Time: 8.5h. Up: 1330m. Down: 1320m.
Distance: 21km. Difficulty: medium.

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Stage 61: La Chalp-Arvieux (1685m) to Pied du Mélezet (1702m)

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

Abit of a change today as you spend much of the hike walking through the woods of the Parc Naturel Regional du Queyras. Since crossing the Col des Ayes in the previous stage, you have been in the Parc, a large high-altitude forested plateau surrounded by 2500-3500m ridges which has long been one of the more isolated parts of western Europe.

The reason for this is that the Queyras was until recently reachable only via a few high passes (over 2200m). Although the Guil River, which drains the Queyras, flows into the Durance, its wild and dramatic gorge was considered impassable until the construction of a modern road in the late 19th Century. Which makes it somewhat ironic that this -- along the Guil and through Queyras -- may well be exactly how Hannibal crossed the Alps.

According to some military historians, the valley of the Guil, which we encounter today at Chateau Queyras, is the path that best fits historical accounts of Hannibal's journey. In 218BC, with some 25-30,000 soldiers and a few elephants, he came down out of the the Alps into Italy where, despite all that Rome's legions could do, he pillaged and fought for the next 16 years. In fact Hannibal never lost a battle, and Rome was only able to get him out of Italy by attacking his home city of Carthage, which then recalled him and his army to defend it in 202BC.

Hannibal's crossing is without question the most remarkable event in the military history of the Alps... and was a truly stunning logistical achievement. It certainly makes the H2H look trivially simple. However, in one respect I hope you'll outdo him: he lost 50% of his men along the way....

Today's route is identical with the GR5, except for the last 200m or so. From La Chalp, traverse south and to the east around the hillside via the Lac de Roue (1850m) to the village of Chateau Queyras (1340m). Cross the Guil River and head south, climbing steadily to the pass of Col Fromage (2301m) before descending southwest to the village of Ceillac (1639m). Turn south here and walk a couple of kilometers up-valley to Pied du Mélezet.

Alternatives: if you want to shorten the day, you can take a taxi from La Chalp to Chateau Queyras (saving 2.5h, +240m, -580m, 7km), although depending upon where the taxi has to come from, this may not be the cheapest way to spend your day. Check with your hosts to see if there are alternatives to the taxi companies in Guillestre.
Map: IGN-3537ET Guillestre.

The House to House blog... stage 61.

<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. In Ceillac (or earlier in Chateau Queyras) pick up food for picnics during the next three stages (because there will be no more shops or lunch-time restaurants until Larche at the end of Stage 64).
Dinner and overnight: at Pied du Mélezet itself the only place to stay is the Hotel La Cascade (+33-(0), 23 rooms), but there are several other places to stay a half-hour earlier in and around Ceillac (for a complete list, see here).

Getting There and Back
La Chalp-Arvieux: take a taxi/minibus about 20km to the nearest railway station at Montdauphin-Guillestre (contact information for taxi/minibus here, and for train schedule information, see the SNCF).
Pied du Mélezet: as with La Chalp, except that you only have to go about 15km to Montdauphin-Guillestre.
ViaMichelin Road Map and Driving Directions: centered on La Chalp-Arvieux, centered on Pied du Mélezet.

Background Information and Links
Many and various...

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