Described in our walking guide as “some of the finest highest mountain views in the eastern Ecrins”, our hike last Wednesday certainly lived up to our expectations. Starting out with a steep drive, taking our motorhome higher than it had ever been before, to the car park at Pre Madame Carle (1874m) was a little nerve wracking for us to say the least.
However, the location of the car park and the several hours of extra hiking the drive had saved were well worth it. Stepping out into the morning sun and looking vertically up at cascading waterfalls tumbling off the sheer cliff faces around us was awesome and our new camera was immediately in action. Being able to see a glacier from our 'living room' window was a particularly special experience.
Sadly descending and saying farewell to the view, we passed the refuge again and powered our way down the switchbacks to find ourselves, by early afternoon, back at the paths dividing point. Invigorated by the views and feeling energetic, we decided to ascend again this time towards Glacier Noir. A much quieter and very different path led the way across the top of a precipitous moraine deposited by the ice flows of the past. With a 150m drop on one side and 50m on the other we carefully treaded our way up alongside the dark, rubble strewn surface with deep fissures revealing what was really beneath.
Drizzling rain set in during our descent and we realised that we had timed our day just right, marching swiftly down to the car park feeling exhilarated. The only sad part of the day (other than leaving) was that evidence of the glaciers retreat is so clear to see on the mountainsides. A brief stop in the visitor centre showed us how, in the last 10 years alone the glaciers had retreated hundreds of metres up the mountain and predicted they might be gone completely by 2025! A sad thought after such an awesome day, but it can't take away our fantastic memories of such a memorable hike.
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
Motorhome Base: Pelvoux
Start/ End Point: Car Park at Pre de Madame Carle
Distance Guide: 4km to Refuge de Glacier Blanc from car park (one way)
Time Taken: 6-7 hours
Map: IGN Map 3436ET: Meije-Pelvoux / Parc National Des Ecrins 1:25,000
OR: Rando Editions Carte de Randonnees 'Ecrins' 1:50,000