Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Sisteron: Les Monges – The ultimate Crête Walk

Les Monges
This is, in my opinion, the No.1 hike in this blog so far! In other words, not to be missed.

Just some 25 km east of Sisteron, you have the longest crête (mountain ridge) I have encountered that could easily be accessed by hikers. It starts off with Montagne de Jouere, continues eastwards to Les Monges (2115 meters) and swings back westwards to end as Crête de Pierre-Mont. The 15 km long crête has another 6 names along its way. This walk covers 10 km of the crête and out of the 7 hours the walk will take (including 1 hour for lunch), you will spend a good 5 hours up on the crête with fantastic views in all directions.

The walk itself is also a great pleasure to do, not only because of the good hiking conditions, such as a very good system of sign posting and markings along the route, but also because of the type of ground you walk on most of the way: grassy slopes. This must be one of my top 3 walks I have ever done!



From Sisteron you drive into the Valee de Jabron, signposted already from exit 22 on the A51 motorway. The road you want is the D3 and it starts on the eastern side of the river Durance (signposted for Authon). It will take you about 30 minutes to drive up to Authon along this magnificent old Roman road. In the middle of the tiny village of Authon, you turn left and after only some 200 meters on the surfaced road, you take the right onto a gravel road. Drive on for about  2 km (take care of bumps in the road) to find the tiny parking called la Peyrouse (here is a signpost for walkers: Sommet de Monges – 6.5 km – 3h).

The walk starts by crossing the river here, so if it’s a lot of water in the river, don’t put on the boots till you are dry and sound on the other bank. The path is well signposted as it’s the GR6 that comes from Athon and takes you up through the dense forest for the first 35 minutes. Here, the GR6 takes off to the right and does a loop called “Tour des Monges”, which could be an alternative return route from Les Monges. (This return do not cut down on the total time of the walk (we used a good 7 hours), but could be an interesting alternative in certain bad weather conditions.) You will turn left here, however, and continue the path, now with yellow markers, another 5 minutes till you are on the Crête itself.

Les Monges - Le Sommet
The crête is very comfortable to walk along all the way up to Les Monges. Most of the way, you walk on grassy slopes with a bit of stones and rocks in between. The views all around you are just breathtaking. You end up coming onto a type of grassy plateau just before the mountain top, and you see the path going up the last 100 meters at an angle in the beginning. You will reach the top of Les Monges in about 2h 40min from the car. Up here, there is an amazing landscape of small grassy fields mixed with large rocky surfaces. No problems finding a nice place for lunch with shelter from the wind. 

By ending the walk on the summit of Les Monges, returning the way you came up, you will cut the walk by about 1 hour, as the return to the car from here is about 2 hours.

It could take a good 45 minutes to walk from the top of Les Monges across the whole summit, passed the Sommet de Coste Bell and down to the next signpost. But there is a lot of interesting rock formations and lot’s to photograph.

Crete du Raus and Serriere des Cabanes from Les Monges
There is another 1 hours walk along the Crête to the next signpost at the 1744 meter point (Col de la Sapie), but take great attention to the steep descent in the beginning because it’s easy to slip on the small stones.

At Col de la Sapie (1744 meters), you turn left and follow for La Peyrouse (where the car is parked). It’s says 4 km - 1h 30 min to La Peyrose on the sign, but they have changed the main path, which now takes a more direct route, so we used 1 hour back down to the car. It takes about 30 minutes on the new path down to the forest road. The new path was not on my IGN map, but it’s very well made and well signposted with yellow marks. Down on the forest road, you turn left and simply walk another 30 minutes along this road back down to the car.


Basic information:

Duration:        7h (including 1h for lunch)
Distance:       14 km.
Ascent:           950 m (accumulated)
Difficulty:        Moderate, but a long hard walk!
Start/finish:    Authon (la Peyrouse)
Map:               IGN 3339 ET

1 comment:

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