Walks and hikes in Europe and California, posted sporadically as they happen… or as I reflect on them…

Friday, July 12, 2013

Alps, 2013, 14: Ceillac to Maljasset

For a number of days we have lacked internet access. I will post here the notes of the last few days. Photos alas will have to wait until I have more tome and a real computer, but those who follow me on Facebook may find some there.

July 7, 2013, refuge du Club Alpin Français, Maljasset—

I was awake at six, and soon up; breakfast at seven, with the women we'd dined with last night. Decent coffee from a huge urn, and hot milk for a change; orange juice, bread and butter, and nice myrtille jam. (I forbore yoghurt and corn flakes.)

We filled our canteens at a fountain and struck out at eight o'clock, walking down a pleasant track alongside a stream, the Mélezet. After an hour or so, though, the trail took us more steeply uphill, on stony terrain in a forest, sometimes quite steeply indeed. Occasionally we walked beside alarming drops, only inches from the trail. We came upon a fine cascade, then finally emerged from the forest into more open country about ten o'clock, passing the Prés-Soubreyand lake, also called Lac Miroir but today too wind-rippled to reflect the magnificent peaks above it. 

Next, at 11:15, came a really stunning lake, a sort of miniature Crater Lake, incomprehensibly blue, as if its waters had dissolved every nearby gentian (they hadn't; there were gentians all around, and pretty tiny pansies of some kind, too). We rested there a short while, near the chapel of Ste. Anne. Soon, though, dozens of day-hikers showed up, because it is possible to drive to this location, and we resumed the trail, knowing we had a pretty hard climb ahead. 

It led us, through switchbacks on dirt, on scree, and once even on snow, to the highest col we will have faced: Girardin, at 2700 meters — only 8,850 feet, but cold and windy. We didn't spend a lot of time admiring the view, because a thunderstorm was threatening. 

The descent to Maljasset took nearly two hours. It began fairly easily, once we improvised a way around a snowbank; but then, especially after leaving our GR5 and taking the sidepath to Maljasset, it became quite steep, eroded, and treacherous, on decomposed schist, fragments of stone as big as your hand, slick and brittle and sounding like shards of glass or porcelain underfoot. 

We reached the night's lodging early, at 2:30 I think, but none too soon, as it had begun to rain.  Maljasset is only 1900 meters above sea lavel, 6200 feet, but it feels remote, with neither telephone nor Internet access (though somehow our hostess was able to telephone to tomorrow's gîte, at Fouillouse, to reserve a room for us). Our gîte is comfortable; there are seven bunkbeds in our dortoir, no spaces between them, but only six of us in the room. The showers and other facilities are clean and adequate, if you have your own towel; and dinner was fine.