2. From Vallouise to Le Pré de la Chaumette via Col de l’Aup Martin (stage of the GR 54)
We leave behind the gentle Vallouise along the Onde mountain stream. This preserved valley leads to the mountain pastures at the confluence of the streams of Entre-les-Aygues (“between the waters”). Then, as the path rises, the landscape becomes more austere. Col de l'Aup Martin stands with its black schist like an insurmountable barrier. And finally, the steep descent towards Pré de la Chaumette, to be approached with care, makes this stage one of the highlights of the adventure through the Ecrins.
Pastoral activity in the Selle valley, dale
The ibex, a survivor
The alpine ibex
The pastoral hut and the walkers' shelter
White throated dipper
Above the Jas Lacroix hut, the Chanteloube valley opens up to the right in the form of a cirque. The highest peak in the cirque is the Verdonne point, which rises to 3328m. Sometimes a glittering object can be seen at its summit. This a Grand Réseau Radio des Alpes (GRA) radio relay station, serving the mountain rescue network. It is used to make radio contact with police and emergency services in Briançon.
Yellow (mountain) saxifrage
Above the Saume ravine, the footpath’s tight loops are supported by stone walls, the remains of the mule-driver’s path that the army once kept maintained, just in case, between Vallouise and Champoléon...
Champoléon farmers once took their livestock along the path to the Vallouise sheep fair on 4 October.
The Col de l'Aup Martin is a surprising desert of dark grey, shiny schist forming fine parallel sheets. The rock was formed under techtonic influence that laid down the minerals making up the rock in parallel layers. Highly friable, the rock makes access to the col slippery or even dangerous, according to the weather conditions, and has given the col its poor reputation: a monstrous col according to Simon. Exactly like the Mordor region described by Tolkien in The Lord of the Rings, says François!
During a worldwide count organised in October each year, an observation post is set up in Le Pré de la Chaumette. The bearded vulture has already been spotted, but alas not each time! Falsely accused of carrying off lambs and children, this large bird with a wingspan of 2.80 m has been persecuted by man. Shooting, capture, poison, together with the scarcity of its food sources led to the bird’s extinction in the Alps in 1930. A European programme to reintroduce it was launched in 1986. Since then, the bearded vulture has been regaining ground.
The refuge is situated in a vast meadow formed by alpine grasslands that benefit from deep soil, on gentle slopes that are covered with snow on an average of eight months a year.
From Place de la Fontaine in Vallouise (1 170 m), turn left towards the Aiglière gîte.
- You arrive at the Fontaines bridge (1 185 m). Cross the Onde mountain stream and follow it along the right bank as far as the Places bridge (1 237 m). The GR route now follows the road, passing in front of Notre-Dame de Béassac until reaching Entre-les-Aygues car park (1 604 m). This is where the road ends, at the bottom of the Onde valley and at the confluence of the Selle and Bans mountain streams.
- Take the footpath on the left. It crosses the Onde over a footbridge, towards ""Col de l'Aup Martin"". Follow the cairns in the Onde riverbed to return to the footpath, which follows the Selle as far as the Jas Lacroix pastoral hut (1 946 m). The hut stands beside a shelter for GR54 footpath hikers. Continue along the footpath as it weaves its way to the bottom of the valley, pass a projection near a fine waterfall, then walk along the edge of the south-facing slope, in places between the large walls of stone, as far as an area of schist at the foot of Aup Martin. The path leads up across large rocky screes, and the last part of the crossing is the trickiest because the footpath disappears. You need to climb up with your hands for the last 100 metres before finally crossing Col de l'Aup Martin (2761m). Cross the side of the mountain under the peak of the Cavale, pass a rocky spur and you arrive at Le Pas de la Cavale (2 735 m).
- Descend the well-marked footpath crossing the rocky bars and then a series of streams before reaching the Rognoux plateau (2 070 m).
- At the Rougnoux hut, pass the footpath on the left that leads to Col du Cheval de Bois. Walk across the footbridge over the Rognoux mountain stream and you arrive at Le Pré de la Chaumette (1 790 m).
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