The Col du Lautaret - A Taste of the Ecrins - Cycling and Hiking from our base at 2056m

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Thursday, 14 August 2014

The Col du Lautaret - A Taste of the Ecrins - Cycling and Hiking from our base at 2056m

Col de Laurichard, Ecrins National Park
Bad weather set in on hard in Pelvoux on Wednesday evening and looked set to stay for a while so we decided to head out of the Ecrins National Park temporarily on Thursday morning, driving back to Briancon to consider our options. From here we could either head east and then north towards the Vanoise National Park or continue further west to visit the more northerly peaks of the Ecrins National Park.



Glacier du Lautaret, Ecrins National Park, France, Alps
After our awesome hike the day before we decided to go for the second option and stay in the incredible Ecrins National Park, however this would mean tackling the road over Col du Lautaret at 2056m, higher than we had taken the van before. Fortunately the road turned out to be relatively gentle and beautiful, never exceeding 5%. We arrived at the col by mid-afternoon just as the sunshine started to return to the area to be confronted by the sight of a magnificent glacier dominating the skyline and surrounded by snow-capped peaks.



Although we hadn't planned to stop here at all, a quick visit to the information centre revealed that there were several great hiking trails passing through the col plus a shortish cycle ride up to the famous Col du Galibier! Seeing a parking area full of motorhomes nearby we quickly decided to stay put and wasted no time in throwing our hiking gear back on to squeeze in an evening hike before the sun set. Aiming to get a closer look at the Glacier du Lautaret (as we now knew it to be called), we hiked west from the col following the red/white markings of the GR54, looking ever upwards to see the massive icy surface far above us. Following the hillside round we turned south into the valley, revealing a roaring river hundreds of metres below and the the scarred surface of the glacier across the void.



Glacier du Lautaret, Ecrins National Park, France, Alps
We hiked on for an hour or so towards the Refuge de l'Alpe du Villar d'Arene (2077m), following a narrow but level path that traversed the hillside at around 2100m in the chilly evening sunshine, looking towards the distant, snowy peaks the Ecrins National Park until the lengthening shadows told us it was time to return to the motorhome. Having woken up with no idea where we were heading we felt very we felt very lucky to have chosen this route.

Walk Information:
Motorhome Base: Col du Lautaret - opposite Information Centre
Start/ End Point: Col du Lautaret Park Information Centre
Distance Guide: approx 6 km to Refuge de L'Alpe du Villar d'Arene (one way)
Time Taken:  3-4 hours
Level: Moderate
Map: IGN Map 3436ET: Meije-Pelvoux / Parc National Des Ecrins 1:25,000
OR: Rando Editions Carte de Randonnees 'Ecrins' 1:50,000


En route to Col de Laurichard, Ecrins National Park, France, Alps
The next morning, after enduring a freezing cold night at over 2000m (woolly hats in bed cold!!) we woke up early and were back in our hiking boots just as the sun was hitting the slopes. This time we started upwards almost right from our back door exploring the reserve naturelle du Combeynot, heading towards the Col de Lurichard at 2654m and looking over the valley directly opposite the Glacier Lautaret. Despite the morning chill we soon warmed up on the rocky path and arrived at the jagged col a little after 11 to be treated to a spectacular view. Despite some cloud cover, from our lofty viewpoint we could see for miles into the Ecrins, revealing lots of distant glaciers nestled amongst 4000m peaks topped with thick snowfields, plus the gigantic Glacier Lautaret just across the valley below. It was awesome.



Col de Laurichard, Ecrins National Park, France, Alps
We sat for some time just trying to absorb the spectacle before us as other visitors came and went, until finally we dragged ourselves away by early afternoon. Descending from such an awesome view is always a little sad, but the warming sunshine and the view over to the Peak of the Galibier and the ridgeline extending from it in the distance was good compensation.  We felt very lucky to have enjoyed this unexpected stop, reminding us it's best to let the places we visit and the people we meet guide our steps.

Walk Information:
Motorhome Base: Col du Lautaret - opposite Information Centre
Start/ End Point: Col du Lautaret Park Information Centre
Distance Guide: approx 3.5 km to Col de Laurichard (one way)
Time Taken: 3 hours
Level: Moderate
Map: IGN Map 3436ET: Meije-Pelvoux / Parc National Des Ecrins 1:25,000
OR: Rando Editions Carte de Randonnees 'Ecrins' 1:50,000

Click here for 7 reasons to visit the Ecrins National Park

Click here for details of 6 amazing hikes in the Ecrins National Park

Click here to see our other walks in the French Alps


Ecrins National Park, France, Alps
Nearing Refuge de l'Alpe du Villar d'Arene

Glacier du Lautaret, Ecrins National Park, France, Alps
Glacier du Lautaret

Ecrins National Park, France, Alps
Following part of the GR54

Ecrins National Park, France, Alps
Walking part of the GR54 towards Refuge de l'Alpe du Villar


Ecrins National Park, France, Alps
Heading up to Col de Laurichard 2654m

Ecrins National Park, France, Alps
Heading up to Col de Laurichard from Col du Lautaret

Col de Laurichard, Ecrins National Park, France, Alps
View northwards from Col de Laurichard 2654m


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