Re: Vercors and Chartreuse - French alps- camping and walking

"TC" <tc@NO SPAM> wrote:

I am planning to go walking and camping with my family in
the Parc Vercors or Parc Chartruse later in the summer.

I am looking for walk and hikes which would be good for young
children (valleys, gentle mountains, but no big climbs) -

There's a ton of stuff that you could potentially do, although you don't
mention the age/capabilities of your children (will this be a first time
hill walking, or are they the kind of kids that climb over other people on
Bristly Ridge?), and I'm not entirely sure what "big climbs" means in the
context of posting about walking to a climbing group.

Pretty much all of the classics in the Chartreuse should be feasible for,
say, a motivated 10 yo, especially if you stick to the GR paths (GR paths
are typically flashed red/white, and marked clearly in red on the IGN maps).
This may be obvious but take lots of water, hats and sunscreen - temps
somewhere in the 30s this weekend (32C at 1600m in H Savoie on Sat) - and
there typically isn't a lot of water about once you leave the valleys. Pay
attention to the weather - it's not pleasant up there in afternoon
thunderstorms. Belledonne tends to form harmless cumulus on hot days.
However, if you're in the Chartreuse and you see cumulus coming up out of
the Vercors to your South, then you should perhaps think about wrapping it
up for the day.

This anglophone site is excellent for Chartreuse:

Pinea from Col de Porte is an easy walk, and very pleasant (look for Chamois
in the meadow), although the summit is a little exposed (thin path).
Chamechaude is harder and longer, but well worth the effort (avoid la Breche
Arnaud - it's quicker but scrambling+ territory) and take the standard route
from Col de Porte (on the D512 out of Grenoble), cables for the summit from
any direction, I think, but really easy. Le Grand Sur could be tied with a
visit to the Chartreuse Monastery (a good half day activity in itself), but
note that these days you'll have to go to the relocated distillery in Voiron
if you want a sniff of the green stuff. Charmant Som can be tackled either
from Col de Porte for the full walk, or you can drive past the meteo
station, and up to the chalet/fromagerie, where you can have a quiet
beer/ice cream after a twenty minute stroll to the summit (zero exposure and
a pleasant walk either way). Dent de Crolles from the Col du Coq is, again,
a classic (you will find half of Grenoble playing frizbee on the summit on a
good day), perhaps stick to the GR9 and avoid the Pas de l'Oeuil (exposed).
The Granier is a bit of a trek from Grenoble/Vercors (near Chamberry), but
there's a nice (but long?) walk via (through!) la Grotte de la Balme; the
other two classic routes are, I think, scrambly or via ferrata-esque
(ladders?). The fort at St. Eynard probably offers a walk (GR9 again?),
although I've only driven up, and there's a cafe at the top for your
efforts. I've only touched on the big names here, there's lots and lots of
other stuff... Try Editions Franck for a good little guidebook (French). IGN
1:25000 maps are the bees knees; the 1:40000 maps that the tourist office
recommends are not so good IMHO. Glenat Presse also produces some excellent
guide books, although they are a little pricey (30 EUR) - there's a new
Chartreuse book out with some great-looking, little-know stuff in it (author
is friend-of-a-friend), but, again, French only.

The Vercors is an enormous massif (in terms of area, rather than altitude).
There's lots of easy walking on the plateau at the Chartreuse/Grenoble end;
some easy summits (e.g., Moucherotte with a good view of the city, again on
a friendly GR). I've spent more time climbing in the V than walking - but
did the Tour du Mont Aiguille - further South - a long time ago, which I
think would be okay with kids too, although I can't really remember.

The other massif, E of Chartreuse, is Belledone. The mountains are higher
(to 3000m), and the ambience is wilder. One suggestion is the walk up to the
Lac Crozet - it's not a summit, but there's still a good sense of
achievement. There are lots of nice places to picnic around the lake, and a
small hut to sit in if it's drafty. (If you're feeling strong, a big day is
to go on up to the Grand Pic, via the other two lakes, but that's almost a,
what, 1600m? day, and there's persistent neve on the summit approach, which
may merit the obvious gear. So probably not for this trip).

(We are also looking for a campsite in the mountains to base ourselves.
We are looking for small rural quiet campsites (for tents) with showers,
toilets etc, but not big sites with discos, swimming pools, tennis courts

There's a campsite on the D512 in the Chartreuse at, I think, le
Martinet(?), which (drive-by knowledge only) looks like it might meet your
requirements, but I don't really know. Doubtless there are many others, but
camp sites aren't something that I pay a lot of attention to, so I'm afraid
I don't have much else to offer on that front. A call to the tourist office
in Grenoble is the best bet.

Please understand that there are lots of caveats (caveat ambulator?) in all
of the above, mainly on how your children will cope with a 600-800m day in
baking heat. I realise that I've concentrated on summits rather than alpine
pasture strolls - a study of the maps should help you decide what's feasible
or not. I'm happy to chat further here, or by email, if you wish. (There was
a Chartreuse resident (Paul?) who used to post here (vague memories from a
thread on climbing in the C) - a dig in the archives might find you another
email address). Bonne rando!