A good friend joined me in July 2016 for a series of walks starting with Stage 8 (Cicerone guide) from Les Houches to Le Brevent and if possible La Flegere. The Cicerone guide suggests starting at the tourist office in Les Houches if parking is avaliable, we started at Le Pont des Gures (altitude 980m) where signs state that the Refuge de Bellachat is a 3 hours 40 min walk. For a day walk this seemed challenging but achiveable as we had to walk back to the car in Les Houches.
I was looking foward to the hike, and had done some 10 mile walks in the UK in preparation, and I knew from skiing in the area that the views of the mountains would be magnificent, plus we would pass by the massive Statue du Christ-Roi which I had seen on many occassions from the A40 drive into Chamonix.
The climb to the Statue du Christ-Roi (altitude 1196M, statue height of 25m) was steep and through woods so nicely shaded. It took close to 50 minutes to reach the statue which is on a rocky crag overlooking the panorma of Mont Blanc.
The path then climbs past Parc Merlet mountain Zoo (altude 1563m), which took about 60 minutes from the statue. The Parc holds 80 mountain animals in their natural environment, eg deer, marmot, chamois and Ibex. Near here the forest ends with abundant photo opportunities of the uninterrupted views of the magnificent Mont Blanc range. After a lunch break, we continued climbing until we were within sight of Refuge De Bellachat but as we started the hike at 1000 am, and it was 1430 we decided to turn around and descend back to Les Houches.
It was a wonderful sunny alpine day with temperatures on the hike exceeding 20 C at altitude. I was appreciative of the forest shade on the return path. Despite the practice walks in the UK the climb (and return) to almost 1800m from 980m on a hot day was a challenging and fanatastic start to a week of alpine walking.