Hiking to Les Tetes (2044m) from l'Argentière-la-Bessée

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Monday 5 October 2015

Hiking to Les Tetes (2044m) from l'Argentière-la-Bessée

After moving from Guillestre to l'Argentière-la-Bessée yesterday for a fantastic afternoon visiting a local, artisan bee-keeper, we had decided to stay the night in l'Argentière-la-Bessée and get our hiking boots on the next morning. Using a trail map for the area that we'd picked up the night before we chose a route somewhat at random, heading straight out of the town towards the nearby summit of Les Tetes at 2044m (around 1000m of climbing). We estimated this would take us around 4-5 hours, just right considering a slightly uncertain afternoon weather forecast. However, what we didn't know was that we were about to enjoy such an unexpectedly wonderful day of hiking, with countless amazing views of high mountains, glaciers and valleys all beneath a blue, sunny sky with just a few clouds on only the very highest peaks.

Heading out of l'Argentière-la-Bessée from the southern end of the village the initial trail towards La Blachiere took us on old tracks through small mountain hamlets and orchards, with us stopping a few times en route to gather walnuts beneath the frequent walnut trees that were dropping their bounty all over the trail. The route was still steep though and we were soon in just our base layers as we headed towards the mouth of the Vallée du Fournel in the direction of the popular silver mines tourist attraction that l'Argentière-la-Bessée is so well known for. However, shortly before reaching the mines we veered northwards onto a smaller trail at around 1310m altitude to begin the real climbing.

From this point on we spent the next hour or so zig-zagging up the steep mountainside on an initially stony track that soon entered the forests that towers over the village of l'Argentière-la-Bessée. With a warm sun and just a few clouds on the horizon we were soon pretty hot ourselves as the gradient remained demanding throughout. However, as the trees began to thin out the view back along the Durance valley to distant plateau of Mont-Dauphin, Guillestre and the hills beyond, including the Ski Station Risoul and road towards Col de Vars, was wonderful.

Our target summit for the day, Les Tetes, was in sight for much of the ascent appearing as a rocky outcrop marked by a moody cross mounted close to the summit. After what felt like lots of hard work we emerged from the trees to round a grassy plateau and see the final hundred metres of so of ascent ahead of us.

Working our way up that final approach we could see a collection of rocky outcrops ahead, which we reached after around 2 1/2 hours of hiking in total, emerging onto the summit to be presented with a marvellous sight. To the west the we could see the summits of the Ecrins National Park and the impressive and recognisable tongue of Glacier Blanc, to the east the rocky peaks in Italy, to the south the mountains of the Queyras Regional Park and to the north Briancon and the mountains beyond. It was a captivating panorama.

Settling down for a quick snack followed by a doze in the warm sun as wispy clouds drifted overhead we reflected on the fact that having set off with very little idea what to expect we really couldn't believe our luck.

After a while at the top we began to head down once more, taking a different route northwards this time to pass the Lac des Charbonnieres before joining a dirt track eastwards that sloped gently downwards until we picked up a steeper trail that ran southwards back towards our starting point.

Arriving back at the Centre Ville after around 6 hours on the trail, including all of the stops and walnut collection, we felt tired but very satisfied and fortunate to have discovered such an amazing route right from our back door.

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