©Bessans juillet 2020|Alban PERNET
Breaking the "3,000" barrier in hiking

Breaking the “3,000” barrier in hiking

The solution to the heat wave? Altitude!
To reach the coolness at an altitude of more than 3000 metres while hiking (without ropes or crampons) is quite possible in Haute Maurienne Vanoise.

107 peaks rise to an altitude of almost 3,000 metres in this vast Alpine territory. These peaks, a little closer to the stars, offer a unique depth of field on a natural world of stunning beauty inviting to action as well as to contemplation.

A first "high mountain" experience for a lifetime memory

The exhilaration of the peaks is not reserved for the high ropes, equipped with ropes, ice axes and carabiners.

In Haute Maurienne Vanoise, there are “easy” 3000m summits accessible to experienced hikers but which can be reached with the family on well-marked paths.

Whether you are a sportsman or a gentler hiker, the beauty of the landscape is what counts. Reaching the symbolic 3000 mark is also a first experience of the high mountains that offers a lifetime of memories.

Le Mont Thabor, Valfréjus - 3 178 m

From Valfréjus or Le Lavoir, the Thabor massif is a hiker’s paradise. A wild itinerary winding between lakes and scree allows you to reach a superb summit where the mineral landscape becomes lunar, and the panorama exceptional on prestigious summits: Grandes Jorasses, Cervin, Grande Casse, Mont Viso…

The Natura 2000 site of Mont Thabor invites you to come and breathe in the invigorating air of its natural area where fauna and flora are combined to perfection.

A very accessible 3000 m: Mont Thabor remains mysterious and arouses curiosity by its authentic and wild character. Moreover, with its remarkable geological history, it is a mine of natural treasures. Let yourself be surprised!

Please note: although the hike is not particularly difficult, it is quite long (count on a long day out and back). The easiest way to do this hike over two days is to spend the night at the Thabor refuge.

Departure/arrival : parking du Lavoir, Valfréjus
Difference in altitude: +1255 m/- 1255 m
Distance : 20 km

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La Pointe de l'Observatoire - 3 016 m

A hike with no technical difficulty taking you to the Pointe de l’Observatoire via the Col d’Aussois (2,916m).
A “real summit”, well pointed at the top, a nice “observatory” post on the valleys of Aussois, the big summits of the Vanoise and the Mont-Blanc. It marks the passage between the Tarentaise and Maurienne valleys.

Apart from the off-trail part to reach the Pointe from the Col d’Aussois, the path is well marked and not technical. The itinerary starts from the dam of the lake of Plan d’Amont and continues on the peaceful plateau of Fond d’Aussois, in the heart of the preserved environment of the Vanoise National Park, an ideal place to discover the fauna (especially the marmots) and the flora.

The refuge du Fond d’Aussois, at the end of the valley, awaits you for a gourmet break before climbing to the pass and then the summit.

Departure/arrival: Plan d’Amont car park, Aussois
Difference in altitude: +1000 m/-1000 m
Distance : 11 km

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Le Rateau d'Aussois - 3 131 m

The summit of the Rateau offers a fairly easy 3000m climb in the middle of summer.
The majority of the circuit passes along a perfectly signposted high altitude path.
From the car park at the Plan d’Amont dam, head towards the Pont de la Sétéria (2,206 m) then follow the GR5 which climbs steeply to a landing (the beautiful “Plateau du Mauvais Berger” with its grassy carpet dotted with erratic boulders, a marmot’s playground) and then continues via several switchbacks towards the Col de la Masse (2,923 m).
Continue south to the summit. On this final ascent, the path is not marked but numerous cairns guide you to the summit where you can enjoy a panoramic view of Mont Blanc.

Departure / arrival : Parking du Plan d’Amont, Aussois
Difference in altitude: +1100 m/- 1100m
Distance : 11.5 km

Le Signal du Petit Mont-Cenis - 3 162 m

A very nice “3000” between France and Italy.

From the Petit Mont-Cenis refuge car park, head towards the Col de Sollières (2639m) and follow the footpath towards the ridge in the direction of the summit.

A commemorative plaque on the Signal du Petit Mont-Cenis pays tribute to it as a historic summit. Alpine hunter units fought bloody battles here in April 1945. A peace trail winds through lush meadows and strangely eroded terrain.

At the top, admire the wide Col du Mont-Cenis and its large lake. To the south, you can discover the peaks of the Dents d’Ambin. To the North, the Vanoise glaciers and the Dent Parrachée dominate the panorama.

