Friday, March 18, 2011

Tholonet (l'Aurigon): Montagne Sainte Victoire, le Croix and le Garagai.

This could be called the "classic" walk up to the Cross, although I have made it a point to get a round tour, using different paths up and down. From the Cross you have fantastic 360 degrees views all the way, with views of the Luberon, Mount Ventoux, the Alps and Cap Canaille, the vertical cliff just off Cassis on the coast. In fact there are fantastic views nearly all the way up and down; i.e. very different from the other Victoire walk (along the top) unless you change the descent as proposed.

You park the car on the large car park at Barrage du Bimont (large dam), but try to avoid Sundays as this is a very popular tour for the Aixois. Alternatively, comming from the south of Aix, you should park at the second car park after Tholonet along the road D17 (l'Aurigon). From here there is only some 750 meters up to the proposed path. In fact, parking l'Aurigon is my favourite and is the one used on the GPX-file and VisoRando link.

From the Car Park at Bimont, walk along the top of the huge dam and walk straight on for another 200 meters. (If you simply want the shortest route to the top, take left at the end of the dam for the blue marked trail called "Sentier Imouche". I have chosen to return that way.)

About 200 meters after the dam, you see the sigh post for Refuge Cezanne to the left and you should take this trail. This trail is a GR-trail (white & red colour markings), but marked with green markers as well. The trouble is that is is quite poorly marked in places, and some markers can be confusing. Only 30 meters after you have taken left, your trail turns left again, but not as you might think. The trail continues parallell with the forest road for a bit, so you can just as well keep the forest road here.

Simulary with the next big crossing. Here you turn down to the left, but the markers are poor. You need to follow the map closly, or follow the forest roads for Refuge Cezanne (only slightly longer). But continue the trail over the Roques Hautes and at the 264 meter mark, you are only some 750 meters from the car park on the southern side (l'Aurigon). At the 264 meter mark, it's important that you turn left and walk along the forest road here with the great mountagne Victoire staight on. The road will eventually take you all the way to Refuge Cezanne in about 1h 30 minutes.

Follow the road for Refuge Cezanne and enjoy the views of the mountain straight above you. At Refuge Cezanne you take the path almost directly north (red markers), and after about 1 km with easy climbing, the path divides into two; one marked "facile" or easy (marked with red dots) and the right path more demanding (this one I have still to do). You follow the red dots to the left and eventually you end up on the Sentier Imaucha with about an hour left to go to the Cross, which makes the total time up to the cross about 3 hours.

If you decide to walk along the ridge for a bit, e.g. to find a good place to lunch, it would be worth looking out for the large hole in the Victoire ridge (le Garagai), through which 2 paths comes up from the southern side (both difficult paths). When you get in close (it's only some 300-500 meters from the Cross), climb up the short distance to see down through the hole.

It takes about 2 hour to return to the car at Bimont from the Cross along the Sentier Imaucha and it's easy going with great views, but mind the step!

Basic information:

Duration:          6h (incl. 1h lunch)
Distance:          12 km.
Ascent:             700 m
Difficulty:        Difficult, but Moderate alternative exists.
Start/finish:      Tholonet at l'Aurigon
Map:                 IGN 3244 ET (1cm=250 m)

VisoRando Lien.
Pour le fichier GPX, vous pouvez télécharger à partir d'ici (voir ci-dessus) ou mettre à jour via ce lien VisoRando où vous pourrez également voir l'itinéraire sur une bonne carte:

For the GPX-file, you could download from here (see just above) or go to this VisoRando link where you also will see the route on a good map.

If you have problems with this VisoRando link, download the GPX-file from above and import it to VisoRando or other application.

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