The Crete de Vars

Today we did a hike which we did last time we were staying in Guillestre. It’s a lovely walk because the landscape and views are spectacular. Today there was a bonus, marmot stalking!

We left the campsite quite early again because we knew the hike up to the ridge was steep and on the sunny side of the valley, and we wanted to get it done before it got too hot. We set off hiking from the Val d’Escreins at about 8.30. A sign said it was 4 kilometres and 2 hours to Col de la Scie at the start of the main ridge.

The path zigzagged relentlessly through the forest… up, up, up. It was already very hot… John’s watch said 23 degrees. We crossed several dry streams and areas where there had been landslides and, finally, we emerged into open meadows above the trees. Once again, the flowers were beautiful, and the views over the valley and distant mountains were stunning.

After an hour and a quarter (not 2 hours, which meant we were rather pleased with ourselves) we popped out onto the col on the ridge, surprising a French family who must have come up from the other direction. We stopped to eat our cheese butties and enjoy the views down to Val d’Escreins, where we’d come from, and the towns of St Catherine and Vars on the other side of the ridge.

We still had a few hundred more metres to climb to the top of the Crete de Vars ridge but the path was more undulating now and less unrelenting. There were also some clouds around and a pleasant breeze, which meant walking was easier than yesterday.

At first the path was through trees and meadows, then it became much rockier. The variety on this walk is great… It has everything!

Finally, we reached the highest point on the ridge at almost 2600 metres. I now needed to get my poles out because the path was rather rough and rocky underfoot. They really help on this type of descent. We often end up jogging downhill sections, finding it reduces the chance of sliding and knee pain, as well as getting it done quickly.

Soon we were down at Col de la Coulette at the other end of the ridge, where we stopped for more food, once again enjoying the views. Earlier we’d commented how few people we’d seen but now people kept popping up from the valleys on either side.

As we continued our descent back to the Val d’Escriens, John spotted a marmot digging and munching something in the pasture. I gradually walked nearer and nearer to it with my camera and although, now and again, it stopped to look at me, it didn’t seem bothered. Whatever it had found to eat must have been too tasty leave and beat a retreat to its burrow! I didn’t like to get too close because I didn’t want to scare it away so once I’d got a shot that I was happy with, I left it to its breakfast.

We also had a diversion to a little waterfall off to the right of the path, which was rather pretty and surrounded by colourful wild flowers. It was very tempting to take our trainers off and have a paddle, but we still had a few kilometres to hike back to the van so we carried on.

We more or less followed the path of the stream downhill, through rocks, meadows and forest. There had been some huge landslides down the mountain, which had brought down huge boulders and rocks, wiping out a lot of trees. It’s so dry at the moment that it’s hard to imagine so much water flowing down the hills and through the valley… It must be an awesome sight, if rather scary!

After about 4 and a half hours, we were back at Bertie, having throughly enjoyed the hike. We stopped at the supermarket on the way back then had a lazy few hours, showering, tidying Bertie, doing the washing and editing photos. John cooked pork steaks on the Cadac, then we popped next door to Dan and Jackie’s for cheese and bread. Perfect!

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