This walk starts in the village of Vetan (AO). From Saint Pierre drive towards the village of Saint Nicolas and then turn right on the “Salassi” road to Vetan. The starting point is the Hotel Notre Maison in Vetan Villette. It’s easy to find: the road ends there. This goes a long way towards explaining the tranquillity of this place, definitely a suitable place for hikers and those wishing to experience a mountain life without frills and far from the fast pace of present-day life. The lenght of the walk is 2 hours and a half one way. The itinerary is well marked through the typical yellow signs used in the Aosta Valley. The trail is no.13. The route takes from Vetan (1678 m) to the Lac des Grenouilles (2363 m), which means “frog lake”, passing by the new Rifugio Mont Fallère (2385 m), opened in 2012. The difficulty level is E (hiking level), but because the climb is over 600 m a little training is required. This walk is part of a longer route, called Tour du Mont Fallère, which takes several days. We only walked this leg. The hike can be divided in 5 parts:
1) Across the pastures above Vetan. Don’t be put off by the steep start among the trees above the hotel: in a few steps you’re out in the meadows, on a plateau with several streams running through it and a broad view on the Aosta Valley peaks.
2) In the wood: the easy part. The path becomes level, enters the wood and goes halfway up the hill in a wide bend. It’s quite pleasant for the flatness of the trail and the diversity of plants and flowers.
3) In the wood: the climb. This is the hardest section of the walk, because of its steepness. At least it’s in the shadow, except for the last part which takes place on the ridge. Here there are no more trees due to the altitude, and the first edelweiss flowers show up. It’s very windy on the crest, and the view is remarkable on both sides.
4) Road to the refuge. At the crossroads with a mule track we turn right and walk through a grassy and rocky valley inhhabited by marmots. Unlike in other places where we have met and photographed them, as in the Dolomites, here they’re elusive and suspicious. We hear their calls all the time but we can’t see any, not even as we scan the slopes with binoculars.
5) Short descent from the refuge to the Lac des Grenouilles. We have lunch at the Refuge Mont Fallère (2385 m), then it’s just a few steps down to the lake. At this point we see the only wild animals of today: tadpoles in hundreds. From here it is possible to take other trails leading to more mountain lakes (Lac Mort and Lac Fallère) or other points of interest, like Mont Fallère or Col Fenètre.
We enjoyed this walk for the diversity of the environment, and for the possibility to reconnect to the trail network and walk further, in case we come back for a more engaging hike in the future. Also, the hut offers a good base to take refreshment and top up water bottles. The location of the refuge, which lies in an open space, is great: not to mention the yummy whole-grain cornmeal mush. Finally, we were amused by the wooden sculptures representing animal, human and mythical figures that have been placed along the way, turning this trail into an open-air museum.