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| 4h12 | 12 km | 901 m | 1028 m
This stage leaves Névache for the Buffère chalets, then swings into the Guisane valley via the Buffère pass, which offers a panoramic view over the Ecrins massif. Further below, the trail leaves the GR® 57 to descend directly to Monêtier-les-Bains, the stage destination and thermal resort dating back to Roman times.
In the village of Névache, find the GR® 57 again near the church, take the street to the left, cross the Clarée valley on the Outre bridge and head back up the right-hand bank, leaving behind the trail that branches off to the left towards Porte de Cristol. Walk across an outcrop facing the Lacou waterfalls, and pass several streams including the Buffère stream before arriving at the Rately bridge (1,749m). Do not cross it, instead slanting across to the left to reach the larch wood, entering it on an uphill trail. Leave the right-hand trail that climbs the valley behind to arrive at the Serre chalets. Continue to climb along the sometimes steep trail to reach the Buffère chalets (2,075m), ignoring the left-hand trail that heads to the little Cristol valley. Continue in an upstream direction through the valley, including a short rocky passage, and after circumventing a marshy zone, you arrive at the Buffère pass (2,427m). Take the stony downhill trail on the other side towards the south west to reach the Chemin du Roy trail at an altitude of 2320m, which must be followed to the right as far as the meeting point (2,203m) of the GR® 57 meets the GR® 50. Continue more or less cross-ways on the Chemin du Roy trail for about 2km. At the next crossroads, leave the GR® 57 which climbs up the little Moulette valley and continue on the GR® 50 for a short distance to reach the Moulette spring. Leave the GR® 50 behind to descend along the left-hand trail and reach the forest, and after a few hairpin bends and the reservoirs, take a little road that leads to Monêtier-les-Bains.
On leaving Névache at Ville Haute and until the Rately bridge, walk alongside the Clarée river on the right-hand bank, where the ground is populated by martagon lilies. Next, climb via the Buffère chalets to the pass of the same name (2,427m), marking the entry to the Guisane valley and offering the first panoramic view of the Ecrins. Head uphill to a little rocky promontory to the left of the pass, from where it is possible to see the highest summit, the Barre des Ecrins (4,102m). The pleasant descent along the GR® 57 trail, circling above the Guisane valley, passes through meadowland in which the potentilla delphinensis (“potentille du Dauphiné”) grows, a rather rare plant that can nevertheless be seen around Puy Jaumar. In the surrounding area, you may also spot the Tengmalm’s Owl. After walking close by the Moulette springs that supply water to Monêtier-les-Bains, the trail zigzags its way to the doors of the village through the newly planted forest of St Joseph, the reforestation of which was carried out within the framework of the RTM restoration of mountain terrain project in a bid to combat the dangerously intense erosion process (floods). In Monêtier-les-Bains, the presence of the larch forest becomes even more noticeable in the very architecture: each house has a polished larch balcony, rendered even more beautiful by the sun, which in Guisane is particularly fierce. The village has a rich past owing to its function as a stop-off point on the “little road” of the Lautaret pass connecting Grenoble and Briançon. In fact, it has gained in both pecuniary and cultural terms from its contact with the travellers and tradesmen passing through. But Monêtier’s hour of glory was at the time of the spa treatments organised in the Roman era when the village was still called Sanatio –(“healing”) and which continued until the start of the century. Today, the rotunda built in the XVIIIth century still stands, and the hot springs are once again starting to be used for spas, and even for more touristic purposes (municipal project for a “thermo-leisure” centre). Monêtier was also a Mecca of religious fervour, and the relics of various chapels in the market town (furniture and liturgical ornament collections) can now be admired in the Museum of sacred art in the chapel of St Pierre, which used to be part of the White Penitents confraternity and keeps a collection of the religious treasures of the 30 chapels. Briançon, situated further down the Guisane valley, is the “highest town in Europe” (1,200m). What is more, it boasts an impressive series of fortifications totally adapted to the mountain setting and designed by Vauban to protect the town in 1692.
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Last update : 2013-02-06