A gentle start from Les Contamines to the chapel at Notre Dame de la Gorge, where the path turns upwards and climbs to the Col du Bonhomme before descending to Les Chapieux, avioding Col des Fours.
Leaving Les Contamines the path turns upwards and climbs steadily on the Chemin Roman through the Contamines Montjoie Nature Reserve towards the distant Col du Bonhomme. A steady climb reveals increasingly rugged views of the high peaks and you quickly reach the rugged landscapes of the Col du Bonhomme (2329 m).
A further hour on rough and rocky ground brings up the Col de la Croix du Bonhomme. This route has you staying in Les Chapieux, and you descend past the spectacularly located Refuge Col de la Croix du Bonhomme all the way to the valley below. If you are staying at Refuge des Mottets, you will need to walk up the road from Les Chapieux for 5km, or take a shuttle bus (season dependent- please see transport info below)
Please check where you are staying tonight as this route is leading you to Refuge la Nova and walking to Mottets will require a 5km ascent from Les Chapieux at the end of your walking day.
There are several river crossings. There are always stepping-stones available but these may be slippery, and especially when wet. Take extra caution on these crossings.
Some of the path is along rocky steps; be careful as these may be slippery, especially when wet.
There are some exposed edges; be sure to read instructions carefully, stick to the main path, and don’t wander close to the edge. Use handrails where provided.
In early spring/summer there may still be patches of snow. Walk around where it is possible, and otherwise place your feet carefully and use walking poles if you have them.
This route is above 2,500 metres so bear in mind you may feel a shortness of breath and additional muscle fatigue associated with the altitude.
Such is the way of Alpine hiking that you need to be prepared for all seasons and weathers; sturdy hiking boots, warm clothes and a waterproof/wind-break layer are all required, as is plenty of sun-cream and a healthy respect for the sun.
Walking poles will be a big advantage on some of these ascents and descents.
Ensure your phone is fully charged; if you doubt the battery will last throughout the hike, it might be beneficial to bring a power bank.
This walk is isolated with few opportunities to buy food or water so be sure to bring enough with you.
Points of Interest
Notre Dame de la Gorge
Since 1699 this small chapel with an ornately painted façade has marked the end of the road and the start of the mountain trails. Over the years many travellers have entered to pray for safe passage over the Col du Bonhomme. Why not pop in yourself; who knows what fortune it may bring?
Optional Shuttle Bus from Les Contamines to Notre Dame de la Gorge.
A free shuttle operates between The Office de Tourisme in Les Contamines and Notre Dame de la Gorge, with several stops between including Le Lay. The summer shuttle operates approximately between the end of June and the beginning of September. In the morning, it runs about every 45 mins to 1 hour from about 09:00. Timetables are usually published just before the Summer season, check the following link for a pdf titled ‘Horaires Navette été’ http://www.lescontamines.com/plans-ski-bus.html or ask at your hotel.
This shuttle cuts 5 km and about 1 hour of walking from the day.
Optional Shuttle Bus from Les Chapieux to Mottets
If you are staying at Refuge des Mottets and prefer not to go over the Col des Fours then you should take the shuttle from les Chapieux to Mottets.
The shuttle from Les Chapieux to Mottets operates from approx. beginning of July to the end of August. Specific timetables are not available until the start of the Summer season. Please note that the last bus of the day departs at 1600. For more information, please visit the following website closer to the time of departure:
In June/September, when the shuttle is not operating, you should plan on walking. Alternatively, Taxi Besson is now offering a shuttle service between Les Chapieux and Les Mottets by reservation. Call them the night before or ask your accommodation to do this. Places are limited and payment is direct to the driver: Taxi Besson: http://www.taxi-montblanc.com/ Tel : +0033450936207
Food and Drink
Between Les Contamines and Les Chapieux there are few opportunities to buy food or drink, so be sure to bring enough provisions with you.
There is a café at Notre Dame de la Gorge after 3.7km. You will also pass Refuge Nant Borrant, Refuge de la Balme and Refuge du Bonhomme, after 5.4, 7.9, and 13.3kilometres, respectively.