Reaching this place turned out to be one of the best decisions during our September trip through France. Free camping in a lovely valley and so much beauty at your fingertips! From there, both hikers and cyclists set off for Vallee des Glaciers, the Valley of Glaciers. Motorcyclists and RV drivers arrive there for an overnight stay along a winding ribbon of smooth asphalt, enthralled by the fabulous panorama of the Savoy Alps.
It is also worth mentioning that the Route des Grandes Alpes, which we have already described with delight, runs there and connects to the Tarentaise Valley. This section is the Col du Cormet de Roselend pass (1,968 m). It can be used to reach Bourg-Saint-Maurice, and further to the famous Col de l'Iseran (2,764 m), which is considered the most beautiful pass in the Alps.
However, let's return to the route leading to the described campsite. As you can see from the photos below, the accompanying scenery is also feast for the eyes:
And so we arrive at the vast clearing of the Les Chapieux campsite, which provides newcomers with a cozy "vestibule" to the mountain kingdom of the Aiguille des Glaciers, a peak reaching 3,816 meters, gleaming with an icy face in the distance.
Camping Les Chapieux: practical information
|The campground's spacious site will accommodate quite a few RVs and tents (most preferably pitched on an adjacent strip of grass). The campground is free of charge. We came across an English article that says you can stay in the campground for up to 48 hours, but we didn't see this guideline on the information board at the site. There are no showers at the campsite, but there is a building with toilets, a sink and drinking water. There is also an electrical outlet. There is no internet coverage at the campsite, as well as in the entire Valley of the Glaciers (uff, a real digital detox ;) ). Nearby there is a bus stop. The bus can take you further into the valley (price 3,50 euros).
|Near by there's Refuge / Auberge de la Nova, a hostel that is said to have been hosting hikers for more than 120 years. It has rooms and communal halls, price per night with food Є 60 - 80 (depending on amenities), payment in cash.
|At Auberge de la Nova, you'll also find a restaurant where the food has a great reputation (fresh, with use of local products, e.g. berries, cheese). There you can purchase homemade génépi, a traditional sweet herbal liqueur made from local wormwood. Payment is by cash only. There is also an "Epicerie" where you can buy local products, bread, meat, beer. In the evenings, pizza is served there, which is better to order in advance. You can pay for it with a bank card. "Epicerie" also sells satellite Wi-Fi for those in special need.
Let's not forget that a little further northeast of the campsite stretches the "roof of Europe" itself, namely Mont Blanc at 4,809 m. Therefore, the valley at Les Champieux, located just below 1,600 m, is a popular stop for hikers tackling the highest peak in the Alps.
What about enthusiasts of gentler tours or two wheels? This place is a hit! More than one mountain route leads from there, including a well-marked trail taking us almost 900 meters up to the Refuge du Col de la Croix du Bonhomme hut. It is relatively easy and also beautifully varied. At the outset, we will be welcomed by meadows full of cows and sheep,and later, along a picturesque path, running along the slope, we will cut the silvery strings of streams.
It is a 2-3 hour walk, depending on your fitness.
This time we decided to explore the valley on mountain e-bikes. It turned out to be optimal to combine the aforementioned trail with access to the shelter via a smooth, asphalt road. It took us to our destination in less than an hour (we have to take into account frequent photo stops, as the scenery there can confidently be counted among the most beautiful that the bikes have taken us to so far). The street is winding, scenic and, most importantly, quiet, as it is closed to cars during the vacation season.
The photos below are clickable and show the majestic beauty of the Aiguille des Glaciers peak looming on the horizon:
In summer there are no cars on the paved route (except for those authorized), but there is a bus service that takes you from Les Chapieux to the center of the valley. It costs €3.50 and makes it easy to complete further hikes. Take, for example, the aforementioned summit of the Aiguille des Glaciers and the Refuge Robert Blanc. Many hikers use the bus to reach Chalet des Lanchettes, at the end of the road in the valley. From there, a pleasant and not too difficult climb of 775 meters awaits, taking about 2.5 hours. The meandering river at the mouth of the Lanchette glacier invites you to stop and contemplate for a while. Until 20 years ago there was a glacier in this place, not a river....
Heading for Mont Blanc
Les Chapieux campground is, for many, the beginning of the adventure of the "Tour du Mont Blanc," a 168-kilometer trail around the Mont Blanc range, crossing Italy, France and Switzerland. From Les Chapieux, the route leads to the Refuge des Mottets, a shelter considered by some to be the most beautiful in France. Further on, the Italian Col de Segine pass at 2,500 meters awaits.
During World War II, the Valley of the Glaciers was part of the front between France and Italy, so several battles took place there. Information about this can be found at the campsite (near the sanitary building) and in "Casermatta Val Veny," on the descent to Rifugio Elisabetta and Courmayeur, Italy. Remnants of fortifications and fire positions can still be found along the trail today, as the paths between Mont Fortin and Col Chavanne follow the same course as they did during former military operations.
La Casermetta: a silent witness to history
Apparently, there are not many mentions about it in tourist guides. La Casermetta, lying at an altitude of 2,365 meters, appears on the map as a mountain hut, but there is much more behind this inconspicuous symbol. The place where it is located has been a real gateway to the Aosta Valley since ancient times. The route for goods arriving in France used to run there. During the conflict with Italy, as a facility based on the border, it was constantly guarded by military. The darkest event at the Col de Seigne Pass was the attack by the Italian army on France, which was defeated by Nazi Germany, during World War II.
It wasn't until the winter of 1945 that a group of aspiring ski instructors breathed new life into the place. The Mont Blanc Ski School was established there, which, due to economic difficulties, used skis made of white ash, abandoned by the German army during the hasty retreat that took place on April 25.
Currently, the stone "hut" serves as an educational unit, as part of the "Espace Mont Blanc" initiative. It aims to expand environmental awareness, especially on the topic of glaciers and their dynamics. Thanks to its strategic cross-border location, it is also a facility for obtaining socio-demographic data on visitors to Mont Blanc, as well as scientific data to monitor mountain ecosystems. The building includes a model of the Mont Blanc massif and data illustrating the natural, environmental, geographic and historical aspects of the territory.
But most interesting is the fact that for its operation, Casermetta has been equipped with an energy supply system based entirely on renewable sources: solar panels, photovoltaics and micro hydroelectric power. Such a solution ensures the supply of energy for the entire structure without emissions of CO2, nitrogen oxides and sulfur.
Les Chapieux Camping on the map
Camping at Les Chapieux is proof that you don't have to spend a fortune to find a stopover in a stunning location, from where every road will take you to the essence of Alpine beauty :)