Chamonix Summer Report Hiking in Le Buet & Fete des Guides
13th August 2012
There are many hikes that you can do in the valley without having to take a lift that don't compromise on the view. One of my favourites is the Refuge Pierre a Berard hike in Le Buet, easy to get to either by car or public transport as you start from Le Buet train station car park.
Cross over the road from the car park (see map) and there is a small path right opposite that leads off into the woods, shortly you'll come out into a meadow of cows and wild flowers, follow the signs for the Cascade du Berard and take the path that heads upwards through a small hamlet of very pretty old stone chalets. After 10 minutes or so you'll come to the cascade, which is a waterfall that thunders down over the rocks and under a bridge next to a small café; you used to be able to go behind the waterfall but this has since been blocked off in case the massive supporting slab of rock falls onto our heads, apparently it was getting a bit wobbly...
From the cascade you continue along the trail and go deeper into the woods with the river running alongside you to the right before coming out into a beautiful valley, I don't remember crossing over it but somehow the river is now on your left. There is about half an hour or so of uphill, not too steep but it does get tiring after a while so it comes as a relief once the trail flattens out a bit. The trail is very easy to follow as there are no deviations from the route and from about 2/3 of the way along you can see the Berard hut at the far end of it.
This trail is part of the Aiguilles Rouge nature reserve and is a great place for spotting wildlife, I've seen marmots and massive birds of prey here. We once got very excited as we thought we had seen a lynx but it turned out to be the large scruffy cat that lives at the refuge. During high season (16th June - 29th September) the Refuge Pierre a Berard is open for drinks and snacks, so you can travel light and buy lunch once you are there. The refuge itself was built in 1953 but looks as though it has been there as long as the mountains themselves, it is built into the valley and is wedged under a large slab of rock that protects it from avalanches during the winter. It is the starting point for a number of other hikes that climb up and over into the surrounding valleys, there are 40 beds here for overnight hikers but you must book in advance.
From the train station starting point it took us about 2 hours there and about 1h30 return, going at a gentle rambling pace and with a stop for lunch. It was still mid-afternoon by this point so we decided to call in at Argentiere on the way back and treat ourselves to a spot of afternoon tea at the Office Bar, mmm cheesecake with a chewy fudgey base and a big splodge of tangy wild berries on top.
This Wednesday 15th is the annual Fete des Guides, a celebration of mountain guides past and present whose expertise enables us to get up into the high mountains and experience amazing adventures. Most of the fun takes place at Les Gaillands from 3pm with childrens' entertainment, live music, rescue displays and the chance to try out the new accro-park for free. At 9:30pm there will be a big sound and light display with the guides taking centre stage on the climbing wall, followed by a firework display and more live music. The weather forecast for Wednesday is actually quite good, which will make it the first time in recent years that the Fete has not been washed away by a monsoon to rival those of South Asia. There will also be a BBQ and after-party at Le Vert, so you can carry on the revelry late into the night.
Have a look at our What's On Calendar for full details of the Fete des Guides and other events taking place in Chamonix this week.
Conditions at time of reporting:
- Date of last snowfall
- Depth of last snowfall
- Altitude of lower slopes
- Altitude of upper slopes
- Altitude of highest temperature