The mountain tops in Serre Chevalier were long inaccessible, held in mystery and supposedly home to both Gods and other worldly creatures. Man conquered this universe in the 19th Century and the fragile glaciers are now within our reach. When you are in Monetier (Serre Chevalier 1500), you just have to lift your eyes and there it is: the glacier. It starts on a mountain plateau at 3,300 m and reaches past the Agneaux peak to divide into several mini glaciers.
Although Chamonix is more reputed for its glaciers than the Guisane Valley, the Ecrins massif actually contains the largest glaciers in France, with a total of 100 km compared with the 90 km on the French side of the Mont Blanc. The Guisane valley has a number of glaciers on the north-facing side and they are particularly interesting due to their surprising diversity within such a small territory.
The Casset glacier is clearly visible from the valley, but its top plateau remains hidden from view. It extends to the summit of the Agneaux and finishes off rather steeply. It holds the mythical Davin gully (45°), which extreme skiers can enjoy in the winter. But strong legs are compulsory as it is accessible only after a 1,600 m vertical climb. The view from the top is magnificent and here you discover two more glaciers that extend towards the ‘Lac d’ Arsine’. The last in the row of the Guisane glaciers is found at the top of the Col du Lautaret. The ‘Laurichard’ valley hosts an unusual rock glacier. They form where the surrounding rock faces are porous with frequent rock falls and permanent low temperature. They often look similar with a steep front and uneven surface. Snow and rain freezes between the rocks and the glacier is like frozen concrete.
Rock glaciers both move and melt very slowly. Although it may appear like a sleeping giant, the glacier is bursting with activity. On our latitude, eternal snow starts at about 3,000 m. Even though the snow melts in the summer, some of the winter snowfall slowly transforms into ice.