Departure / arrival : Car park of the Petit Mont-Cenis refuge, Val Cenis
Difference in altitude: +1040 m/-1040 m
Distance : 12 km

Col et Pointe des Fours - 3 072 m

A 3000m without too much difference in altitude? The Pointe des Fours!
The start is at nearly 2,700 m, at the Pont de la Neige, just below the Col de l’Iseran. From the car park, the path is perfectly marked. It climbs quickly at first and then more gently to the Grand Fond lake. The Col des Fours is just above and all that remains is to follow the ridge to the Pointe.

At the entrance of the Vanoise National Park, the Pointe des Fours invites you to a beautiful and short hike in a high mountain mineral universe. It is not unusual to come across chamois and marmots.

An ultra fast 3000, ideal for a limited time slot. Be careful though, there is still a lot of névé until mid-July and you need to use special equipment to get over it. Moreover, the final passage between the Col des Fours and the Pointe requires you to put your hands down.

Start / Finish : Pont de la Neige, route de l’Iseran, Bonneval sur Arc.
Difference in altitude: +550 m/-550 m
Distance : 6 km

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Mountain safety

Even if the proposed hikes are easily accessible, the high mountains remain a delicate environment in which each person engages under his own responsibility.

These hikes require a minimum of equipment:

  • Hiking shoes
  • Socks and a spare T-shirt + warm clothes in the rucksack (even in a heatwave, temperatures at 3000m can be very cool)
  • Food and at least two litres of water per person
  • Sunscreen, cap, IGN map, GPS and charged phone

These high altitude summits are accessible for “classic” hiking in July/August/September (residual snow may still be present at the beginning of July). Remember to inform someone of your itinerary and let them know when you are back. Finally, for these high altitude hikes, the earlier you leave, the better: you avoid finishing the hike at nightfall and you limit the risk of thunderstorms at the end of the day (always possible in the mountains when it is very hot).

To be 100% safe, don’t hesitate to call on the services of a mountain leader: professionals know how to guide you in your technical progress.

Get close to the 3,000 mark and take in the sights!

Le Grand Méan2 876 m

A grandiose hike to the glacial lake of Grand Méan which offers a spectacle worthy of the greatest expeditions.

From the hamlet of l’Ecot (2,000 m) above Bonneval sur Arc, a path rises steadily to the splendid Cirque des Evettes and the eponymous refuge.

Built by the architect Jean Prouvé in the 1970s, this building with its atypical design allows hikers to take a gourmet break near the marmots and ibexes.

One last effort and the Grand Méan lake appears at 2,876 m altitude, revealing a landscape at the end of the world. The glacier ends abruptly with an impressive ice cliff that plunges directly into the clear waters where icebergs float…

Surrounded by peaks of over 3000m, it is an unforgettable sight!

La Pointe et les Lacs de Lanserlia2 909 m

A less frequented route than the classic climbs over the Col de Lanserlia. The off-trail part is not very difficult and the route forms a complete loop.
The Antecime 2886 spectacularly dominates the Plan du Lac and the Rochers de Lanserlia, a veritable explosion of ruinous towers and bell towers in a detrital setting.
The lakes, which are very well known, are splendid in the early morning when they reflect the surrounding mountains, including the formidable South face of the Grande Casse, over 1,700 m high, one of the most imposing in the Alps.

A wild hike in the heart of the preserved environment of the Vanoise National Park from the Bellecombe car park above Val Cenis Termignon.
At the foot of the summit lookout which is the Pointe de Lanserlia, the three lakes of Lanserlia with their curiously different colours, are nestled in a cirque covered with beautiful alpine grass with the imposing Grand Roc Noir (3,582 m) and the Pointe du Vallonet (3,372 m) in the background.

La Pointe de Tierce2 973 m

Located at the entrance to the Avérole valley and the Ribon valley, the Pointe de Tierce offers an exceptional 360° panorama.
The view over the Avérole valley is breathtaking: the Pointe de Charbonnel (3,752 m), the Bessanèse (3,592 m), the Albaron (3,637 m), the Pointes de l’Ouillarse (3,435 m), the Ouille Allegra (3,130 m).

A mythical summit with its chapel and its cross! Every year, on 16 July, a pilgrimage takes place to the chapel of Notre-Dame du Mont-Carmel: writings locate the origin of this high mountain chapel before 1446, certainly one of the oldest in Europe.
The cross located 50 metres below the chapel overlooking the village of Bessans was erected to protect it from avalanches in winter.

From Bessans, take the track that leads to the Ribon valley and turn left at the Sainte-Anne oratory-shelter. The path first crosses a forest of larches and then a sheep pasture. The whole path is narrow and steep. An unforgettable hike with a view of all the great summits of the area.