Hiking and cycling in the Alps

13 août 2021 to 03 septembre 2021
Time to go for a roadtrip in the Alps, hiking, bivouacking, and cycling!

Ceillac

I arrived in Ceillac after a 10h drive from Nantes. Most traffic jams were on the other way so it went smoothly and only became crowded when approaching Lyon and Grenoble... As usual!
I spent the next few days exploring the village and the neighboroods, adjusting to the altitude, going cycling to the col d'Izoard and preparing for the upcoming hikes.
Finally the first hike of the trip towards the Lac Miroir!
Things went great, so I pursued and climbed the Col Girardin to contemplate a 360 panorama between Ubaye and Queyras.
Many people were stopping on the way down to swim or to fish in the lakes before going back to Ceillac.
Staying in Ceillac for 5 days was awesome, despite the higher number of people that I expected. It's a great place to admire paragliding, do some cycling and hike.
Before my next step in Arvieux, I decided to do a detour to Jausiers in order to climb the famous Cime de la Bonette with my bike, one of the highest paved road in Europe at 2802m. When the sky is clear enough we can even see the sea far away!
On my way to Arvieux I decided to do my first bivouac of this trip at the Col de Vars (hidden from the road and the parking) since it was already a bit late in the day. The sky was incredible, full of stars until the full-moon appeared.

Arvieux

Arvieux was my starting point to visit the beautiful Refuges de Furfande and climb by bike to the Saint-Véran observatory.
I met several hikers of the famous Tour du Queyras at the refuge, some of them were doing it alone but everyone definitely enjoyed it.
The next day was dedicated on climbing up to the Saint-Véran observatory with my (non-electric!) mountain bike.
It started well, although I found the path difficult to ride (which made me fall a few times with only superficial wounds), but once at the top I faced a sudden storm. The temperature dropped very quickly, cold rain/melted snow started to appear..
Despite the weather and my fall, it was amazing to be able to get so close to the observatory and explore the installations. A group was patiently waiting for the sky to clear up in order to start their observations.
I didn't stay at the summit as long as I would have wanted since I was afraid to ride a flooded path during the entire descent, especially since I knew my rear-brake had some weaknesses.. But I was glad I kept up the climb despite the difficult ascent, it was definitely worth it!

Lac des Cerces

I left the Queyras and drove through Briancon, the Col du Lautaret, Col du Galibier and stopped at Plan Lachat where I wanted to hike and bivouac somewhere around the Lac des Cerces.
A small amount of rain was eventually forecasted for later in the afternoon, but I decided to go anyway as it would not last long...
But actually, the rain started to fall intensively and didn't stop. The landscape around me started to have intense colors, it all became even more beautiful.
I finally reached the lac des Cerces, set-up the tent on the right side, went inside and tried to dry my clothes and shoes. The rain kept going for hours... Alongside an active storm that stayed there for four hours.
The rain stopped late in the night and the wind picked up some force. The next morning I spotted fresh snow not far away from where I was and on all summits around me. It was a magical moment.
I then wanted to spend a few days in Valloire, but due to the crowd I decided to just climb the col du Galibier with my bike and then head directly to La Grave and the Plateau d'Emparis.

Plateau d'Emparis

After a couple of days in La Grave to dry my tent, I headed to another bivouac on the Plateau d'Emparis, right in front of La Meije. I heard so many great things about its lake and its view that I was super excited to sleep up there.
I took a little detour on the way up to explore more outside of the classical path.
It was great to reach the Lac Noir, with cows all around and the majestic glaciers right in front of me.
Time to find a good bivouac spot!
After finding a spot near the Lac Noir, I met two other hikers who suggested going a bit further to the Lac Lérié to find an even better place. I ended up going with them and we shared our dinner and watched the stars altogether.
I woke up before the sunrise to observe the colors changing on the glacier in front of me. It was a super magical moment. My tent was even full of ice!
I then went down to the valley and drove to the Alpe d'Huez to ride my bike once again!

