Time: 8h. Up: 1040m. Down: 1550m.
Distance: 19km. Difficulty: hard/easy.

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Stage 52: Refuge de la Balme (1984m) to Gîte des Glières (1475m)

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

Today you descend into the deeply-cut glacial valley of the Isère River, then climb out of it over a mountain spur into the hanging side-valley of Peisey-Nancroix.

Here again the names reward etymological research. "Peisey" testifies to Roman influence, since it comes from the Latin picea, meaning "spruce"... and there are still today many spruce trees in the valley. "Isère", however, comes from the same Celtic root (ys ura meaning "fast water") as the River Isar, along which you hiked for the first three days of the H2H – a nice reminder that for centuries before the Romans conquered them the Alps belonged to the Celts.

By the way, you may have noticed that ever since Samoëns there has been an unbroken series of long (8+ hour) stages. Although it would have been possible to break this stretch up into a larger number of shorter days, this would have had a significant disadvantage.

Since you have to be out of the high Alps by the end of September (when mountain huts close and snow-fall becomes much more likely), there is a trade-off between rest days and length of day: if the hikes are shorter, then there will be proportionately more hiking days and proportionately fewer rest days. This might be an acceptable trade-off were it not for the fact that some "rest" days will be involuntary, because caused by bad weather. Thus shortening days ran the risk of forcing you to hike in bad weather (either unpleasant or unsafe or both) rather than fall too far behind schedule.

On balance, therefore, it seemed to make more sense to have longer days. Just one of the many trade-offs that had to be considered when planning the H2H....

Today's route is identical with the GR5 (although the stretch from Bellentry via Montchavin to Le Moulin may be signposted as an alternate GR5 path). From the Refuge head downhill via Valezan (1210m) to Bellentre where you cross the Isère River (719m). Directly on the far side of the bridge follow the path to the south that climbs up via Montorlin (1089m) to Montchavin (1250m). Continue on, at first climbing and then descending, along a path cut into the steep sides of the Peisey-Nancroix valley until you reach the Ponturin River at the bridge (1264m) near the hamlet of Le Moulin. Take the trail heading up the right bank of the river before finally branching left to the Gîte des Glières.

Alternatives: you can shorten the day by taking a taxi from either Valezan (saving 5.25h, +1000m, -780m, 11km) or Bellentre (saving 4.5h, +1000, -300, 9km). If the weather is bad, consider taking the "easy" path: turn east after the bridge over the Isère and walk via Landry to the Peisey-Nancroix side-valley. The trail up the valley involves some road walking but it avoids the difficult and exposed section on the descent from Montchavin to Le Moulin. This "easy" path meets up with the main H2H route at the bridge next to the hamlet of Le Moulin. It is about 0.75h shorter than the main route.
Maps: IGN-3532OT Beaufortain, IGN-3532ET les Arcs.

The House to House blog... stage 52.

<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: you can either have lunch in Bellentre (after 3.5h) or Montchavin (after 5.5h), or you can picnic in-between the two. Either way, pick up some food in one or the other for four picnic lunches during the next three stages to Modane.
Dinner and overnight: if the Gîte des Glières (+33-(0), 30 beds in rooms of from 2 to 5 people) is full (and this is another place to reserve as far in advance as possible), then you have a couple of other options. You can walk another 0.5h, +75m, 2km to the Refuge de Rosuel (+33-(0), 64 places in bunkrooms -- this is actually a very nice place to stay, and isn't that much further, so if you are feeling strong consider going here rather than the Gîte des Glières), or you could stop earlier at Montchavin (a sensible choice if you stayed at the Refuge de Presset the night before) where there are a couple of places to stay (looks like the best would be the Hotel Bellecote (+33-(0), 29 rooms), and for others see here).

Getting There and Back
Refuge de la Balme: from Aime, which has a railway station, take a taxi up the valley of the Ormente via la Côte d'Aime, la Bergerie, and le Pont de la Gitte, to the Chalets de Foranto/Forand, from which you'll have to walk the last 1.5h, +370m, 3.5km up to the Refuge (for taxi contact information see here, and for train schedule information, see the SNCF).
Gîte des Glières: either walk back down the valley to Landry (2h, -730m, 6km), which has a railway station, or call for a taxi to take you there (for taxi contact information see here (navigate the website via accès/taxis)).
ViaMichelin Road Map and Driving Directions: centered on Valezan, centered on Nancroix.

Background Information and Links
Many and various...

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