I have done many hikes in the Cerces / Clarée / Thabor mountain range during the last few years and everytime the starting point was around Nevache, Valloire or even the Vallée Etroite. This year I decided to hike up to the Thabor area but from the opposite side : from Valfrejus near Mondane. This gave my cousin and I the opportunity to reach the Thabor refuge plateau and its two Sainte-Margerite lakes in the middle of june when the full hike from the Vallée de la Clarée to the refuge is still not available due to the remaining snow.
This hike was the third and the last of our june 2019 “quick trip” in the Alps, after the Bramant lake and the Goléon lake. It took us a long drive from the Goléon area to get there, but is was worth the effort as the area is peaceful and beautiful at this time of the year.
The hike starts at a car park called Le Lavoir few kilometers after the Valfrejus mountain station. The drive to the car park is on a unpaved mountain road which is ok for every vehicule and it takes about 10 minutes to get there. If you don’t take it and decide to start from Valfrejus be aware that you will have to add 1 hour of walking each way to your schedule.
Like the two other ones we did the days before, this hike is a “middle” one : 570m of elevation gain for two hours of hiking to reach the Thabor refuge. The trail starts with a very steep ascent that last for something like 30/40 minutes until you reach the Vallon de la Losa where the ascent goes more gently for all the remaining way up.
There is two trails to go up, each on both sides of a river : one on the left that goes up on the same direction as the Col de la Vallée Etroite and the other on the right that goes up through the Chalets de Mounioz. It is possible to take one trail on your way up and the other one on your way down, but we decided to use the same path both ways to take some time in the morning to reach the Col de la Vallée Etroite. This one is part of the GR-57 multi-days trail that goes to the Thabor mount and then to the Vallée de la Clarée.
There is no many things to say about the way up on the second part of the hike : the ascent is really progressive, with a lot a amazing views in front of you and behind you. All the way you see the Cheval Blanc mount which is suppose to be close to the lakes and the refuge, but you will have to wait to the very end to see the lakes. The refuge is visible easily on the second half of the trail but with the snow and the brown grass we didn’t really notice at the beginning.
15 minutes before the refuge you will arrive at a crossing that divide the trail in two : one that goes to the refuge, the other one that goes to the Col de la Vallée Etroite. In mid-june we only had to deal with some snow parts before arriving to the crossing but the last part was fully in the snow until the refuge. Once there, you wil still have to hike a last hill before reaching the shores of the first of the two Sainte-Marguerite lakes : the lac Long.
We picked up our tent on a small hill above the lake and after enjoying a nice beer in the refuge we had the chance to see a short but nice sunset above the lake. Few minutes later, mother nature played to us another mountain show when the fog coming from the Vallée Etroite started to fill all the Vallon de la Losa without covering us.
The morning after, the sunrise was even better with a gorgeous light coming from the East. We walked a little bit off trail to discover the area and then we found the other lake : the lac Rond. The first one was partly frozen, the second one was alsmost fully frozen, with some nices spots of water with a reflexion on the Cheval Blanc mount.
The nice thing with the area is that it is vast. Even in summer I can not imagine not being able to find an empty and lonely spot on the huge plateau around the lakes and the refuge. And there are so many trails available here that it is trully a perfect playground for mountains campers lovers.
On our way back we went to have a look at the view at the Col de la Vallée Etroite. The landscape there is just fantastic, and while we where trying to find the trail tacks in the snow to the Thabor mount, we were dreaming of going back here in september in the next few years to make the whole trip from here (Valfrejus) to the Cerces lake, hiking throung the Muandes mountain area and the Clarée. Even why not with a stop above the Vallée Etroite to camp above it somewhere behind the pass. Can’t wait to do it !
- Departure : Lavoir parking, Valfrejus
- Altitudes : 1923m (Lavoir), 2493m (Thabor refuge)
- Elevation gain : 570m
- Duration : 2h00
- Date : june 2019
- Mountain range : Cerces
- Outside any park