Trek along GR5
We are a not-that-young couple (66 and 57 years old), not in great shape. We went on a trek in the French Alps. This route is around the GR5, with some deviations. We based much of our route on the excellent blog by David May http://www.grfive.com/index.htm. We spent half the nights at huts, and half at hotels/airbnbs. All the huts we stayed at served supper and breakfast, and packed lunches for the route, all at an extra price of course.
The trek was not easy for us, but reasonable. We divided the trek into reasonable stretches every day, and alternating between huts and hotels allowed us more relaxation. The trek is very beautiful, with changing views.
We started off at the Geneva train station. We took a bus + train to Evian Les Bains, our starting point for the trek. The town is very nice, however we arrived around 10 pm and it was very dark in town, with no people outside. We stayed at Zenitude Hôtel-Résidences Les Terrasses du Lac, which was nice, but quite a steep climb from the train station (as pretty much everything is).
We had a very nice breakfast (excellent sandwiches) at the bakery Epi d'Or. We then bought groceries at Carrefour and walked down to the train station, where we started the trek. Our first day was not along the GR5, so it was not entirely trivial to find the way; that's why I am going into detail here. We started by walking on a path up along the funicular. So, if you are staying on the hill, it is not necessary to go down to the train station and then back up. Just find the funicular and walk along it till its end.
Right above the end of the funicular, are yellow and red trail markings. Follow the ones heading toward Parc Neuvcelle or Bois de Neuvcelle. The trail goes through a nicely shaded forest for a few kilometers, in parallel with Lac Leman (Lake Geneva). Finally, we reached a place marked Parc Neuvcelle. From here, we continued with the red/yellow marks. The general direction is uphill and a bit to the East. Just before we reached a stream coming down from the mountain, we took a wide, but unmarked trail going steeply up and parallel to the stream. This was a long climb, and its end was in St Paul en Chablais.
We had a nice rest in a restaurant there, where we also got a local map that helped us find the next part of the route. It is possible to sleep there, but we preferred to continue.
From Chef Lieu (the town center) we walked along the north bank of the Coppy stream, parallel to Lac Leman, through pastures. After 2-3 kilometers, the trail turns right, and continues on the road. We followed the road/trail toward the four lakes. We reached the first lake which has a big swimming area along with various sports attractions. From there it took around another hour along the trail and then road to reach Bernex.
At Bernex we stayed at an Airbnb: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/4658902?source_impression_id=p3_1569676080_GdH2qltc8G0TfjMG. It is a small place – one bedroom, small living room and kitchen. Alice was most extremely nice and helpful, as you will see on the next day. Right opposite her house is a nice crepe restaurant – Le Cave a Crepes.
Our plan was to take the chair lift up to Pre Richard, but it was not working because it rained that morning. Our charming host, Alice, offered to give us a lift first to the local bakery and then up to La Fetiure, saving us a climb of around 350m. From La Fetiure it was a steep climb of about 750m with chains towards the end of the climb at the Refuge Dent d'Oche. The refuge is located on a rocky ledge, with beautiful views all around – north to Lac Leman and south toward Mont Blanc. The atmosphere is very nice and intimate, with a warm fireplace. There are no private rooms here, and no running water or electricity. The caretakers collect rain water, so it is possible to purchase bottles of water. There is no water from here down to Refuge de Bise, so make sure you take enough.
The day started by climbing to the summit of Dent d'Oche, again using chains. Following the climb came a long descent, with several intermittent ascents. The weather was hot, so this turned out to be a difficult day. We had intended to continue to Chapelle d'Abodance that day, but we were pretty exhausted by the time we reached Refuge de Bise. Refuge de Bise can be reached by a car, and there are restaurants and farm attractions. It is a popular tourist destination. We ended up catching a ride from there to Chapelle d'Abodance, which was all for the better, because the trail would require another 400m ascent and then descent. We stayed at hotel La Joly, La Chapelle d'Abondance. Fixed: +33 (0) 450 730 891, Mobile: +33 (0) 673 250 778, Résidence La Joly, Route de Cret-Bêni. The hotel was okay, but the room was quite small.
We set off to Refuge Trebentaz. The route starts by walking from town south toward the forest. Then along the forest in parallel with the main road. Finally, it climbs into the forest for a long climb of over 800m. The first part of the walk goes through the forest. Then higher up, it becomes pasture land. Trebentaz is nicely located high in the mountain. They receive their supplies using a cable from the valley below. The refuge is small and pleasant. They have one private room which we reserved in advance. They cooked an outstanding supper, once of the best I've ever eaten, including French cheeses, dessert, and cake.
Trebentaz (refuge), Tel. 06 07 14 49 34 or 06.81.02.93.80
We left Trebentaz around 8. The path starts with a steep 200m climb into the mist, up to a col. The trail is not entirely clear after the col – you need to turn left into a meadow until you reach a hut (Les Mattes) where there are signs toward GR5, direction Lenlevay. Then comes a pleasant walk downhill through pastrues. Afterwards comes a long stretch along a country road, and finally a climb to Col Bassachaux. There is no restaurant at Col Bassachaux. There is water at Lenlevay. From the col, walk on a pleasant forest road for a while, and then begin a gradual long climb through pastures to Refuge Chesery. Chesery has a nice location next to Lac Vert.
We continued along a path up to the Col above the lake. From there we searched for the path to Les Crosets. We went left along the road, and this took us about an hour. There is probably a shorter walk to Les Crosets, but we didn't find it.
We stayed at the Hotel l'Etable, 1873 Les Crosets, Suisse, Phone :+41(0)2 45 65 65 55, which was very nice.
We walked up along the unpaved road to rejoin GR5. The climb is about 200-300 m high. Then we continued at level, until the ascent to Col Coux (another 200-300m). Continued through a pleasant pasture, and then into a forest – 600 m downhill. Finally there is another 300m climb to Refuge Golese. It is a nice, modern refuge with private rooms and electricity.
We had a long walk through the forest to Samoen. There a several routes going down, with a total descent of about 1000m. We had planned to continue on to Savigny, but we hadn't reserved in advance and couldn't find a place to stay, so better reserve more in advance. So we stayed in Samoens. The hotel was nice, but about 20 min walk uphill from the center of town, so this wasn't very convenient (especially when the weather is hot).
We tried to reserve a bus to Sixt Fer a Cheval, but it turned out we had to reserve a day in advance, especially as we had arrived on a holiday. Even finding a taxi was difficult. We finally found a taxi that took us up to Lignon. This saved us a long walk including 800m ascent. Even so, we climbed 1000m that day.
From Col d'Antern there is beautiful view of Mont Blanc. Then we walked over to a lovely lake – lake Antern. It is a great place to relax. Finally, a steep descent leads to Moed Antern. This refuge is not so great – it was very crowded and the sleeping is in common rooms only. The views are wonderful. The food was also not so great, but they packed a nice picnic for the next day.
We started with a 500m descent into the valley and the stream, and then on to a 1000m climb to Col de Brevant. The path is very nice but long and difficult. The view from Col Brevant is amazing. From there, it takes another hour to Mount Brevant – steep, and includes ladders. From mount Brevant, we took the Teleferique down to Chamonix, rather that take the long descent. We stayed in Chamonix for a few more days to hike around and relax.