From Lac de Vallonpierre to La Chapelle en Valgaudemar (end of the GR)
La Chapelle-en-Valgaudemar

12. From Lac de Vallonpierre to La Chapelle en Valgaudemar (end of the GR)

Fauna
Flora
Geology
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Final Stage of the GR54, with a long descent into the valley and on to Chapelle-en-Valgaudemar.
As you descend, the landscape changes: after passing stony passes, you come to a pastoral environment dotted with rivers and waterfalls where the flora comes into its own again. The Sirac mountain dominates this final stage, which completes the loop around this fabulous journey through Les Écrins.

Description

Head eastward away from the lake (2,271 m) and start the descent, passing the shepherd's hut on your left. After a series of twists and turns, cross the mountain stream via the new footbridge and the route continues downwards in wide hairpins. Cross the mountain stream Le Clot du Vallon (1,690 m) via a makeshift bridge (wooden boards) and you reach the Cabane de la Surette (1,648 m) just after the fork in the path for the Refuge de Chabourne (a GR54 variant) and for the Refuge du Gioberney (an additional 1 hour). Make your way through the meadows until you reach another makeshift bridge crossing over the Séveraisse. Follow the right-hand bank until, after passing between two stone walls, you reach the ruins of Le Clot. A pretty footbridge at the confluence of the mountain streams takes you to the other side, after which you follow the right-hand bank of the Séveraisse until you come to the Club Alpin Français (CAF) refuge of Le Clot Xavier Blanc (1,397 m). The path rises gently. Leave the path leading to the road to the Chalet Hôtel du Gioberney on the right, heading for the hamlet of Le Rif du Sap (1,408 m). The path runs back down along the Séveraisse to the bridge leading to the hamlet of Le Bourg (1,150 m). Go through the hamlet, heading westward. The path passes across several screes opposite the Le Casset waterfall. Leave the Le Casset bridge on the right and continue down through a wooded section until you come to the Les Chambons (1,140 m) intersection. Make your way under a line of ash trees, with the Olan and the Combefroide waterfall on your right. Enter the village of La Chapelle en Valgaudemar (1,100 m) from its southern end. Follow the path as it runs past the first houses, then turn right to join the paved road. Then turn right and then left, arriving at a crossroads. Turn left again to reach the bridge across the Navette brook. Cross the bridge and continue on the D985A road (which leads to the right after the bridge) until you arrive at the Park Centre ("Maison du Parc") on the right-hand side of the road. 
  • Departure : Le lac de Vallonpierre, La Chapelle-en-Valgaudemar
  • Arrival : La Chapelle-en-Valgaudemar
  • Towns crossed : La Chapelle-en-Valgaudemar

15 points of interest

  • Hut

    The Vallonpierre refuge

    A small lake, pretty meadows and the benevolent Sirac... This magical setting would lead to the construction of a refuge at an altitude of 2270 m in 1942. However, it was a victim of its own success and in 2000 the decision was made to build a second, bigger one. It can accommodate 37 instead of 22. This new building was the first modern mountain refuge to be built using stones on site rather than imported materials. It copies the simplicity and the crow-stepped gable from the "small refuge" which has been kept as lodgings for a warden's helper.
  • Fauna

    Alpine ibex

    The species had almost completely disappeared from the French Alpine regions, and they survived thanks to our Italian neighbours, the kings of Savoy. Until the mid-15th century, they were still to be seen, but they were not wary of mankind and were hunted for their meat. Superstitious medical practice at the period also hastened their decline: their horns were ground into powder and used as a remedy for impotence, while the cross-shaped bone over their hearts was thought to ward off sudden death.
    Successfully reintroduced into the Vanoise area in 1960, they were also brought back into the Champoléon valley over 20 years ago.

  • Geology and geography

    Impressive geology

    From chabournéite, the native mineral of Valgaudemar, to the crystalline rock from the Sirac's gneiss, from the hollow of Vallonpierre made in sedimentary rock to the show that is given by the shale and tuffs on the Chevrettes pass, this circuit will take you back in time. The folds and the colours appear before you like an impressionist’s work of art.
  • Fauna

    Marmot

    A high-pitched whistle sounds in the mountain pastures it is the cry of the marmot on guard, warning its companions of the arrival of imminent danger from the sky. Any inattentive creature failing to take note should beware a golden eagle will carry them away in its talons to feed its young.
    Native to the Alpine grassland, colonies of marmots live with their young until their third year. Gnawing and digging are their favourite pastimes, along with rolling down the slopes. And not forgetting an afternoon nap on a nice, warm rock and their long hibernation between October and March.

  • Fauna

    High altitude birds

    Autumn is migration season. The mountains, which are too harsh in winter, loses their inhabitants. Some opt for a change in altitude and go lower down the valley or to the coast. This is the case for the alpine accentor, the redstart, the redpoll, or the Eurasian linette. Others head off on a long journey to warmer countries. The Sahara offers a milder winter to the common rock thrush, whinchat and wheatear. The lesser whitethroat will head to the east. In the summer, this fine bunch will meet up again in the mountains. It finds a sanctuary where the diversity of plants and invertebrates is preserved. The alpine pastures seem to be favourable for the reproduction of all of these species that are diminishing and need to be protected.
  • Hut

