Le Col des Terres Blanches from Dormillouse
”Once we finally got to the plateau overlooking Lac du Fangeas and the Faravel pastures, at the foot of the Rochelaire, a huge bird soared up out of the blue. No doubt about it - with its diamond-shaped tail, it is a bearded vulture passing through the region!"
Blandine Delenatte and Jean-Philippe Telmon, regional park keepers
21 points of interest
A few remains of the exploitation of the ancient mine are disseminated around the sector of Fangeas. These mines go back to the Middle Ages, a period during which we exploited silver-lead and copper. It was a small exploitation, no doubt associated with the mines at Fournel. The metal mined was used to mint feudal currency. The mine works are now filled in and flooded, which has enabled us to find well preserved remains: scaffolding, turned wooden bowls, the sole of a shoe. Archeologists have been excavating the mine for the last ten years they started by siphoning off the flood water from the tunnels. The mines are not accessible to the public and we have deliberately not communicated their exact location. For more information about this heritage, contact the mining museum at l'Argentière la Bessée.
The Oules streamIt has a series of waterfalls and natural basins that make it one of the most difficult streams to descend for those who like canyoning. The footpath that leads to the Fangeas lake follows it for most of the route and the sound of rushing water in the spring and the beginning of the summer, accompany the hiker.
View of the village of DormillouseThe village of Dormillouse is unique in that it is levelled into several hamlets, each of which has a public amenity. Enflous, at the bottom of the village, has the mill, Escleyers has the temple, the school and the fountain, and Romans, at the top of the village, has the oven. The stone and wood houses are typical of mountain architecture in an isolated area.
Eurasian wrenThis small 10 cm ball of feathers, with a white band across its eyes, is the “pétabouillou” ou la “pétouse” that lets out its powerful song from the branch it is on, tail oriented vertically. It fidgets continually in the clutter of vegetation, elusive.
Eutrophic Tall herb fringeThis is a plant formation of tall grass that grows on damp ground. Along the Fangeas footpath on the edge of the Oules, this tall grass brushes calves and thighs.
Large flowered foxgloveIt would be difficult to miss this large flower with its bunched yellow corolla. It gets its name from the resemblance of its flower with thimbles in which you put your finger ("digitale" referring to finger in French). In colloquial language, it is called "witch's glove" as it is a very toxic plant.
HogweedThis large member of the umbelliferae family can grow up to 160 cm and likes rich damp soil. It gives off a smell of mandarin when it is handled. In the spring, the flower buds are hidden in a sheath of leaves and when they blossom, the umbels attract many insects.
BoarThere is little chance that you will come across this animal but it is likely you will see evidence of unearthing (overturned top layer of earth) or rooting (when it digs deeper into the soil). Boar root the soil with their snout in search of worms, beetle larvae, roots and tubers.
Roe deerHidden in the larch forest, the roe deer will occasionally show its fine head at dusk or dawn. It is not always easy to spot this reserved animal but traces betray its presence by the print of its frail heart-shaped hooves, shrubs stripped of their bark by yearlings rubbing the last shreds of velvet from their antlers, or scratching at the ground to mark their territory during the mating season. Sometimes a throaty barking sound may be heard.
White helleboreWithout its flowers, it would be easy to mistake it for a yellow gentian. However, the white hellebore has alternating leaves on its stem whereas those of the gentian are opposite (forming a cup). The gentian makes a well-known aperitif, whereas the hellebore is poisonous.
Sheep pastoralismAt the beginning of the summer, a flock grazes at the edge of the Fangeas lake. It best to keep a distance to respect the shepherd's work.
Alpine bartsiaIt can be seen from afar in the green grass due to its purplish bracts that almost hide its small flowers. It is an artic-alpine species living high in the Alps and in northern Europe.
WetlandsThe Fangeas lake is surrounded by wetlands. Its name comes from "fange", which is a marshy area.
FelwortAt the beginning of August, the Felwort's violet stars open up in the sun. At the base of each of the five petals, two shiny dimples filled with nectar attract insects. It is part of the gentian family and is a beautiful, hardy flower that resists the winter season thanks to its winter bud.
