Thursday, 23 August 2012

Chamonix trails 2: Vallon de Bérard

A slightly busier route, this, than the Loriaz way I happily recalled yesterday, as it's part of the mouthfully-named 'Grande Randonnée de Pays du Tour du Pays de Mont-Blanc'. Yet the lovely Bérard valley is quite unlike anything we encountered in the vicinity, not least in its variety of Alpine flowers once you reach the first of several plateaus on the way from Le Buet up to the Refuge de la Pierre à Bérard at 1924m. Before those, there's a shady gorge to climb after the first easy meander.

Then you're out among discreet handfuls of picnickers and a fair few myrtille-gatherers, en plein air with Alpine flowers in abundance.

Very well, so this didn't quite match the botanical wealth of the Lago del Predil in Italy's Julian Alps, but that we saw at an earlier time of year; August may not be the best month for flower-spotting even this high up. But I was delighted to see, in lonely ones or twos, the famed Martagon lily

the brilliance of Potentilla aurea

the Alpine Rosa pendulina - my Predil photo is much better than the slightly out of focus one I took here - and several varieties of orchid.

I misattributed this exquisitely-wrought specimen; if anyone knows better, do let me know.

Wild strawberries are everywhere, of course, refreshing the way

and once you reach the slopes towards the Refuge, nestling attractively directly under the rock which gives it its name and protects it against avalanches, the purple-and-white foreground enhances a view down much of the valley.

We made the mistake of not bringing sandwiches on this excursion; the set lunch was wretched. But it didn't matter so much, sitting at a table outside and commanding the view. And it was no hardship to walk back, with a slight detour along a looser path by the waters.

For those intent on further refreshments - we weren't - there's also a pretty-looking chalet-cafe by the Cascade de Bérard. But by then, of course, the enchanted uplands have long been left behind.


Catriona said...

Glad to see you online again. The flowers are beautiful, especially the orchids.

Laurent said...

David, how nice to discover these two entries. Beautiful photo as always. Must say all this hiking high up in the mountains sounds Olympic like. Is there a gold medal somewhere? Tarte aux Myrtilles looks delicious. Back in 1974 I visited the region near the Materhorn and never forgot those wonderful panoramas. Please continue to describe this adventure.

Susan Scheid said...

This is so, so beautiful. I love being able to take this "cyberwalk" with you & yours. Another place to visit I must add to my ever-growing list. Meanwhile, writing to you (and mindful that you, too, are one of those Bardic sages about which you inquired), I was away this weekend and could hardly wait to come back and post the post just up. The information given is far beyond my pay grade, as some here might say, but fascinating, nonetheless. I'd not long ago learned of the Franck connection, and then to learn this! Anyway, the post is meant most of all for you as a little amuse-bouche, and I hope you enjoy it!

David said...

Catriona - you remind me it's a year since we bumped into each other after FrOSch at the Edinburgh Festival. Hope all's well, and glad you enjoyed Gottingen as ever.

Laurent - You're too kind - by Cham regulars' standards, I doubt if we'd qualify for a bronze: no crampons, no glaciers, no ice-fields. As I wrote in the first post, we're distinctly middle rangers. Though I'm pleased how fit we got climbing an average of 850m. I'll drop you a line. Zermatt and the Matterhorn I've always wanted to see.

Sue - so the 'little phrase' in Proust's 'Vinteuil Sonata' is Saint-Saens's, not Franck's ( which I suppose is more of a 'melodie eternelle'....