Hiking from l'Echalp to Refuge Viso (2460m) on the GR de Pays du Tour du Pain de Sucre - Tour de Mont Viso

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Wednesday 12 August 2015

Hiking from l'Echalp to Refuge Viso (2460m) on the GR de Pays du Tour du Pain de Sucre - Tour de Mont Viso

Our second big hike in as many days, following our excitement at Col Vieux the previous day, was a long and epic one. Also starting at l'Echalp but this time heading directly along the river Guil the gravel track road climbed very gently for first couple of kilometres until we reached the parking next to la Roche Ecroulee (an enormous boulder lodged in the centre of the river bed and many hikers had driven to start from here). Crossing the river we at first joined the dirt track through forest to pass the Petit du Belvedere providing a perfectly framed image of the tall and distant Mont Viso (3841m) which we enjoyed, before continuing on to cross back to the gravel track that continued up the valley.

After several more kilometres of very gentle climbing, past a herd of cows and spotting numerous marmots, a steeper section of road began with switchbacks that soon delivered us to the roadhead at 2133m. From here Mont Viso was even closer and could be seen clearly, snow-capped and imposing, as we looked along the marvellously unspoiled Guil Valley which couldn't have looked more idyllic if it had come from the mind of an artist.

The path from this point became much steeper, rising the final 300m before traversing quickly to Refuge Viso (2460m) where many hikers were enjoying a well earned rest. We paused only briefly, however, eager to push on ever closer to Mont Viso as we descended slightly towards the Lac Lestio sitting in a bowl of rock right at the very tip of the valley. What an amazing setting. With curved and twisted rock all around clearly displaying the geological tumult that had formed these mountains from the ancient alpine sea bed, we gazed in awe at our surroundings.

But with tiring legs and a long walk home we finally tore ourselves away, this time heading downhill alongside the river Guil in that same idyllic valley we had enjoyed just an hour or so beforehand. When we reached the track the going became much easier and we reflected as we strode onwards how lucky we had been to find such a fine, accessible but remote hut walk as this. In fact, when we had first seen this hut walk in our "100 hut walks in the Alps" guide the previous year we didn't think we would do it since it was so far into the Queyras. However, the way to the starting point was so accessible and the reward so great that we were very glad to have been proved wrong.

Hike done on: 12th August 2015

Starting out alongside the stony river bed of the Guil

After a few kilometres the climbing begins

And a stop for some refreshing melon keeps us going in the hot sun.

This little guy was especially brave and put on a show for some time as we snapped away

The head of the valley and the impressive Mont Viso come into view

And we get our first glimpse of the Refuge Viso in its amazing surroundings

Another stop to enjoy this relaxing marmot

Until we arrive soon afterwards at Refuge Viso

Not a bad place to sit and rest your feet!

After reaching the head of the valley our descent in the picturesque valley begins

With Mont Viso remaining in sight among the gathering clouds. 

We pass a lazy, sunbathing herd of cows around halfway back to Homer.

And sadly bid farewell to the Mont Viso for the day after an epic hike. 

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