GR54, from La Muzelle to Valsenestre through the Muzelle pass

On Monday 11th, June, 2012 with Chty, Aurélie and Leeloo, we went from the shelter close the the Muzelle lake to Valsenestre following the GR 54 through the Muzelle pass.

Itinerary GR54, La Muzelle – Valsenestre
Distance 9km
Vertical gain +534m
Vertical drop -1321m
Altitude min 1295m
Altitude max 2625m
Duration 7h25

Temperature didn’t drop that much during the night, it is still 9 ⁰C (48 ⁰F) in the early morning. I woke up at 6:30am after 11 hours of sleep! The rain had stopped.

I cooked an excellent, I thought, semoulina cake with chocolate and condensed milk for my friends, they did not exactly feel the same about it, but that was all we had, so… 8:30am, we started to walk, some sunlight gave us hope, but the weather is really changing and in 10 minutes we could be lost in a cloud or sweating hard under the Sun. The Muzelle lake was completely full, we had a good view on the neckband where we were supposed to go, a lot of snow but the very last part seemed dry.
We crossed a wet field filled with water from all the snow around us. We could see the Muzelle glacier on top of us. The first hour and 200 meters of climbing (650 feet) could be done on a dry area, but then we had no choice but go on a firn. The snow seemed solid, only a bit melted on the top, quite practicable. The next 200 meters of ascent were easy, I though the snow actually helped us on this part.

The last hundred meters (330 feet) were a all different story, on this very steep part, the snow is nearly all soft, a thick coat of 1 meter (3 feet). The sunlight must be more hard on this part, we got snow up to the waist. Then started a exhausting work of clearing, I was going first trying to tamp the snow on the way. My sticks were very helpful and prevented me from falling so many times. I lended them to Chty in turn so that he could safely climb behind me, and Leeloo was doing the same with Aurélie. The last 30 meters (100 feet) were without snow, but that was worse, because the brittle rock was wet, muddy and sliding.

But luckily our pain did not last long and we managed to get to the top. It was freezing like anti-hell, but we were too much hungry to wait more to eat, so we  tried to cover behind the rocks to be protected from the wind and we ate some of our sandwiches. I did not use the rope I took in case of difficult part, but a few meters more and I would have.

Thanks to my gaiters, my calves are dry, and I was also very satisfied with my Decathlon TR2 shooes, waterproof trail shooes. They hooked well on the ground and my feet are completely dry, even after more than one hour walking in melting snow. Muzelle pass, 2625 meters (8600 feet), nearly summer in the valley but spring has just begun here.

Whereas we were in the black at the shelter in La Muzelle, phone service was working at the top of the pass. I got the opportunity to phone to my parents and kept then informed about our position.

Climbing down from La Muzelle is impressive, tight laces on the abrupt slope. However with the help of a stick and quite carefulness, it went well. Once we finished the harder part, we stopped to finish our lunch under the Sun, laying in green grass, we were around 2100 meters high (6900 feet). Just in front of us was the Côte Belle pass that we were supposed to cross the next day. Luckily it was completely dry.

Going down to Valsenestre was very enjoyable. The weather is shinning, temperature is warm and the view over the valley is astonishing.

We left the GR 54 at the crossing towards the Côte Belle pass and walked for 2 kilometers (1¼ miles) to Valsenestre, lovely small village, the very first one in the valley. About 30 stone houses grouped altogether as if they could keep some warm during the hard winters here.

We got warm welcome in the inn, Le Beranger. Without hesitation we took the all-board formula, we did not have a lot of food left. 18 euros for the night, 40 euros with diner and breakfast, plus 7 euros for the next day picnic.

Ten years ago I was paying about 30 to 40 euros for this kind of service, prices had increased a bit faster than inflation but this Inn, Le Beranger, is very nice, clean, large rooms with 3 to 4 bunk beds, bathroom and toilets in perfect condition. For diner we got a complete 4-course meal with soup, a excellent tajine, salad, cheese and desert.

We all performed some clothes hand washing, but we couldn’t get our thing to dry, it started to rain around 6pm for all the night…

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