Large mountain grasshopperFrom the middle of the summer, this grasshopper rubs its dark, staggered, ribbed elytra with its back legs and fills the air with the resulting repetitive sh-trrrrrrr sh-trrrrrrrr sh-trrrrrrrr...sound. When we disturb it as we walk, it flies off noisily as if it was not happy.
ButterwortIts light green, almost yellow leaves enable us to identify it on the soggy earth. The sticky surface of its leaves are a real trap for the gnats that venture onto them. The plant is carnivorous in order to compensate for the lack of nitrogen in the wetlands.
Broad-bodied chaserIt get its French name, 'Libellule déprimée' not because it is "depressed" in a psychological way, but due to its flat abdomen. The male with its blue abdomen can often be seen flying above wet areas.
Siberian grasshopperIn the grass around the Fangeas lake, in August, several grasshoppers blend into the grass. Among them, the Siberian grasshopper has a peculiarity; it has butch arms, like Popeye. In fact, it is just that its front legs that are shaped like bulbs. Without this detail and its long steady song "creh-creh-creh-creh", it might easily go unnoticed with its green-brown colour.
Common frogSometimes a frog will jump in the wetlands that surround the Fangeas lake and more specifically in the rivulets that meander through the grass. Young or adult, it is the common frog, the most common in the mountains. It can live up to an altitude of 2800 m, a record! It hibernates in the ground or in the silt at the bottom of the water. In the spring, its eggs float on the surface of the water in compact clusters.
- Geology and geography
Terres Blanches passBelow the path, the sight of the rock that has been eroded by water is fascinating. The Terres Blanches pass is a ball of gypsum. Settled at the edge of the alpine ocean 230 million years ago, this rock was then catapulted to an altitude of 2700m some thirty million years ago, because of shifting of tectonic plates. Gypsum is a highly soluble and brittle rock, and nature is left to do what it will to surprise us.
Park at Les Cascades car park, at the end of the road and at the end of the Freissinières valley. Take the path on the left, where the entrance to the National Park is, and three information panels (you will pass a footbridge on the right that leads to the winter trail). Cross the bridge over the Oules torrent and continue along the looping path alongside a large waterfall, then cross an area of scree. This “summer” trail is in an avalanche zone and is not visited in winter. The trail is wide and the climb is gentle, and the inhabitants of Dormillouse use it to fetch food using tracked barrows.
- At the next crossroads, turn left into the path towards "Lac du Fangeas, Col des Terres Blanches" and continue the only trail along the Oules torrent as far as Lake Fangeas.
- Walk around the lake and turn left to take the footbridge upstream from the lake. From there, the Col des Terres Blanches path is marked by cairns and white markings. In places, before the ewes have passed through it, the route may be hard to see in the tall grasses: follow the cairns and zigzag your way through a series of rocky bars to reach the first plateau. Continue following the cairns across the plateau and the torrent, then follow the well-marked path up to the col.
- The way back is along the same route or via Prapic, then Col de Freissinières over 2 days.
- Departure : Les Cascades car park, Freissinières
- Towns crossed : Freissinières and Orcières
- Impacted practices:
- Aerial, , Vertical
- Sensitivity periods:
- Parc National des Écrins
Camping is forbidden in the Cascades car park, bivouacking authorised over an hour’s walk from the park limits. Fire is also forbidden inside the park limits.
In mountain pastures, protection dogs are there to protect the herds from predators (wolves, etc.).
When I hike I adapt my behavior by going around the herd and pausing for the dog to identify me.
Find out more about the actions to adopt with the article "Protection dogs: a context and actions to adopt".
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Nearest SNCF train station: l'Argentière les Ecrins - www.voyages-sncf.com then taxi (Taxi Pellegrin 06 98 88 17 78 / Taxi Billau 06 08 03 45 90)
Access and parking
From the RN 94, north of La Roche-de-Rame, head for Freissinières along the D38, then the D38B as far as Freissinières. Go through Freissinières, then follow the D238 towards the right as far as the Cascades car park, at the end of the valley. This is the end of the road and the end of the Freissinières valley, except for periods of snow, when the road is closed.
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