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Map on Garmin
The start is a bit boring, walking on a road right in the sun, through various hamlets part of Le Sappey, until it gets to a large track in the forest, and then a narrower track making switchbacks and regularly crossing another track going straight up. After almost an hour walking up, I reach the Habert de Chamechaude in a large meadow with open view on Chamechaude towering more than 500m above, its large cliffs lurking above us. First break, first Mule bar (didn't get much of a lunch beforehand), and realisation that it has half the calories I thought it had... I will have a hard time...
From there I take the path to the left towards Cabane de Bachasson. It's a hilly track, very narrow just by the ravine, not too bad for a bit of running, until I suddenly lose it in a scree and start climbing right up in the scree. Bad idea. Stones rolling all around, feet sliding, and big void under me... Once up I can hear and then see people on real tracks a bit further, so start crossing the meadows on a 50° slope, trying not to toboggan all my way down. Happy to catch up the track, even if it is super crowded. I missed the Cabane and am now in the final slope already.
Here starts the final ascent, with dozens of trails in between screes, and lots of yellow marks to try to keep people on the actual trail and out of the shortcuts. I take a few minutes to climb a big mushroom-shaped rock (I hear someone calling it "the cake") where I see goats. Then back to the trail, it gets steeper and steeper, and the slope behind dives down in the void. Huge fences are supposed to catch stones falling from the cliffs above. The view on the West part of Chartreuse is awesome: can see Neron, Aiguille de Quaix, Pinea, Grand Som. And then suddenly I hit the crest line, and the view to the other side is unveiled: la Dent de Crolles appears under a huge atomic mushroom-shaped cloud. All I have to do now is follow the crest to reach a wall that has to be climbed (with a cable to help if needed) to get to the summit cross. Once there the track keeps going along the crest a few more hundred meters, up to a wooden pole, where the cliff suddenly dives to the ravine 300m below.
I happened to be completely alone up there, in this mineral universe, only surrounded by mountains, at the very top of Chartreuse. Took my time for a second Mule bar, a nap on a flat rock, admiring the view, when suddenly dozens of choucas (birds) started flying around all together like a school of fish for several minutes, before landing a few meters away from me on the crest. Then a group of English tourists gave me a chance to practice my english, took some photos for them, talking about the Grand Duc trailrunning race happening every June here (they were guessing I was running it, or similar ones).
Then at 4pm it's time to head back, I still have a long way to go. Program: run down to the Habert de Chamechaude, making a detour to Emeindras du Dessus, catching the GR track again towards Le Sappey before heading up St-Eynard to finish the day. Easy climb down the wall, careful jog then run down in the screes and rocky trails to the Cabane (this time I find it) and its fountain. Then run back on the narrow rooty trail by the ravine, trying not to trip on anything. At the Habert, long raspberry break: there are dozens of them growing here! :-D A bit of hesitation given how late it already is (about 5pm if I recall correctly), but then still headed to the Emeindras 2 km away. It's a sheepfold, but surrounded by cows ^^
Last Mule bar, while enjoying the great views of Chamechaude and Dent de Crolles, and the crest of St-Eynard unrolling to the west. That's where I head next, running down through the meadow, then reaching a large gravel track with perfect grade that I sprint down to the sound of Mad World. Without a map, I am not very sure of the direction, but I quickly recognize the path of our winter hike to Emeindras, just without the snow (but with big puddles of mud in place of it). The Sappey is not very far, 4km actually but quickly covered ^^ From there I navigate my way to the start of the St-Eynard track. It goes behind the adventure park, and I suddenly happen on kids climbing in the trees, surprise! A bit later someone flies above my head on the flying fox... And then it's the desert trail again.
In 10 ascents to St-Eynard, I never took this track. And I might not take it again, unless needed: it's super super steep. There is a choice of doing switchbacks, but right in the sun, so I stay in the shade on the >30% slope by the forest. But... I saw a deer! from very close, in the forest just to my right, was about to take a pic when two hikers happened by talking loudly and the deer quickly disappeared... So back to climbing hard. The fort is supposed to be 300m above us and 3km away, and still it is way steeper than in the other side. I understand why when I reach the crest after the first km, and the rest is just running up and down through the forest, jumping around rocks. This trail is now the same I took once back from Dent de Crolles, which is relieving.
I reach the top of St-Eynard a bit after 7pm, there's noone up there, the light is wonderful. My phone is back on the network too, so I can organise my evening :-) Starting to feel really hungry too, so eat my secret fruit bar that was left in the pocket of my jacket, and start jogging down. Stitches are preventing me from going very fast, have to walk at some points. The light is really going down now, and there's no hiker left in there, so the forest feels a bit bleak / dreary. 24mn to Col de Vence, happy to fill in my empty water bladder, before quickly heading out of the way of the crazy cars leaving Grenoble for the long week-end, down the shortest way home.
On the way I can enjoy the light of the sun going down behind Rachais, under orangy and pink clouds. On the other side Belledonne is gleeming in pink, while the moon is rising behind it. Awesome! Jogged all my way back home along Isere, not feeling really tired. Actually this full day felt pretty good, ascents were hard but that's how they're supposed to feel, aren't they? So feeling more confident now for the TDS, good thing before tapering a bit. Race day - 11...! :-/ Scary!
Back home at 9pm, shower, and straight out again heading to Notre-Dame for a drink, rendez-vous at 9.30, so taking away a bit of ham and biscuits for dinner... I guess I should take better care of my recovery, too, at some point :-)