Up there, right at the top, looking down on La Plagne from its great height, La Chiaupe glacier is not exclusively for alpinists. Quite the opposite, in fact, even holidaymakers who spend 11 months out of 12 at sea level can walk on the snow and take back a souvenir photo of the family at over 3200 m altitude. Here’s how:
1. Thank heavens for the ski lifts!
The simplest and most recommended solution if you are not a hardened hiker. To take the lift, you have to go to Plagne Bellecôte or Belle Plagne. Free shuttle buses link the different sites of La Plagne, so make the most of them and leave your car in the car park 😉
So: get in the “Roche de Mio” gondola and make yourself comfortable. You start to climb, rising 800 m in 15 minutes. These “few” metres will make all the difference as regards the landscape. When you leave the village, you pass over lush green pastures, but the vegetation becomes scarcer as you climb higher. When you pass over the ridge of Les Bourtes, you will probably have butterflies in your stomach and feel a little breathless, quite a normal state as you approach Roche de Mio. You have completed the first step!
Stop for a while on this plateau where you will find:
- A viewpoint indicator showing the surrounding mountain peaks,
- Picnic tables (because you always have a healthy appetite in the mountains),
- A café-restaurant with great views of Mont Blanc.
To reach the highest point of La Plagne, you take a 2nd gondola (from the other part of the same station). This is a 12 minute, steep and rocky ascent. Halfway between a moonscape and Mordor, you won’t be looking at flowers now, but rocks and snow. With its wild, even austere beauty, La Chiaupe glacier culminates at an altitude of 3200 m. Up here, you can discover the amazing thrill of walking in snow in the height of the summer.
Good to know: the gondola stops 400 m below the actual summit. Wear the appropriate shoes and climb the last metres on foot!
Practical info: count 20€/adult and 16€/child (12 and under) for the gondolas. Free for under 5s. Also equip yourself with walking shoes, a good pair of sunglasses and sunscreen. Even if it is hot in the resort, you will need a sweater on the glacier. A little extra: our friends the dogs can accompany us!
2. For those with thighs of steel
You can climb part way on foot, but you will need hiking boots. You can leave from Belle Plagne, keep to the right of the Alpine chalets and keep following the footpath on the right. Keep going to Les Inversens tunnel and, when you come out the other side, a path takes you right up to the highest point of the hike: Roche de Mio. Take a deep breath, you’ve made it!
From here, you have to take the gondola up to the glacier. Remember to buy a ticket from one of the sales points in the village resorts, or you won’t be able to go right to the top.
This itinerary is a circuit, so when you have taken the gondola back down from the glacier, you will be able to hike back down to Belle Plagne. The full circuit takes about 4½ hrs to walk.
Did you know? The glacier is accessible to good skiers when the resort opens in winter. The winter version offers Natur’ runs, runs that have not been groomed but are marked and made secure.