Sunshine, Showers and Flowers in Bellevaux | December 2014

Twenty-six of us arrived at Hotel Les Moineaux in the late afternoon of Saturday, 9th June. The whole family, whom Barbara has known for 25 years, welcomed us and invited us to a drink in the bar before dinner.

On Sunday, both groups took the short bus trip to L’Ermont (1100m.). The Sportifs set off in front with guide Jean-Louis, the Tranquilles a little behind led by Martine. Both groups headed through the summer pastures above Les Nantes (1300m.) and on to the Col de la Balme (1445m). This was the high point for the Tranquilles who then returned, but the Sportifs were already climbing towards the Pointe do la Gay (1801m.). After a grand view from the top, Jean-Louis led a cross-country route to rejoin the ascent path below Les Nantes whence we walked back to Bellevaux.

Heavy overnight rain caused Jean-Louis to abandon the planned ascent of Mont Billat on Monday and so, in light rain, the Sportifs set off from La Charriere through the forest of Petetoz towards the Pointe de Chavasse (2012m.). We saw deer and chamois and heard marmots high in the valley above the tree line. By the time lunch was finished, the return of heavy rain curtailed further ascent but Steve, Lynda and John pushed on as far as the Col de Vesinaz (1802m.), before following the rest of the Sportifs back to the trail head where we were greeted by some overdue sunshine. The Tranquilles enjoyed a relaxing day with a delicious ‘Moineaux’ lunch.

On Tuesday, both groups had a coach trip to the south shore of Lac Leman. We set off early and visited Evian with its market, then went on to Thonon where the rain cleared and we discovered the delights of the old town on high, and went by funicular down to the old port for a picnic lunch. In the afternoon we visited the medieval village of Yvoire with its fascinating buildings bedecked with flowers.

Wednesday dawned cloudy and damp. The coach dropped everyone below Combasseron from where three intrepid Sportifs walked to Jean-Louis’s mountain chalet via the Pointe de Miribel (1581m.) while the rest, eager for lunch, went there direct. Jean-Louis had risen at 4 am to bake bread for us and, together with the family from Les Moineaux, provided a splendid fondue lunch and drinks. The visibility was so bad that we couldn’t enjoy the views from the chalet but the atmosphere, the warmth of the welcome and the log fire made up for that. After lunch with sunshine breaking through, the Tranquilles returned direct to the coach. The Sportifs took the ridge walk to Hirmentaz, the cloud lifting to reveal views on both sides. The majority returned by coach from there whilst six continued on foot all the way back to the hotel, enjoying what turned out to be a fine afternoon and pre-cursor to lovely weather for the rest of our stay.

On Thursday, we woke to the best weather so far and left the hotel by coach at 8:30 in bright sunshine to travel to the area around Chamonix. The Sportif’s walk was an 800m climb to the peak Aiguillette Des Posettes guided by the excellent Martine who took great care in shepherding them all along what was at times a difficult path while still stopping to point out the flowers and the views of Mont Blanc. At the summit, we celebrated Steve’s 65th birthday and retirement in the time-honoured way while enjoying the wonderful 360deg. panorama. The Tranquilles had a morning walk with Jean-Louis through forested hills. They picnicked in the sunshine enjoying views of Mont Blanc and then spent the afternoon in Chamonix.

On Friday, blessed with even better weather, both groups set off in warm sunshine to visit Le Môle. This is an isolated peak, a prominent feature as you drive up the valley from Geneva towards Chamonix, rising 4,000 ft above the surrounding valleys to 6,112 ft. The Sportifs, 11 strong, started walking at 3,275 ft from Rhudde and after a steady climb of 1,300 ft through the forest reached the open meadows where the variety of wild flowers was striking. A further 500 ft of climb brought us to a col, then onto a ridge with fine views all the way. Nearing the top, the last 1,000 ft included a very steep 500 ft section before finally reaching the twin peaks of the summit of Le Môle.

Tortoiseshell and swallowtail butterflies and wild bees had followed us all the way. The views made our exertions worthwhile with a panoramic 360deg. vista across the hills we had climbed earlier in the week as well as a glistening snow-covered Mont Blanc in the distance to the south. To the north the plume of the fountain in the harbour at Geneva was clearly visible at a distance of 16 miles. After a picnic we descended the ridge to a lower peak where our leader Martine extended the walk via a very interesting steep wood with its narrow winding path to La Tour on the valley floor. Our 6 hr walk included over 3,000 ft of climb and 4,200 ft of descent, a fine energetic route providing a fitting climax to a beautiful and varied programme of walks and visits, thanks to the efforts and coordination of both French and English organisers.

Compiled by Lynda Ledger

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