Fell Running To Refuge de L'Arpont (2309m) - Vanoise National Park - French Alps

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Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Fell Running To Refuge de L'Arpont (2309m) - Vanoise National Park - French Alps

With most of our outdoor activities taking place on the bike this autumn, it was a nice change to slip our fell running shoes on for the first time since leaving La Berarde several weeks earlier. Our destination this time was the Refuge de l'Arpont, a mountain refuge nestled on the fringe of the Vanoise National Park. Although we'd never visited the Vanoise before, it was a place we had heard much about and so were excited to sample it for ourselves.


As with all of the national parks in France, the building of anything within their boundaries is highly controlled which is a good thing. Yet, from what we had heard, the Vanoise still surpassed the others in terms of restricted accessibility. Basically, although there was a long distance hiking trail that weaved in and out of the park, in order to get anywhere beyond the outer edge you have to go a fair distance on foot because the number of roads that come even within striking distance of the parks boundaries are minimal. Again, I consider this a good thing.

Anway, since we happened to be passing around the Vanoise in order to go over the Col de l'Iseran we decided to have a quick flick through our various walking  guidebooks to see if there was anything doable nearby and happily discovered that there was indeeed a day walk whose starting point we just happened to be parked in, the village of Termignon. It was like it was meant to be.

The trail itself, from Termignon up to the refuge, involved a 1000 metre climb over a total of 7km, although over two thirds of the climbing was done in a single 2.5km ascent from the Pont du Chatelard. It was tough going. Our guidebook (“100 Hut Walks in the Alps”) suggested it would take around 3 hours to reach the refuge, but since that is the maximum time we ever leave the dogs for at the moment, we decided to head off seperately and each go as fast as we could, with Esther going first. If I hadn't made it after 2 hours I would turn around regardless.

To cut a long story short, we both made it and it was beautiful. The steep part of the climbing was tough, but it was still possibly to keep a steady 'jog' going even though it was uphill, and then the final traverse across the mountainside to the refuge itself was lovely. The views all around were brilliant and with a deep layer of snow covering much of the surrounding rocks it was like travelling through a winter wonderland even though the sun was shining.

As luck would have it we both managed to arrive at the refuge at almost the same time and so got to enjoy a special quarter of an hour sitting in the sun, appreciating the scenery before we each went down at our own pace. Although this walk was only on the very edge of the Vanoise, it was clear to both of us that the terrain felt different from other parts of the Alps. Perhap it was just the time of year and the presence of so much snow, but it definitely felt more peaceful somehow and more remote.

Fingers crossed we get the chance to pass by again soon and try some more walks in the area, perhaps even the multiday tour?











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