We’ve had a few little flurries over the past few days but nothing quite like this; big fat snowflakes, thick white tree branches and dropping temperatures can only mean one thing - WINTER!!!
Up in Vaudagne there is a winter wonderland to be explored and today we had it all to ourselves. Starting off from the hiking signpost on Route des Bouchards we took a sharp left onto the little track towards Charousse. The snow here was covering the ground but was only a couple of centimetres thick and easy to manage in hiking boots.
Heading upwards into the forest, we climbed a gentle path alongside a river until we reached the clearing where a little cluster of old chalets huddle together. I’ve only ever been here in summer when it is a beautiful sight, full of wildflowers. It’s just as magical in winter, with icicles hanging from the eaves and thick blankets of snow covering the wooden beams.
Emerging from the other end of Charousse we followed the path round to the right and continued climbing. We had planned to take the next turn-off and circle back round to Vaudagne but we were so carried away by tramping through the fresh snow that we decided to head a bit higher, and followed the signpost straight on towards Les Baux.
From here the path widened out into a 4x4 track lined with big snow-laden pine trees on either side. The snow was getting deeper but was so light and fresh that we could easily wade through it. After a few hundred metres the path became narrower and steeper, the forest became denser and we were starting to get a bit warm inside our layers of winter clothes!
We weren’t really sure where the path was taking us, or what we would find when we got to Les Baux, but we were hoping that we could loop round and turn our route into a circuit back to Vaudagne. However, the path kept getting steeper and narrower with not much in the way of signposts to give us a clue. Eventually after a couple of hundred metres the path levelled out and we found ourselves at a signpost proclaiming to be at the heart of the thriving metropolis of Les Baux: population = about a dozen trees and probably a lot of squirrels.
We continued on for a little bit, still hoping for a loop back round to where we’d started, but after clambering over some fallen trees and skidding down some snowy banks we decided to turn back the way we came. The snow was now coming so heavily that our footprints were getting covered over within minutes!
We mosied our way back down to just before the Charousse chalets and took the turn-off that we had originally planned to take, signposted for Col de la Forclaz and Le Grand Prarion. The path was a lot flatter by this point and the snow was coming down thick and fast; it had progressed from tiny little flakes to great big fat ones that you could catch on your tongue (not that we tried, we’re far too grown up for that nonsense).
By following the signposts for Vaudagne we were able to circle back round to where we started in about 40 minutes or so, finishing up beside a field of lovely big woolly horses munching on hay and looking like a scene from a Christmas episode of Countryfile.
All in all, our snowy stroll took us about 2 hours and covered just over 7km. This would be an excellent hike to do later in the season with snowshoes on; hopefully finishing up at Col de Voza for a vin chaud or two.
Location: Chamonix - Les Houches
Activities: Hiking / Walking