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Crossing the Vercors

“Oh yes the Vercors, it’s easy! The mountains are not even that high. Just some kind of plateau with a summit, the Grand Veymont, which culminates at only 2,341m. Once you’re on the plateau, it’s a hiking motorway…” etc.

Anonymous

Hiking enthusiasts, here is the route we took to return from our wwoofing in Die to Grenoble by foot, through the Vercors massif. Unfortunately, we could not finish because of a storm but here is our rescue plan exclusively for you!

Did you say Vercors?

First of all, a word about the Vercors massif. It is one of the three mountain massifs surrounding Grenoble along with the Chartreuse and Belledonne. It is a karstic massif, therefore mainly limestone rock which gives it a rather particular vegetation and atypical geological reliefs dug by water over time. Whilst it’s pretty and everything, it also means that the water immediately disappears into a network of underground caves and caverns and that there is very little water on the surface, which is really the main difficulty to overcome in this massif with its rather gentle relief.

The Vercors is also a regional natural park, with a nature reserve on the high plateau – “the largest land-based nature reserve in mainland France” according to the park’s website! It is in this reserve in particular that we wanted to hike to discover its wild landscapes. The beginning of June is particularly suitable because the night temperatures are relatively mild (around 10°C); the herds have not yet gone up to the mountain pastures so the meadows are still rich in flowers and there are no defense dogs; and finally, it is the season of all kinds of baby animals 🙂

For history enthusiasts, the Vercors was also a major centre of the French Resistance during the Second World War, which was regularly reminded to us by monuments and plaques or remnants of exploded shells lining the paths of the high plateau.

Let’s go!

To get to the heart of the matter, here is the itinerary we had planned to take as well as the huts where you can spend the night and the water points on the way:

Étape 1 : Vallon de Combeau – Cabane de Pré Peyret (approx. 300m D+, 13km)

Considering the weight of our bags made heavy by our wwoofing gear, and water and food for 4 days, we preferred to start gently with the Vallon de Combeau rather than the famous cirque d’Archiane and its 900m of vertical rocky ascent! Without regrets, this valley offers us a gentle slope to start off on and puts us directly in a dream setting with a panoramic view of the Dévoluy, the Ecrins and the Mont Aiguille. From the valley, take the direction of Chamailloux, then the path leading to Peyre Rouge. From there, go back down to the Pré Peyret hut. The Pré Peyret hut can accommodate about 10 people and is equipped with a pan. The hut is on the way up to the Grand Veymont, the highest peak of the Vercors, AND near a spring, so the place is quite busy and it is better to arrive early.

NB: We had been advised to walk along the ‘Rochers du Parquet’ but there is no clearly marked path and the weight of our bags did not lend itself to a nonchalant walk along these high cliffs.

Étape 2 : Cabane de Pré Peyret – Cabane de Carrette (approx. 500m D+, 25km)

We started of with a small detour to go up to the Pas des Bachassons at the foot of the Grand Veymont via the old Roman quarry and the Queyrie valley. There is a spring there to refill the water bottles – beware, it is the last one before about ten kilometres (Fontaine de la Chau). Go down the Pas des Chattons to join the GR 91. Indeed, there is no clearly marked GR to follow the crest of the cliffs until Grenoble, the GR 91 rather goes through the forest below the ridges. The path is very easy to follow and does not offer any great difficulty, just its lengthiness until the Carrette hut.

Stormy weather alternative

In the event of sudden hail and thunderstorm, small, handy sheepfolds line the path (jasses in the local jargon). We took refuge in the Jasse du Play where we fortunately met some nice people who guided us back through forest paths to Saint Agnan en Vercors !

Étapes 3 & 4

If we had continued our journey, we would probably have crossed Corrençon en Vercors to reach the Bergerie de Roybon on the third day and then reached Claix via the Col de l’Arc on the last day.

Our itinerary

Useful links

  • refuges.info, the reference (and collaborative!) website to find all the information about mountain huts and refuges
  • The site of the Vercors Regional Natural Park: https://parc-du-vercors.fr/fr_FR/index.php
  • IGN maps 3235, 3236, 3237 (OT)
  • The Iphigénie or IGN Rando app in addition to the IGN maps (the location function can help to find the huts away which are sometimes a bit off the path or the water points in particular).
  • For nature lovers, the [email protected] app is considered to be some kind of Shazam for plants.

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