My new backyard : the French Alps

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My new backyard : the French Alps

Postby Hallu » Mon 23 Jun, 2014 10:10 pm

After leaving Australia on new year's eve, I managed to find a job at the University of Grenoble. Ideally placed between many different mountain ranges, it's the perfect bushwalking backyard. Although I must say, it's a lot different from Australia : too many tracks that go nowhere and can quickly make you lost, some vertiginous paths that'd be forbidden in Australia or would require cables, signs, and guardrails, and the fact that a "medium" walk is here around 800 m elevation gain while the hard ones can go as high as 1800 m. Oh and late spring can still mean 30 cm deep snow above 2500 m...

Here are a couple walks I've done during the last few weeks.

The first one is in the Chartreuse, famous for striking peaks, waterfalls, alpine meadows, snow, cheese and liquor. Le Pinet is an "easy" peak to start with. At 1867 m, it's not that high, but still offers great 360° views towards the snowy Belledonne range, the striking Granier, or the rest of the Chartreuse. The initial climb is brutal, with about 500 m elevation gain in a couple of kms, below towering cliffs, before reaching the idyllic col de l'Alpette. The next part was easy, although the snowfields made it dangerous at times, and the swifting sound of glider coming right above surprised me. The traditional summit cross was in sight, and the view at the top was superb. Again, no guardrails in most summits in France, so you better watch yourself.
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Mont Granier
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Belledonne from the top
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Glider
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Re: My new backyard : the French Alps

Postby Hallu » Mon 23 Jun, 2014 10:17 pm

Another walk was to the Roche Pourrie (the rotten rock), near Albertville. Another brutal climb at first, with plenty of false tracks and I ended up taking the long path to the summit (the guidebooks are awful in France, not enough details). The final climb was quite dangerous, with a narrow path and slippery gravel, but again the view was worth it.
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Re: My new backyard : the French Alps

Postby Hallu » Mon 23 Jun, 2014 10:23 pm

This week end walk was in the Vercors, just South-West of Grenoble. The Moucherotte overlooks the Chartreuse, the rest of the Vercors, you can see Belledonne, and on this beautiful day I could see Mont Blanc in the distance. Again a steep climb, but it's expected now. Some slippery narrow paths that required some scrambling, but the way to the summit was easy. Best 360°view so far in the region.
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Mont Blanc
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The Chartreuse
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Re: My new backyard : the French Alps

Postby GPSGuided » Mon 23 Jun, 2014 10:27 pm

Brilliant! Some call it hiking, some call it tramping, some call it bushwalking, how do you call it where you are? Randonnées? I read that many of the trails were originally used by pilgrims. And how do the French take care of their outdoors? National Parks? On information of routes, I understand that OSM is very well supported there in Europe. Did that form part of your data source?
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Re: My new backyard : the French Alps

Postby Travis22 » Mon 23 Jun, 2014 10:29 pm

Congrats on the job and ripper location. The landscapes in your photos look really beautiful.

Travis.
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Re: My new backyard : the French Alps

Postby Hallu » Mon 23 Jun, 2014 11:18 pm

Thanks. Yeah in France it's "rando" short for "randonnée", I should mention that I'm French myself, I've lived in Australia for 3 years and it's actually Australia that made me love bushwalking, so in a way I'm rediscovering my birth country, having mostly stuck to cities and beaches before. The multi-day stuff is sometimes called a "trek". Conservation in France is a recent notion, the first National Park (La Vanoise, 1h from where I live) was only declared in 1963. We have around 10 NPs, which isn't enough. Instead, conservation groups focus on specific targets, like saving the wolf, the bear or the lynx. The wolf is back in France, with a population of 300 now, most of them in the Alps. The bear has still a long way to go, with a few Slovenian bears introduced in the Alps and the Pyrénées. The lynx is in dangerous decline, and almost extinct from France.

National Parks in France are also very different from Australia or the US : there is no wilderness, as human presence is everywhere. In the parks, you'll see shepherds, refuges, cheese makers, sign of forestry expoitation etc... The only real wildernesses left in France are in French Guyana or some Pacific Islands the country owns. But it's still beautiful in the Alps, and despite being close to sheep and cows, you still feel far away from civilisation. Crowds are also bigger on the walking tracks compared to Australia, on average I probably see around 20-30 people on a 5h walk. You will rarely have to use unsealed road to reach the start of a walk, tarmac is everywhere.

Information on routes is plentyful, too plentyful. You need to crosscheck all your info : books, blogs, maps etc... I don't trust guidebooks maps and indications anymore (too little details), only their photos. I now use ViewRanger, a GPS free app for Android that has all the small tracks the official IGN maps have, and it's great. It got me out of trouble on that last trip to the Vercors. There are so many paint marks on trees and rocks that you never know which to follow (and they don't tell you that in the books, as the marks can disappear or be obsolete).

Bushwalking levels can also be very different. As I said, most regular walkers in the Alps will consider a 800m elevation gain walk as easy/medium. A hard walk is not necessarily a long walk, but one with cables and exposed tracks (and some are VERY exposed), and an elevation gain above 1200 m. Some also involve the use of ropes and ice axes on glaciers/snow fields. I also tried walking in early spring (April) : forget it, too much snow, even at 1200 m snowshoes are needed.
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Re: My new backyard : the French Alps

Postby GPSGuided » Tue 24 Jun, 2014 12:04 am

Thanks Hallu! Most interesting. Keep us posted on your adventures on the other side of the globe and happy bushwalking! The term might even catch on there in France.
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Re: My new backyard : the French Alps

Postby neilmny » Tue 24 Jun, 2014 11:46 am

The country looks beautiful Hallu. Thanks for the report and I hope we can look forward to more.
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Re: My new backyard : the French Alps

Postby north-north-west » Tue 24 Jun, 2014 4:34 pm

Thank you. Some beautiful images there, and wonderful country. Good to see you're still into walking now you're back in Europe.
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Re: My new backyard : the French Alps

Postby Tortoise » Tue 24 Jun, 2014 5:30 pm

it's actually Australia that made me love bushwalking, so in a way I'm rediscovering my birth country, having mostly stuck to cities and beaches before.

That's really cool! :)
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Re: My new backyard : the French Alps

Postby wayno » Tue 24 Jun, 2014 6:05 pm

new hostel for australasians opening at Hallu's place 8)
from the land of the long white clouds...

NZ Tramping News https://www.facebook.com/groups/208124842637462/
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Re: My new backyard : the French Alps

Postby stepbystep » Tue 24 Jun, 2014 6:22 pm

Good stuff Hallu. Keep them coming.
The idea of wilderness needs no defense, it only needs defenders ~ Edward Abbey
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Re: My new backyard : the French Alps

Postby geoskid » Tue 24 Jun, 2014 8:34 pm

Thanks Hallu, glad you are settled in and have got employment.

Always interesting to hear about differences, I'm sure I (and lots of others) don't really appreciate fully what we have, and how vast it is in Australia.
Looking forward to more impressions of your re-discovered homeland.

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