Analysing terrain data
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The exposure grade describes the potential consequences of falling or slipping off the path.
Low Exposure: The path is on completely flat land and potential injury is limited to falling over.
Medium Exposure: The trail contains some obstacles such as outcroppings and rock which could cause injury.
High Exposure: Some trail sections have exposed ledges or steep ascents/descents where falling could cause serious injury.
Extreme Exposure: Some trail sections are extremely exposed where falling will almost certainly result in serious injury or death.
From Chamonix town centre, follow Rue la Mollard (a residential street) west and uphill to the foot of the Planpraz gondola.
This is only 400 metres from the town centre as the crows flies but it is a steep road and serves as a good warmup for the day.
(There is also a bus service to the gondola if you are feeling especially lethargic).
Take the gondola up to Planpraz, 1000 metres above Chamonix, and then up to the Brévent peak (2525 metres) itself, which is a further cable car ride and 500 vertical metres above Planpraz.
The view from Brévent has been described as the best mountain view in the World and whether you agree or not, it's indisputably pretty special.
From the summit, head south on the clear path past the beautiful Lac du Brévent, heading for the Refuge de Bel Lachat (2136 metres).
The hike to the Refuge takes roughly an hour and is mind-blowingly stunning, with Mont Blanc dominating the view ahead and the peaks of the Aravis and Beaufortain visible on the horizon.
The hut has a perfectly positioned terrace and seeing as there is no chance that will be tired of the view, grab a drink and soak it all in for a while longer.
From the Refuge, follow a clear path downhill, signposted for Merlet.
After a couple of hundred vertical metres of descent, you will begin to reach trees, and given that there is no escape from the sun before this point, you are likely to be glad of the shade.
Continue downhill, still following signs for Merlet and passing in and out of the forest, until you arrive at the animal park itself.
Allow 2 hours from the Refuge to Merlet.
There is a shuttle bus that runs from Merlet to the village of Les Houches, at the southwest end of the Chamonix valley.
Take this (or continue walking downhill to Les Bossons and along the river Arve to Les Houches - a 1.5 hour walk in total) and make your way to your accommodation.