Time: 8.5h. Up: 1250m. Down: 1700m.
Distance: 17km. Difficulty: medium.

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Stage 51: Refuge du Col de la Croix du Bonhomme (2433m) to the Refuge de la Balme (1984m)

Click and drag on map above to see area around trail. Click here for large zoomable map.

You begin the day with a lovely ridge walk, then drop down to follow a trail high above the man-made lake of Roselend, finishing with a steep climb up to and descent from the Col de Bresson under the dramatic stone monolith of la Pierra Menta.

An ancient Savoyard legend says that the 120m high Pierra Menta landed here after having been kicked out of a massif some 30km away by the giant Gargantua, who, according to some versions of the tale, was irritated at being hindered by the mountain while on his way to Italy, or, according to other versions, just tripped and hardly noticed what he had done. On a more prosaic note, Gargantua was later appropriated by Rabelais for his book, "Gargantua et Pantagruel", which I should have read in college but didn't.

As you may have started to suspect, given my rambling introduction, there's not much going on around here now, nor apparently in the past. This is sheep country, and apart from the odd shepherd and fellow hikers you may not see a soul all day.

It is into Alpine areas like this that wolves, bears, and lynx are spreading again after having been almost completely wiped out in the 19th Century. The source regions for recolonization are in the Italian Alps, where a few remnant populations have been augmented by animals from Eastern Europe. However, given that there are less than 10,000 lynx, less than 1,000 wolves and less than 100 bears in the whole of the Alps, you are highly unlikely to come across any on the H2H.

Today's route is identical with the GR5. From the Refuge head west then south along the Crête des Gittes (max 2538m), then down via the Bel Air hut (2145m) to Plan de la Lai (1813m). There follows a long high traverse above the Lac de Roselend before a stiff climb to the Col du Bresson (2469m). From here you take the trail southwest down into the valley and to the Refuge de la Balme.

Alternatives: none really. If the weather is bad, take a day off.
Maps: IGN-3531OT Megève, IGN-3532OT Beaufortain.

The House to House blog... stage 51.

<A couple of representative photos from this stage will be added here after the hike>
In the meantime, click here to go to all of the H2H photos on Flickr.

GPS Track
<To be added during or after hike>

Room and Board Options
Lunch: picnic.
Dinner and overnight: if the Refuge de la Balme (+33-(0), 25 places in bunkrooms) is full (and this is definitely a place to reserve as far in advance as possible), then you have just one other option within 2 hours of hiking: the Refuge de Presset (+33-(0) or +33-(0), 22 places in a bunkroom, no meals although there are pots & pans for a gas stove). To get to the Refuge de Presset, which is an Alpine Club hut, turn left at the Col du Bresson and follow the trail for about 15 minutes. Staying there will shorten this stage by 0.75h, +50m, -490m, and 1km... while adding 1.25h, 1.5km, -530m to the following stage.

Getting There and Back
Refuge du Col de la Croix du Bonhomme: from Bourg-Saint-Maurice, where there is a railway station, take a taxi 15km to les Chapieux (1549m), from which you will have to hike northwest 3.25h, +880m, 5km up to the Refuge (for taxi contact information see here, and for train schedule information, see the SNCF).
Refuge de la Balme: walk down to Valezan (1150m -- 2.5h, -830m, 8km) where you can call a taxi to take you to Aime, which has a railway station (for taxi contact information see here).
ViaMichelin Road Map and Driving Directions: centered on les Chapieux, centered on Valezan.

Background Information and Links
Many and various...

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