In Haute Savoie between Lake Geneva and Chamonix, the Haut-Giffre is the upper part of the valley where the Giffre flows. It is a high-altitude massif spanning, to the East, the rocky walls of the Cirque du Fer à Cheval, the final ramparts before the Valley of Chamonix and, to the West, the massifs of Dents Blanches and Ruan bordering with Switzerland.
The dead-end valley rests against the sheer rock faces of the Cirque du Fer à Cheval. Its very distinctive terrain features towering limestone cliffs supporting large cracked stretches (including the abysses of Jean-Bernard and Mirolda, which is among the deepest in the world), as well as the Platé desert, one of the most extensive areas of lapies in the Alpine region.
Giffre is an unregulated raging torrent 32 kilometres long. Its name is of Burgundian origin and means “great waters”. The nival stream, whose waters originate with the waterfalls of the Cirque du Fer à Cheval and Ruan glacier on one side, and the Cirque des Fonts on the other, has seen quite severe flooding and once flooded the neighbouring villages and plain of Vallon in Samoëns. Over the centuries, stone dikes were built to protect from these catastrophic inundations.