12th August: St Veran to Refuge Agnel

Excited for the first day of our trek, we got up at 6.45, locked and moved the van to the place where we’d been told we could leave it, put our rucksacks on and left the campsite. We walked to Mont Dauphin station to get the 8.30 bus to St Veran, stopping to visit the boulangerie on the way for some breakfast.

We managed to get on the right bus and, after winding up the gorge and past Chateau Queyras, changed at Ville Vieille, only just finding room for our packs and getting a seat. We drove up another valley to the very pretty village of St Veran, at 2040 metres reportedly the highest occupied village in Europe.

After walking through the village (and buying a hiking pillow because I’d forgotten mine!) we had a steep slog uphill for a while to join the Grand Canal path. This wound its way around the hillside with beautiful views over the valley and to the mountains ahead.

After passing above a little chapel, the route got steeper, up to the Col de St Veran at 2844 metres.

After having something to eat while we enjoyed the view, we climbed Pic du Caramantran, the highest point of the day and our first 3000 metre mountain this trip (3025 metres). During the ascent, a huge vulture soared down the valley, level with us… A beautiful sight to see. The altitude seemed to affect us both and we had to keep stopping regularly to get our breathe back.

The rest of the day’s route was downhill via Col de Chamoussiere, which we were pleased about. It was quite hot now and it was a relief to see Refuge Agnel (2580 metres) in the valley below, knowing we’d be able to get a cold beer.

At the refuge, we were shown to our room and I was pleased to see it was a double bunk bed only so, although we may have 2 people above us, John and I would have a bed to ourselves. Luckily, we’d also arrived early enough for a hot shower and to wash our sweaty clothes.

Dinner was an excellent 4 courses… Soup, spicy chicken and rice, salad with cheese and cake, washed down with a demi litre of vin rouge. We shared a table with some British and Dutch people and chatted about our various plans. After dinner, very pleasingly, we found we had the bedroom to ourselves and, after watching the sunset, we had an early night.

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