Hiking the GR5 from St Gingolph to Menton

15 days. 600 kilometres. A hike across the Alps from Lake Geneva to the Mediterranean in July 2012.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Day 2 - Refuge de Bise to Samoens

Distance: 45km, Ascent: 2340m, Descent: 3090m, Time: 13h20m
GR5 - Day 2
I was up and away from Refuge de Bise by 6:37am. The day started with a short climb over Pas de la Bosse before a long 800m descent to Chapelle d'Abondance. I stopped at a couple of shops to buy bread, and basics provisions before east out of town along a main road for a few kilometres to le Moulin.

Once off the main road, the path climbed steeply up wooded slopes, where I got a bit lost, before reaching a nice grassy col at Les Mattes where I sat down to remove my shoes and socks to check my toes were still intact. Just as I did this, a fairly speedy French couple shot past. This woke me up a bit, and gave a target to chase once I'd got my shoes back on. It was fairly warm, and I'd been out for quite a few hours, so when I reached Col de Bassachaux I decided to stop for a few minutes, and was served the most enormous plate of chips I'd ever seen. I couldn't finish them all, and had to give some to a group of Dutch mountain bikers. I chatted to an English couple who lived nearby, before hitting the trail again in the heat of the afternoon.

The next couple of hours was a bit like been swarmed by plagues of insects as endless streams of mountain bikers rattled past, ruining any sense of peace or isolation. That said, it was pretty crazy the speed they were descending.  From Portes de l'Hiver to Col de Coux the route takes a brief foray into Switzerland, before crossing back into France. Once over Col de Coux, it was so much more relaxing not being at constant risk of being mown down by a biker. My original plan had been to stay at Refuge de la Golese, but it was still relatively early so I decided to continue the 10km and 1,000m descent to Samoens.

I was feeling fairly jaded and frazzled from the heat when I reached Samoens, and then had a soul-destroying wander around the town trying to find somewhere to stay.  Eventually I reached Hotel Le Gai Soleil where thankfully they had a room.  I had a shower and a quick meal, before collapsing on the bed feeling too tired and my body aching too much to be able to sleep properly.

View GR5 - Stage 2 in a larger map

Stage 2 - Refuge de Bise to Samoens

Friday, June 29, 2012

Day 1 - St Gingolph to Refuge de Bise

Distance: 12km, Ascent: 1440m, Descent: 400m, Time: 2h45m
GR5 - Day 1

Day 1 started with an early morning train from Hyndland, Glasgow to Haymarket, Edinburgh where I wandered around in the pouring rain searching for the Airport Bus. Eventually I made my way to the airport and caught Easyjet flight to Geneva. The bags took forever to arrive, so I missed my intended train, and had to wait around for the best part of an hour before boarding the train for Brig around the north side of Lake Geneva (Lac Leman). I changed at St Maurice to return to St Gingolph on the south side of the lake, right on the Swiss/French border. I left the train station and wandered across the border into France. It was now after 6pm, so I was feeling slightly time-pressured knowing that I had to climb almost 1500 metres that evening. I found a Petit Casino right where the GR5 branches off Rue Nationale, so grabbed some basic provisions and then started hiking at 6:17pm.

I maintained a steady 10 metres / minute climbing rate, which got me to Col de Bise (1950m) by 8:35pm. It then took less than 30 minutes to get down the other side to Refuge de Bise, which was a pretty basic unmanned hut. After 2h45m of hard effort, it was slightly disappointing to realise there were no food options, other than a handful of cashew nuts and biscuits which I'd luckily bought before setting off.

Anyhow, after a long day's travelling I was more or less ready to go straight to bed.

View Petit Casino in St Gingolph in larger map

View GR5 - Stage 1 in a larger map

Stage 1 elevation profile

Stage 1 - St Gingolph to Refuge de Bise

Saturday, June 23, 2012

St Gingolph

St Gingolph lies on the Swiss / French border on the southern shore of Lec Leman (Lake Geneva).
This is where I started the route at 6:18pm Friday evening, 29th June 2012.
St Gingolph and Lac Léman
St Gingolph on the shores of Lac Léman