Alpe d'Huez

After climbing the Alpe d'Huez with my bike (and as usual I got lost at the arrival, I somehow never turn at the right roundabout...) and going down the 21 turns, I came back to the top to find a spot for another bivouac at the Lac Noir.
The area was calm when I arrived, only some fishermen were patiently waiting around the lake. But other campers came later in the day, and several tents ended up sleeping all around.
I was alone on this side of the lake, and I knew I was more exposed if the conditions were to become windy. But I would also get the sunlight much earlier in the morning which was a good thing as I anticipated the night to be freezing once again.
The night was super calm, and in the morning all the grass around me was completely frozen, as was my tent.
After waiting a little bit for my tent to unfreeze, I left to reach my next goal at the col de la Croix de Fer, that I ended up *not* doing by bike but I hiked directly from the summit.

Lac Belan

The pass was crowded, I once again wasn't anticipating that many people there. I packed by bag and hiked in direction of the Glacier de Saint Sorlin. I first saw the Grand Lac Bramant.
I kept on climbing and reached the Lac Belan.
Two fishermen told me to go to a specific place to set up my tent, a bit outside the path.
The night was extremely cold and humid with a lot of fog, but the morning was so unique. I was right above a sea of clouds, and was able to admire many famous mountains, including the Mont-Blanc.
Some rain was planned for later in that week, so I decided to move on directly to Chamonix to climb to the Aiguille du Midi, something I've never done before and that I wanted to go at least once in my lifetime.

Aiguille du Midi

I left at 5am, and saw the headlights from people attempting the Mont Blanc ascension from the Refuge du Goûter high above my tent. There were very few tourists besides me, and the cabin was full of mountaineers.
I ended up nearly alone in the Aiguille, free from wainting lines and from any noise.
Attending the sunrise from 3800m surrounded by so much ice and the Mont-Blanc very close was an extraordinary experience.
The size of the large cracks in the glacier was impressive, especially compared to the mountaineers who were walking around them.
At around 11:30am the site was starting to get full of tourists, so I decided to go back to Chamonix and find my bivouac spot for the night.

Lacs de Chéserys

Starting from the Col des Montets and on the other side of the valley than the Aiguille du Midi I hiked up to the lac Blanc and lac des Chéserys. I was told it was a great place to sleep, with an incredible view of the stars if the weather was good.
After a break at the Lac Blanc refuge I went back to the Lac des Chéserys and found my bivouac location for the night a bit below the lake, right in front of the glacier d'Argentières, the Mer de Glace, and the glacier du Tour.
The colors at sunset were indescriptible, as the glaciers right in front of me started to be covered by many variations of red, orange, yellow... And as I stayed awake later a night to observe the Milky Way, a couple of curious ibex started to come closer and closer to me, wondering why I was staying on my rock. They kept going back and forth for more than two hours.

Glacier du Tour

For my last night outside with my tent I headed to the Refuge Albert 1er, as I heard it ought to be possible to sleep a bit further in altitude above the vast Glacier du Tour. I wasn't sure what I would find up there, but it sounded super promising.
The landscape was progressively changing as I approached the glacier: it went from grass all around to rocks, and finally ice.
After passing by the Refuge Albert 1er where a group of mountaineers were training before their ascension of the Mont Blanc, I started to explore for a place to sleep. I decided I would go as far as I safely could, knowing that the red line I wouldn't cross was walking on the ice, alone and without equipment.
And I finally found my perfect spot! All alone at nearly 3000m, surrounded by the Aiguille du Tour, the Aiguille Verte, and the Aiguille du Chardonnet... What a great way to conclude my trip!
Of course it was nearly impossible to set-up the tent as usual due to the extremely mineral floor. I tried to do my best using rocks and was pleased with the result as night approached.
The night was one of the coldest I experienced and the wind became stronger after midnight. But when I woke up the spectacle was incredible.
I folded my tent for the last time with mixed feelings: profound gratefulness of having the chance to experience sleeping alone in such remote and magical places; sadness of having to get back to a more urban life. For some reason it also made me spend a fair amount of time thinking about how different my trip has been by doing it all alone (and usually spending nights without any cellular service) than with other people. I have been very happy to be alone in some places, whereas I sometimes wished I would have shared some of the magical places... I hoped my pictures would be able to convey some of what I experienced in this trip!
Finally after one last look to the glacier, I went down to the valley and headed to the rest of my trip, leaving the French Alps and all their magic behind me.