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AGS Western Alps 2023 tour

Few will remember now but the first trip abroad organised by the AGS explored the Lautaret pass in the French Alps. In early summer, the alpine meadows are awash with colour; Campanula thyrsoidesGentiana punctataNarcissus poeticusAnemone narcissiflora and many other gems adorn the slopes where Lautaret Botanic Garden is located.
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The tour will include day trips to some of the local mountain peaks in search for classical alpines such as Eritrichium nanumRanunculus glacialisPetrocallis pyrenaica and a range of gentian species. Space prevents us from mentioning a long list of species, but we are hoping to see Viola cenisia and Viola calcarataPrimula latifoliaSoldanella alpina, Paradisea liliastrum and several species of hardy orchids.

Day 1

Arrive in Lyon, transfer to La Grave, our base for the next few days. The village is located in the Écrins National Park and belongs to the Les Plus Beaux Villages de France association (The Most Beautiful Villages in France).

Day 2

Depending on the weather and cable car running times the day will consist of either an ascent to the Meije glacier or an exploration of the alpine meadows around La Grave. The screes and crevices on Meije are home to blue cushions of Eritrichium nanum, Gentiana brachyphylla, Soldanella alpina, Leontopodium alpinum and other alpine classics.

Day 3

A short drive from La Grave will take us to the Lautaret Pass. The Lautaret Botanic Garden is one of the oldest mountain botanic gardens. Over 2000 species of alpines from around the world are displayed in beds arranged geographically. The garden does a great job at borrowing the surrounding landscape, with 360 views of snow-covered mountain peaks. The afternoon will be spent botanising the slopes and species-rich meadows near the garden. Narcissus poeticus, Gentiana punctata, wild orchids, Rhododendron ferrugineum all grow cheek by jowl with species like Thalictrum aquilegifolium, Anemone narcissiflora, Pedicularis tuberosa, etc.

Lautaret Botanic Garden

Lautaret Botanic Garden

Day 4

Driving towards Col de l’Izoard, in search of Viola cenisia and Daphne cneorum we will pass many alpine meadows in full colour. The dainty purple viola grows in a lunar terrain of cream-coloured screes at Casse Deserte, a fascinating landscape almost devoid of woody vegetation.

Day 5

From the Lautaret Pass, the Col du Galibier is reached by a winding road leading to a windy top with amazing views that lead the eye far in the distance over many a mountain peak. On the other side, on the way to Valloire we will find high alpine meadows with Pulsatilla vernalis, Trollius europaeus, Campanula thyrsoides and many species of wild orchids. Hotel in Val Cenis.

Day 6

During a walk on the wooded shores of Lac du Val d’Isere we will try to find colonies of Cypripedium calceolus, if the season is early they will be in flower. On our way there, we will stop at Col de l’Iseran and admire pink, cushion-forming Petrocallis pyrenaica, while lower down on the banks of the Ruisseau de la Lenta, yellow Pulsatilla alpina subsp. apiifolia grows.

Day 7

On the last full day of the tour we will explore the shores of Lac du Mont Cenis, only miles away from the French-Italian border. The rocky slopes are home to Viola calcarata in a caleidoscope of colour forms. Primula latifolia and Gentiana acaulis will be highlights of the day too.

Day 8

Return to Lyon airport.


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