Les Contamines, French Alps

A group walking holiday with HF Holidays.

(1) Walk 1:
[Glacier de Tré la Tête]
The Refuge de Tré la Tête, a busy picnic spot near the end of our long ascent.
(2) Looking south from the refuge.
(3) Looking north with Les Contamines-Montjoie down in the valley of le Bon Nant.
(4) In the centre of the picture can be seen the leading edge of the Glacier de Tré la Tête, with melt water spilling down into a small canyon.
(5) We stopped for lunch and apparently our leader Di spotted nearby at least one marmot, which a type of rodent resembling a prairie dog.
(6) On our return to the hotel we descended the Combe d'Armacette, down which melt waters from smaller glaciers spill down into the valley.
(7) Walk 2:
[Lac Vert, Lac de Pormenaz, Refuge de Moëde Anteme]
The start and end point of today's walk was Lac Vert (green lake) just north of St Gervais Les Bains.
(8) Looking south-east we catch our first sight of the Mont Blanc massif topped by strange cloud formations.
(9) The huge limestone range of the Rochers des Fiz.
(10) We head along a flat area after which we will begin a steep climb to the Pointe Noir de Pormenaz over to the right.
(11) There were a number of Via Ferrata-type climbing aids on this ascent. Here our leader Colin climbs one of the steel ladders.
(12) Members of our small group using the chains on this section.
(13) The peaceful Lac Pormenaz where we stopped for lunch.
(14) Heading north from the lake on a plateau towards the Refuge Moëde Anterne which lies at 2000m (6,561 feet).
(15) After a refreshment stop here we began the long descent back to Lac Vert.
(16) On our left the Mont Blanc massif looms prominently.
(17) Walk 3:
[Crêt du Midi chairlift, Ban Rouge, Col du Joly, Le Signal cable car]
The third walk started by taking the chairlift at Praz-Sur-Arly up to the Crêt du Midi.
(18) Our first little peak was Ban Rouge. Our leader today was Di.
(19) Our walk was mainly along a shallow ridge and plateau with excellent views in all directions.
(20) This is a cow of the Abondance breed. Distinctive with their dark patches surrounding their eyes. They all had large bells round their necks.
(21) In the area near Mont de Vorès.
(22) After a welcome cold beer at the Refuge de la Croix de Pierre on the Col de Véry, we headed west on a track along the lower slopes of the Aiguille Croche ridge.
(23) At this point we are looking towards the glaciated area we explored on the first day.
After a sting in the tail final climb we eventually reached Col du Joly and then the cable car at le Signal, which we boarded for our descent back to Les Contamines.
(24) [Day off, pootling in the Les Contamines local area]
The main street through Les Contamines, with the peak of Mont Joly (2525m) rising to the east.
(25) A fast stream full of milky water from glaciers flows along the path leading from Les Contamines to the hamlet of Le Lay where our hotel (Hotel Chemenaz) was situated.
(26) Walk 4:
[Col de la fenêtre, Lacs Jovet]
The télécabine de la Gorge climbs steeply out of the valley near Les Contamines like a ride at Alton Towers. It is a fun trip to do before we start the serious walking.
(27) We now head towards a ridge which we will eventually get to the top of.
(28) We reach the end of the ridge and skirt round to the right.
(29) Our ascent continues.
(30) Finally we get to the Col de la Fenêtre at about 2245m where we have a snack break. The view was spectacular from up on the ridge.
(31) We headed down across a clinky scree field then turned east towards our lunch target - the largest of the Lacs Jovet.
(32) Rick (the other one in our party), Louise and Linda sitting at the lakeside. Making excellent time, we were the first ever group to get to this lake for the official lunch stop.
(33) Waterfalls flow out from below the lake as we make our way to join the Tour De Mont Blanc route homeward.
(34) The church back at the gorge near to where we set off from at the start.
(35) Walk 5:
[Prarion cable car, Bionnassay glacier, Nid d'Aigle, Les Houches]
We take the télécabine du Prarion (west of Les Houches) to get to our walk start point.
(36) We stop briefly at the Col de Vosa tramway stop. The rack and pinion railway goes right up to the Nid d'Aigle, near our final destination today.
(37) One of the three trams sets off uphill.
(38) We reach the end of the Glacier de Bionnassay, a much bigger one than the Tré la Tête on Day 1.
(39) The glacier starts way up near the Dôme de Goûter at around 4300m.
(40) We reached the refuge at le Nid d'Aigle (Eagle's nest) where some of us had a beer.
At this altitude (2412m or 7913 feet) the beer was particularly frothy.
(41) Another view of the glacier looking towards the peak of Aig de Bionnassay.
(42) We made our descent and caught the Téléphérique les Houches-Bellevue down to Les Houches. You can see the latter down below on a bend of the river Arve. The bigger town of Chamonix is further upstream.

Interesting that we came across a group of young mountaineers from a slavic country (maybe Slovenia or Croatia) who had presumeably climbed up Mont Blanc. You need proper gear, ice axe, ropes and chunky ice boots. Respect to these people - people do die or get injured on this mountain (Mont Blanc tops out at 4810 metres or a whopping 15780 feet).
(43) Last day [and the flight home]
Sadly all good things come to an end. On Saturday after packing I walked to Les Contamines and the coach picked us up for Geneva airport late morning.
I would like to come back one day and do the Tour de Mont Blanc.

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