Guest post by fellow “Mummy in the Mountains” Christine Miot, who is a wonderful Irish mother of eight-year old twins, married to a local French man and living in Annecy. Christine and her family love the outdoors and sport…
We decided we wanted to do something special as a family after holidaying with another family last summer. My twins love the outdoors, most probably thanks to our brainwashing, but they are also at a good age (8) to do longer more interesting hikes. I wanted to discover a new region so started researching Savoie and found an ideal family friendly hike in the Vanoise National Park which is sandwiched between the Tarentaise and Maurienne valleys. We wanted to make a weekend of it and decided to stay overnight in a mountain hut “Le Refuge du Carro” situated at alt 2,760m.
The walk – day 1: There are two itineraries to reach the Refuge du Carro, we chose the longer and apparently the more beautiful route. The hike is a good 4 hours to the refuge but don’t stress as you start the hike from the parking of l’Oullieta which is already at circa alt 2,300m and the total ascension is approximately 700m. It’s a little steep to start with but it doesn’t last long and it flattens out quickly and the route is clear and well defined. The views open up immediately and you have the impression you are on top of the world overlooking all the mountains and valleys with exceptional views of glaciers, waterfalls and lakes. The twins were in awe and spent their time counting mountain peaks, glaciers and of course the marmots which were very plentiful. We picnicked en route and had the pleasure of mountain sheep coming to keep us company.
The refuge: You see the refuge at the last minute, it’s a welcome sight after the 4 hour hike. It’s a lovely stone building nestled between two lakes, “le lac noir” and “le lac blanc”, they are aptly called as indeed one is black and the other white. On arrival you are greeted by the friendly refuge guardian, Cedrick, who served us some yummy crepes with homemade chocolate which we all devoured. What’s great with this refuge is that there are varying size rooms, from a room that sleeps 4 to larger dorms that sleep up to 8 people. There are warm showers and duvets, so only a sleeping bag liner is needed. We spent the early evening discovering the surroundings, the two beautiful lakes and the rivers, with the kids leaving their mark on the many rock piles scattered near the refuge and swinging out of the hammocks provided. Dinner was copious and good, followed by board and card games until it was time for bed. The refuge is quiet and cozy and after a good nights sleep we choose to have breakfast early so maximize the day.
The walk – day 2: After a hearty breakfast we started our hike back down the mountain. To complete a full circle, we took another itinerary via the “hameau de l’Ecot” right down to “Bonneval-sur-Arc”, a beautiful stone village. The walk down to Bonneval-sur-Arc, another 3½ hour hike, is simply beautiful, the valley is spread out ahead of you, with the waterfalls and rivers guiding your way. Sheep, cows and marmots accompany your walk with beautiful flowers lining the trail. Once we arrived at the “hameau de l’Ecot” we continued through the village and followed the “sentier des Agneaux” which allowed us to visit the little Saint Marguerite chapel from the XIIe century, and even have a refreshment in the small village restaurant “Chez Mumu”. We continued our hike, along the banks of the river Arc until we arrived in the historical village of Bonneval-sur-Arc. From there my hubbie thumbed a lift to collect the car, a regular occurrence for hikers if the bus isn’t running, he was immediately proposed a lift and was back down with the family in time to order aperitif. It was a stunning hike and a really special moment spent as a family, the vastness of the mountains humbled us and we were left in awe of the beauty of the region. A real must for family hikers.
Access: From Modane, continue up the Haute-Maurienne on the D 902. Pass the village of Termignon, Lanslebourg and Bessans until you get to Bonneval-sur-Arc, from there continue on the RD902 direction Col de l’Iseran, just before the l’Oulietta bridge you will find the parking and the start of the hike. Iitinerary is well marked with red & white GR signs and a general information panel at the beginning of the footpath.
Mountain hut: Refuge du Carro
Top Tips: Kids need to be good walkers as it’s a long hike on both days. You don’t need much, essentially a sleeping bag liner, good warm jumper and a hat.