5. From Monêtier-les-Bains to Vallouise via Col de l’Eychauda (stage of the GR 54)
A brief foray into the Guisane valley, better known as the Serre Chevalier valley, and already the summits are rising all around us. The climb is gentle and shaded, and arrives in the alpine pastures with their Monêtier ski-lifts. We must wait until Col de l'Eychauda to leave the landscaped areas and take in the breathtaking view over the Chambran valley. A stop at the pastoral hut is also an invitation for a stroll. But there is still a long way to go and Vallouise, lower down, is full of treasures.
9 points of interest
Near the arrival of the old Charvet button lift, dating from 1948 (still present, but disused since the end of the 2003/2004 season), is the Charvet chapel, which was built in 1755. Easy to access both in summer and winter from Le Monêtier, it provides hikers with a wonderful panorama over the southern Guisane valley.
It is quite unusual for a chapel in the region to be dedicated to Saint Anthony of Padua rather than to Saint Anthony the Great. Was there a shift in patronage over time? The fact the saints had the same name led to the particular qualities of each one being mixed up.
- Geology and geography
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.
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.
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.
- Vernacular heritage
Remnants of a way of life that has disappeared, the Chambran chalets were once a high-altitude village where flocks stayed during the summer months. Today this is a welcome stop along the GR54 and the starting point for hikes towards Lake Eychauda.
Le Sarret chapel
Before 1930, the main road passed in front of Le Sarret chapel. Burials took place in Le Poët until the 1940s, when the cemetery was moved to make way for the new road to Pelvoux.
The White Penitents
In the 19th century, the White Penitents took part in the religious life of the villages of Le Poët and Le Sarret. All the male villagers were members, and they played a special role during funerals. They first sang the misere in front of the deceased’s house and then accompanied the funeral procession, dressed in hooded habits, with a banner, bell, staves and lanterns. A macabre confraternity whose symbol was a skull and crossbones...
Le Poët chapel
A portrait of St-Pancras, the patron saint of the Poët chapel, was once painted on the façade, dressed as a crusader. On his feast day, 12 May, there was a morning mass and we made rice pudding to share with inhabitants from other towns who had journeyed there. Almost two months earlier, the feast of Saint-Joseph was celebrated with a mass in Le Sarret, with families from neighbouring villages invited to eat stew and the traditional rice pudding.
- Vernacular heritage
It is already there on the Napoleonic land register, and was renovated by the town less than 10 years ago with original stone and fire-resistant brick for the vault. Each village had a communal oven saving wood and social ties explain the importance of shared bread baking. Almost a whole month, day and night, between November and December, was devoted to baking bread. The ritual is now carried on in summer baking during religious feast days or other local events.
Opposite the Grands Bains, go past the Arts et Vie (SO) residence along a road leading to a car park.
- Turn left towards Peyra Juana. 200 metres further on, take the right-hand footpath towards the Saint-Antoine du Charvet chapel (1 608 m). Walk around the chapel and then go up along the footpath on the right.
- At the next intersection, stay on the GR footpath to the left. The path follows La Selle mountain stream beneath the crests of the Lauzières. It then leaves the forest near the high-altitude restaurant and the departure point for three chairlifts.
- Continue along the valley on the left under the Eychauda chairlift as far as the mountain pass of the same name (2 425 m). On the left you pass by the Col de la Cucumelle footpath. The route down the Neyzet ravine goes under one more chairlift. On the left you pass by the paths to Col de Fréjus and Col de La Pisse. Under the Roche Gauthier, the route descends a rocky escarpment, then the footpath runs along the Sastrière ravine and across a series of three ravines.
- At the ruins of the Riou-la-Selle chalet (1 750 m), the wide footpath joins up again with the track going up to Lake Eychauda. Walk along the road as far as the Chambran chalets (1 715 m).
- Continue along the road that follows the mountain stream and take the footpath on the right (1 689 m) that cuts across it before rejoining it lower down. 300 metres further on, after the house in the bend in the road (1 531 m), you will arrive at the footpath again. You can see the Pelvoux ski resort. From the Baumasse ravine (1 417 m), you will take the road again as far as Le Sarret. From the southern exit of the village (1 234 m), the 994 E road leads to Vallouise (1 170 m).
- Departure : Le Monêtier-les-Bains
- Arrival : La Vallouise
- Towns crossed : Le Monêtier-les-Bains and Vallouise-Pelvoux
Black grouse - winter
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- PN Ecrins BERGEON Jean-Pierre firstname.lastname@example.org QUELLIER Hélène email@example.com Membre de l OGM firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com
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