Monday, 14 August 2017

Ecrins 2017: Monday: Pilatte

[Index] Up at 8 with M to breakfast, then as the children are coming down we leave to walk down to the station to pick up the car. This year, even though I'm expecting it, we get the same comedy of errors as last time: M. Avis is not there; after a phone call we talk to his colleague on the phone ("Oh yes of course he has been there..."; in French naturally but M can do that; "...just ask at the station".) So we ask M. Guichet who assures us that he knows who we mean but no, he hasn't been around. So we relax over a coffee in the cafe and Mr Avis turns up. Fine; we have a car; not particularly expansive for four people even though I didn't go for the minimum; but it fits us  including Daniel's rather large rucksac. But he is carrying all the bulky stuff for other people.

And so off, to the Col du Lauteret. Which is, as I expected, full of people - the horror - so we go down a little ways before stopping to look at the mountains. It was a bit like this... That's probably the Meije in the clouds, and the glacier du Lauteret; but I'm not too familiar with this side.


We stop at La Grave for a coffee, and note the teleferique, and continue down past Lac du Chambon on the emergency road, and at Bourg d'Oisans turn up to la Berade about 2 pm. Top tip: use the village car-park, it is more convenient that squeezing in just where the pedestrian bit starts. Views and weather have been lovely all the way but we've been in the car just a bit too long so it's nice to walk through the village. The old Hotel des Glaciers is indeed shut - M and I were last here '92 or '93 I think, but I won't bore you with the olde dayes. We find a resto for lunch and orientate ourselves and then head off. I've, errm, slightly got my walk-in times wrong; for some reason the idea that all huts are 2 hours from the road is in my mind, but the official Pilatte time is 3:30 and we'll be slower than that.


Here we are striding off, full of enthusiasm. Soon we hit a notice that says something along the lines of "storms. the bridge is out, take the left side of the valley". But which left? We're on the left, unless they mean in the downhill sense... after some confusion, we go back to the village and wait for the Office du Tourisme to open at three, and although there is more confusion they really do mean the other bank. It eventually turns out that the same notice has been stuck everywhere, including on the "good" side.


And, errm, yes: the bridge really is down (this is the one just before the Refuge du Carrelet. Remarkably, a few days later when we came down it was back together again). Alas the path on the other side includes 100 m of extra height gain and is somewhat rougher, so all of that has added an hour to our walk-in, so we're in danger of missing dinner, zut alors! Fortunately the views are gorgeous, if you like that sort of thing.


This is the view looking back, as we finally start to climb up the valley side towards Pilatte. The building centre is the Ref du Carrelet (shut this season along with the Temple Ecrins way above it); la Berade is back where the valleys meet beyond (here is a distant but closer view, from on the way down). From around about the same place we can look up towards Pilatte, Gioberney and les Bans (so actually we haven't started the real climb up yet):


Pilatte isn't quite visible from this picture; it is on the rock shoulder that continues the leftwards sweep of scree, outlined against the glacier. Gioberney isn't visible either quite but is sort-of the rightish skyline. When we get to where you see the river ending, sort of, we find the crossing that would lead to the other bank. It is indeed washed out, but would have been crossable, probably. Anyway, courage, onwards and upwards to dinner!


Some of the path is a little rough. Some bits feel like the whole mountainside is on the verge of falling off. We wend our way slowly through this gargantuan landscape and arrive at 8; fortunately, they have held dinner for us.M, tired, heads off to bed early; D, E and I survive until 9; breakfast tomorrow will be at 5.

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