Chartreuse Overground – July / August 2011




Over ground in Chartreuse


The Red Rose Trip coincided with my retirement from paid work and a leisurely drive down to St. Pierre with Bill Holden also newly retired!


The area has a lot to offer both for walking and caving not forgetting the Via Ferratas visited by some at Grenoble - available at a price. Camping de Martiniere, our Campsite was situated at 900m, at St. Pierre de Chartreuse, a small village with a couple of restaurants and bakeries. The best caving and walking was an hour or so’s drive away. The area is also a Botanists delight with a profusion of flora, for which we relied on Helen Sergeant to identify. These included The Greater Yellow Gentian and Blue Gentian too.

Hopefully the following gives a flavour of the two weeks spent in Chartreuse.


The weather was a mixed bag with a fair number of wet days but adventures were still to be had. Our first day out took us to The Grotte de Guiers Mort, bottom entrance to the Dent de Crolles cave system which has 60Km. of mapped caves. The cavers were recceing for a later trip but we walkers enjoyed a nice 8k circuit taking in the entrance to the cave, with a carefully placed walkway approaching the cave entrance thus avoiding wet feet! Mrs Wilkinson is shown taking advantage of the steps.

A later visit to Dent de Crolles summit (2062m) gave an exciting day out with the path taking us through the steep summit cliffs protected with cables.

Reaching the summit plateau we passed the entrance to P40 which exits 650m. below at the previously visited Grotte de Guiers Mort. Wonderful Alpine flowers up here.


Notable fact of the day: Andy Hall received a gift of a 3 pack of ladies underwear as he had forgotten his. Thanks were to Sarah Hall.


After a lovely walk from St. Martin the following day the evening was quiet (lively people caving) as there was a trip to the Trou de Glaz cave. The team returned around midnight after Ray’s stoical exit from the cave with a badly injured ankle. Thankfully he had his own CRO team and managed to exit the cave AND walk out from there – no mean feat!  Unable to get into his tent Ray spent the night in a chair in the gear tent with whisky and painkillers. By morning it was clear he needed to go to hospital so Dinny took him to Grenoble

where x-rays showed a dislocation and fracture. Here is Ray conducting his life from the sick bed.





Over the next few days we all visited Ray at some stage and saw he was very well looked after by the French nurses with no reports of bad behavior though come to think of it there was a language barrier…...


As is customary with Sandra W. we walked most days especially as it was too cold for the pool!

One wet day saw us (Tim, Heather, Andy H. Sandra and Carol) looking for adventure. We found it by the name of “The Cirque de Meme, (high point 1554)” via The Pas de Mort. Too late we translated this as involving death!


The route was vertical forest interspersed with escarpments some of which had ladders and chains in place. Some were rusty and came away from the rock in your hand. A good 5 hour circuit ended at the bar in the valley and the best beer of the trip!




Notable fact of the day: Spot the bottom. I vote for Andy Hall. The rust is highly visible. On the rock NOT the bottom!


On a rare sunny day we visited Lac Lapin where I nearly lost an eye to a swan who regarded my chips as fair game. I had not expected a snatch from my mouth! Thankfully no pictures!

We walked then to Cave Mandrin with wide rock shelter and caves used by the well known Robin Hood of France (18th century) Louis Mandrin from whom the cave names are taken. Having been a tax collector he knew the tricks of the trade and had a number of cave hideaways including these. As can be seen access is not that easy. The area has also a history of prehistoric use. Interesting caves and well worth visiting.





Notable fact of the day A request has been received from Ray for Nicotine Gum instead of grapes.


Notable fact of another day Ray requests different Nicotine Gum and grapes as well.


A visit to the St. Christophe Show Caves close to St. Pierre is well worth the money and provided an interesting day out for all ages.

The gorge housing the caves was the route of a Roman road from Lyon to Turin which had been up-graded in the 18th c by Charles Emmanuel to be a Royal route and to whom there is a massive monument 20m high, so big as to look completely out of place I thought. Napoleon Bonaparte in 1820 found the road too arduous and ordered a tunnel to be built. The caves have good formations and the upper cave is notable for its Speleothems.


The Team on the campsite


Next to the last notable fact of the day

Sandra and Mel hosted a party jointly celebrating their birthdays. This could have been a sober affair as Mel bought a beer slab which we all tried and looked at one another all thinking “it is shandy isn’t it?”   What’s Mel thinking about?! The day was saved y Steve Gray who seemed to have endless slabs of REAL beer!



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Toilet seat in the restaurant




One of our walks in the area of Corbel found us tramping through difficult to navigate forest, at one point passing workmen digging a huge hole which had the international radiation hazard symbol well displayed .We wondered if this might be Radon but our French was definitely not up to a technical discussion and we gave in gracefully and re-routed.


Final notable fact!

Roy Breakell did his level best to persuade us of the delights of a local liqueur he had and offered this around the campsite. The taste was somewhere between petrol and meths and there were few takers. Roy has obviously got a stronger constitution than us! Maybe his time spent in France has redefined his taste buds.

Thank you anyway Roy!


All in all we had a cracking (sorry Ray) 2 weeks with the last night seeing us having dinner in the restaurant (Trois Biches – think is deer not bitch!) with the best bog seat I have seen! Some of us here on our last night ready for the pub!


Carol Makin