Ecrins trekking

From Chabournéou to Vallonpierre on the Minister's footpath

5 h
Duration
Medium
Medium
Loop
Loop
16.9 km
Total Length
1174 m
Ascent
Uses
  • By walk
Thematic
  • Fauna
  • Geology
  • Hut

Departure : Crépon car park, La Chapelle-en-Valgaudemar

Footpaths, odours, summits and a 360° view... This circuit walk first takes you to the Cabournéou refuge, then the Vallonpierre one by the Minister's footpath.

"From Le Crépon, the Sirac catches the eye. It is there like an insurmountable barrier that the sun hopelessly tries to straddle. This summit draws us to it. Before heading to brush up against it by walking at its feet, you will be absorbed by the large variety of flora, and carried along by the song of birds from up there. North, South, East, West. This accessible walk covers all directions to ensure delight with every step. "

Régis Jordana, warden in the Valgaudemar area

From the car park, take the footpath that goes down the Gioberney stream and cross the bridge. From there, follow the signs for "Refuge du Chabournéou". It is situated at an altitude of 1998 m, and takes about two hours to walk to. Behind the building, you will find the start of the footpath leading to the Vallonpierre refuge (1-hour walk). The now rocky path leads across the foot of the Sirac mountain, amidst silky alpine grey willows. After a short steep stretch, where you will need to be careful, you will reach a grassy plateau "Le Pré" on which you will find the Vallonpierre refuge at an altitude of 2271 m. Once you have made the most of the place, the return trip will take about an hour 45 minutes. To do so, go back slightly to join up with the GR54 trail. After going round the bends of the glacial cross-cliff on the way down, you will get to the "Pré de Surette" and its hut where a footbridge will take you across the Séveraisse stream. Cross another footbridge over the Pis stream. 300 m from here, you will reach the Minister's footpath that leads back to the car park directly. 

Transport

Shuttle possible from St Firmin (reservation 36 hours in advance through Voyageurs 05) Connection with buses coming from Gap or Grenoble.

Access

26 km from Saint Firmin, take the D58 and the D958a as far as La Chapelle en Valgaudemar. Then follow the D480a until you reach the Crépon car park, 800 m before the Gioberney refuge.

Information desks

Valgaudemar Park house

Information, documentation and a reception area with permanent and temporary exhibitions. La Maison du Parc is labeled "Tourism and Disability". Free admission. All animations of the Park are free unless otherwise stated.

Ancien Asile Saint-Paul
05800 La Chapelle-en-Valgaudemar

Website - Email - 04 92 55 25 19

Lat: 44.81836, Lng: 6.19371

This trek is within park center, please read access rules.

Clic for map interaction

On the way...
History
The Minister's footpath

A strange name for a footpath... Two explanations are given. The first, simply suggests that a minister inaugurated, or at least used, the footpath. The second, which is more likely, explains that donkeys were also known as ministers. Indeed, these animals were priceless to peasants of the time and they were pampered and treated accordingly. This path, which is mostly flat would have been well suited for them, and it would seem logical that it was given this name.

Randonneur sur le sentier du Ministre
Flora
Variety of the natural environment

During this walk, you will face all four directions at some point. This feature gives a surprising variety of plant species, from almost Mediterranean vegetation to subalpine species on the north slopes, such as alpine grey willow (see description below). You will walk for some time in scree, then tread on short alpine prairies and its cushion-like plants

Le vallon de Surette et le Sirac
Water
Streams

Water is also omnipresent on this circuit. You will successively cross the Gioberney stream, the Pis stream, the Vallonpierre stream and the Sirac. They constitute a watershed that the Séveraisse absorbs to become the sometimes capricious stream that flows from one end of the Valgaudemar valley to the other.

