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Hiking trail

Day 2 Vercors Circular to Gresse-en-Vercors

Hiking trail · Rhône-Alpes
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    Photo: John Hayes, Community
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    Photo: John Hayes, Community
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Brilliant walk from Vallard-de-Lans to Gresse-en-Vercors
difficult
Distance 27 km
9:39 h
1,493 m
1,529 m
1,949 m
1,193 m
Day 1 St Nizier du Moucherotte to Villard-de-Lans

Fantastic when a plan comes together and today’s nearly did.  Today was slightly flawed perfection. The bus, which I had found about in the UK, really existed, took us effortlessly up to top of the cliffs which tower thousands of feet above Grenoble, cliffs which I had walked down from after an impossibly long day last year on my E4 walk, and dropped us right in the middle of St Nizier du Moucherotte and close to the start of the walk. The walk was also exactly where it was supposed to be although ominously, longer than anticipated. The only flaw was the location of the hotel, the Hotel Taiga, which was well to the south of Villard-de-Vans, not the thing you want after a long day.

We started the walk at about 11, and were in Villard-de-Vans at about 6.15.  We had stayed overnight in Grenoble and perhaps, with hind-site, we should have caught the earlier 9 o’clock bus to the top.  It was a tough first day's walk, about 1,200 metres of climb, involving a 600 metre climb up to Moucherotte and another 600 metre climb later on up to Pic St Michel.  Apart from a little bit of road walking at the bottom of the ski lifts at La Sierre the route went along off-road trail often along dry limestone uplands.

We were a bit unlucky with the weather on top of le Moucherotte, low cloud completely obscured the view, but things got better as the day went on.  We stopped off for a break at the mountain restaurant at les Allieres and the climbed up to Pic St-Michel.  The views were huge, intimidating, a sheer drop of nearly 400 metres and views along the cliff to le Moucherotte, the top of which was still covered in cloud. The cliffs really are sheer and if you had the nerve you could sit with feet dangling over the side and watch the hustle and bustle of Grenoble which fills the floor of the valley below.

It was fairly cold at the top and we didn't hang about but crashed our way down to Villard-de-Lans, a much bigger town than I had expected.   Couldn't remember why I had chosen the particular hotel, a Tripadvisor review I expect, but the address wasn't on the town map near tourist information.  Christine got directions from a man in a shop but after wandering increasingly aimlessly into the countryside we started to loose confidence.  For once I had the hotel phone number and the really helpful owner was happy to come and pick us up.

Staying in town would have an option but La Taiga is excellent value and the owner really knows his local walks. Over dinner he suggested a change to our plan next day and offered to take us to the start.

Day 2 Vallard-de-Lans to Gresse-en-Vercors

An amazing day, definitely a top 10 walks of all time candidate.  The original plan was to follow the route of the GTV which crosses the ridge at Col Verte and then tracks south contouring two or three hundred metres below the ridge all the way to Gresse-en-Vercors.  This makes for a very long day but the only en route accommodation was booked up (although we could have stayed in the dormitory at Refuge la Soldanelle). The owner at Hotel La Taiga persuaded us that all contour walking would be boring and suggested crossing the ridge further to the south at the Pas de l'Oeille.  Happy to take local advice particularly when it came with a lift to the starting point.
The first stage, the climb up to pass, was wonderful.  The route took us firstly through hay meadows, then climbed through a wooded dry valley, then a tough climb up zig-zagging across scree, before finishing finally with a lovely gentle ascent across an upland meadow full of wildflowers.   A runner was using the 600 metre climb to up the pass as part of her biathlon training programme - very impressive - although most of the other walkers ascending or descending at a more leisurely pace.  The views from the top of the pass were excellent.  The Alps on the other side of the valley were poking up above the clouds which we still hanging around the top of la Grande Moucherolle which towered above us.
The second stage, and the first of a number of scheduled ridge crossings, involved a very steep descent down to the main GTV route.  A treacherous path definitely requiring a head for heights. We went down very slowly and I'm not sure if our trip was helped or hindered by a family of Chamois, very close and photogenic but prone to dislodge rocks in an alarming way as you passed underneath.

The third and final stage was the contour walk from underneath the la Grande Moucherolle  all the round to the point at which you to Gresse-en-Vercors.  An amazing stretch of walking above the tree line and right under tower cliffs, huge views forward with little flat topped outlier of Mont Aiguille in the distance to the south.

I guess the only problem was that I had underestimated the length of walk and with the ins and outs to and from the cliff face, it was much longer that my 28 km estimate. We had walked almost non-stop for 10 hours by the time we got to Hotel le Chalet at Gresse-en-Vercors. Christine’s confidence in my route planning, never high, has taken a serious battering.

Although I didn’t quite know where the Hotel le Chalet  was as we approached the town (again not inspiring confidence) it turned out to be in an excellent place, right next to the church in the centre of town.  It was also very good with definite foodie pretensions.  As usual the navigational stresses and strains disappeared once we had secured our destination, had a shower and drank our first glass of wine.
Difficulty
difficult
Technique
Stamina
Highest point
1,949 m
Lowest point
1,193 m

Start

Coordinates:
DD
45.052845, 5.562279
DMS
45°03'10.2"N 5°33'44.2"E
UTM
31T 701761 4992014
w3w 
///conga.seminal.glitziest

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Coordinates

DD
45.052845, 5.562279
DMS
45°03'10.2"N 5°33'44.2"E
UTM
31T 701761 4992014
w3w 
///conga.seminal.glitziest
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Difficulty
difficult
Distance
27 km
Duration
9:39 h
Ascent
1,493 m
Descent
1,529 m
Highest point
1,949 m
Lowest point
1,193 m

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