First the téléphérique ride up to the glacial wastelands at 3211 m. The ride is pretty special, carried across the forested glacial valley with the river Romanche 500 m. below the cabine. There’s a change at 2416 m. to another lift which carries higher still, now over rocky wasteland wrecked by the glacier and too high for trees. The end of the second ride is the start of the hike. You need crampons, ropes and poles to continue very much higher - and skills which I don’t have - but it’s possible to get a bit further on cleared paths.
The views from 3300 m. are panoramic to the north. A multitude of peaks, sadly too many are dry, no snow. Clouds fluffing in some of the valleys, Mt Blanc and the Belladonne far away, also Mt Thabor (which I hiked to the top of in 2014) and the spiky Aiguilles d'Arves much closer.
Time to go down, in a cabine with a French family, parents, son and two daughters, one very confident but the other eyes closed and fists tight, but she wasn’t getting any sympathy. Then a relatively normal hike in the middle mountain terrain accessible from the changeover station on the téléphérique at 2416 m. A path to a refuge labelled “easy” so as not to discourage customers would be nothing of the sort in the UK! But this is the Alps. I picnicked at the side of Lac de Puy Vachier (2382 m.), a circular lake, blue with reflection of the sky. It was busy at lunchtime but returning much later the marmottes were calling, enjoying the grass in its banks, alone with a few lapwings.
Refuge Evariste Chancel (2508 m.) looked to be one of the more comfortable type but I’d brought my own snacks. A family of donkeys tethered outside, resting presumably after deliveries. There’s a belvedere a bit above the refuge, which was a quieter place to enjoy the views.
The clouds had cleared since morning but time to go down in a cabine, this time in the company of a group of very English hikers from the southeast, almost overwhelmed by the experience of the glaciers, the ride and the views.
The sunset caught the peaks and glaciers, about 2½ km. vertically above the village of La Grave.