What canicule? Hiking in Belledonne

This summer we don’t get much good weather in France. Two saturdays ago it was raining, and although the sunday was not raining the view up in the mountain was not very good. We went to Grande Sure in Chartreusse but due to the contrast between sun and the remaining wet weather the mountains were covered with fogs.

So when they announced canicule – heat waves – in almost north-west side of France, we picked up our phone and dialed the refuge de la Pra in Belledonne mountains to see whether they got place to stay for this weekend. It was tuesday and they were fully booked already. It was expected.

The heat waves were expected for the whole week ended on sunday. Grenoble, fortunately was not touched by it. The temperature at night was in average about 27 degree of Celsius – hot but still fine.

I didn’t really have time to think or prepare anything due to my work load. I packed my bag on friday evening. Put my air mattress, sleeping bag, a polar jacket, my goretex, and two liters of water. We were not sure whether or not to bring the tent and ended up on bringing only the cover of the tent. I didn’t have time to prepare any food and we only brought bread, cheese and some paté to eat.

I woke up on saturday morning, took my tram at 7am and took the transisère bus to Chamrousse 1650m at 7.25am.  We arrived at about 8.30am in Le Recoin and started our hike.

Chamrousse was in the middle of some construction works. I believe they were preparing for this winter. Chamrousse is a quite popular ski destination. I wonder how much we should destroy nature for our own pleasure? What is the limit? I hate to see the mountain got destroy by this heavy machinery just so people could take the cable car up and slide down the slope.


Some works in Chamrousse

So due to this works they made some detour of the classic GR. We didn’t quite follow the detour and made our way to our first destination: Lacs Robert. Lacs Robert is one of my favorite hiking destination. It was the first hike I did in Grenoble and as Belledonne was quite difficult to reach by bus (the bus was not frequent) I didn’t go there often. Lacs Robert is a group of lakes at 1998m of altitude. We arrived there at around 10am. It was calm. We were probably the few people who arrives early there. We saw some tents around indicating that people had spent the night there.


Lacs Robert

Wild blueberries were found everywhere. I collected some of them but didn’t eat them. I don’t normally eat blueberries where I don’t have way to clean my teeth afterwards.


Wild blueberries

We continued walking. The way was down then up then down then up again until we reached Grande Lauzière (2741m). We arrived around 1pm and ate lunch there. The sun was so bright and I was sweating a lot. The view from Grande Lauzière was amazing. We got to see the famous La Meije and Le Râteau from here. We also got to see the summit of Grand Doménon. The weather was nice but started to degrade. Some fogs started to climb up and cover the sky.  If we looked down this summit offered us the view to the lakes: lac David, Lac Merlat and Lac Longet.


View from Grande Lauzière

We went down to lac David (around 2200m) to reach La Pra where the refuge de la Pra was located. It was around 4pm. We heard some marmots screaming and we also passed by some donkeys. The weather had become more friendly. It was not hot.

We crossed the refuge and indeed there were a lot of people at the refuge. I identified some people who had shared the bus with us in the morning. We continued to climb up to Col de la Pra to find more people there. I took a photo of Lac Crozet, another lake that I have a fond memory of.

We continued walking up, passing group of sheep and goats. It smelled sheeps and goats. We crossed more people who walk down from higher altitude. We arrived at the verrou des Doménons which was the water flow from the Lacs du Doménon up there.


Troop of sheeps

At about 5.30pm we arrived at lacs du Doménon (2385m). There are two lakes of Doménon, we passed by the first one and stopped at the second one. We picked our spot just close to the lake and installed our tent (basically only the external cover of the tent). It started to get very cold. I used to have about 32 degree of Celsius back in Grenoble during the day and now we got like 17 degree. So it was cold. I washed my hands, my legs, and my face. The water was cold but super refreshing.


Where we spent the night

I was spent. I took a rest and slept for about an hour. When I woke up new people had arrived with their tent, picking different spots close to the lake. The temperature went lower and lower. Around 9pm we got 13 degree. I, recklessly, didn’t bring my pants and only had my hiking short. It was cold.

I saw two guys fishing.

I stayed inside the tent because it got really cold. Around 11pm when it got really dark I took a look outside from the gap between the tent and the ground. I was amazed. The sky that had been covered by clouds was then cleared and full of stars. I slept.


The best I could get with my pocket camera

The next morning I was awake at around 5.30am. It was really cold, even with the zero degree sleeping bag. The temperature was about 7 degree of Celsius. We really woke up at 6.30am. The tent was wet from morning dew. We left the tent and hike up. That morning we headed to La Croix de Belledonne. I had never been there before. It was the second highest summit that we could reach by walking in Belledonne at 2926m. The highest summit would be Grand Pic de Belledonne that requires climbing to go there.

The first part of this second day hike was a direct ascends with big rocks that almost up to the size of a boulder. We saw noone. We crossed noone. I saw two mountain goats and three goats.


Mountain goat spotted!

Like yesterday, up to 2600m we started to get some snow. Snow at the end of August during canicule period. We had to passed by some hard snow that was not difficult to pass because it was still morning and the sun had not melted them yet.


Melting frozen lake

Around 2750m the view started to get clear up and the sun shone brightly.

We passed the Col de Belledonne and got a nice view on the other side.

Around 8am we arrived at the summit of La croix de Belledonne. The experience cannot be expressed in words. It was calm. Noone was there. We got a clear view to the Grand Pic de Belledonne. Then we saw two climbers who climbed and reached the summit there. We stayed for a good fifteen minutes. The fogs again started to come. We decided to go down.


View from La Croix de Belledonne

At first we only crossed one people.. then another one.. When we reached 2650m we passed quite lot of people who started to climb up. I was glad that we already finished there. There was not a lot of space at the peak of the croix de Belledonne so I was thinking that it must be difficult for them to share the spot.

We reached back our tent. The sun had not yet arrived there so we had to moved everything so that the sun could dry them. It was around 9am. Our neighbours just apparently woke up.

Around 10.30am we were ready to walk down. I expected it to be long and expected it to be the most annoying part of the hike. I was right.

During the walk down we crossed a lot of people, but really a lot of people. I think it was the most people I crossed during a hike. We passed the refuge de la Pra, to the prairie, then took the way to La Gafe by cascade de l’oursière.

While crossing all these people I happened to cross three Indonesians on their way up. And yes I had a good feeling when I see fellow Indonesians do (real) hike in Grenoble!

Most of people who I crossed on my way down to Cascade de l’Oursière were heading up to La Pra. After passing  the Cascade(waterfall) it was dominated by family with kids that headed to the waterfall.

We arrived at Les Seiglières (1060m) at around 1.40pm. We did more or less 1900m descent. My toes were painful. I was glad that I didn’t get that much pain on my knee. The bus was scheduled for 2.10pm but was 10 minutes late. At about 3.30pm I was home, took my shower and slept.


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