Second week of winter vacation

For our second week of Winter vacation we returned to Grenoble. The snow situation was no better around the town, but there was a strange meteorological phenomenon going on, known as inversion: the temperature increased with altitude causing the low-hanging clouds to block pollution close to the ground. For the whole week, it was cloudy or smoggy in Grenoble, while it was quite beautiful and sunny in the surrounding mountains, starting at about 1000 meters. While the temperatures were significantly lower than during last week’s vacation in Serre Chevalier, it was still much warmer in the mountains than in the town.

So, every single day, except Monday, we escaped the town. We made two trips on each of the three mountain ranges; Chartreuse, Vercors, and Belledonne. We hiked 69.10 kilometers in 23 hours and 10 minutes and climbed 4284 meters, burning 6177kcal.

Tuesday: La Petite Moucherolle or thereabouts

The first trip took us to central Vercors. From Clot-de-la-Balme (1230m) in Corrençon-en-Vercors we started a steep ascent towards the top of ski lifts at 1700 – 1800 meters, not that any of the lifts were functioning at this time.

Soon we left the trees below, and it felt like being on the top of the world.

On top of chair lift Combeauxvieux we found Le Choucas, the derelict bar restaurant.

Corrençon-en-Vercors down there.

Despite the chilly wind we continued the ascent towards the Moucherolles.

That’s the peak of La Petite Moucherolle (2156m) in the middle, and the top of the chair lift to Belvédere (I think there is at least one place called Belvédere in every mountain around here; some of them come with a nice view, and ironically, some don’t).

View over the Southern Vercors range — that’s Mont Aiguille in the distance.

And this is the view to the summit of La Grande Moucherolle (2284m) from Belvédere.

The wind grew brutal so we started the descent. The sun was also going down fast leaving the valley in the shadow. We didn’t bother to find the trail but galloped down the ski runs.

Wednesday: Le Moucherotte

Today we climbed Le Moucherotte (1901m) from Lans-en-Vercors. For some reason in our memory the climb was super easy, maybe because before we had only descended via that route, after having made the more arduous ascent to the summit from Saint-Nizier side. We were partly wrong. The early ascent was steep but not terribly difficult.

This lonely horse had a huge pasture for her(him)self, but no companion. We think she could have used one.

Hot air balloons over the Vercors plain.

View over the Chartreuse range and the Mont Blanc.

The Belledonne range.

Thursday: La Pinéa

On Thursday we conquered a new peak on Chartreuse, La Pinéa (1771m). We drove a bit further from Col de Porte, when we found out that the road to Charmant Som actually was not closed. A couple of turns later there was a thick layer of ice on the road. We parked there, as did many others — it is not customary for the French to change to winter tires, but our rental car fortunately had ones.

The first few kilometers we walked on an undulating trail in a lovely-smelling pine forest.

A lot of lichen grows on the trees, an indication of very clean air.

Col de Porte down there, and the summit of Chamechaude (2082m) on the left.

We did not quite reach the summit of La Pinéa, since the trail was getting both vertiginous and crowded.

Friday: Tour du Pic de l’Oeilly from Lac Luitel

This was a different hike from the others, since we did not climb to the top of a mountain but walked around one. We started at Réserve naturelle nationale du lac Luitel, when it was still quite chilly, but luckily sunny.

Lac Luitel at 1262m.

Also this time the trail traversed mostly forested areas instead of open, grassy or rocky slopes. The trail was also lined with mossy rocks.

A view over to l’Alpe du Grand Serre, our next day’s destination.

The Vercors range.

The agglomeration of Grenoble.

When we ended our tour, the Lake Luitel was completely frozen.

Saturday: Lac de Brouffier

Another one-hour drive in the chilly morning through some wintry landscapes took us to l’Alpe du Grande Serre. We did not have a clear plan where to hike, other than about two hours “out there” and another two back.

We choose the route to Lac de Brouffier: 4.7 kilometers and about 2 hours one way. Early on there were a couple of rocky and steep sections where one needed to hold on a rope to proceed. There were also some icy sections half way up in the valley, where the sun did not reach.

Once were were out of the forest, the trail climbed pretty much orthogonally against the contour lines.

Eventually we also reached the snow line at about 2100 meters.

Lac Bouffrier (2115m) is down there in the shadow. We did not walk all the way to the lake, so we almost missed it.

When back down in l’Alpe du Grand Serre, the sun was also down.

Sunday: La Scia

Our last trip of the vacation took us to Chartreuse and more specifically Saint-Pierre-de-Chartreuse area. From Les Essarts (1320m) we climb to the top of La Scia (1791m).

This is how Grenoble looked when we left.

The ski lopes here had even less snow than other places we had been this week.

All the runs were closed, obviously.

Grand Som (2016m) viewed from the top of La Scia.

The view towards Grenoble and Southern Chartreuse with the silhouette of Chamechaude (2082m).

The summit of La Scia is not too wide and spacious. Des Lances de Malissard (2045m) on the right.

The last section of the climb to and from the summit required all fours.

Bec de la Scia is popular among parapentists.

The lunch spot at Châlet Refuge de Scia was quite warm, although not quite as hot as this thermometer may make you think.

What on earth? … this had just happened when we got there.

Thick layer of smog/clouds was still hanging low over Grenoble.

And soon we were in it.

The End of the second week of Winter vacation 2016.

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