Time: 6.75h. Up: 640m. Down: 1730m.
Distance: 15km. Difficulty: medium.

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Stage 56: Chalet Montana (2150m) to Modane (1058m)

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

After the previous stage, this is going to feel like a short day (although, of course, it isn't). You skirt the intriguingly named Plateau du Mauvais Berger ("plateau of the bad shepherd"), before descending into the Arc River valley and the somewhat unattractive town of Modane, whose sole claim to fame seems to be that it is at one end of the Fréjus tunnel, which burrows over 12km under the Alps to Bardonecchia in Italy.

Without much else of note to occupy you, consider the genesis of the Alps... where the heck did this incredible range of mountains come from? Not through volcanic action – there isn't a single active volcano in the Alps and hardly any traces of inactive ones.

No, the Alps are like the Himalayas: they were formed by a continental collision. When Africa charged into Europe 100 million years ago the resulting pressure crumpled the edge of the European plate and forced great folds of land miles into the air. In fact, the Alps are still growing today, although not so as you would notice – about 1mm / year.

Climb back up to where you left the GR5 at the end of the previous stage and turn left to continue along the balcony path, passing slightly downhill from the Refuge de Plan Sec and the Refuge la Fournache. Still following the GR5 (as you will do all day), go around the north end of the Lac d'Amant passing over the Pont de la Sétéria (2206m) before climbing steeply towards the Col de la Masse. Long before you get to the Col, however, take a left-hand fork to the southeast that leads you around the 3131m high peak of le Rateau d'Aussois. As with the previous stage, ignore trails that drop down to your left until shortly before the Refuge de l'Orgère where you start your descent into Modane.

Alternatives: if you like military history there is a remarkable series of forts built down from and on either side of the river gorge below Aussois. From Chalet Montana you can either walk or take the chairlift down to Aussois, and then follow the Sentier de Découverte southwards (with occasional road walking). On the far side of the Arc River, after the last of the forts, follow the Chemin du Petit Bonheur (which translates as "path of the small pleasure"??) via la Norma (1357m) to Modane. If the weather is bad, my advice is: take a rest day.
Map: IGN-3534OT les Trois Vallées.

The House to House blog... stage 56.

<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: there are several places at which to stay and eat in Modane (for a complete list, see here (under Visiter-la-Ville/Hébergements)).

Getting There and Back
Chalet Montana: from Modane take a taxi 7km to Aussois (for information see here (under Infos-Pratiques/Addresses-Utiles/Transports)), from where you can either take the chairlift up to Chalet Montana or walk (2.5h, +670m, 3km).
Modane: there is a railway station here (for schedule information, see the SNCF).
ViaMichelin Road Map and Driving Directions: centered on Aussois, centered on Modane.

Background Information and Links
Many and various...

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