Refuge Entre Deux Eaux in the French Alps

Guest post.

How a Law Student in Paris and a Designer in Tokyo became Guardians of a Mountain Refuge in the Alps

When packing for your stay at Refuge Entre Deux Eaux, we recommend leaving your neon lycra pants and tinned food at home. Upon arrival, you’ll meet your hosts Clara and Björn who will probably greet you in ripped jeans and sneakers, and then offer you a slice of local, organic blueberry pie hot from the oven.

Perched 2200m above sea level in Vanoise National Park, there stands a one hundred year old mountain refuge situated “entre deux eaux” (between two mountain streams) which richly rewards those who venture out to find it.

From June to September every year, Clara and Björn ascend into the French Alps to assume their seasonal role as caretakers of the refuge, creating a haven for hikers and travellers who stop by for anything from a glass of local wine to a night’s stay complete with dinner and breakfast service. For those few summer months, the old house is filled with the aromas of country cooking, the sounds of different languages and occasional accordion jam sessions which have been known to break out spontaneously in the communal kitchen.

Today at the Refuge Entre Deux Eaux, travellers can enjoy organic blueberry pie from the tiny nearby village of La Chappelle-du-Bard, buttery tomme cheese from a local fromagerie and natural locally made wines by families who have practised their art for generations.

Guests who wish to stay for a meal are treated to dishes characterised by simplicity and showcase products from the region like pork sautéed with baby carrots and turnips, veal blanquette and hachis parmentier, France’s answer to shepherd’s pie.

The kitchen also happily caters for vegetarians on a daily basis, to support individuals who wish to minimise the impact their food choices have on the planet. “Our dishes are designed around local products and from environmentally friendly agriculture,” says Clara. “We’re committed to investing in the local market and supporting producers by paying them at the right price. When food is sourced, produced and prepared sustainably and locally, it tastes better. And isn’t eating well the most important thing on a mountain expedition?” | Instagram |refugeentredeuxeaux (a)


Trekking to Aconcagua’s Plaza Francia INDEPENDENTLY – Day 1

trip report by editor Rick McCharles

day 0 | 1 | 2 | 3 | info page| video

Next morning was sunny. Mendoza enjoys 330 days of sun a year.

With only a 3-4 hour walk in gaining about 400m, I packed heavy.

There are 3 buses a day from Mendoza to the Aconcagua Provincial Park. Go early to the Mendoza bus station and buy a ticket in advance on the Buttini Bus. Seats are assigned. Ask for a window on the right side of the bus. Cost one way in 2018 was AR$130.

Roberto sat down beside me on the bus. He’s a rafting guide from Guatemala who’s worked all over the world. 15 years on the Arkansas river in Colorado, for example.

In 2018 he’s finally guiding the Grand Canyon. Those trips are decided on by a lottery system. He jumped off at Potrerillos where he was visiting a friend, another guide.

I was headed back towards Santiago, Chile on the same scenic highway I’d traveled on an express bus. My local bus stopped everywhere taking 4 hours to get back to close to the border with Chile.

The Parque Provincial Aconcagua office on the highway is quite well organized. We had our permits checked and strictly informed that all trash must be returned in a numbered bag back to this office.

Day hikers can walk a short way up the valley towards the big mountain for $10. (foreigners $25.50)

It’s a popular stop for tourists.

In fact you get quite a good view of Aconcagua from the highway. For free.

You need to walk up a paved road to the parking lot before getting started.
I was to be surprised how many helicopters race up to Aconcagua every day. Two are parked here at the entrance. Ready to go.
Only those with trekking permits can cross the river. I felt I was finally on the Francia trek.
Excited, I rushed up to Confluencia camp (3350m) as quickly as I could.

It looks much more impressive from a distance than up close.
In fact, it’s rather crowded and dirty.

Guided clients sleep in one of the company fixed tents.

When not in use they are protected.
I do like their big bright shared areas.

It was late afternoon, the sun already passed behind the mountains.
On arrival you check in with the camp guards. They directed me to the tiny area where independent campers are allowed to pitch. We are definitely second class clients here.
Toilets are BAD for guided clients as well as independents.

Chilled and surprisingly tired, I crawled into my sleeping bag and had a nap. I had a slight altitude headache but no other symptoms.

Eventually getting up, II wandered around early evening, enjoying nightfall.

There’s a convenient picnic table with good water supply for independent hikers. I had my standard Knorr soup with instant mashed potatoes. Barbecue chicken mixed in.
Cheeky Andean fox tend to show up at campsites about dusk. I saw this one hanging around at dinner hoping for leftovers. And another two in the early morning.
BIG day tomorrow. I tried to get as much sleep as I could at 3350m.

Half the crowded camp wanted to rest. The other half to party. Bring headphones or earplugs.

Trekking to Aconcagua’s Plaza Francia INDEPENDENTLY – Day 0

trip report by site editor Rick McCharles

day 0 | 1 | 2 | 3 | info page | video

The best hike (not climb) in Aconcagua Provincial Park, Argentina is to the Plaza Francia, I reckon.

Aconcagua is the tallest mountain outside Asia. Most impressive is the south face – a wall of rock and ice nearly 3000m high.

It’s steep.

Here’s my promised vista from Francia.

