Nevache, backpacking nirvana in the Alps

Nevache, backpacking nirvana in the Alps

Past summer holidays were spent in the touristy season, in the touristy places. Resulting in midnight music bonanza’s of the neighbours and, well, pretty much the rest of the campsite. This year my girlfriend and I had the opportunity to go in September, and we were looking for peace and quiet. We found just that in Nevache, a small French village in the Alps, on a road towards a dead end. From there we started walking.

The area of Mont Thabor was choosen to be the scene of our four-day hike, because it is not designated a national park and therefor allows visitors to set up a wild camp (callad a bivouac in French). And because the area falls inbetween the popular Ecrins and Vanoise national parks we figured it wouldn’t attract that many tourists, right?

Wrong! At least, the first day the paths were rather crowded. Never expected to see so many hikers on a tuesday in september. We left on the campervan on the nice little camping in Fontcouverte and headed to the Col de Ricou. The hight gained we had to give up soon in order to get to the path towards Refuge de Drayères. The river La Clarée was stunning, we passed the refuge and put up shelter somewhere between the refuge and Col des Muandes.

Col des Muandes

According French rules concerning wild camping, a tent shouldn’t be erected before 7 pm and should be unmade before 7 am. We didn’t make that. What we did make was nice breakfast after we slept way past 7 o’clock. I planned our route based on the distance, not based on altitude gained. A rooky mistake. We made it to the summit of Col des Muandes (2828m), Mont Thabor was still pretty far, we ran out of water and I had a bad headache. Time to head down.


We took the quickest way down and passed the beautiful Lac Chardonnet. We slept further down, not far away from Maison des Chamois. Under trees, by the river.


The obstacle of our third day was Col du Vallon. We, wrongfully, believed this would be our final climb and set off in good spirits. The climb was heavy, the scenery heavenly.


I always get sore hip bones from the backpack’s hip straps. So I don’t tighten those hip straps too much. As a concequence I carry too much weight on my shoulders, get a serious neck pain which I mistake for headache, which I mistake for altitude sickness. That is what I found out on day three.

We slept in the Vallon valley and had lunch in Nevache. Following the tarmac road back to the campsite wouldn’t be much fun so we took the track on the south side of the river. Which, ofcourse, climbed more than our morale could handle. But we made it without too much cursing and with our relationship still intact. It was a beautiful hike, never dangerous and easy enough for the beginners we are.


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