Author’s note: This is a continuation on my series of trekking La Vanoise National Park in the high Alps of France. To see all posts in this series, click here.

“In the mountains there are only two grades: You can either do it, or you can’t.”— Rusty Baille

I have always liked the saying “What goes up, must come down”.  As much as I enjoyed the long hike up to the stunning snow-capped 360 views of the Alps, I knew without a doubt that it would be a long, knee-breaking hike down.

Heading down through a rocky, steep and slippery trail.

Looking back to the top of where we were.

Being mindful of loose rock.

Although I find climbing up to be the harder, more challenging aspect of hiking I don’t necessarily like going down. Simply stated, it hurts the knees. Having a good pair of hiking poles is essential to ensuring you don’t fall and also for protecting the impact on your knees. I’m fortunate to have been blessed with a good, sturdy pair of knees that has enabled me to be a runner, skier and hiker for many years. But I certainly don’t want to take my chances because if my knees go, then so will my beloved activities and sports that make me so happy.

As we climbed down through the glacier moraine, we noticed large left over shells most likely from World War II. It was hard to believe that they were still there after all those years and no one had bothered to pick them up. It left a strange feel on the landscape. Serenity with a reminder of the dark past and the brutality of mankind.

The season at this altitude is quite short. Mark told us that this entire area was covered in thick, heavy snow until mid June. There were still a few chunks of remaining snow and ice reminding us that winter was not far away.

At the same time it was startling how much rebirth and life had come back to the Alps in such a short season. Wildflowers were everywhere and we were past the prime.

Finally we were almost out of the rocky trail and the lush, verdant valley awaited. We knew it would only be a hour or so longer until we reached that “heavenly place”, our refuge for the night. Remembering Mark’s words that this refuge offered the best gourmet food in the mountains, I continued on.

It’s within reach now. Just a little bit more down the mountain and we will enter a vibrant forest which will lead us to our refuge for the night.

A trail marker.

A dwelling below, most likely a farmer’s hut.

Finally we reached the fragrant forest that would leave us to our paradise for the night. Would we be disappointed? Would it really be a “heavenly place”?

And there she was, waiting our weary yet elated arrival.

Stay tuned…these next photos are going to make you want to go hiking so you can enjoy a night in a luxurious mountain refuge!


  1. Going down is always more challenging than climbing up, at least for me. That refuge looks like the perfect place to be, with the undisturbed view of the expanse of the mountain. Spectacular!

      1. Not really. My upcoming trips will most likely focus on old buildings and ancient sites. But I need to really work out in order to do some serious hikes like you did. 🙂

    1. Yes, still hoping you get inspired to do some hiking now! China has lots of amazing places to hike! I would go crazy if I had a month to spend hiking there!

    1. Thanks as always! You know I’ve realized that I don’t know your name! I feel so impersonal given how much we have connected with each other and our blogs! Do you share yours on your blog? 🙂

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