David & Pascale decided it was time we did some walking in the Alps so they took us to Samoëns for a couple of days. Samoëns is a very pretty village in the Haute Savoie. It is surrounded by seven mountains, hence the name (from sept monts). It is one of the best ski resorts in France with a new ski lift, the Grand massif Express, and an impressive ice rink. It is also increasingly popular as a base for walking holidays in the summer.
Samoëns dates from 1167. It is noted for its brotherhood of stone masons. There are many limestone quarries and many years ago the farmers began to supplement their incomes by carving and building. The older houses are made of stone, not wood. The stonecarvers became so expert and numerous that they were sought after for huge projects throughout France by the likes of the architect Vauban and Napoleon Bonaparte. There are still many stonecarvers in Samoëns and their work can be seen everywhere, even in the plinths of the letterboxes.
Samoëns is a village fleurie; a profusion of flowers hangs from the chalets. A famous landmark is the Great Lime Tree in the village square which was planted in 1438 by the Duke of Savoie.
The first day we walked the Cirque du Fer à Cheval, which, as it’s name suggests, is a circular walk inside an ampitheatre of massive cliffs. The meltwater was pouring down the rockfaces in a multitude of cascades.
Cirque du Fer à Cheval
Perilous bridge across the icy river
This balade du Bout du Monde was just a warm up for the real Alpine walking up the Vallée de Sales. This was walking like I had never experienced before.
After a couple of hours unremitting climb from 1180m to 1870m we arrived at the Refuge de Sales. Amazingly, not long before us, a herd of cows had been driven up this steep rocky path to their summer pastures in the mountains.
How did those cows get round here?
If we had walked on we would have seen the cows, and in another hour we would be able to see neighbouring Mont Blanc. But I didn’t think I could climb any further and we descended the way we had come.
David and Chris lead the way down
On the way back we saw ibex and marmots. We had seen some chamois on our first walk. Vultures have been introduced to this area but we saw only crows.
Having discovered that the French Alps are not so far away we are sure to be going again, perhaps to see the snow next time.