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.