Under the sky

French spring has been quite wet this year. Rain has been pouring almost every weekend and finding a good time to go to mountain has been difficult. When I was writing this story Paris was on yellow flood alert (just below red and orange), it feels like Jakarta.

So one of my personal project this year is to do an easy bivouac. Essentially a bivouac is to go to the mountain and sleep there. It can be as simple as a night under the sky with a sleeping bag or as many night as you wish according to your capacity.

For this project I had a lot of discussions with Philippe – what, where, how, and when – since he had done it several times before. For my first bivouac I decided to only pass a night, to test the water I said. He suggested a classic bivouac to the Chartreuse and I agreed.

After several cancelation due to the weather, I just couldn’t wait any longer. So when last week I saw that the weather on friday would be good and worsened on saturday afternoon I decided to do it. I proposed to Philippe (who would never say no to mountains ) to go on friday after work, stay a night, then to walk down on saturday; He agreed.

Since the weather was still uncertain I had no choice but to bring enough layers for the night. Some equipments that I also had to bring were a sleeping bag and an air matress. Philippe was in charge of the tent. I borrowed some of the equipments because they are pretty expensive and I was and am not willing to invest on them yet.

Friday around 5pm-ish we met at the bus station. The bus passed two schools on its way so many students that live in higher area got inside the bus. The road was narrow and curvy. The bus also passed through some tunnels that were dug from the mountains.

Around 6.30pm we started the hike from Col du Marcieu at 1065m a.s.l. It’s the east side of the Rochers de Bellefont. The weather was nice with some afternoon sun shone from behind the forest. Now I realized that it wasn’t a bad idea to start from the east to the west – on the opposite of the sun position.

The path was still wet and muddy from the rain. We avoided it by taking the direct slope of the ski station. Of course without the snows. When we found some dryer path we got back to the track – Tour des Petites Roches. From here we cut through a small track that goes directly to the Passage de l’Aulp du Seuil. This small track was gorgeous with a view to south-west direction including the Belledonne chain and some part of the Rochers de Bellefont. Close to the top the path was protected by wooden barrier. It added a touch to the scenery. We crossed some hikers who were on their way down.

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Nothing is linear!

After hiking for about two hours we arrived at the Passage de l’Aulp du Seuil at about 1800m a.s.l. Needless to say it was breathtaking. Philippe was hungry but I insisted to set up the tent first. The difficult part was rather to pick where to set the tent up. The area was not too horizontal but we didn’t have other choice. we ate the dinner – couscous, bread and cheese – after the tent was set.

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The tent was set

The blue sky was slowly fading to sunset orange. We left our bags inside the tent and hiked to a small summit just beside where we set the tent. It’s normal to have several small summits in a mountain chain.

Finished with the summit we headed back to the tent. The sun was completely set by then.

It was calm.

It was silent.

At about 10pm two hikers joined us. Some climbing gears were displayed from their bags. They were climbers. They sat close to the cross and took out some beers from their bags. Some people do prefer opening a bottle of beer when they arrived at the peak, but not me. I’d rather bring more food or water for myself. The climbers left and Philippe decided to sleep. I had all the silence and serenity of the night for myself. Belledonne looked so pretty as I’d never seen before. Lights from the village down brightened the view. The sky was clear and was not very dark. Stars were slowly showing themselves one by one. They were timid.

I was stunned.

Unfortunately I couldn’t get a nice night photo with my low photography skill.

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View to Belledonne at night

After been fulfilled I decided to sleep. I could not. I tried to lay still but with the not horizontal ground it was just difficult to sleep. Moreover I heard some steps outside from some hikers that just arrived and unfortunately were not very quiet. I eventually fell asleep but I couldn’t wake up in time to watch the sunrise. By the time I woke up it was 6.30am and the sun had risen.

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Late for sunrise

We took our breakfast, unset the tent, and left. From passage de l’Aulp du seuil we went down about 200m to Vallon de Marcieu that was part of the GR9. It was beautiful.

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Vallon de Marcieu

I suddelnly heard a scream. I was shocked before I realized that it was a marmot! Now, normally I couldn’t catch up with how fast marmot hide when they see me, but, this one seemed as shocked as me. And you know what it wasn’t alone! They were three! I got close and took a picture of it! I was extremely happy. But they were not the last I encountered that morning, I met two other groups of marmots after. The day started nice.

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Marmot!!

Close to the Col de Bellefont I saw snows. As much as I hate hiking on snows, I didn’t have other option. Clouds were coming and covered the sun.

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Col de Bellefont

We left our bags at the col to reach the Lances de Malissard. With 2000m-ish summits, they are the fourth highest summit in Chartreuse after Chamechaude, Dent de Crolles, and Grand Som.

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Dent des Crolles (left) and Chamechaude (right) from Lances de Malissard

After spending some time at the summit we headed back down, picked our bags then went down again. I know it was not over yet.

Like everyone else I hate going down. I still feel a bit pain when I hike down because it gives more shocked to my operated knee.

And this time to take the bus we needed to go to Saint Pierre de Chartreuse. It was about 7kms from Col de la Saulce. I had three or four breaks before finally arrived there. It wasn’t tiring but I had some pain on my knee, and I was hungry.

We had about 45mins before the bus left the village and brought us back to Grenoble. What’s better than to got myself a chartreuse and rhum raisin ice cream!

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