The Grandes Jorasses are located in the Mont Blanc massif between the Haute Savoie in France and the Aosta Valley in Italy. The mountain group is only slightly lower than its well-known neighbor, the Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in the Alps.
About the Grandes Jorasses
The Grandes Jorasses is a mountain group in the Mont Blanc massif of which the highest peak has an elevation of 4208 meters. The group is a collection of six summits linked by a 1 kilometer long ridge. The six summits are: Pointe Young (3996m), Punta Margherita (4066m), Punta Elena (4045m), Pointe Croz (4110m), Pointe Whymper (4184m) and Pointe Walker (4208m), the highest peak.
The first ascent of the Pointe Walker, the highest summit, took place in 1868 by Horace Walkerguided by Melchior Anderegg, Johann Jaun and Julien Grange. The group is best seen from the Italian side.
Accommodations in the Grandes Jorasses Region
The Grandes Jorasses is part of the Mont Blanc massif located on the France/Italy border. Both Chamonix and Courmayeur are great places to stay to explore the region around the Grandes Jorasses, with the Aosta Valley being the best, if you are looking for a fine hotel, these are worth checking out:
Hotel Le Morgane, a 4-star hotel with the sporty atmosphere of Chamonix. The style and concept of the Morgane stand out from the traditional Alpine hotels.
Hotel Gustavia, located In the heart of Chamonix and very close to the train station you’ll find the Langley Hotel, a charming, comfortable, fifty-room hotel with great atmosphere and a marvelous view of Aiguille du Midi and Mont Blanc.
Hotel Mont-Blanc is the door way to Chamonix Valley. Every morning, the hotel offers the happiness of waking up to the most beautiful summit, Mont Blanc.
This valley in the Haute Savoie is one of the top destinations in the French Alps for hiking, paragliding, biking and as a starting base for the ascent of Mont Blanc. The reputation of this large village mainly comes from the first ascent of Mont Blanc in 1786. This was the birth of mountaineering as we know it today. The main street is full of bars, restaurants and outdoor shops offering the best gear for your hiking or climbing adventure. Accommodations in Chamonix are – as you can expect – pricey. The many campsites offer a budget alternative; but for thoselooking for a cheaper place to stay, the neighboring villages of Argentière and Les Houches are your best choices.
Courmayeur is to Italy what Chamonix is to France. It is the base for Mont Blanc ascents on the Italian side of the massif. The village is situated at the end of the Aosta Valley, near the entrance of the Mont Blanc tunnel. Views of Mont Blanc are more impressive from Courmayer due to the steeper Italian face. Accommodationsare similar to those in Chamonix.
Camper van rest areas in the Aosta Valley
Camper van rest areas offer places where you can load water and unload your dirty water. On some occasions,electricity is available, along with bathrooms with showers. Sometimes there are facilities such as a hotel, bar, restaurant or a minimarket nearby. In the Grandes Jorasses area, these type of rest areas can be found in the Cogne Valley, Rhemes and Savarenche valleys, the Orco valley and the Soana Valley.
The Argentière Refuge is located at an impressive altitude of 2771 meters. It offers views of the full Mont Blanc range, including its highest peak. It accommodates 91 people, and rooms cost 30 euros per night or 65 euros (half board). The refuge is often used for long distance hiking and the skitouring trails between Argentière and Zermatt, also known as the Haute Route. The refuge is open in the summer and from February to May, the latter period offering beds toskitouring visitors.
The slightly larger Albert Premier Refuge (140 beds) is situated besides the Le Tour glacier. It is a great goal for a short day hike, a nice stopover to the glacier, or the neighboring peaks of Aiguille du Tour, Aiguille d’Argentière, Les Drus and the Aiguilles Rouges. The refuge is only manned in the summer season but is open year-round. It is owned by the CAF, the Club Alpin France. Getting to the hut is easy by taking the Charamillon gondola from Le Tour and the Col de Balme chairlift. This helps you gain a lot of altitude in a short amount of time and reduces the hiking time to 1hour 30minutes. Those who want to go on a longer hike can follow the trails to Col de Balme underneath the cable car (strenuous, add 3 hours).
