Hiking in the “vallee des Glaciers”: Les Chapieux

Les Chapieux is a village in the Bourg Saint Maurice-municipality, without being an actual village. It’s an important stop along the famous “Tour du Mont Blanc” and yields a lot of facilities. It is located in the Vallee des Glaciers, named after the mountain “Aiguille des Glaciers” at the end of the valley. This is a stonishing peak, standing at 3816 meters and with a glaciated southface.

Due to its location, Les Chapieux is a warm welcome for hikers. Literally: the valley floor is relatively wide and exposed to the south and slightly open towards the west, allowing the evening sun to enter the valley. At an elevation of just under 1600m, it’s one of the low-points during the Tour du Mont Blanc.

Facilities in Les Chapieux

Les Chapieux has a few cabins (Chalets de Raja and Refuge/Auberge de la Nova). The latter also has a restaurant, where the food is very good but where you need to pay cash as bank cards are not accepted.
There is also an “Epicerie”, where they sell local products, bread, meat and beer. In the evenings, they also serve pizza – however it’s recommend to order already when you arrive. It’s good pizza – and you can pay with bank card or credit card.
The Epicerie sells (satellite) Wi-Fi too, in case you need it.

Furthermore: there is a camp field, suitable for RV’s (Camper Vans) and tents, with electricity. It’s a bivouac field, where you can stay for 48H maximum, for free. There is no shower, but there are toilets and potable water.
Do bear in mind: there is no cell phone reception in Les Chapieux, or anywhere else in the Vallee des Glaciers for that matter.

There is also a small bus running from Les Chapieux further down the valley. Until July 1st, it runs until “Ville des Glaciers”, roughly half-way up the valley. After July 1st, it runs until the end (but cars are prohibited from July 1 until September). The bus costs 3.50 EUR and can provide you with an excellent “shortcut” for the Tour du Mont Blanc.

The camp field in Les Chapieux - the goats are a bonus. They don't stay overnight at the camp site!
The camp field in Les Chapieux – the goats are a bonus. They don’t stay overnight at the camp site!

Hikes from Les Chapieux

Hiking is popular in this area, not in the least due to the Tour du Mont Blanc. There are several hikes that can be made in this valley:

From Les Chapieux to Refuge du Col de la Croix du Bonhomme (picture below). Well-marked, easy to follow path, taking you almost 900 meters up. There are no particular difficult parts on the climb, and it’s quite varied. The first part takes you through an orchard, then some meadows with cows before entering the high-alpine environment above 2000m. According to the sign in the valley, it takes 3hrs. For reasonably fit people, it’s about 2 hours.

Refuge de la Croix du Bonhomme
Refuge de la Croix du Bonhomme

Aiguille des Glaciers / Refuge Robert Blanc. It’s perfectly feasible and recommendable to take the bus to Chalet des Lanchettes, at the end of the road in the valley. From here you can take the path towards Refuge Robert Blanc at 2750m: a climb of 775 meters. It’s a beautiful place and a great climb without too many difficulties. Go early, as you probably also want to take the bus back to Les Chapieux.
The climb from Les Lanchettes to Refuge Robert Blanc takes about 2 / 2.5 hours. The meandering river at the outlet of the Lanchette-glacier is a nice place to take your breath. Just realize that only 20 years ago, the glacier was still there – and the river wasn’t.

The remains of Glacier des Lanchettes…Perfect picknick-place
Aiguille des Glaciers, 3816 m asl

The Tour du Mont Blanc

Most people who are staying here overnight for a hike, are people who are hiking the Tour du Mont Blanc: 102 miles / 168km around the Mont Blanc mountain range, taking you through Italy, France and Switzerland. From Les Chapieux, the route continues towards Refuge des Mottets (arguably one of the most beautiful mountain huts in France) and the Col de Seigne (2500m) in Italy. During the WW2, the Vallee des Glaciers was part of the front between France and Italy and severe mountain battles took place. Some information about this is still to be found at the camp site (next to the toilets) and in the “Casermatta Val Veny”, on the descent towards Rifugio Elisabetta and Courmayeur in Italy.

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