St Gervais – into the Alps

On St Gervais campsite

Leaving the Ardeche (see the blog here) we were not sure quite where to head to.  The plans for the trip had originally involved visiting Italy and Switzerland but we realised that if we went that far we would have difficulty getting back for our booked returned.  However we had also wondered about heading into the French Alps as well.  Checking the weather forecast we found that the weather – by Alps standards – looked fairly benign for the coming week so we decided to head there.  A campsite at St Gervais appealed to us and the trip was very straightforward to start with.  However, with relatively little distance left to travel we hit a series of road closures which resulted in a 2 hours detour.  We were very pleased to get to the site and find they had space and seemed very friendly.  A real bonus was the fact that we could see the Dômes de Miage (adjacent peak to Mont Blanc) from the van window.

We found that there really was plenty to do without going very far from St Gervais.  Irresistible was the idea of taking a tramway from St Gervais to over 2300 metres up on the side of Mont Blanc.  The Tramway de Mont Blanc actually starts just below St Gervais however we caught it in the town and loved the roughly hour run up the mountain.  It runs through a variety of terrain en route and Nid d’Aigle (the final stop) really does feel as though you are quite high up on a mountain.  Many simply turn around at that point and go down, a few brave souls climb Mont Blanc and a few head about 100 metres higher to the nearest refuge for a coffee at least!  A short walk takes you over to the Bionnassay glacier which is well worth a look.  There are options to break the journey and so on the way down we stopped and walked for a while around a plateau about halfway down.  We got great views both into the Chamonix valley as well as back towards Nid d’Aigle and Mont Blanc.  I really loved this trip and would do it again without hesitation.

While the surroundings were very appealing the town of St Gervais itself was a great placed to be based.  It is an attractive little alpine town with good cafes, supermarkets and an extensive weekly food market too.  We walked in a few places in the lower valley however we quickly realised that it was somewhere we would definitely like to return too.

We discovered that we had got our timing right for the visit here (late June 2015) as the telecabine from St Gervais to Mont d’Arbois opened for the summer season while we were there.  St Gervais is around 850 metres above sea level and the telecabine takes you up around 1000 metres (in two stages) to a col close to Mont d’Arbois.  There is a cafe at the top of the run and it was one of our favourite spots of the entire trip – sitting on the decking at the cafe and looked over at the Mont Blanc massif – stunning.  We walked around the area both towards Mont Joly and the other direction to the top of Mont d’Arbois.  Steep in places, this ridge walk gives great views all around and we even went back a 2nd time before we left and I wouldn’t hesitate to go there again if we were in the area.  You actually get a far better view of Mont Blanc from that ridge that you do on the tramway really.

The campsite at St Gervais really was one of the best of the trip and we would like to return there again.  We had some great views simply looking out of the van window or sitting outside in the evening or morning light.


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