Queyras: Pic de Caramantran 3025 m revisited

Summit of Pic de Caramantran 3025 m

A few years ago, we climbed to Pic de Caramantran (3025 m) from St-Veran.  The summit is one of the easy 3000m+ peaks in the region.

This time we ascended from the valley above Molines-en-Queyras. The forecast, however, for our first day was not good: rain and thunderstorms in the afternoon. We therefore planned a shorter hike, starting from the spacious parking at 2625 m, not far from Col Agnel (2744 m) at the Italian border.

Early in the morning, we took the D205T road from Molines-en-Queyras. After a downpour on the way, the clouds fortunately broke temporarily when we reached our starting point.

A new nature trail (a 30 min. loop), called Nebbia, begins from the parking. We started along it clockwise. At a signpost named Riou du Rocher Long 2630 m, we joined the main GR 58 trail that leads to Col de Chamoussière (2884 m). We ascended along the rocky trail with Caramantran’s steep north face on our left-hand side.

At Col de Chamoussière, we left the GR58 and forked left along a trail that first zigzagged along a steep incline, then levelled off a bit. There were no signposts, only cairns and yellow markings. Just before the summit, on a ridge, the yellow-marked trail continued straight south while we forked left to the nearby summit with two big cairns. We were on the Franco-Italian border.

 By that time, we had a full overcast and heard distant thunder. As on our previous hike! We descended quickly back to the parking along the same trail, just in time before a heavy downpour started.

Climb: 400 m

Duration: 2h 30

Distance: 6.5 km

Map: 3637 OT Mont Viso
Caramantran hike track


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Le Chapeau de Gendarme 2682 m

Summit of Chapeau de Gendarme 2682 m

The ascent to Chapeau de Gendarme (2682 m) is a classic hike in the Ubaye Valley. The mountain gets its name, the gendarme’s hat, from its particular form that is well visible from the Valley. The summit offers great 360° panorama views over the region.

We ascended to the summit using the standard and also shortest route along comfortable paths. It is a straightforward and well-marked itinerary.

We drove up to Super Sauze ski resort (1700 m asl). We located our first signpost on a nursery slope and took a dirt track uphill (south), following it about 1 km. We then forked left along a trail, re-joined the dirt track heading first east, then southwest in a larch forest, crossing the Brec ski lift. After about 1,8 km from start, we forked right along a path that took us past a spring (la Goutta).

We climbed further above the tree line, passed an immense vertical rock wall (Le Queiron) at about 2300 m elev. We had the sharp figure of Brec Second (2596 m) and Col du Gyp in front of us. At the crossroads, the direct trail continued to Col du Gyp. We forked right, and ascended along the rocky and steep east face of Chapeau de Gendarme. Markings of the trail were yellow, occasionally with other colours. There was a signpost at 2670 m just under the geographical summit.

The heatwave continued in France, and it was unusually hot even at the summit on this clear and almost windless day. Needless to say, we had packed extra bottles of water and sport drink in the morning!

We took the same trail back.

Duration: 5 h

Elevation gain: 980 m

Distance: 12 km

Map: IGN Barcelonette 3540 OT


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Duck legs with melting potatoes

Duck legs with melting potatoes

Confit de canard  is the traditional way to preserve and prepare duck legs. My recipe is a modern version made from fresh duck legs and with less salt and duck fat.

 Serve your duck legs with melting new potatoes and some greens. In the picture, they are served with French style peas.

2 servings

2 fresh duck legs
1 onion
1 clove garlic
5- 8 new potatoes
2 tbsp. olive oil
Black pepper
A pinch of salt
200 ml water
Parsley to decorate

Preheat the oven to 210°C.

Spread 1 tbsp. olive oil in the bottom of an oven proof dish. Peel and slice the onion and place in the dish. Peel and mince the garlic clove and scatter over the onion.

Prepare the duck legs by cutting away the extra fat on the side of the legs. Place the legs on top of the onions. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt, black pepper, and olive oil.

Wash the new potatoes and cut into smaller pieces. Place them in the dish around the duck legs. Pour 200 ml water in the dish.

Roast in 210° C for 15 minutes, the reduce the temperature to 180° C and continue roasting for 60 minutes. Baste now and again with cooking juices and cover after 30 minutes. Add a little water if it starts looking a bit dry.

Decorate with chopped parsley and serve with some greens.


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Mont Guillaume above Embrun

Chapel St Guillaume

Mont Guillaume (2550 m) offers magnificent views over Embrun, Savines-le-Lac and the Serre-Ponçon Lake in the Durance River Valley.

In February 1897, a Swedish-born Lt Charles Eric Widman of the French Alpine Hunters climbed to the summit of Mont Guillaume from Embrun (1681 m vertical climb!) with skis on his shoulder. He skied back down in 1h 30. As a Swede, he was a strong advocate of implementing skiing instead of snowshoeing for the French military. The main trail to the summit carries his name.

On the summit, a new chapel was built on the ancient ruins in the 1990s. There’s an annual pilgrimage to the summit in July.

We used the Sentier Widman on our hike. The trail started from the spacious Parking de la Forêt (1587 m) which we reached from Embrun along a narrow but paved road initially named Route de Caléyère/D465.

Several itineraries start from the parking. The Widman Trail is clearly marked. We forked left, then immediately right along a path that ascended through a livestock pasture in the larch forest. The trail then continued either along dirt tracks or good paths, still in a verdant forest. Signposts showed the itinerary to Séyères and Mont Guillaume. A place named Pré-Clos was left on the right-hand side.

At Séyères (2056 m), about halfway to the summit, we walked past a chapel and a spring. We continued along the north-eastern flank of Mont Guillaume in an increasingly alpine environment. Wild rhododendrons were starting to blossom by the trail. Some parts of the trail were still covered with snow.

Once on the mountaintop, we first met the rebuilt chapel and a large cross facing it. The geographical summit was about 100 m to the west from the chapel.

Our hike coincided with the heat wave that hit France in late June.  The day was cloudless but very hazy.

Climb: 960 m

Duration: 5 h (active); ascent 2h45

Distance: 12 km round trip

Map: IGN 3438 ET Embrun   

Mont Guillaume hike track


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