CROSSING THE CHARTREUSE MASSIF

It had been some time since the idea circulated in the corridors of raidlight, what better to celebrate the arrival in a massif than to cross it running? But not easy to find a shooting window between the great races of each. TOE early July for Cyril, Tour Fiz Timothée end of July and TDS for me in August. Finally September seems ideal. Moreover since the beginning of the month we enjoy in Chartreuse a beautiful end of summer. The date is 17 September. We try to gather some ultra trailers around the project but we will be only three at the beginning.

3:44 I wake up before the ringtone of the laptop is good sign. A coffee, rice, bacon and an egg to make sure you get plenty of carbohydrates, protein and fat.

I take a look out the window, the summit of Chamechaude is clear we will avoid the rain for the departure although I remain quite pessimistic for the day, France weather forecast of heavy thunderstorms in the afternoon. So I choose to equip myself accordingly. Long shorts, R-dry short sleeves with cuffs and shelter jacket XP in the bag. Although off anything is obbligatory I took the reflex to always slip a small pochete with survival blanket and elastane tape in the bottom of the olmo bag. I also embark on a winter trail jersey story to return to dry in the train between Chambery and Grenoble.

4h35: I take Tim in front of his house, 5mn later we are in front of Cyril who is already ready.

After 35 minutes the car is parked in the parking lot of the boulevard de l’Esplanade. it is quite mild in Grenoble and we meet some partygoers returning from evenings very alcoholic in view of their approach. Same time, two different worlds.

Final settings, I realize that I left the front home, I also forgot the compotes, it’s more annoying. The TDS has taught me a lesson in food, I try a new way of feeding. Rather than being passive and waiting to be hungry or a refueling to feed me, I will try to take a gel per hour and a compote. For the compote will have to do without!

Go 5:20 it’s time to leave. I hold between Cyril and Tim to enjoy their light beam and go for the rise of the Bastille. Between parks, paths and stairs, we navigate in a setting conducive to an Urban Trail and little by little we discover the lights of the city below with in the center what should be the largest avenue in France if Napoleon had not cut the Jean Jaures class in two so as not to overshadow Paris (Thank you Tim for this morning course Urbanism).

First for Cyril, after only 20 minutes of racing, he discovers two light bulbs on the back of the feet. He uses the same shoes as on the tour of Oisans, but a simple passage to the washing machine seems to have a little distorted. He tries somehow to patch with my tape, but it will change the eraser quickly. It falls well the course passes 300m from home.

We leave the Bastille still asleep behind us and go right on Mount Rachais then after a small descent we resume the ascent to Fort Saint Eynard. These two climbs are part of the Gresivaudan Xpress Challenge. With this morning recognition we were able to find all the useful cuts !!!

We arrive at Fort Saint Eynard with the sunrise. The sky is a little overcast but the view below is very pretty. The fort seems to come out of another age with its ramparts, grilles and part buried in the side of the mountain. A long tunnel takes us to the crests and it is 3km of single track while recovery with right the cliff that falls right. I have fishing and have a lot of fun in this part. A little after 8am we cross the Sappey also still asleep. We continue then to the pass of Porte on roads broken down by the machines of loggers. Cyril is only troting even in the steepest climbs, it hurts him less than to put the heel, it’s still weird to walk at the same speed as a guy who runs and who seems not even s’ steam.

The suite brings us closer to our training grounds with the climb to the Charmant Som by the ridges and the descent on Saint Pierre by the slippery slabs especially as the rain has joined our adventure. I have followed my nutrition plan to a gel per hour, but the absence of compotes begins to be felt and my stomach requires solid.
Just before the little detour to change his shoes, Cyril picks up a huge drop and is already ecstatic for his meal the next day.

Around 11am we arrive at Saint Pierre for a lunch break. Noon sounds at the bell tower when we leave for the rest of the program: 1100D + to join the Col de Bellefond. The first meters of climb are difficult but once the digestion started I find good legs and leads the pace to the hut Bellefond where I am stopped by a huge Patou. First meeting with these shepherd dogs with such bad reputation.He barks a shot without approaching but lies down in the middle of the path.Fortunately Cyril is an expert on free-range dogs since they are around the world in a tramp style. He shows him a big rock as he walks, the dog departs but we look oddly pass. I’m not very reassured especially when he starts to run to catch us but the pebbles again raised the stop net. It will aboe again once or twice while we are already far history not to lose the face without doubt.
Once rocked on the other side of the pass we start crossing the high plateaus of Chartreuse. Even in the rain is a beautiful landscape with these many herds of cows and green meadows. But do not be fooled the way is traitor lapiaz, slippery stones, flooded paths, mud … everything is there to slow us down.

Little by little, in spite of our good rhythm, we realize that the path remains long and that time flies at full speed. As we are not great strategists we have not studied precisely the course and even less evaluated the time between stages.After all, it’s an Off there is no stopwatch. Except that the last train between Chambéry and Grenoble is at 20:21 and the prospect of spending the night in the station does not pack us too much. If we had thought a little about the question we could have done the opposite take the train in the morning is run to the car but hey it’s not our kind to plan.

In short, strategic decisions are needed. The first is not to go down on Saint Pierre d’Entremont by the GRP but to continue on the crossing of the highlands by the GR9. It seems shorter. but with uneven to pass the pass of the Alpette.The choice was perhaps not wise but the landscapes are sublime and the rays of suns that finally clear up the sky give back to pastures, leaves and other streams of beautiful colors. A last glance at the map shows us another 25 / 30km and only 2h30 before the departure of the train, while we turn at 6km / h since the departure. But the worst is that we did not see that the GRP bypassed the Granier pass by a small rise of 600d + before descending on Chambery. In other words, it is impossible mission. Once Epernay joins we will take the road.5km for 300d +, it reminds me oddly the TDS …

At 18h past we are at the Granier pass and fill up with coca and water at the local bar. At worst it’s 15km downhill it should do it, the pressure falls. The bartender, an athlete also, tells us that it is possible to join the path after 5km of road. That’s what we will do. But the closer we get to Chambéry and the more we are gardening, the GRP crosses other paths and small roads, not easy to navigate while our advance on the schedule decreases at a brisk pace. Suddenly we see a car at the end of a road with an open door, Cyril proposes to ask the shortest way to Chambéry, but when I arrive at the level of the driver it is a naked couple in full emotional fusion that I see and I can only throw a brief bow before moving on.

Finally I spot a last stretch of road that leads to the doors of Chambery (past a house once inhabited by Jean Jacques Rousseau!). To finish, we cross the center of Chambery by the pedestrian streets in front of the intrigues of the terraced Savoyards .

20h00 the station is in front of us just enough time to take an express pizza and our tickets and here we are warm on the train to Grenoble.

It’s simply the most beautiful OFF of my short trailer career. Even though the weather was not great we avoided the storms and even had the right to nice clearings. But it is especially the combination of a small group welded and the great diversity of the Chartreuse massif that has delighted me the most. On paper the 4000D + for 80km did not seem so difficult yet this massif is full of surprises, no path is alike you must constantly stay on guard and there are few times when it is possible to unroll.