4. From Lake Vallonpierre to La Chapelle-en-Valgaudemar (stage of the GR 54)
A last glimpse of the stone giant, the Sirac, and its reflection in Lake Vallonpierre, where mountain goats, chamois and marmots come to drink at dawn. And then we set off on a long descent leading, step by step, to La Chapelle-en-Valgaudemar. As we lose altitude, the landscape changes in atmosphere: the roughness and austerity of the mountain passes give way to colours, flowers, streams and flocks of sheep. Pure happiness!
The species had almost completely disappeared from the French Alpine regions, and they survived thanks to our Italian neighbours, the kings of Savoy. Until the mid-15th century, they were still to be seen, but they were not wary of mankind and were hunted for their meat. Superstitious medical practice at the period also hastened their decline: their horns were ground into powder and used as a remedy for impotence, while the cross-shaped bone over their hearts was thought to ward off sudden death.
Successfully reintroduced into the Vanoise area in 1960, they were also brought back into the Champoléon valley over 20 years ago.
A high-pitched whistle sounds in the mountain pastures it is the cry of the marmot on guard, warning its companions of the arrival of imminent danger from the sky. Any inattentive creature failing to take note should beware a golden eagle will carry them away in its talons to feed its young.
Native to the Alpine grassland, colonies of marmots live with their young until their third year. Gnawing and digging are their favourite pastimes, along with rolling down the slopes. And not forgetting an afternoon nap on a nice, warm rock and their long hibernation between October and March.
High altitude birds
Clot Xavier Blanc mountain refuge
Between La Chapelle and Le Clot, it is not rare to see the golden eagle flying over the sunlit slopes. In the summer, this majestic bird of prey with its dark plumage (some have lovely white rosettes on the underside of their wings) mingles with the short-toed eagle, which is smaller and lighter-coloured, and the griffon vulture, which is larger, with a short tail and often flies in groups. There is nothing surprising about this as the south facing slopes provides thermal lift that enables them to fly high and far.
Toponymy in the Valgaudemar area
An itinerary packed with history
Waterfalls and view points over the valley
Hayfields surround the village of La Chapelle. Unfortunately, such natural hayfields, and their flowers and insects, are more and more frequently replaced by temporary hayfields, in other words, certain years they are sowed. These prairies are still watered by the irrigation canals that are well maintained by the users with the help of the National Park. You will see the floodway of the Grande Levée canal not far from the stream as it nears the Sèveraisse. The canals are of great importance for preserving wetland flora, such as alternate-leaved golden saxifrage or yellow star-of-Bethlehem, both of which are protected species.
Head east from the lake (2 271 m) and begin the descent, passing the shepherd's cabin on the left. After a series of bends, you cross a new footbridge over the mountain stream and continue the descent along wide turns.
- Cross the Clot du Vallon mountain stream (1 690 m) over a makeshift footbridge (wooden planks), and you reach the Surette cabin (1 648 m) just after the fork for the Chabournéou (variation GR54) and Gioberney refuges (+1 hr). Make your way across the meadows before arriving at another makeshift footbridge above the Séveraisse. Walk along the right bank as far as the ruins of the Clot, which you reach by making your way between two low stone walls. A fine footbridge at the confluence of the mountain streams takes you to the other bank, and you then follow the right bank of the Séveraisse as far as the Clot Xavier Blanc CAF refuge (1 397 m).
- The footpath rises slightly. Pass the footpath on your right leading to the road towards the Gioberney chalet-hotel and go as far as the little village of Rif du Sap (1 408 m).
- The footpath follows the Séveraisse down to the bridge opposite the village of Le Bourg (1 150 m).
- Walk through the village, heading west. The footpath crosses a series of screes opposite the Casset waterfall. Pass the Casset on the right and carry on down through the woodland as far as the Chambons intersection (1 140 m). Make your way under a row of ash trees with the Olan and the Combefroide waterfall to your right. Enter the village of La Chapelle-en-Valgaudemar (1 100 m) by the south.
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