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Grand Balcon Sud, Lac Blanc and Lacs des Cheserys

October 30, 2022
Brevant Lift with Glacier Bossons in Background

Having  talked about the south side of the Chamonix valley in a previous post, the North side, although different, is equally stunning. 

This side of the valley is accessed by two lifts which operate throughout the summer season, La Flegere which is in the Chamonix suburb of Les Praz (a short and free bus ride from Chamonix Centre or a 30 minute walk) and Plan Praz which is right in Chamonix town itself. Both of these lifts stop operating in mid-September so any exploration of the North side after that starts with a bracing hike up from the valley (basically a 1000m climb).

If you are lucky enough to be here before the lifts close, the Plan Praz lift connects with the Brevant lift and will take you up to 2525m with no effort at all. There is a great view of Mt Blanc from here but limited places to walk to. I linked Brevant to the classic Plan Praz walk which is heading up the valley and over the Col du Lac Cornu. Once over the col there is a large alpine lake called Lac Cornu and a short climb away are the two Lac Noir lakes which remain icy late into the summer. From these lakes it is possible to descend via the Col de Gliere to the Index lift (although there is a short sharp climb just before the lift) which links to La Flegere and takes you back down the mountain to Les Praz.

From Lac Cornu it is possible to walk a loop around to the lower of the Lac Noir lakes (Lac Noir d’en Bas). There is no actual path but following the ridge line around from the Petit Lac (not signposted but below Lac Cornu) you can climb up to the lake. I came up to the lake around where the stream exits and didn’t have to do any dangerous climbing to get there.

Ibex above Lac Noir

From the top of the La Flegere lift it is possible to connect with the Index chairlift that climbs another 500m. Leaving from L’Index the classic walk is to Lac Blanc, perhaps the most famous lake in the French Alps. There is a summer hut open here serving food and drink and also allows overnight stays. This walk avoids much climbing and makes a high alpine walk very accessible. The fame of this lake is reflected in the number of people who head here compared to many of the other trails.

At Lac Blanc an unsigned path leads up to the right of the lake climbing around 150m and after around 1 km Lac Perseverance can be found – and some real peace and quiet.

Lac Perseverance

Once the lifts stop working the crowds in the high alpine definitely thin out but on weekends there are still plenty of people willing to brave the steep climbs.

There are two main routes up into the upper reaches of the North side of the valley. The first is a path through the woods that starts in the small village of Argentiere (easily accessible on the free Chamonix bus). From here it takes around 3 hours to reach Lac Blanc and is just over 1,100m of climbing.

Lac Blanc Vista

The second main route is from the Col du Montet which will probably need transport to get to. This starts with a steep 650m climb which then connects to the Grand Balcon Sud. There are great views of the La Tour and Argentiere glaciers from here and Lac Blanc can be reached by a brisk climb via Lac Cheserys and some ladders just above the lake. From the Col du Montet to Lac Blanc is only around 1,000m of climbing in total.

Lac Blanc from above

I would recommend, either on the outward or return trip, detouring via all 5 of the Lacs des Cheserys . These are beautiful and much quieter than the main route as most hikers don’t seem to visit them.

One of the Lake Cheserys

I spent a night at one of the Lacs des Cheserys and despite the freezing temperatures overnight the views in the morning were more than worth it. Camping is not allowed within 200m of Lac Blanc but in the rest of the area Bivouac is allowed. This means that it is possible to camp after 7pm as long as you pack up and go in the morning.

Lac Cheserys in the early morning

It’s also worth noting that swimming is banned in Lac Blanc but is allowed in the other lakes. Although I’ve not been brave enough to try.


This side of the valley includes the Reserve Naturelle Aiguilles Rouges. In this area I have seen a number of Ibex. These are a type of wild goat that are native to Europe and grow up to 110cm tall and 120kg in weight. Both males and females have horns but the males horns can be substantially bigger.

Ibex by Lac Cheserys
3 Comments leave one →
  1. October 30, 2022 3:58 pm

    Greats pics Mark – what camera are you using?

  2. November 1, 2022 10:30 am

    Beautiful photos!

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