One of our adventurers returned with some amazing photos on our Mont Blanc to the Mediterranean journey, which follows part of the GR5, one of Europe’s famous long-distance hiking trails.
We picked this hike for the mountains; but we discovered, there are more dimensions to it. This adventure follows some of the most scenic sections of the GR5, and we also had wonderful local lodges along the way. Here are just some of the many photos I took during our journey.
The French Alps make a magnificent backdrop for a fantastic hike!
We picked the perfect time for the trip and were greeted by the sight of thousands of wildflowers blanketing the slopes.
Reaching the summit of Col de Bresson (8,098′).
One of the luxuries of hiking in the French Alps is the hikers’ refuges along the way. Of course, we could not resist lunch!
We hiked past the chapel of Saint Guerin. Here, twice a year, the priest still blesses the flock when they are released to pasture in the spring and when they return in the fall. It is a simple chapel built into the hillside as a defense against avalanches.
We enjoyed an overnight in the small village of Bourg-St.-Maurice. The main street was closed to traffic and all the tables pulled out into the street. The bars brought their flat-screen televisions out. To our complete surprise, it was the night of the World Cup semi-finals; and France was playing. As the French team was introduced, the crowd joined in singing the Marseillaise, the French national anthem. It was great to be introduced to soccer in this way, and to watch the excitement of the locals on the streets of a French village.
Whether we were crossing Col du Plan Séry (8,560′) one day or Col de la Vanoise (8,255′) another, the sights were outstanding. Sigh! Another day, another waterfall.
A glorious day. Jagged mountains, a rushing torrent, a convenient bridge. Here’s a very happy hiker.
Just down from the international border, we saw the rare Ibex. We were pretty lucky to get a shot of such a large stag.
A herd of ibex lounging in the rocks, probably laughing at the hikers who need hiking poles to clamber along the trail.
We stopped in the village of Nevache to see the old church of Saint Marcellin. Inside is an ancient painting of the Black Madonna. Mary and Jesus are depicted with dark complexions. Beneath Mary and Jesus are apparently the Alps and a small village with a graveyard and a church, possibly Nevache. The Black Madonna has special religious significance.
Another stop was Castle Queyras, constructed, as far as anyone can tell, in 1207. Originally built to defend against the Austrians, the castle has seen many wars over the centuries, including religious wars. It was part of the Maginot Line, but it was disarmed by Vichy France in WWII. Inside the castle are many floor-to-ceiling banners telling the story of WWII in France. The French Resistance demonstrated incredible courage in the face of an overpowering and ruthless foe. As we left the castle, we were sobered and somehow hope that the world will not forget the lessons we have learned at such cost.
We made it to the Pas des Ladres, (8031′), the “pass of thieves.” We are about a half an hour from the Italian border at this point. I imagined jewel thieves who have robbed royalty making desperate escapes across the pass in both directions (our guide says they were most likely rustlers).
—Text and photos by 7-time WT adventurer Tom Adams, Mont Blanc to the Mediterranean.