La Séveraisse et sa ripisylve
Hut
The Chabourneou refuge

After 1 hour and forty-five minutes walking, you will come across the charming mountain refuge that is at an altitude of 2000 m. It is guarded in spring and is the starting point for ski touring routes such as the Jocelme or the Brèche en V. In the summer, backing onto the Sirac, it is at the limit between hiking and mountaineering: a first-rate location. You might be lucky enough to spot chamois that loiter on the neighbouring slopes at the end of the day, as the sun takes its time to leave.

Le refuge de Chabournéou
Fauna
Chamois

The chamois is an emblematic animal of the Alps and is at home anywhere in the mountains be it in the forests or rocky areas. It has short curved black horns and is a close relative of the antelope. It has particularly well developed sense of smell and hearing. It is consequently difficult to approach. However, near to the Chabournéou mountain refuge, and on the route towards that of Vallonpierre, it will be quite easy to enjoy the antics of the young kids on the névés that are still present. Did you know? While a walker is capable of climbing 400 m in an hour, the chamois is capable of climbing up 1000 m in ten minutes!  This physical capacity is very useful for escaping danger.

Jeune chamois
Top
The Sirac

To the south of the Ecrins massif, the Sirac is the last high summit at an altitude of 3441 m. It stands at the end of the Séveraisse valley, proudly showing off it best side: its 1500-metre high north face. During this walk, you will regularly raise you amazed eyes as if to salute this Lord and its crown. You will walk at its feet whilst being overlooked by its hanging glaciers. Simply magic!

Le Sirac depuis Vallonpierre
Flora
Alpine grey willow

At the subalpine level, above the highest limit of the forests, only bushes such as the alpine grey willow can be found. It is possible to find it on the north slopes of the Sirac, on the route between Chabournéou and Vallonpierre. It's milky green colour can be spotted from afar. If you look closer, you will notice its main characteristic, which is a silky hair that is on both sides of the leaves. One reasons for this peculiarity might be to store as much moisture as possible to avoid desiccation. Despite its abundance here, it should not be forgotten that it is not such a common species!

Chatons femelles du saule glauque et soyeux
Hut
The Vallonpierre refuge

A small lake, pretty meadows and the benevolent Sirac... This magical setting would lead to the construction of a refuge at an altitude of 2270 m in 1942. However, it was a victim of its own success and in 2000 the decision was made to build a second, bigger one. It can accommodate 37 instead of 22. This new building was the first modern mountain refuge to be built using stones on site rather than imported materials. It copies the simplicity and the crow-stepped gable from the "small refuge" which has been kept as lodgings for a warden's helper.

Le refuge et le lac de Vallonpierre
Geology
Impressive geology

From chabournéite, the native mineral of Valgaudemar, to the crystalline rock from the Sirac's gneiss, from the hollow of Vallonpierre made in sedimentary rock to the show that is given by the shale and tuffs on the Chevrettes pass, this circuit will take you back in time. The folds and the colours appear before you like an impressionist’s work of art.

Vallon Plat, Col de Vallonpierre
Fauna
High altitude birds

Autumn is migration season. The mountains, which are too harsh in winter, loses their inhabitants. Some opt for a change in altitude and go lower down the valley or to the coast. This is the case for the alpine accentor, the redstart, the redpoll, or the Eurasian linette. Others head off on a long journey to warmer countries. The Sahara offers a milder winter to the common rock thrush, whinchat and wheatear. The lesser whitethroat will head to the east. In the summer, this fine bunch will meet up again in the mountains. It finds a sanctuary where the diversity of plants and invertebrates is preserved. The alpine pastures seem to be favourable for the reproduction of all of these species that are diminishing and need to be protected.

Linotte mélodieuse, pinson des arbres, moineau friquet

Altitude profile

Altitude (m)

Min : 1561 m - Max : 2298 m

Distance (m)

 

Advice

The last 15 metres or so before reaching the plateau where the Vallonpierre is situated are somewhat high but this is the only difficulty on the walk. NB. It is also possible to do the return walk by continuing along the GR54 up to the old hamlet of Clot and its pastoral hut. You will then need to climb back 80 m up the glacial cross-cliff to easily reach the car park.