On Saturday, me and Jennie followed the war memorial walk at the Glières plateau in Haute-Savoie, about thirty minutes from home. Unlike our previous walk to Le Grand Piton, it offered no summit, no grand views from the mountains which we couldn’t see at the beginning, and barely a place to rest and eat lunch. Rather, we followed a linked series of paths that were significant during the French resistance counter-attack during the latter stages of the Second World War. We started at the war monument.
After an hour or so of walking over the stone roads and passing the re-built infirmary and so on we found ourselves in the walk proper. We began the descent, eventually finding our way into a wood where the trees offered some shelter from the heat.
When you’re on a descent and know you’ll end up where you started, you can safely assume that every step you take down you’ll need to take up on the return, albeit in a difference place. Only on the second half you’re tired and so the ascent feels worse. When we’d walked for about and hour and a half on the way down, we knew we had some walking to do to get back. What’s worse was that it was getting late-ish: although we still had plenty of time, we needed to move quickly without too many breaks – so I started recording ‘on the run’.
I don’t know enough about the events in January 1944 to do justice to it in a retelling (you can learn more here). But we did walk through the sentier de l’attaque, the path taken by the massed German troops towards the plateau where the French Maquis were waiting. As I traced the path taken by the advancing soldiers I tried to immerse myself in their thoughts and feelings, and imagine how it must have been for them and for the French fighters they were about to face.
Despite the great interest in the local area,the walk itself suffered from several issues which made it less enjoyable than it might have been. It seems churlish now to complain – the views, were, after all, quite spectacular and the walk well signposted and challenging – and it has piqued my interest in local history, especially during the war. But sometimes when you finish you feel elated – here, we simply felt relieved.
I’m not sure we’ll take this walk again, but this doesn’t detract from the memories and respect for all the men who fought here, and the courage of the Maquis facing such terrible odds. I took some photos, too – you can find them here.
Walking guide details
This was walk Number 26 in Janette Norton’s Walking in the Haute Savoie: Book 2, South (Between Annecy and Chamonix) ISBN: 978-1852844110. It is described as a difficult / medium walk and took us about 6 hours.