Day 3: Refuge de la Leisse to Pralognan
Blue sky! The refuge is in a deep valley so there was not sun yet when we got up. Frost on the grass and snow on the mountains! Glorious. And for some reason we got chocolate chip cookies for breakfast. Clearly, today was going to be a Good Day.
Due to the rubbish weather on the previous day, there was hardly anyone and we had the valley to ourselves. After a very smooth and very gradual 400 m descent we crossed the Torrent de la Leisse (using a bridge, this is a very civilised walk). Next was a zigzagging path up to a plateau with a broad stream and dozens of cairns. I’ve just now looked it up – and turns out the French word for cairn is… cairn. Disappointing. We’ll keep calling them Jean-Pierre which I think is a much better name.
We reached the Refuge de Col de la Vanoise well in time for lunch, which was tortilla wraps but this time with peanut butter. We also had a tarte aux myrtilles, courtesy of the refuge.
Then it was time for the first long descent of the GR5(5); 1100 m down to Pralognan. We were back in tourist-country, it seemed like half the population of France had chosen that particular day to hike up to de Col de la Vanoise from Pralognan and were now going back down with us. Can’t blame them. The scenery was outstanding with lakes against a backdrop of dramatic peaks. One of the lakes had stepping stones across.
There was a second refuge about a third of the way down, and from there the hike became slightly less amazing (ski lifts, ugh). It was still hot and sunny when we reached Pralognan. It has two or three campsites and we eventually found the cheapest one hidden away behind the huge advertisements for the most expensive one. We also had time to sort through our packs to see what we could send home, and eventually settled on some items of clothing (socks, mostly) and one of the sleeping bags. That is, if we could sleep together under one bag.