Friday, December 5, 2014

Les Calanques: Marseille – Col de Sormiou - Calanque de Podestat and Marseilleveyre

All the coastline from Marseille to la Ciotat
This was the last bit of accessible coastline we still had not covered between Marseille (Callelongue) and Cassis and it was a very nice surprise: Perhaps some of the best and varied coastline we had seen along here and the possibilities for swimming were very good. It started off very rough and with steep cliffs from Col de Sormiou (like most of the Calanques) and after only about 1,5 hours walk westwards the green and “open” Calanque de Podestat appeared very inviting for a swim even if it was November. The gravel beach here was very good, and only 10 minutes further west you could descend to the very small secluded beach in the Calanque des Queyrons or walk another 10 minutes to perhaps the largest and best beach in the Calanques: Calanque de Marseilleveyre. Here you could also have a drink or coffees at the  Bar/Restaurant open 365 days a year (no road or electricity out here, so deliveries by small boats).

The difficulty by passing the cliffs at Calanque de l’Escu by means of 2 sets of cable supports is no real problem for an experienced walker, but could easily be avoided by using the GR51/Black path for going both ways. For an alternative route all the way to Calanque de Marseilleveyre, use the inland route described at the end of this posting. Then you can take the fantastic coastal GR51 path back again.

Start by driving to Mazargues, on the southern fringes of Marseille City. We normally come in from the east (from Cassis) along the main D559 Cassis - Marseille road because of the traffic in Marseille. After the Luminy roundabout, it is only about another 10-15 minutes to the tall column in the middle of the large roundabout at Mazargues. Here you take left, and follow signs all the way for Sormiou. You will pass la Crayolle with its large shopping area (incl. Decatlon) and the road may stop at a barrier at the parking marked on the map by the large sewage complex marked “St. epur” on the map. In winter/spring (October – May) the road is open for traffic, so simply drive on to the highest point on the road (Col de Sormiou) and park here. In the summer/autumn you must first call the day before (after 18.00) to check if the Calanques are not closed for walking (see Safety and Practicalities under Pages in this Blog) and walk from the parking up to the col (only  about 1 km.).

Start of 2nd Cable support (horizontal)
You start walking westwards on joint GR51&98 and Black path. You pass quickly Col de Cortiou (8-10 minutes) and after only another 5 minutes, look out for the Green path taking off down on your left. The Green path takes you down towards the sea with spectacular views in all directions. About 1 hour from Col de Sormiou, you get to the point where a dotted green path takes off to the left and could take you down to the sea at Calanque de l’Escu. Nice place to lunch (do not swim here – dangerous currents), but this path is a dead end. However, if you fancy to look at Escu, it takes 10 minutes down and 10 minutes up again.

At the same place as the dotted green descends to Escu, the Green path continues upwards with the first cable supports (only a few meters of cable). Continue the well-marked green path and you will come to the point where you need to pass by the cliffs of Escu with the help of perhaps 7-8 meters of continuous cable. Afterwards walk the green path until it joins up with the Black path (and GR’s) and around the corner you will see Calanque de Podestat.

Calanque de Podestat
Make sure you find the dotted black path on your left that descends to the water at Podestat, were you will be in about 1h 30 minutes from Col de Sormiou. Very nice pebble beach and there are also nice places to sit along the rocks going out of Podestat on the other side. Here the flat rocks down by the see seem to go on forever, and after only another 10 min. walk from Podestat, back up on the Black path, you see small paths descending down through some wood, that could take you down to the Calanque des Queyrons, were there is another beach.

Calanque de Marseilleveyre
We propose you take lunch at Podestat or Queyrons and walk the extra 10-20 minutes to Calanque de Marseilleveyre, where you could take coffees at the Bar/Restaurant or simply a swim at perhaps the largest beach of all the Calanques.

The return walk from Marseilleveyre to Col de Sormiou along the Black path (GR’s) will take you about 1,5 hours. The walk back is fantastic; the path varies a lot and magnefic scenery in all directions.

Basic information:

Duration:         5h ( including 1h for lunch and swimming)
Distance:        10 km.
Ascent:           550 m (accumulated)
Difficulty:        Difficult (Passing steep cliffs with cable support, but alternative path.)
Start/finish:     Col de Sormiou (Marseille – Mazargues – la Cayolle)
Map:               IGN Les Calanques de Marseille á Cassis (1cm=150 m)

Alternative route to Calanque de Marseilleveyre from Col de Cortiou.

As you can see from the map, there are several alternative routes to take inland from Col de Cortiou. We suggest you take the Blue path northwest from Col de Cortiou (you are only 8-10 minutes from the car at Col de Sormiou). You will cross a Green path (376 meter point) after a short hour on Plateau de l’Homme Mort. Keep following the Blue path all the way to Col de la Selle (275 meter point) and take off here on the Green path going all the way down the Grand Malvallon till you reach the sea at Calanques de Marseilleveyre, where you will be in about 2 hours from Col de Sormiou, exclusive of any stops. The return from Marseilleveyre to Col de Sormiou along the GR51 will take about 1,5 hours (exclusive of any stops).

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