Day 5: Refuge de Péclet-Polset to Valfréjus
We were up bright and early! Refuge breakfasts are usually small and Péclet-Polset’s was no exception. Perhaps they do it so people don’t linger. Anyway, the day started with a climb to the highest point on the GR55, the 2796 m Col de Chavière. The last part of the climb was across snow fields and over boulders with some scree at the very end.
From the col there was an amazing view back towards the Mont Blanc. We wanted a photo of the two of us with the Mont Blanc but the hiker we gave the camera to didn’t really get that last bit. Shame, but it’s still a nice photo.
The descent to Modane from the col was nearly 1800 m; longer than anything we’d done before. Still, we were getting the hang of this. The packs even seemed lighter than they were a few days previously. All in all, the descent was surprisingly easy on the knees. There were some beautiful waterfalls next to the path, although we were disappointed to find that the Source du Vin was basically just a normal water spring. False advertising.
After nearly 1000 m of descent we lost the path and somehow ended up in the middle of a field of stinging nettles. We’re still not sure how we managed that. We got out of this situation by walking straight through the nettles until we hit the road at Polset. From there we zigzagged down to Modane, which we reached shortly after lunch. We’d originally planned to camp near Modane but we decided against it because a) it was super early, b) we were feeling fine, c) it would be good to shave some time off tomorrow’s hike as it would be longer than the guidebook stage and d) Modane may just be the ugliest town in France. First, however, we visited the post office so we could send the second sleeping bag and the socks home. We dropped by the supermarket as well (there’s a big one in Fourneaux, just west of Modane). Valfréjus can be reached both from Modane and from Fourneaux. Both paths are officially GR5. Since we already were in Fourneaux, we went from there. They were doing some road construction work in the woods above Fourneaux so there were excavators everywhere and the path had been rerouted. Still, routefinding was no problem because they had put up new signs. It was steep, though. However, we were almost flying. My pack was suddenly more than 2 kg lighter. Jasper’s was roughly the same weight, but he’s a lot bigger than I am plus he could feel his arms without additional shoulder padding so we thought it was fair that the load-lightening should apply mostly to my pack. We also kept thinking we were almost in Valfréjus with the result that we were almost running the entire 500 m climb, knocking nearly an hour off the guidebook time.
We stayed at the gîte in Valfréjus but didn’t eat there because we really, really wanted to have a pizza. Luckily, Valfréjus is one of those ghastly ski resorts with tourist shops and pizza places.