Time: 8h. Up: 1480m. Down: 770m.
Distance: 19km. Difficulty: easy.

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Stage 57: Modane (1058m) to Les Granges de la Vallée Étroite (1765m)

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

You now head back into the mountains south of Modane, climbing through a rough and jumbled country to a high pass before dropping back down into the Vallée Étroite ("narrow valley").

The Vallée Étroite is an oddity of a type that occurs in several places in the Alps: although politically part of France, it is geographically the upper part of an Italian valley (whose river flows down into the Po, and from there to the Adriatic), and the only way to drive into it is via Italy.

Totally illogical, and so I'd be inclined to describe it as the natural result of a compromise between France and Italy, were there not similar places between seemingly more logical countries elsewhere (e.g., the Kleinwalsertal between Austria and Germany).

It makes one wonder how the squiggly borders in the Alps came to be as they are today... and it turns out that this is a very interesting question, with many different answers.

In the case of the Vallée Étroite, French ownership dates back only to 1947, when as part of the post-WWII peace agreements it was ceded by Italy to assuage French military concerns. But (understandably but still bizarrely) all of the private land in the valley is still owned by Italians.... My conclusion: Alpine borders are squiggly for squiggly reasons.

Today's route is identical with the GR5 and the Via Alpina . From Modane head initially east (to cross the railway line) then southwest via le Charmaix (1572m) to la Losa (2099m). Here take the left-hand fork to the Col de la Vallée Étroite (2434m), from which you descend all the way down the valley to Les Granges.

Alternatives: you can take a taxi up to le Charmaix (saves 2.25h, +550m, 5km). If the weather is bad, given the length of the hike and the fact that the trail can be difficult to follow in mist, take a rest day.
Map: IGN-3535OT Névache.

The House to House blog... stage 57.

<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. Before you leave Modane, buy enough food to be able to have a picnic during the Stage 58 as well.
Dinner and overnight: there are two places to stay at Les Granges. The Refuge Tre Alpini (+39-(0)122/902071, 25 beds in rooms, 14 in bunkrooms), bucolically named after the Italian Third Mountain Division, is an Alpine Club hut. The other is the privately owned and run Rifugio I Re Magi (+39-(0)122/96451 / +39-(0)368/917952 / +39-(0)349/6112920, 20 beds in rooms and 24 more in two bunkrooms), and it is named after the biblical three kings Balthasar, Melchior, and Gaspard ("the mage-kings"), whose eponymous peaks tower over the eastern side of the valley.

Getting There and Back
Modane: there is a railway station here (for schedule information, see the SNCF).
Les Granges de la Vallée Étroite: there is reputed to be a minibus service from here to Bardonecchia, where there is a railway station (on the main TGV route from Paris to Turin), but I have not been able to find any more information about it other than a passing mention on the I Re Magi website. If it should happen to not exist, or if it does not run at a convenient time, then you can have a taxi come out to pick you up and take you the 12km or so to Bardonecchia (note that Vallée Étroite is Valle Stretta in Italian). For train schedule information you can use either SNCF or Trenitalia.
ViaMichelin Road Map and Driving Directions: centered on Modane, centered on the Vallée Étroite.

Background Information and Links
Many and various...

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