Location: France, Rhone-Alpes, La Jarjatte
Summary: Mountain trail, moderate effort
At the end of our valley is the largest mountain in the area – the Grand Ferrand. At 2,758m its not the biggest in the Alps, but at over a vertical mile above our valley floor, it presents quite a challenge to the aspring trail runner, and has quite an imposing presence over the end of the valley.
|The Grand Ferrand on the approach – still early morning and not much sun.
All year I had been running along the trails at the end of the valley, and up into the foothills of the Grand Ferrand, only to be turned back by too much snow. My run on Friday morning was meant to be just another 10km jaunt, but to my surpise I found the snow had melted enough to allow me to get up above the treeline and onto the mountain proper.
|Strictly no sheep or shepherd bothering
|A waterfall up the Grand Ferrand
Rather than run up to Lac du Lauzon, I decided that I would traverse across the face of the mountain and head towards Col de la Croix, which passes the local sheep pastures, and then descend down into the forest and create a loop.
Since this was early spring, and very few hikers had made this route yet, after taking the branch I immediately lost the path and ended up scrambling up through rough undergrowth until I came out over a ridge and onto the steep, grassy pastures of the Ferrand.
|Up above the treeline on the Grand Ferrand
I realised I was too high for the trail that cuts across, so decided to head across the slope and descend until I found it. The slope was a good 50º and quite slick with the morning due so going was tricky. I was busy watching down the mountain and at my feet, until I caught a glimpse of movement and looked up the slope to see a Chamois running towards me. It suddenly saw me, and startled, ran away for another 100m before looking back at me. I managed to snap a picture with my phone but it does no justice to these amazing animals – I was struggling on the terrain and it was running around as if it were on the flat.
|One of the Chamois that live up high on the Grand Ferrand
After descending down another couple of hundred metres I found the trail, which was pure trail running Nirvana, high above the treeline, with a fantastic view back down the valley into La Jarjatte.
|Finally found the trail that traverses the lower part of the mountain, with fantastic views back down the valley.
Into the sheep pastures, which in a month or so will be full of flocks, guarded from wolves by Patou dogs.
|Wild flowers growing along the trail
|The pastures that will be full of grazing sheep in a couple of months
|The descent back into the valley