GR 54, From Valsenestre To Désert en Valjouffrey through Côte Belle pass

On Tuesday, 12th, June, 2012, with Chty, Aurélie and Leeloo, we departed from Valsenestre to walk to Le Désert en Valjouffrey through the pass of Côte Belle, following the GR 54.

Itinerary GR54,
from Valsenestre
to Le Désert en Valjouffrey
Distance 10km
Vertical gain +1003m
Vertical drop -1064m
Altitude min 1250m
Altitude max 2290m
Duration 8h35

Nearly 7am, everybody woke up for a big step today, more than 1000 meters up and as much down (3280 feet). It was still raining and even our big breakfast let us doubtful about the day. Moreover the manager of the inn offered us a lift to our destination, some of us were hesitating… 8am, the rain seemed to stop and some faint of blue sky were appearing and giving us hope. Though it snowed this night, and at quite low altitude, as low as 1800 meters (5900 feet) said the manager of the inn. As a consequence our pass at 2300 meters (7500 feet) would be under the snow, likely several centimeters. We leaved, a quarter past 8am. It still rained a little bit, we used our ponchos. But we could see some blue sky fighting against the heavy clouds which stayed stuck with white glue on the mountains. But we were confident and started to walk on the same road than the day before, “it is getting better”, said the inn manager…   Two more kilometers and we arrived at the crossing with the GR 54, we took back our track to climb the Côte Belle pass. Weather was still very cloudy. The little sign said 2 hours and a half to the pass, but we were slower, maybe 4 hours for us with pauses, moreover we often took our lunch during the climbing, to get some courage. Laces up to 1800 meters high (5900 feet) showed us a lot of moutain flowers, buttercup, myosotis, poppy of the alps, corn-flower… We could see the Muzelle pass just behind us, where we came from. It was completely under the snow whereas the day before there was none on this side. It seemed that snow started around 1900 meters (6200 feet). Clouds were still there, sun was getting expected… Nearly noon, we decided to stop and have our lunch. We got lucky and the view was getting cleaner, but we just had the time to eat our mini-goat-cheese cake and a big cloud started to cover us again, putting us in the dark, so long with the view! We did not really feel like doing a nap,  some rain started again and reminded us the big shower we had two days ago. So we took back our way. First important traces of fresh snow appeared around 2000 meters (6500 feet). Hundred more meters (330 feet) and the ground is pure white, everybody slipped on his poncho and waterproof coat, snow was starting to fall. At 2200 meters (7200 feet), it was frankly snowing. We crossed unbelievable rock structures. With the fog, the murk, the snow, the absence of vegetation, I shivered imagining I was on the wrong side of the “Wall”… We were walking slower, snow intensifying. At last we joined the pass, 2290 meters (7500 feet), more than 10 centimeters of fresh snow (4 inches), and it was still snowing… We couldn’t see further than our own group, the snow and the thick cloud we were into were isolating us from the rest of the world. Hopefully my very precise map, 1/25000, helped us find our way, impossible to find any track with all the snow. Once more we shared our sticks with Chty and Aurélie, and thanks to them we prevented a lot of falls on the sleepy slopes. We were hesitating a lot, progressing no faster than small ants, checking our way every steps. We found a fence protecting a channel that we first misviewed as a gully, that was our pathway! 300 meters (1000 feet) of hard descent, sleepy, frustrating because we could not see a thing with this cloud. Finally we went down under the clouds and the Valjouffrey valley opened in front of our eyes. Clouds stuck to mountains as lice in hair. No chance for us to see a blue sky this day… From time to time we could see the Vaurze pass. I was preoccupied, this pass is known to be difficult, and it is 300 meters (1000 feet) higher than the Côte Belle pass we crossed today. Moreover it was still snowing on top of the mountains, and we were clearly not prepared for that many fresh snow. As a consequence I took the decision that it would be too dangerous to go there with such conditions. We finished our way to the small village of Désert en Valjouffrey crossing sheep herds. From the village, where I could get phone coverage, I called my parents to ask them if they could come to pick us up. My father accepted and that was fortunate because the restaurant where we were supposed to eat was closed the whole week, whereas the inn of the village had said that it was opened. Partly disappointed, partly relieved, we waited for more than one our in the small village of Désert, which is adequately named. My father arrived and we left the narrow valley, leaving the GR 54… For now. Maybe another time, another life, when we would be stronger we would come back to finish what we started, this wonderful but difficult trek.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: