Mountain Adventures in the Maurienne
Summer routes for a multi-activity holiday in the French Alps
By Andy Hodges
This guide offers a selection of day walks, mountaineering routes, via ferratas, rock climbs, mountain biking, road cycling and treks for a multi-activity holiday in the Haute Maurienne, in the French Alps. Easily accessible, with the Vanoise National Park to the north, and the Écrins to the south. Idea for multi activity holidays.
Seasonspasses open in late May with the season lasting through to early October
CentresTermignon and Val Cenis
DifficultyRoutes range from short walks and cycle rides for the whole family to sustained or challenging mountain routes up to PD to reach the highest summits
Must Seerocky summits towering over small Alpine villages and the highest cols guarding the valley's approaches; follow in the (possible) footsteps of Hannibal; reach the summit of Dent Parrachée; two-wheeled and roped adventures add adrenalin sport opportunities for a 'mix and match' visit!
The Vanoise massif is a beautiful range of mountains bounded by the valleys of the Maurienne and the Tarentaise. The Maurienne valley is over 60km long, towered over by peaks of staggering symmetry straight from a child's drawing of mountains.Many figures from history and mountaineering legend have trod throught its forests and along its ancient track; yet the valley is somehow forgotten, despite having been at the heart of the early days of Alpine exploration. Now is the time to rediscover the Maurienne.
The Haute Maurienne valley is perfect for a whole range of alpine adventures and activities. The routes in this guidebook range from short walks and cycle rides for the whole family to long mountaineering routes to the highest summits. Whether you and your holiday companions are adrenalin junkies or Alpine ramblers, or a mixture of both, there’s plenty to keep everyone happy, day after day. Routes are clearly described and illustrated with maps, topos and profiles, as well as inspiring photos of mountain-lovers in action among the Alpine scenery.
The valley offers some of the finest modern via ferratas in France, routes specifically designed for sport, with reliable and well-maintained equipment taking direct lines up soaring cliffs and into the deepest gorges.
Walks and scrambles allow real summits to be reached from the valley in a day, with views reaching to the highest giants in the distance, and mountaineering journeys allow the highest summits to be reached without tackling glaciers. Plenty of rock climbing venues cater for everyone climbing from V Diff through to the higher E grades.
Cyclists will find themselves surrounded by Alpine giants familiar to any Tour de France followe, Col ded l'Iseran, Col du Galibier and Col de la Croix de Fer amongst them. Nor will mountain bikers be disappointed, with waymarked trails threading through forests and ski lifts to take the sting out of long climbs.
The Vanoise National Park
Plants and flowers
Art and culture
When to go
Insurance and rescue
Maps and navigation
Wet weather alternatives
Using this guide
1 DAY WALKS
Route 1 Lac de l'Arcelle
Route 2 La Pierre aux Pieds
Route 3 Lac Blanc and Plan des Eaux
Route 4 Vallon de la Rocheure
Route 5 Pointe de Lanserlia
Route 6 Hannibal's Crossing (Col Clapier)
Route 7 Mont Froid
Route 8 Pointe de Bellecombe
Route 9 High Valley Walk
Route 10 Pointe de l'Observatoire
2 MOUNTAINEERING ROUTES
Route 11 Pointe Droset
Route 12 Crête de la Turra and Pointe du Grand Vallon
Route 13 Pointe des Fours
Route 14 3000ers Circuit
Route 15 Lessières Traverse
Route 16 Le Petit Vallon
Route 17 Roche d'Etache
Route 18 Traverse of Pointe de Cugne
Route 19 North Ridge of Cime du Laro
Route 20 Signal du Petit Mont Cenis
Route 21 Arête de Léché
Route 22 La Dent Parrachée
3 VIA FERRATAS
Route 23 Le Pichet, Lanslevillard
Route 24 The Pinnacles, Aussois
Route 25 Guy Favre, Balme Noir
The Victor Emmanuel Fort Complex
Route 26 Traversée des Anges
Route 27 Montée au Ciel
Route 28 Les Rois Mages
Route 29 Descente aux Enfers
Route 30 Remontée du Purgatoire
Via Ferrata/Rock Climbing
Route 31 Via Cordatta, Col de la Madeleine
4 ROCK CLIMBING
Route 32 Rocher des Amoureux
Route 33 Sollières
Route 34 Rocher de Termignon
Route 35 Blocs de la Madeleine
Route 36 Dalles du Mollard
Route 37 Drailles Blanches
5 MOUNTAIN BIKING
Bike hire and bike shops
Route 38 Termignon and Sollières Circuit
Route 39 La Girarde
Route 40 Champions' Loop
Route 41 Chemin du Petit Bonheur
Route 42 The Sardières Monolith
Route 43 Mont Cenis Circuit
6 ROAD RIDES
Route 44 Col du Mont Cenis
Route 45 Aussois Loop
Route 46 Col de l'Iseran
Route 47 Col du Galibier
7 WALKING TOURS
Route 48 Tour of the Vanoise Glaciers
Route 49 Tour of Méan Martin
Route 50 Tour of Pointe de l'Echelle
Appendix A Route summary tables
Appendix B Useful contacts
Appendix C Useful phrases
Maps and navigation
The French IGN ‘Top 25’ 1:25,000 maps are excellent. They identify the main paths in easy-to-see red, and more difficult sections are marked as red dots. They are sold at supermarkets and many other shops and cost around €9 each. Alternatively, they can be purchased online before you visit and there is now the option of a laminated version. (This isn’t available in France, just in the Aqua3 online map shop.) Termignon is one of those places that is on the join of three maps, so three maps are needed to cover the whole area. An alternative is the 1:50,000 map (the Carte de Randonnées A3: Alps Vanoise) which clearly identifies waymarked walking routes, climbing sites, via ferrata venues and mountain bike areas.
- 3534OT Les Trois Vallées Modane
- 3633ET Tignes, Val d’Isère, Haute Maurienne
- 3634OT Val Cenis Charbonnel
The most recent editions of these maps show the extent of glacial retreat in a different colour.
If you are bringing a GPS, ensure it is programmed to datum WGS 84 and the grid system to UTM/UPS otherwise all grid references will be inaccurate. Don’t forget to reprogramme it to UK settings on your return or the same problems will occur back in the UK.
Unlike the UK, paths are waymarked and signed to a high degree. The signage usually gives information in times rather than distance, and these seem to be calculated with a similar formula to Naismith’s Rule of 5km per hour. The red-and-white flashes on rocks, walls and buildings will become familiar friends, and the small cycling symbols will also be a welcome aid to route finding.
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Andy was born and bred in Northern England; with the Lake District and Snowdonia nearby. It wasn't long before he was exploring the summits and crags with skills learned from his time in the Scouts. Since discovering the joys of the Alps with a Cicerone guidebook in 1999, Andy and his wife Sue have explored much of the Western Alps, walking, running, cycling, ski touring or snowshoeing. Andy has been a volunteer member of the Dartmoor Search and Rescue Team, Tavistock for 25 years, and has recently completed the in-depth training and assessments to become a qualified International Mountain Leader. He enjoys working with young people in the outdoors and has trained teams for the gruelling Ten Tors Challenge on Dartmoor as well as founding Junior Ten Tors in 1994.View Articles and Books by Andy Hodges