SMUGGLERS TRAIL: tracking forgotten traditions


This journey is on the footsteps of a forgotten route and its men: the Tomme cheese trail, from the Tarentaise valley to the Bessan Valley. For centuries the administrative borders were different to what they are now. The closest market where the Tarentaise cowherd and cheese maker could sell their produce was not down the valley 10km away from their pastures in France, rather 60km across 8 valleys and 3000m passes in what was then Italy. Twice a year (at the end of the summer and in early spring) these mules caravans had to travel full east to 'open markets', dodging local rangers to avoid paying taxes. It was consequently called 'the smugglers trail'.

In the XXth century when Savoie became french, this road was slowly forgotten. Oral memory (and a few paintings) became the only surviving trace in the mind of an aging french priest. But 10 years ago a group of enthusiasts were alble to rediscover it. And every year now they take to its traditional path (like before with cheese and animals) every Saint Michel on 14 september.

We will take you along this amazing route peaking at 3500m, crossing rivers, steering its way through amazing valleys and traditional villages. You'll experience the beauty of the Aegean Alps, away from crowded itineraries, with some of the best mountain huts (and best tables!) along the way.

In addition to discovering traditional architecture, food or  trades, this itinerary will open your eyes on Epic War (WWI & WWII) stories fought on high ridges.

1.Departure Date:

  • Private Groups / tours with your own dates can be booked between June to October 2021
  • fixed departure dates in open group for 2021 are:
    • 17 july
    • 31 july
    • 14 august
    • 28 august
    • NEWAdded departure: 11 September - currently 6 spots available


13 days (incl. transport to departure point and from arrival point)

3.Group Meeting Point:

Lyon airport (FR) or Geneva airport (CH)

4.Who can go?

a.Min age: 18yo

b.Physical condition: must be fit and healthy. This trip involves 10 continuous days of demanding hiking on mountainous terrain and above 2000m of altitude, while carrying a 15kg backpack and with limited outside support.

c.You will need to:

i.To walk an average of 1500m vertical a day

ii.To walk about 15km p/day mentally fit and strong physically ready

d.Group size: min 2 max 8 pax. + 1 guide

5. Trip overall Rating [where 1 is 'easy' and 10 'is very tough'] = 6,6 /10

Difficulty = 7

Isolation = 7

Danger = 6

6.This activity involves (%):

Transport: Walking = 90%  Taxi/van = 10%

Survival skills = 10%

Orienteering = 70%

Group Autonomy = 40%


Day 1, meet the guide at Lyon Airport, drive to Pralognan, settle in hotel, evening briefing, gear check, dinner.

Day 2, start trekking to refuge col de la vanoise.

Day 3, trek to Leisse, Chamois spotting and cheese making lesson

Day 4, trek to Femma via Pierre Blanche

Day 5, rest day, with local hikes and wildlife spotting

Day 6, trek to Fond des fours

Day 7, trek to Carro

Day 8, walk to Bonneval,

Day 9, Resting day, visit the traditional village

Day 10, trek to Averole

Day 11, trek to Colerin pass

Day 12, trek to Bessan, farewell dinner party!

Day 13, head to airport, end of journey.

8.Weather / local conditions / Terrain:

Weather in this region is continental. Summer temperatures can reach up to 30°C during the day and 0°C at night in altitude. The environment is rich in wildlife: from trout to foxes, chamois, marmots, mountain deers, lynx and eagles. In some areas wolfs are visible. The landscape is made of pine trees, spruce, birch and ferns in wet areas, high peaks, rock fields, pastures, snow and glaciers.



In Pralognan and Bessan, local hotel or b&b.

In other locations, mountain huts: some have hot showers, others not. Sleeping is in dormitory bunk beds (average 6pax).


In huts, most serve excellent hearty food. It will be french traditional mountain food. Sometimes rich it is served for people burning high calories during the day. But let me tell you, it is delicious and highly awaited for after a long day trekking.


Airport pickups and drop offs are made in mini vans.

If needed during the trek, it is possible to 'skip' or 'come out' of the wild, these transports would be made in 4x4 or local all terrain vehicles.

12.What to expect

This trek between the Vanoise National Parc and the Gran Bessanese is unique and off the beaten path. Simply because most people concentrate on the Mont Blanc Tour and ignore the amazing wonders around the corner (to your best interests)! Only locals are using this itinerary where vistas and landscapes are breathtaking. In addition the history of sites visited is outstanding (ranging from 17th Century romantic history, to WWII chapters, local traditions, agricultural knowledge, wilderness preservation, etc.). During our evening stops but also along the way you'll meet achieved mountaineers and environment enthusiasts passionate about this region; Difficulty will vary from one stage to the next and some days will be hard. But all in, expect to meet snow and glaciers moraine, sun and rain, bitter cold mornings and scorching hot afternoons, green prairies and rock fields. Average altitude of the trek will be 2000m.

The reward for this discovery of an alpine traditional route is a unique experience that will test your endurance and inspire you.

13.Safety and security

We take safety very seriously.

There are no major risks but the ones inherent to mountain trekking (body injuries, weather, etc.). We minimize these risks by preparing for them. But the best is to act mindfully and carefully during the trip. The area is well known to your experienced guide, and the route could differ slightly depending on local conditions.

Should an incident happen, rescue protocols are well established and local rescue operators can be contacted via the huts and in some areas directly by mobile phone. In that regard, part of the price of this trip is a French Alpine Club (CAF) membership (35€) that provides a comprehensive rescue insurance cover anywhere in remote alpine range, including helicopter (often the only way to get out fast).



a.Consider no internet or mobile phone network for 10 days.

b.This trek is demanding and is taking place in a remote location: in case of emergency it would take about 1/2 day to be attended to, weather dependant.


per person in a group of 6 (twin share and dormitory)

= AUD 2950 or AUD 227 p/day

a.For less pax please contact us

b.For helicopter return please contact us

16.Inclusions and exclusions

a.inclusions English speaking host qualified mountain guide for up to 7 people.

iii.permits to local area and specialist equipment all food and meals

v.accommodation (in twin share room or huts incl dorms)

vi.transport and drivers as per the schedule

b.exclusions flights to 'meeting point'

ii.personal expenses (beverages, entertainment, etc) to local guides

iv.personal equipment (we will send you a comprehensive kit list when booked)

Should you have any questions please contact us