Les Hoches- Modane-Refuge la Balme
The trail has Les Hoches as starting point. The
village is situated in the Chamonix Valley.
You'll reach Les Hoches by train via
Martigny or Geneva.
At the railway station, turn left and cross the Arve and the N205 (highway). The GR5 follows the road to the cable railway. Beyond it, the GR5 climbs uphill to la Maison Neuve, crosses another cable railway and leads up to the Col de Voza (1653 m ASL). A dirt road crosses the tramway to Nid d'Aigle. The GR5 descends the dirt road to Bionnassy. In the village it turns left before reaching the Gîte d'étape and passes a tiny chapel. It leads downwards to the Torrent de Bionnassy, and crosses the river by a small bridge. The path climbs uphill into the forest and leads to le Champel. Turn left at the small junction and take the path to la Gruvaz. At the village, cross the Torrent de Mirage and descend into the valley. The GR5 crosses the Bon Nant torrent and leads at the bank upstream. At Contamines-Montjoie you can fill up the supplies. Follow the road towards the south, at the bridge, the GR5 joins the road. The climb to the Col de la Bonhomme starts here. First the GR5 follows a rocky, ancient roman road and passes the chapel Notre Dame de la Gorge. The road crosses a roman bridge and leads to the Refuge Nant Borrant. After 2km is another chalet, Refuge la Balme, both chalets were completely occupied, so I used the bivouac place for the night.
Refuge la Balme-Refuge de la Balme
Behind the chalets, the GR5 leaves the roman road on a small trail towards the south. It passes a junction to Jovet lake and the GR5 climbs up steeply to a plateau. Here is a Tumulus, to commemorate the death of an english lady and her companion, who were killed by a violent storm in the 19. century. The path climbs up the slope in zigzags to the Col du Bonhomme (2329m ASL/shelter). The GR5 turns left on a rocky path, crosses small streams and leads to the Col de la Croix du Bonhomme (2483m ASL). At the Chalet Refuge de la Croix du Bonhomme (overnight lodgings) the GR5 turns right and climbs up to the Crête des Gittes (2525m ASL). This path was cut into the rocky ridge by soldiers last century. The path descends to Col de la Sauce and leads over pastures to the Refuge du Plan de la Lai (water source). It crosses the road and follows the dirt road, after 1km a small path leaves the dirt road. It climbs up to the Chalet de la Petit Berge and the Chalet de la Grand Berge. The GR5 descends to Chalet des Tréicol and crosses the slope. It joins the ascending valley track and climbs up in zigzags. Later, it joins the valley track again. After approximately 1km, the GR5 leaves the track to the Col de Bresson (2469m ASL). The CAF-Refuge at the Lac de Preset (overnight lodgings) was occupied. Down in the valley is a another chalet, the Refuge de la Balme Communal, the overnight lodging is very cheap.
Refuge de la Balme-Refuge de Rosuel
The GR5 descends into the valley, crosses pastures and passes some barns. It passes Bon Pas and leads through forests downwards. The path crosses the road to Valezan several times. In the village is a small supermarket. A small path descends to Bellentre. After the GR5 has crossed the N90, it turns right, follows a small path downwards and traverses the Isère river. There are two choices: You can climb up the slope via Montchavin or via Landry. The GR5 follows the road to Landry, so I used the trail at the bank upstream. At the bridge I went right, crossed the rails and went into the village. The GR5 continues briefly on the D87, leads through forests and joins the road twice. At Moulin, it crosses the Ponturin torrent and climbs up alongside the torrent. The lane leads through forests, traverses the river again and reaches Les Lanches. After about 1km, it passes the Refuge de Rosuel (overnight lodgings).
Refuge de Rosuel-Refuge de la Leisse
The GR5 leaves the road, climbs up a rocky path and passes a shelter. It crosses the Ponturin. Now the trail leads through the Vanoise National Park. The GR5 climbs up to the Lac du Grattaleu. Behind the lake, the GR5 follows an ascending path, passes the Refuge du Col du Palet (overnight lodgings) and climbs up to the Col du Palet. Here the GR5 leaves the National Park, a lot of cable railways ruins the slopes. The GR5 leads to Lac des Tignes and to the Val d'Isère. I left the GR5 and followed the GR55 to Modane. The GR55 follows the cable railway to the Col de Fresse uphill, traverses again the boundary of the National Park and climbs up a rocky path. At Col de la Leisse the GR5 leads downwards to the Lac des Nettes, passes the dam at its south end and leads downwards to the Refuge de la Leisse (overnight lodgings, meals).
Refuge de la Leisse-Refuge Roc de la Pêche
The GR5 descends the Vallon de la Leisse, traverses at the Pont de Croé-Vie the Leisse torrent. It climbs up the slope in zigzags. At the junction to the Refuge d'Arpont is a memorial for two Chasseurs alpins who died in the mountain. The GR55 turns right and follows the ascending path, passes some historical bunkers and leads to a plateau. It traverses the Ruisseau de la Vanoise and passes the banks of two lakes. At the Col de la Vanoise is the Refuge du Col de la Vanoise (overnight lodgings, meals). At the pass, the GR55 descends in zigzags, passes the Lac Long and crosses the marshy Lac des Vaches on large stones. Later, it traverses the boundary of the National Park and leads downwards to Pralognan la Vanoise (supermarket,post office, camping site,gîte d'étape). The GR55 passes the camping site, leads through a forest and traverses the Doron torrent at the Pont de Gerlon. At Prioux is another gîte d'étape. The GR55 crosses the Doron again and follows the road to the parking lot. It traverses the torrent again and follows the ascending dirt road to the Refuge Roc de la Pêche. The overnight lodging is very simple but very expensive. At the end of the valley is another hut, the CAF- Refuge de Péclet Polset. In 2005, this hut was burnt down.
Refuge Roc de la Pêche-Modane
The GR55 climbs up the dirt road and leads through meadows, afterwards, the path becomes stony. It leads up to the Col de Chavière. The pass is the highest point (2795m ASL) on the GR5/GR55. In early summer, snowfields are still widespread, so be careful. The stony waymark at the ridge is not the pass, you'll have to use the small path on the right side. Behind the pass, the GR55 descends over erroded mountainside. After approximately 1km, there are two choices: Follow the path left to the Refuge de l'Orège (overnight lodgings, junction with the GR5). The trail on the right hand side descends via Polset. It passes the Source du Vin (only water :-(). It crosses the road to the Refuge de l'Orège and joins the GR5. Both waymarks lead towards Loutraz. The trail crosses the Arc by a bridge and reaches Modane (camping site, supermarket, railway station).