The French team of 1954 who made the first ascent, returned with severe frostbite, Imagine the terrible gear they were using.

Almost everyone treks to Aconcagua’s south face base camp — Plaza Francia — with a guide.

Inka Expeditions is one of the best.

But it’s relatively easy to do Francia on your own.

Cost for my independent trekking permit January 2018 was $160 plus bus ($19) plus food.

Aconcagua fees January 2018

Cost for the same trip with Inka Expeditions was — at the same time — to Plaza Francia $715 / person discounted to $470 / person + tip if you book in advance.

(Note – Inka Expeditions trekking to Plaza de Mulas was $1360 / person and trekking to Mt. Bonete $1690 / person.)

The other independent permit option is 7 days for $310. You’d easily visit both Francia and Plaza de Mulas (Mule Camp) with more time to acclimatize. But we’d recommend doing Francia in 3 days, instead.

There are a number of outdoors shops in Mendoza that sell camp stove fuel. Chamonix is the best I found.

First day in Argentina I had trouble finding a bank that would accept my Debit Card. They all take Credit Cards, but you get instantly charged a high rate of interest for cash advance on credit.

Finally I found a bigger branch of the Galicia bank where my bank card worked. Maximum seems to be 3000 ARG, just under $180. I put that cash in my pocket.

Tourist Information offices in Mendoza are excellent. They gave me a map and showed where the Park Office that issues trekking permits is located.

  • Centro de Informes, Parque General San Martin, Mendoza (Google map).

Not central, it’s in the gigantic Parque General San Martin.

On arrival employee #1 explained I’d need to pay in cash, Argentinian pesos only. Cost for the 3 day permit was 3080 ARG, exactly 80 pesos more than I had in my pocket. 🤨

I’d need to go back to the bank.

In addition, I needed the number of my insurance policy that covers hiking (not climbing).

I didn’t have the number with me nor was I sure my current policy covered hiking. I walked back to the hostel to get the number.

Second trip to the Centro de Informes employee #1 was gone. Employee #2 informed me no insurance was needed for the 3 day trek, only the longer permits.

He helped me make application online on computers in the office. The web page is not well designed. I was happy to do it there and in person.

The options and costs for different adventures on Aconcagua are confusing.

Application printed and in hand, he told me to walk to the nearest “Easy Pay” kiosk. Parks employees are not allowed to handle money.

Closest was about 1km away in the park. I walked there only to find out it was closed Mondays. 🤨 Retuning to #YouHadOneJob employee #2 quite irked, he blurted his lack of critical information was a 3rd world problem.

Ya. … Right.

I walked to the next closest Easy Pay.

That worked well. They do take only cash.

BACK for the 3rd time same day to the Centro de Informes.

My permit was processed and I — finally — had it in hand. It was good for any time over the next 3 weeks.

I picked up my camping food at the massive Carrefour grocery store. No peanut butter, however. I took inexpensive, calorie rich Christmas cake instead. Love candied fruit and raisins.

That night at Alamo hostel it was the old guys at the table late night. All the youngsters were out in Mendoza Bars. Two of the Argentinian gentlemen cooked up empanadas and pizza. Me and the social worker from Texas enjoyed their cooking while sharing Malbec.

I tried to go to bed early.

why I carry an integrated stove system

In recent years I use either my Jetboil Minimo or MSR Reactor.

There are pros and cons to both.

I long ago gave away to a friend my dirty, fussy, problematic MSR Whisperlite International. (My friend is still using it. He loves to tinker.)

For me the efficiency, speed, and ease of use make it worth extra weight and space.

Never too cold to cook.




Tips for Women Hiking

Jennifer Saito posted a super comprehensive summary of hiking advice for the ladies

Best of The Bruce – Lion’s Head

trip report by site editor Rick McCharles

I enjoyed my meal and fast wifi at Rachel’s Bakery and 50’s Diner. Too much.

Turned out I stayed too long.

To make it to McKay’s Harbour Overnight Rest Area I’d need to hike fast.

I parked at the Cemetery Road trailhead and dashed into the … apple trees.

The Bruce here is a gorgeous hike along the Niagara Escarpment with views out to Barrow Bay.

The footing is tricky. Especially approaching cliff edge.

It was getting dark far too quickly.

Finally I decided to wild camp rather than risk stumbling on in the dark. This spot was excellent, actually. (The cross pole on my tent broke, however. Design failure for the Hubba NX.)

Next morning — at the turnoff — the name changes to the Cotswold Way – Bruce Friendship Trail.

No rush this morning. I stopped to enjoy the views much more often than the previous evening.

The Lion’s Head is one of these jutting overhangs.

This is a pothole in a glacial erratic.

I took the Ilse Hanel to loop back to my vehicle. There are many options on the Lion’s Head. And it’s so well signed you never need to pull out your map.

Happy to be back at the trailhead after about 15km total. No damage done to the vehicle overnight.

See my photos on Flickr.

The Bruce Trail is more than 890 km (550 mi) long and there are over 400 km (250 mi) of associated side trails. I spent a week hiking some of the best sections.

Explore the Bruce – Lion’s Head


• 10 Best Hikes of the Bruce Trail

• Bruce Trail app | Bruce Trail Reference Guide – 29th Ed