If all you know about France is Paris, the Eiffel Tower and baguette, you’re really missing out. #sorrynotsorry
There are many other amazing things that France is famous for, from raclette (cheese) to wines to saucisson (cured meat) to the alps. Amongst all these things, we chose the sportiest option (duh!) and took up the challenge of hiking in the beautiful mountain ranges in the east of France.
Location & Geography
Getting to Sallanches can get a bit tricky if you’ve never been to this part of France before. The nearest airport is in Geneva, Switzerland, which is easily accessible by most major international airlines. From there, we rented a car (from the French side to save cost) and drove approximately an hour to reach the Mountain Store. (You can see how close it is to the border of Switzerland in the maps below.)
Credits: Google Maps
Here’s a closer look at the area:
Credits: Google Maps
In the chilly October weather, we didn’t think it would be possible to hunt down the sun for good hiking weather. Fortunately, we were so wrong and were blessed with GREAT (think: sun) weather! Our guide also told us that we were really lucky since it snowed at 3000m altitude the weekend before we arrived.
The Mountain Store is a research and design (R&D) centre for mountain sports (ski, hiking, mountaineering) located at the foot of the Alps in the village of Passy (Haute-Savoie). Not only is it dedicated to R&D, but also has 3,000m2 floor space retailing all the equipment and apparel you need for your mountain sports practice.
Here we met our mountain guide to sort out our gear and equipment in preparation for the 2D1N hiking trip. The most important things that we needed were:
- Good sleeping bags (suitable up to-15°C )
- Ultra light weight tent (as we had to carry it with us the whole time)
- FOOD (why, of course)
- Sun (just look at that gorgeous light)
After stuffing our bags with the most relevant items (very crucial to pack only what you need to avoid carrying the extra weight), we set off in the car to the real starting point of the hike, site de Passy Plaine-Joux, at 1360m above sea level.
The Terrain – Day 1
Day 1 took us through forests, (green) lakes and up some serious rocks. Our quads had the exercise they always needed with some of the steep inclines that even required chains for assistance. Don’t be too fooled by the photos though, our guide informed us that this trail is even suitable for children.
We stopped at this scenic spot for lunch break. Just look at that view of the Mont Blanc!
Our guide identified Lac de Pormenaz to be our camping site for the night. At 1950m altitude, we were starting to prepare ourselves for the ultra cold night ahead.
Once we reached the camp site, setting up the tent and sleeping area was our priority. We brought along the Quechua Quickhiker Ultra Light 3-Man Tent (Decathlon Singapore only stocks the 2-Man edition currently) which was such a delight because setting up the tent only took us less than 5 mins.
Everyone was looking forward to a good dinner after the 4 hour hike. Our guide was super well prepared with her Quechua cooking set (available on http://www.decathlon.sg), all ready to boil water to make our pasta! Water was collected from the stream, and is also safe to be drunk without boiling.
(Note: The Aptonia pasta is not yet available in Singapore.)
After a hearty dinner, complete with a cup of hot tea, we were all ready to climb into our sleeping bags to rest for the night as the cold was starting to hit us. It was surreal seeing the sun set behind the mountain ridges, as we watched everything around us slowly engulfed by the darkness. At this moment, we felt at one with nature.
The Terrain – Day 2
The next morning found us cold and frosty as we peeked out of the tent and saw that ice had formed. It was 8am but the sun had not yet reached out to us. By 10am, we saw a glimpse of warmth and decided to take a small hike on the other side of the lake before leaving for the descent. The relatively flat terrain led us to the Chalets de Pormenaz, another viewpoint for admiring the snowcapped beauties. At a rather relaxed pace, with a break for lunch, we took 2 hours to complete this trek.
Heading back to Plaine-Joux was less taxing on our hearts, but the terrain was less forgiving of errors. With mostly loose stones and gravel (which is accessible by 4-wheeled drives too), we had to watch our steps closely. Along the way, we were joined by sheep, as well as other sports enthusiasts with their mountain bikes or others simply doing some trail running. Those who have weaker knees might feel the strain on the knees on the descent. Good shoes are essential to cushion this impact. We’re glad we had our hiking poles to help with the support too.
A Rewarding End
After another 3 hours, we finally saw the end in sight! All we could think about was having a hot shower that would follow next.
BUT, what is there not to love about having a fantastic view to conclude the hike? As soon as we got here, the tiredness melted away as we sat and busked in the remaining sunlight and crisp cool air. What a view, what a hike!