Desert de Platé and the Refuge de Platé
Country - France
Region - Haute Savoie (74) - Chamonix Valley
Author - Lou Johnson
Ascent - 930 metres / 3069 feet
Descent - 930 metres / 3069 feet
Time - 5.00 hours
One of the great walks in the Chamonix Valley. This is a challenging route that requires a head for heights and sure-footedness. Under normal conditions the route can be completed by most experienced walkers. However after heavy rain there is one point in the upper reaches of the ascent and a couple lower down where crossing streams may present difficulties.
The start is from Praz Courant on the D43 from Passy to Paine Joux. Parking is available along the roadside adjacent to the hairpin bend with a crucifix and signs for the Refuge de Platé. After parking take the signed track, which climbs gently through mature woodland. After crossing the l'Ugine Torrent fork right on the signed path.
The hard work begins as the path starts to zigzag up rough ground with small shrubs dotted across the hillside. Ahead you can see the sheer limestone walls that have to be penetrated to reach the Desert de Platé. Climbing higher you gain excellent views of Mont Blanc behind you and it is worth noting that these views improve during the descent when the light is much more favourable especially for photography
Soon the shrubs become sparser and you get your first sight of the impressive vertical gully that the path uses to penetrate the rock wall. The zigzags become tighter and the climb steeper, before you round a rock face and cross an artificial ledge to reach the limestone plateau. This is another world with Limestone Pavements in abundance and the shapely summit of le Sautet to your left. Ahead, well hidden amongst the bare limestone rock, lies a group of chalets, one of which is the Refuge de Platé.
The return route is the reverse of the outward walk. Do take care in descent as there are a couple of sections of path in the upper reaches where there is some dangerous drops. Otherwise relax and enjoy the view of Mont Blanc ahead. Nearing the end of the descent remember to take time to look back. It is an impressive limestone rock wall that you have just visited.
- Carte de Randonnées "Sheet A1 - Pays due Mont-Blanc" published by Rando Editions. 1:50000 scale - Sheet A1
- Map of Mountain Footpaths in Summer - 1:40000 - Published by the Office de Tourisme
- IGN Carte de Randonnée - Samoëns - Haut Giffre - 1:25000 Sheet 3530ET
French IGN mapping is available in digital format by area and 'cut your own' maps. For more information and availabilty go to the Anquet website.
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