Saturday, May 7, 2011

Cheval-Blanc (Trout de Rat): Le Crete du Petite Luberon - along the western ridge - and Le Promontoire de Serre-Long

This is a particular good winter tour, as you have almost unlimited sunshine all the way.  There are fantastic views nearly everywhere you go, because we are now in a very open landscape with little forests. (It could get a little too hot in the summer.) And you will return down perhaps the most spectacular descent in the whole of Luberon along the GR6.

Serre Long
The main difficulty is perhaps finding the right road to drive up into the mountains from the main road D 973 between Merindol and Cheval-Blanc. Driving from Merindol, just having passed the small hamlet of Font Vive, you take a right turning after 2.1 km. You want the road straight across the Carpentras Canal and follow it straight on high up into the mountains. After about 4 km driving, you get to a road barrier and a the car park.

Les Alpilles
Start the walk further along the road and when you come to the large building that is known as Trou du Rat (now a refuge) you leave the forest road on the path going straight north. After about 30 minutes you will cross another forest road and you should continue straight across. Take the main path (fairly easy to find after a bit, but I do recommend you use the provided GPX-file on your SmartPhone for guidance) and continue this path up the mountain side (sliding off to the right). There is only one good path (not marked and it does not exist on any map as far as I know, but a very good and gentle path all the way up) and you walk upwards for a good half an hour with great views along the way. Here the path will reach its most eastern point and turn back westwards behind the cliff.

Just before this bend you see a big "platform" just down on the right. You could walk down there to enjoy the view point, where you will see l'Etang de Berre, the Sea, les Alpilles, les massifs de Marseillveyre and the Calanques, la Sainte-Baume and Montagne la Sainte-Victoire.

The path continues around the bend and goes quickly through a small forest. Again out in
the open you are now walking westwards along the ridge here. Walk all the way to about the highest point on the path, where you will see a large cairn. Leave the main path here, and walk the smaller path straight north (quickly through some trees) onto an opening just before a small hill. Climb up this hill and walk on straight north for another 150 meters. You will start seeing some cairns, and you want to follow the cairns that take off to the right here and takes you accross to the 599 meter point on the main forest road going along the Crete of Petit Luberon (15-20 minutes from you left the main path and about 50 minutes from where you crossed the forest road below).

Now you walk this forest road eastwards for almost an hour. You will after a bit get some spectacular views to the north with Montagne Ventoux as center piece. You leave the forest road at the 704 meter point to the right along the GR6 and GR97 that rosses here. You will quickly pass the refuge Bastidon du Pradon, hidden in the forest. If you need shade for lunch, you could eat here or fairly soon. For good views and sun for lunch, you walk on for another 15-20 minutes along the GR path going south.

The first section out on one of the ridges along the GR6 takes you very near the areas where there still might be Bonelli eagles nesting, and the views in all directions are fantastic. This must be the most spectacular descent from the Luberon, and its called Serre Long. Towards the end of this ridge, the GR takes you down to the right quite steeply and you should pay attention to every step you make. Rolling stones are also a common problems in these parts. This descent is not for unexperienced walkers.

After about an hour and a half walking from Bastidon du Pradon, you should eventually be down on a forest road. Take sharp right here along this road all the way till the lowest point on the road at a big crossroads. Here you walk straight on and the road starts going up hill straight away. Continue as it starts mounting the hill to the west. After about 20 minutes and at the 369 meter point (with a water reserve – Citerne), you should pay extra attention. You want the forest road marked for Trou du Rat (strait on), but the actual road takes you down to the right. 

The steep descent from Serre Long goes on for a while.
You will pass the ruines of and old farm (Bastide) called la Patrossi, and just after the 276 meter point, you should leave the road and take the yellow marked path to the left where there is a yellow signpost. Climb this path up the hill to the small forest road and follow the yellow markings back to the car, where you should be about 45 minutes from the big crossroads at the 369 meter point.

An alternative return route from the large crossroads and Citerne at the 369 meter point will be taking the most right hand forest road. After a good 30 minutes you will be at the 483 meter point exactly where you crossed over this the morning. Here you simply take left down the same path as you came up this morning. The advantage of this route is that you keep on the open road for a longer return with magnificient views all the way and the sun is warming you. This route is only 1.7km or perhaps 30 minutes longer.


Basic information:

Duration: 6h (Group, incl. 1 hour lunch)
Distance: 14 km.
Ascent: 500 m
Difficulty: Moderate
Start/finish: Parking at Le Trou de Rat refuge
Map: IGN 3142 OT (1cm=250 m)
GPX-file: Cheval-Blanc1         (Link to free download)

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:

November 2019 - Anne - Lunch 15 min south of Crete, but could go further.

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