Walkers: be prepared to turn back!

As mentioned before there is a wonderful selection of paths round here, from ‘routes forestières’, through signposted ‘grandes routes’, to ‘autres sentiers’ (other footpaths). It is a walkers’ paradise, with a richness of scenery which must match just about anywhere in the world. Buy some local guide books, the local maps (IGN 1:25000 are good, though not as clear as Ordnance Survey), and off you go.

BUT … a word of warning. The downside of the dramatic scenery is that you need to use your discretion. In short, be prepared to turn back if your path is dangerous because of the season, weather, or state of repair. Last winter I turned back twice when routes that would be perfectly fine in Summer were turned into potential death traps for a casual walker by ice and snow: some of the more mountainous paths have some quite dramatic drops, and you wouldn’t want to slide over them.

And today’s walk, done in perfect weather, after a promising start, soon turned tricky: one section, where the earth path had become extremely narrow because of a landslip from one edge was fairly simply and safely bypassed with a bit of a scramble through some trees. However the next section, along a narrowish ledge along a crumbly cliff face with a few large sheer drops to the right  was a no-brainer: time to retrace steps and keep myself safe for another walk another day.

It’s worth remembering that the dramatic geology round here is the result of constant change: not just over long time-scales of millions of years, but all the time, now. Many roads are prone to rockfalls (the Col de Grimone is currently shut because of a major one), and many roads and paths, out of necessity, have been built on and surrounded by structurally weak geology.  It’s a geology which is both awe-inspiring and a bit terrifying. And it’s certainly worth seeing.

Most of the photos are from today’s aborted walk. The last couple are from Vercors yesterday, and suggest why walking maps may need to be taken with a pinch of salt there in Winter.

Judging from the state of the rocks above the path, this isn’t a place to hang around for too long.
To the right there are some sheer drops of a hundred feet or so. Hmm.
When the French say a path is dangerous, it is.
Time for a scramble over the banks to the right.
The ‘interesting’ path to Pas de Sagatte. Treat with extreme caution.

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