We are having a rest day in St. Veran after three very good days of hiking in sunny weather.
We are in the Queyras region of France, doing a slightly modified version of the GR58 route. Most people start in Ceillac and make it an eight to ten day loop. We started in Montdauphin which adds an extra day at each end. The start from Mountdauphin is a hard day: 1800m total ascent, 435m descent, two cols (mountain passes), eight hours walking. But it was a beautiful day and we finished at isolated refuge Furfande, accessible only by foot and helicopter. It felt decadent to shower in water heated by gas flown in (héliportage in French), but I enjoyed the shower after a long day. The view of the Alps from the refuge is terrific.
Day two we hiked to Ceillac. We lost most of our previous day’s elevation gain then hiked over a pass. Another long day. Besides being the normal start of the GR58, Ceillac is also a stop on the GR5 as well as popular spot for day hikers. We stayed the night in the same big bustling gîte we used last year.
(Note on accommodation. In Italy, a mountain hut is called a rifugio; in France it is called a refuge. Refuges are usually isolated, basic, but serve meals and have all a tired hiker needs. Not all have showers. In or near towns gîtes d’etape offer dormitory space and sometimes private rooms. Like refuges, the meals are set (no choice) and served family style at large tables. Unlike refuges, gîtes have all modern cons and fresh bread.)
Day three was not as hard or as long, but again, beautiful. At the col we did as most hikers do and made a short 100m additional climb (without our packs) to the 2540m Tête de Jacquette for an exceptional view. We could see a col to the south that we crossed last year on the GR5. Then down to St. Veran which at 2040m claims to be the highest continuously-inhabited village in Europe.
Today we are enjoying a day off this historic town. The gîte we are in was a customs hall in the 19th century for trade between France and Piedmont (now part of Italy). We have a small private room which is treat for a two-night stay.
The weather has been perfect: sunny, not too hot, at times completely cloudless, at higher elevations the sky such a deep blue it seems unreal.