A Review of Trekking The GR5 Trail - Through the French Alps: From Lake Geneva to Nice by Paddy Dillon

Posted by Mark Armstrong 22nd March 2016

The author of Cicerone's Trekking the GR5 Trail is none other than Paddy Dillon, a prolific writer of guidebooks, who has written 30 books for Cicerone. Obviously writing walking guides means that Paddy is also an experienced walker and indeed he has walked all of Britain's National Trails at some point; so you know you're in safe hands with his guidance.

Paddy begins the book by reassuring the readers that "every summer thousands of walkers embark on this trek ... and complete the journey without any problems" and "that the route .. is one that can be completed by averagely fit, experienced hill walkers." He goes on to amusingly describe the different type of characters and family groups that you may come across on walking the GR5, clearly remembering his own experiences.

He makes more reassurances with regard to attempting the GR5 Trail: "on a clear day .. a half hour flight between Geneva and Nice reveals the whole route, with its long valleys and convenient passes between high mountains" and describes how the route can be broken up into stages.

The introduction has all the useful information you would expect from a Cicerone guidebook, including geology, flora and fauna, kit and what to do in an emergency. There's some useful jogs to your memory of things you may not know or not thought of in terms of trip preparations.

The Trail is broken up into up to 32 day stages with various alternative routes. The guidebook describes some scenic variant routes, including the stunning GR55 through the Vanoise National Park and the delightful GR52 that crosses the Mercantour National Park.

If you are accustomed to the Cicerone style of layout you'll be pleased to see that this is no different. Each day has the distance, ascent, descent, time, map required, nature of terrain, food and drink and accommodation at the beginning as well as a separate walk summary followed by the walk description. As usual the additional details or descriptions of views are added in the margin leaving the walking description uncluttered by its addition. Each day's walk is also further broken down with timings, very useful as a check to where you are or should be by a certain time, although as Paddy points out, the timings are to some extent meaningless as there will be walkers who go faster than others, but "use them as a guide while assessing your progress."

There are many photographs in the book, in fact on nearly every other page, along with snippets of maps which include all the place names mentioned in the descriptions, so there is plenty of reference information to check your location and progress.

The appendix has a route summary, useful for planning especially with a south to north route as well as the north to south. Plus also there's an accommodation list and some basic French.

If you are ever buying a walking guidebook, it is usually preferable to purchase an up to date version in case of route changes. Cicerone's website will also have updates when changes are known to them. This is a 2016 edition which has been fully updated.

In this guidebook, Paddy Dilllon follows the usual successful Cicerone template and in his walking guide gives a lightness of touch which gives just enough opinion and personal description where it matters combined with those all important factual pointers to keep you on track. An ideal companion for an alpine trek on the GR5.

High Point Holidays offer the trail split over three holidays:

Alpine Adventure: Lake Geneva to Chamonix - Chamonix to Briancon - Briancon to Nice

At High Point Holidays, we also offer the following self guided walking holidays in the Alps:

Alps to Med Trail - Les Ecrins: Panoramic Alpine Trail

Marvels of Mercantour - Tour of Queyras: An Alpine Secret

Panoramic Vercors - Queyras: Best Kept Secret in the Alps

Tour of Mont Aiguille - Trekking Tour of the Vanoise

GR5 Trail


Lake Geneva to Chamonix


Lake Geneva to Chamonix


Lake Geneva to Chamonix


Lake geneva to Chamonix