    Clot Xavier Blanc mountain refuge

    What a strange idea to build this mountain refuge below the road leading to Gioberney, at an altitude of "only" 1397 m. In fact, it was already there more than a century ago, long before the road was built. This simple, sturdy building belonged to the Valgodemar Mining Company that operated in the area extracting copper and lead. When the business closed, the Club Alpin Français bought the building and named it after Xavier Blanc, in recognition of one of the founder members of the CAF, senator of the Hautes Alpes.
  • Vernacular heritage

    Walled paths

    On certain stretches of the route, you will walk between two stone walls. Such "via clause" were built to stop the domestic animals, on their way up to the pastures, from walking on or eating the grass in the prairies that was intended for them in the winter. The most remarkable "via clause" is on the way out of the hamlet of Le Clot. It has been restored by the Ecrins National Park.
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  • Architecture

    "Toune"

    This is an architectural feature of the Champsaur-Valgaudemar area and is the barrel-vaulted porch on the main facade of the house. It sheltered the entrance to the dwelling and stable and was sometimes used to stock items, such as wood, to keep it dry. The "toune" was often painted white to reflect the sunlight. They inhabitants would sit in them to do embroidery or darning, etc.
  • Fauna

    Golden eagle

    Between La Chapelle and Le Clot, it is not rare to see the golden eagle flying over the sunlit slopes. In the summer, this majestic bird of prey with its dark plumage (some have lovely white rosettes on the underside of their wings) mingles with the short-toed eagle, which is smaller and lighter-coloured, and the griffon vulture, which is larger, with a short tail and often flies in groups. There is nothing surprising about this as the south facing slopes provides thermal lift that enables them to fly high and far.

  • Architecture

    Traditional dwellings

    A few typical, old Valgaudemar houses can be seen in the hamlets of Casse, Le Bourg and Le Rif du Sap. A few thatched roofs, vaulted entrances to dwellings ("tounes"), and stone paving, are some fine examples of architecture that are worth saving. Cheaper and requiring less maintenance, sheet metal gradually replaced the thatch on the rooftops.
  • History

    Toponymy in the Valgaudemar area

    Valgaudemar! The sound of this name resonates in our ears. Some claim that it is in reference to the valley of Mary "Gaude Marie" or "Rejoice Mary!" It is more reasonable to think that it is in reference to Gaudemar, the last king of the Burgundians (524) a Germanic tribe that invaded this area in 406...Vallis Gaudemarii can be read in texts as early as 1284. Poetic licence, legends and imagination are often red herrings when it comes to researching the origins of names.
  • History

    An itinerary packed with history

    The Casset bridge is the oldest remaining bridge over the Sèveraisse that has not been washed away by floods. On the right bank of this magnificent "Roman" structure, the hamlet of Casset gets its name from the "casse" (large steep scree deposits at the foot of slopes) that surround it. This village, like that of Le Bourg, was partly covered by a landslide. As for Le Rif du Sap, an avalanche swept away the houses from the top of the hamlet in 1944. The hamlet of Le Clot, was flooded in 1928, and was totally abandoned in 1934 when a fire destroyed most of the dwellings.
  • Panorama

    Waterfalls and view points over the valley

    Along the itinerary, you will see the Combefroide and Casset waterfalls that are situated on the south facing slopes of the valley. The route also gives a good view to the east and the west of the Sèveraisse valley from the hamlet of Casset. Downstream, from the hamlet of Rif du Sap, a good example of a U-shaped valley is proof of shaping by the quaternary glaciers.
  • Flora

    Hayfields

    Hayfields surround the village of La Chapelle. Unfortunately, such natural hayfields, and their flowers and insects, are more and more frequently replaced by temporary hayfields, in other words, certain years they are sowed. These prairies are still watered by the irrigation canals that are well maintained by the users with the help of the National Park. You will see the floodway of the Grande Levée canal not far from the stream as it nears the Sèveraisse. The canals are of great importance for preserving wetland flora, such as alternate-leaved golden saxifrage or yellow star-of-Bethlehem, both of which are protected species.

  • Know-how

    Sundial by Rémy Potey

    A real open-air museum piece in the rural landscape, the pictorial art of the sundial aims to foster silence and to be accessible to all. For walkers today and for travellers yesterday. A sundial is a call to reflection and meditation, visible in all its magnificence on religious buildings or carefully hidden, in the little streets of a mountain village. The the Hautes-Alpes department, with its sun-rich climate, has the highest concentration of this example of the people’s art. Today, through the work of the sundial maker Rémy Potey, chamois and golden eagles can be beside the imaginary birds of the mysterious and famous Zarbula, the 19th century Piedmont artist.


Altimetric profile


Sensitive areas

Along your trek, you will go through sensitive areas related to the presence of a specific species or environment. In these areas, an appropriate behaviour allows to contribute to their preservation. For detailed information, specific forms are accessible for each area.

Golden eagle

Impacted practices:
Aerial, , Vertical
Sensitivity periods:
JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAug
Contact:
Parc National des Écrins
Julien Charron
julien.charron@ecrins-parcnational.fr

Bearded vulture

Impacted practices:
Aerial, , Vertical
Sensitivity periods:
JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugNovDec
Contact:
Parc National des Ecrins - Yoann Bunz- 06 99 77 37 65 yoann.bunz@ecrins-parcnational.fr

Recommandations

It is possible to take a deviation (not on the GR route) past the Refuge Hôtel du Gioberney, following the Sentier du Ministre (add 1 hour 30 mins)

Is in the midst of the park
The national park is an unrestricted natural area but subjected to regulations which must be known by all visitors.


Source

Parc national des Ecrinshttps://www.ecrins-parcnational.fr

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