AUTUMN LEAVES orienteering (Chamonix Valley)

Over the summer holidays, MBFF asked Baby-Cham (a babysitting service in the Chamonix Valley) to head out on one of the new Chamonix Valley orienteering circuits and to report back on the experience. Its team braved the summer heat and did a superb job testing out the Bois du Bouchet and the Lac des Chavants parcours. Read about Baby-Cham’s experience here.

Just this weekend, the MBFF team finally headed out itself to experience one of the parcours – we also opted for the Lac des Chavants circuit, for an optimal 🍁 AUTUMN LEAVES experience, and to have picnic tables and a playground on-site . . . we had a FABULOUS time!

Lac des Chavants parcours d’orientation © montblancfamilyfun.com

What is orienteering?

Orienteering is a sport in which one follows a very precise route from a given map. As it is a fun activity for the whole family, it can be a great motivation to get everyone outdoors and enjoying nature, and to develop navigational skills at the same time. To do orienteering, you will need to understand the concept of reading a map (to align it with the terrain, to understand a “legend”, to understand a map’s scale, and to pinpoint landmarks). The Chamonix Valley orienteering routes are made up of numbered balises (grey posts), planted at points on the terrain where they stand out, and which are outlined on the map; you need to stamp your maps at these balises au fur et à mesure.

The Chamonix Valley has developed 6 orienteering routes for you to enjoy, many of them in the SHADE of forests (perfect for a hot summer’s day and beautiful on an autumn day too!):

  • Chamonix (le Bois du Bouchet);
  • Les Houches (Lac des Chavants);
  • Servoz (le village)
  • Servoz (le Château/Le Lac);
  • Vallorcine (La Poya);
  • Argentière (la Moraine);

The routes are available for FREE from you local tourist offices, or you can print them out from the Chamonix Tourist Office website here.


MBFF’s experience orienteering

My elder son had already had a little orienteering experience from school, but I loved the idea of being able to explore en famille, and to have the opportunity to explain to his younger brother how to read a 🗺 map and a legend (I LOVE maps!).

We had planned to picnic first and then to set off on our adventure, but the boys were so eager to start, we’d already found 5 balises before starting on lunch!

Lac des Chavants parcours d’orientation © montblancfamilyfun.com

I myself became a little distracted by the beauty of the 🍂 autumn leaf palette, but I was soon drawn into the excitement (the boys raced around the first balises, squealing with excitement as they found them).

Lac des Chavants autumn leaves © montblancfamilyfun.com
Lac des Chavants autumn leaves © montblancfamilyfun.com
Lac des Chavants autumn leaves © montblancfamilyfun.com
Lac des Chavants parcours d’orientation © montblancfamilyfun.com

After our picnic lunch, having ticked off all the points to find around the lake and the rocher d’escalade, we set off into the woods (after a requisite stop at the playground).

We had a lot of fun in the woods, clambering up and down mossy slopes and crossing brooks, in order to find our balises . . . I think I was covered in more mud than the children by the end of the course!

Lac des Chavants parcours d’orientation © montblancfamilyfun.com
Lac des Chavants parcours d’orientation © montblancfamilyfun.com

Like Baby-Cham, our nearly 8-year old was the first to lose enthusiasm and focus (about halfway through the forest adventure), but his 4.5 year old little brother kept going until the very end (18 balises!), and we spent a good 2 hours locating all the points on the map!

We crossed paths with some families making splendid cabanes in the woods, so we stopped to inspect these too!

Lac des Chavants – a solid cabane © montblancfamilyfun.com

As we had printed out a couple of extra maps, we were able to pass these on to some folk who had gone to Lac des Chavants to walk in the woods and enjoy the playground (they also had a great time, and commented that their children had never walked so far!).


Some helpful advice for an autumn undertaking of Lac des Chavants parcours d’orientation
  • dress up warmly!
  • take hot drinks to warm up, and snacks too!
  • be prepared to get muddy (and wet!), as the slopes are slippery; perhaps take a change of clothes for little ones?
  • if 2 hours is too long for your team, perhaps do just half of the parcours?
  • there are plenty of places to stop and make a cabane in the woods (we saw some fabulous ones!);
  • perhaps take small prizes?
  • you can take a cross-country buggy along the marked paths, but not off piste for the balises that are located off the path!

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