosets (and only a 20 minute detour from
After the Mines d'Or, there is no need to retrace your steps. You
can cut across the valley floor and climb back up to the GR5 at
Bonnevalette, in about 1 and 1/2 hours. After attaining les Allamands
in an hour and 35 minutes, a boring one and one-half hours' descent
brings you into Samoëns. From Allamands, you have a choice
to walk down the road instead of following GR5. Your total walking
time this day is less than 5 hours. Use your spare time to enjoy Samoëns.
Samoëns is full of Life
The center of Samoëns is colorful and lively, with many restaurants.
There's a gîte d'étape and a choice of hotels. I suggest
staying Samoéns if you can, rather than in Sixt-Fer-à-Cheval,
even though it means a longer walk the following day.Advance reservations
are highly recommended in summer in this frequented town; Samoëns
was full on my first trip through, and I had to take a taxi to Sixt
(and back, so as not to miss any of the trail).
Another long and hard day?
Samoëns, a lovely 2 hour valley walk alongside the Clévieux
River brings you to the foot of the Anterne plateau. You could
spend the night here, in Sixt-Fer à-Cheval in a hotel or
gîte d'étape, and take a taxi or tour to see the famous
view at the Fer-à-Cheval (horseshoe) to the east of the town.
If you do so, your next day will be cut to a reasonable 6 hours
Now it is a 1,100 meter (3,600 foot) grimpe (long, arduous
climb) up to the plateau. The Topo Guide time allocates 3 hours and 5 minutes
for the climb to the Collet d'Anterne, but that is too short: Another half-hour,
at least, is needed if you climb at standard speeds.
After a total walk of 6 hours from Samoéns, you arrive at
the refuge of the Chalets d'Anterne, on the plateau. Should you
stop and call it a day? No! Continue another 2 hours, climbing another
350 meters (1, 100 feet) to cross the Col d'Anterne and descend
to the Refuge de Moëde, where you will have made an advance
reservation. This refuge has a great view and a high mountain ambiance.
Visit Le Brevant, and Descend to Chamonix,
not Les Houches!
a relatively easy, but exciting, 3 hour walk from the Moëde
refuge, that might involve crossing some snow patches, you reach
the Col du Brevant (2,368 m), and your first good view of the Mont Blanc massif.
Many easygoing walkers will be tempted to walk down 45 minutes to
Pranplatz and take the télépherique there down to
Chamonix, bypassing the Brevant summit.
I would recommend, however, that even easygoers continue on to the Peak of Le Brévant, which is only 160 meters higher, though one usually has to cross some snow fields and must climb a short ladder. Arriving at the summit, at 2,526 meters (8,200 feet)
one hasa superlative view of the Chamonix Valley below, the plateau
behind, and more.
To avoid the 1,500 meter (4,900 foot) steep descent on foot, easygoers
can take the télépherique down to Chamonix (via Pranplatz).
But if you are a purist you will continue down on foot, being careful
to tread lightly and with your legs bent, and using trekking poles,
in order to save your knees.
Assuming you are walking down by foot, stop and rest at the Bel
Lachat refuge, and then take my advice to branch left, leaving the
GR5, and descend to Chamonix in 2 1/2 or 3 hours rather than staying on the GR5. Spend some
time in the Chamonix valley (learn why on my page on "Top
Attractions". For those who are "slavishly" following the GR5 bear right at this junction, staying on the GR5 and descend in 2 1/2 or 3 hours to Les
Houches. And then, in order to avoid missing the marvels
of the Chamonix Valley take the train or bus to from Les Houches to Chamonix -- on the same afternoon or the next day!