Bellachat is a cosy refuge but when it rains there is standing room only. This is the last place you can get water so make sure you have enough to complete the end of the last stage.
Diary – Friday July 23
Plan Praz – Col du Brevent – Le Brevent – Refuge Bellachat – Merlet – statue Christ Roi – Les Houches
Up early again, even though this would be a comparably short day we wanted to make sure we avoided any possibility of meeting those late afternoon showers. The cable car whisked us up back to Plan Praz and we started the climb towards the Col du Brevent. Soon the path settles down to zigzags and every so often one of the corners reveals the spectacular view across the void to the Brevent cable car station with Mont Blanc across the valley. The path started to level and suddenly we were at the Col du Brevent where a cairn sat in the middle of a patch of snow. There were still great views to Mont Blanc and we could also see over the Aiguilles Rouges to the Rochers des Fizz and the Diosaz plateau.
In a couple of steeper sections ladders are attached to the rock, but the going was easy and soon we found ourselves at the Cable car station of Le Brevent.
It was strange to be suddenly surrounded by crowds of tourist and day walkers who had ridden up when only minutes before we had been more or less on our own.
The view from here is wonderful, with Mont Blanc straight in front of you and the whole of the Chamonix Valley below. We could see the path we would follow meandering its way along the top of the Aiguille Rouges.
There was a tell-tale fish shaped cloud over Mont Blanc which signified bad weather, so the forecast had got it right. We decided to walk on to Bellachat and have lunch there. The path is great, quite flat and passing families of marmots playing in the rocks close by. As we approached the valley edge the clouds were gathering and a cold wind got up.
We could now see the refuge of Bellachat below us and 10 minutes later we were standing on its wooden terrace. That’s when we felt the first drops of rain. We went inside and ordered soup, happy in the knowledge that we were only a few hours from the walk’s end so we could take our time.
But as we were finishing our soup a thunderstorm hit and everyone in the area had made a bee-line to the refuge. It was like a train in the rush hour – standing room only, people really crammed in. We were lucky that we had seats.
After an hour and a half the rain was easing and you could see the other side of the valley again, so we decided to put on waterproofs and head down. No one else followed us.
By now the rain was just a drizzle and we just took it easy, following the path as it wound its way down a steep gully in tight zigzags. The path was slippery in places but we were enjoying ourselves as we headed towards the finish line. The path became less steep as it reached the tree line, where it passed alongside the fence at the back of the mountain zoo at Merlet. What little rain there was had stopped by now and we packed away our waterproofs away.
The path passes across a road and then descends steeply to a clearing beneath the statue Christ Roi, a 20 metre art nouveau statue of Christ. From here on the path became less steep, widening to a track and eventually becoming a road. In 30 minutes were at the station at Les Houches – our finishing point. We took the obligatory finishing photos and waited for the train to take us back to Chamonix.
Back in Chamonix we found a hotel, had quick showers and then went and sat on the terrace of a café and ordered a glass of champagne to celebrate.
It was a great 12 days, a wonderful walk and we more or less had good weather all the way. Over the time our legs had become strong and sturdy (approximately 11500m of ascent and 11500m or descent in a distance of 190km), we’d seen some of the most incredible mountain scenery in the area, stayed in some beautiful mountain hostelries (and some not so good) and made friends along the way. All in all we found it tough, but satisfying and were glad that we’d given it a go.