Ecrins trekking

The mule path

3 h
Duration
Easy
Easy
Loop
Loop
6.8 km
Total Length
508 m
Ascent
Uses
  • By walk
Thematic
  • History and architecture
  • Pastoralism

Hiking along this path, how can you not be struck by all the terraces which surround the villages of the canton? At the beginning of the last century they were all cultivated. 

This emblematic itinerary « Chemins d'Avant » (paths from the past) was used by the farmers going to mow the meadows on the Plateau d'Emparis.  Mules, heavily laden with hay descended their precious loads on this path. Much used by hikers on the GR 54 trail, it has been damaged over time. If you respect the newly traced hairpin bends you will protect this beautiful itinerary.

From the starting point at Chazelet (1770 m), descend in the direction of the village along by the car park. At the first fork, do not go up in to the village but take the hairpin bend to the right in the direction of the foot of the ski-lifts. Cross the Gâ at the departure of the chairlift then follow the large hairpin bends that go up to the Eastern slope of the Plateau d'Emparis. Pass the banks (2060 m) and, at this point, fork to the left in the direction of the Southern edge of the Plateau d'Emparis. An exceptional view of Malaval valley situated at 1000 m further down. Pass close to the Maison Rouge » ruins and the « Pré Veyraud » (2132m). Fork to the right in the direction of the small mountain pass (2164 m). At this point, join the GR 54, and follow it descending to the banks. At the banks, fork to the left and take the path that crosses the Plateau d'Emparis ski lift and reach Clot Raffin hamlet. Take the path that leads to the bridge situated at the departure of the ski-lifts. Go up to Chazelet on a large track to return to the starting point for this itinerary.

Transport

Bus Grenoble gare routière/SNCF - La Grave / Villar d'Arène - Briançon (LER 35 - Transisère).

Access

From Bourg-d'Oisans, follow the D1091 and cross La Grave. At the tunnel exit, turn right on to the D33 and follow the direction of Chazelet.

Information desks

Tourism Office of La Grave, La Meije - Villar d'Arène

RD 1091
05320 La Grave

Website - Email - +33 (0)4 76 79 90 05

Lat: 45.04544, Lng: 6.30698

Clic for map interaction

On the way...
Fauna
Cincle plongeur

Posté sur un gros galet en partie immergé, le cincle se balance, queue dressée. Puis, le voilà qui plonge dans l'eau tourbillonnante, tête la première. Cet étonnant passereau à la particularité de marcher au fond de l'eau, à contre-courant, en quête de nourriture. Grâce à la fine membrane qui protège ses yeux des flots, il trouve ses proies à vue (vers, petits crustacés, larves d'insectes aquatiques) avant de sortir sa tête de l'eau et de se laisser emporter doucement par le courant. Finalement, il rejoint un nouveau poste de chasse et renouvelle l'opération. 

Cincle plongeur
Know-how
Agricultural work in Autumn and Winter

From September, cereal crops were cut with the scythe and the sickle, dried in “bourles” (small stacks of ten sheafs) on the top of the land (fields). Once beaten, the grains of rye were dried in the sun «soleillaient », they were taken to the mill and then to the oven to be made in to black bread. From the end of November until the beginning of May, the animals had to be tended to in the stables. The manure from the cows was transported to the fields using sledges, while the sheep dung was dried and cut in to, pieces, and burnt to produce heat and energy for cooking. In the dairy, milk was made in to butter and cheese.

La cuisson du pain noir
Know-how
Agricultural work in Spring and Summer

In Spring the soil had to be moved up the land using crates pulled by mules. Ploughing, sowing, planting followed rye (which stayed in the ground for two years), barley, oats and potatoes. Summer was not finished until the barns were full of hay. Scythes that had been beaten on an anvil, rakes, and nets were used every day. In order to ensure the overwintering of the animals, a certain number of loads (around 80 kg of hay) were necessary: 25 for each dairy cow and 5 for each sheep.

L'enclume et le marteau pour battre la faux
Fauna
Vautours fauves

En vol, la silhouette des vautours fauves, rectangulaire, monolithique et contrastée, est unique. Leur envergure varie de 2,60 m à 2,80 m pour un poids de 6 à 9 kg... à jeun ! Posés, ils se caractérisent par des couleur brune et crème et un long cou couvert d'un duvet blanc et ras qui émerge d'une collerette de plumes blanches duveteuses. Grégaires, les vautours vivent en colonie dans les falaises.

Vautour fauve
Fauna
Alouette des champs

Annonciatrice de l'été, l'alouette des champs investit les pelouses jusqu'en limite de l'étage alpin, où les mâles chantent à tue-tête pour séduire les femelles. De juin à juillet, ces dernières nicheront à même le sol, dissimulées dans les herbes. Moment difficile pour l'espèce quand arrivent les troupeaux ! Il n'est pas rare qu'à la curiosité meurtrière de l'hermine s'ajoute le passage destructeur des bêtes qui écrasent les nids et leurs occupants. 

Alouette des champs en vol
Panorama
The Emparis Plateau

The mule path follows the edge of the Southern border of the plateau which is completely dedicated to pastoralism and tourism. It offers an exceptional view of the Meije whose marked relief contrasts with this gentle landscape. It welcomes 7 refuges and pastoral cabins as well as remarkable fauna, like the Mountain Hare and the Mountain Apollo butterfly. The challenge for this site is to preserve its pastoral character.

Troupeau d'ovins sur le plateau d'Emparis
Fauna
Petit apollon

Le petit apollon est un papillon rare et protégé. Il est doté d'antennes finement rayées de noir et de blanc. Une minuscule ocelle rouge orne le bord de chacune de ses ailes antérieures. D'une envergure de 60 à 80 mm, il est le seigneur et maître des parterres jaunes orangé de saxifrages faux aizoon où il protège ses oeufs et nourrit ses chenilles.

Petit apollon sur sa plante hôte (saxifrage faux aizoon)

Altitude profile

Altitude (m)

Min : 1743 m - Max : 2159 m

Distance (m)

 

Advice

If you respect the newly traced hairpin bends you will protect this beautiful itinerary.