The Refuge des Cosmiques is located on the shoulder between Col du Midi and the southwest ridge of Aiguille du Midi. This makes it the closest mountain hut to the peak and the second highest in the French Alps. Located at an altitude of 3593 meters, it is often used as a starting base for Mont Blanc ascents (Three Monts route) . The hut has about 140 beds at 42 euros (breakfast included) to 66 euro (half pension).
The Refuge du Plan d’Aiguille is easily reachable by getting off at the first stop of the Aiguille du Midi cable car (Plan d’Aiguille). Not only is this a great place to start your hike, but the overlook views over the Chamonix Valley also make it a great place for lunch. There is one room with ten beds available, even in the winter season. Owners, Claude and Marie-Noelle, accommodate visitors at 2207 meters of altitude. Spending the night here costs 24 euro per person or 54 euros with meals included. Wifi is available and pets are allowed as well.
Hiking in the Grandes Jorasses Region
Tour de Mont Blanc
The Tour de Mont Blanc is a 10-day trek around the Mont Blanc massif crossing three countries: France, Switzerland and Italy. Since it’s regarded as the most beautiful trek in Europe, the number of hikers can get high during the peak season. While most people start their hike in neighboring Chamonix, the village of Argentière is an often-used stop.
Aiguilles des Posettes
This short 5.8-kilometer hike has great rewards. From the Tre le Champs carpark, you can follow your way up to “Aiguilette via la crète”. It is rough and strenuous trail gaining 750m of ascent, but there is a real summit as a goal. Besides having reached an alpine summit, the views over the Chamonix valley are breathtaking. On clear days it is possible to get a panoramic view all the way to the Jungfrau region. You have the option to hike the same way down or use the Vallorcine gondola; however, this option will require a car shuttle.
Grand Balcon Sud
This 13.6-kilometer trail leads you through the Reserve Naturelle des Aiguille Rouges. Despite the strenuous start, the hike is relatively easy and flat. You will get views over the entire valley and have plenty of opportunities to spot an ibex. To enlarge your chances, head off early in the morning! Descending back to the valley floor can be done by taking the Flegere lift down.
Col de la Croix
This 3-hour hike leads to the Col de la Croix, located at an elevation of 2380m. It enters the valley of Arpy before climbing the col. Descending is possible via the Plan Praz (2057m) and the village of Theraz.
Things to do in the Grandes Jorasses Region
The cable car leading to the summit of the Aiguille du Midi is without doubt the top tourist attraction in Chamonix. Return tickets cost about 58 euros. From this point, you can take an elevator through the rocks of the peak to a viewing platform, some 42 meter higher. Here, you get to see Mont Blanc up close. On clear days, views of the Grand Combin and the Monte Rosa are admirable. The restaurant is a great place to have lunch before taking the Panoramic Mont Blanc tramway to Hellbronner on the Italian side of the massif; you can descend all the way to Courmayeur. This makes it possible to start this journey in Courmayeur as well.
Another main tourist attraction on the French side of the massif is the Mer the Glace train to Montenvers. It departs from the Chamonix train station and leads to the famous Mer de Glace, a glacier between Aiguille du Midi and Les Drus that used to reach all the way to the valley base.
The Chamonix valley is a hotspot for thrillseeking adventurers. Challenging peaks are the playground for experienced mountaineers while the air streams offer great conditions for paragliders.
Hiking with kids
Hiking with children around the Mont Blanc massif may seem difficult due to the altitude difference; however, there quite a few trails suitable for families. Fortunately, cable cars will help you gain most of the elevation without much effort. For this reason, the Lac Bleu hike is well worth mentioning, since it only requires 15 minutes to reach from the cable car station. Whether you want to add more kilometers / hiking hours is up to you. Lac Blanc is a 2-hour easy hike from the Flegere lift station. The nearby Lac Blanc hut offers facilities and refreshments well earned.