Two weeks to go!

GR5 route, lac Léman to the Med

Two weeks today we leave for Geneva and a few days later we will begin our walk of the French section of the GR5 from Thonon les Bains on lac Léman to Menton on the Mediterranean. It is about 675 km (420 miles) through the Alps and should take us about a month to walk.

We are doing this on our own rather than as part of an organized group. We will be staying in gîtes (hostels) and small hotels so our packs can be light, about 10 kg, which is good as it is a very up-and-down route.

Inge and I will try to post to this blog as we go so check back, or better, subscribe by email (see the Welcome page).


The French!

I’m trying to book places to sleep for the first few nights on the walk. Night one is a tiny town with only one gîte. No email or website. The phone does not work. I’ve tried the number a dozen times and checked to make sure it is correct. Night two is a larger town and the gîte has an email address. Wrote to them in French, although I did it quickly without bothering to add accents. No answer. The third night the trail crosses briefly into Switzerland. The Swiss hostel has a website and a booking form. Response next day: Hello Mr. Roy, we confirm your booking….

I love Swiss efficiency and I must accept French indifference. France is a wonderful country but often frustrating.

Tomorrow I will call the tourist office in Thonon les Bains, our starting point. Tourist offices in towns large enough to afford them are helpful.


A new plan

Dent d’Oche, 2221m

There are two starting points for the French GR5. One is at St. Gingolph, a small town on Lake Geneva on the border between France at Switzerland. We decided against St. Gingolph as it is a very steep first day and unless you are in excellent condition, it could be a discouraging beginning. The other starting point is Thonon les Bains, a few kilometres to the west. That was our choice until we discovered that we could not find a place to stay on the first night. The gîte I had been trying to call turned out to have closed a few years ago and the only other one in the area was full. That would mean a very long walk the first day to carry on to the next town.

Time for a new plan. Now we will start from Evian les Bains, not far from Thonon, and walk up to Bernex on our first day, a town with lots of accommodation, then join up with the GR5. But since we will be in Bernex, we we’ve decided to make another detour and spend the next night at a small refuge near the top of la Dent d’Oche, the highest peak in the area. On a clear day there is a spectacular view of Lake Geneva, Mont Blanc and the surrounding countryside. On day three we will finally join the GR5. We won’t be able to say that we walked all of the GR5 (we will walk a bit farther this way) but we aren’t purists and will claim to have walked it anyway.

The new plan adds a day to the walk, makes the first three days a little easier than starting from Thonon, and, most important, we have booked places to sleep for the first four nights. In August, the busiest month on the GR5, that is important!

Yesterday I came across a blog by a hiker who did the walk using the same plan. He was in his 70’s when he did it and not well-prepared, but he finished. Lots of photos and quite entertaining.