"The winter had been long. At the beginning of July, the lake was still snowy but little by little the ice had melted, dislocated. In this beginning of August I went up saying to myself: right, there, it’s finished, there’s no more ice! But no! In the quietness of morning, icebergs were still floating, debonair. This lake certainly deserves its description as a glacial!"
Marie-Geneviève Nicolas, park ranger in Vallouise
At an altitude of 1700 meters, this hamlet is inhabited in summer, at the beginning of the summer pasture. The old dairy has been spruced up to become a snack bar. It’s pretty little chapel dedicated to Saint Jean is very simple and bare.
Evolution of pastoralism
In the valley, the ruins of numerous piles of stones resulting from the removal of stones in the hay meadows are witness to another age. Most of these old prairies are now grazed by sheep. Pastoralism has evolved: no more local flocks so less hay, the valley is now occupied by a large flock from the Haute-Provence Alps.
The front of the nappes
The two slopes of the Chambran valley are very different: the right bank, minerals are very present. There are granites and gneiss making up the crystalline base of the Ecrins massif. On the left bank, the prairies are sandstone and chalky. These are part of the glacial thrust sheet: they are ancient sediments deposited mostly to the East, in the Alpine ocean, then carried here by compression at the time of the formation of the Alps.
Spring meadow saffron
May in Chambran valley: the snow has only just melted, when it appears, almost hiding all the grass yellowed by the winter, a pink carpet of Spring Meadow Saffron. The Spring Meadow Saffron, is a plant close to the Colchicaceae (but flowers in Spring as its name indicates!) it can be distinguished from the crocus, with whom it grows, by its pink open flower ; the crocus flower is mauve or white and closed.. The first belongs to the lily family and the second to the iris family.
In the bottom of the valley, at the beginning of the summer, you will certainly hear, coming from the summit of a bush or a tree, the song composed of several notes in the same tone followed by a final higher or lower note... With binoculars, you can distinguish a bird with yellow and white feathering, the well named Yellow Hammer. It is a male, the female is more discreet as much in song as in its feathers! Listen well: Beethoven must have been inspired by this song when composing the first notes of his 5th symphony!
Perched on a rock, a bird is alarmed it cries ouit ouit or tchac tchac. You can recognize it straight away thanks to its white rump and its tail with a black backward T: a Northern Wheatear. It is a migratory bird that needs open spaces with big rocks under which the female can build its nest.
East Alpine Violet Fescue
Right up to the cabin, you can distinguish in the surrounding prairies big tufts of tough grass, the East Alpine Violet Fescue. This poaceae (a grass) is in competition with all the other plants and takes up a lot of space. Formerly, mowing limited its development and encouraging other meadow plants for foraging. At the moment, this plant must be grazed early in the season when the leaves have not yet hardened after this the animals refuse them.
Eychauda Pastoral Cabin
This cabin shelters the shepherd from June to September. In order to not be carried away by the avalanches, it has been built under the shelter of the big boulder and it has a pitched roof that extends along the slope of the mountain. Another cabin situated above the Chambon valley makes it possible for the flock to exploit the supply of grass over the weeks.
If you do not leave too late, you are likely to be able to see the marmots. They like the grass where they can dig their burrows. Stay discreet, do not try to approach them, you will disturb them. Don’t expect to see them in the hottest part of the day: it is much too hot to go out and there are too many people around!
Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly
You will see plenty of nettles around the pastoral cabin! It is a plant living on soils full of nitrogen, which comes from the urine and the excrement of the moutons spending the night here. The small tortoiseshell caterpillars love to eat their leaves; the name in French refers to the caterpillar not the butterfly! The butterfly, also called the small tortoiseshell, can be from March onwards because it is rare for adult butterflies to hibernate.
Even if it is well known in an urban environment, the Black Redstart is originally a mountain bird which has been able to adapt to other environments, as long as there are walls for it to build its nest! It is very present in the Chambran valley, arriving early in Spring, leaving late in Autumn. This Black Redstart is often semi migratory and is happy to join the vallies or the South of France in winter.
With a long flat bottomed valley, its cross cliff retaining the lake, the recent moraines behind these and at the bottom, the Séguret-Foran lake, the terrain is typically one modelled by the glacier. Large quaternary glaciations, small age for ice and for the current glacier have left, as they moved away, the characteristic marks of their passage.
Yellow Billed Chough
If you picnic beside a lake, you will certainly be visited by these black birds with yellow beaks and red feet: The Choughs. Wrongly called choucas (which live at a lower altitude), sociable birds that live in groups, they are great acrobats and very opportunistic. Their diet is varied, from vegetable peelings to cheese rinds!
Red Billed Chough
Recognizable far away by its raucous cry, the Red Billed Chough (and red feet!) sometimes gets mixed up in flocks of Alpine Choughs. But they are more timid. They dominate the high mountains less than the Alpine Choughs and sometimes inhabit sea cliffs.
Around the lake the grass is short: it is an alpine lawn. In the hollows, the snow remains for a long time at this altitude and the plants have little time to flower and reproduce. Only certain plants that are perfectly adapted can survive the « snow patches », scientific term to describe this particular environment. In this way the Dwarf Willow, cousin to the Weeping Willows, is a woody plant covering the ground hardly lifting up except by its small leaves and catkins.
Principally supplied with water by the Séguret-Foran glacial torrent, Eychauda lake is glacial: cold with water full of ground rock particles, lacking oxygen in winter, it is not conducive of life even if a few trout, originally from trout farms set up in the 1950s and 1960s survive there... Nestling in the deep basin in the shade of the high mountain walls, de, it stays frozen for a long time. Icebergs sometimes remain until August. Its principal torrent does not stay on the surface but gets lost in a system of holes and scree.
From Chambran car park, follow the track which leads to the bottom of the valley. Further along, it leaves on the right a track to the Eychauda mountain pass.
- After a big walkway over the torrent, follow the trail which passes not far from the pastoral cabin. The track gently rises in the bottom of the top the foot of the rocky ridge. It bends upwards, first over a large scree slope then flowered grass land. A small lower shelf and there is the lake, well hidden behind its cross cliff. It nestles at the bottom of the glacial cirque surrounded by high ridges.
- Return using the same itinerary.
The ascent to the lake is carried out on the South-East slope, it gets hot very quickly. Do not leave too late ! In contrast, a cold wind coming from Grangettes mountain pass can suprize you when you arrive. Take warm clothes!
Vallouise Park house
, 05290 Vallouise
04 92 23 58 08
Information, documentation, models, exhibitions, screenings, product sales and works of the Park. Guided tours for school, reservation required. The new Park House opened in Vallouise since June 1, and offers visitors an interactive permanent exhibition inviting to explore the area and its heritage. A temporary exhibition space will allow a renewed offer. Finally, the device is completed by an audiovisual room to organize screenings and conferences Free admission. All animations of the Park are free unless otherwise stated.
Station SNCF at l'Argentière-la-Bessée (L'Argentière-les-Ecrins) then bus or taxi to Pelvoux. No shuttle service to Chambran.
Access and parking
At Vallouise, follow the direction of Pelvoux. At Sarret hamlet, turn right in the direction of Eychauda up to Chambran car park (signposts at this site). Road closed in Winter.
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