A three-day itinerary in winter where you can admire this particular massif located north of Grenoble at your leisure. We partly followed the GR tour de la Chartreuse. True to our habits, we chose to sleep in mountain huts (helped by the site refuges.info). However, there are also a few villages and inns along the way if you are used to the luxury of a real mattress ;).
Day 1: Mont Granier and its matefaim
+ 1400 m / – 200 m 14.5 km
From Chambéry station, take the bus to Apremont. Then pass through a series of residential areas until you begin the climb towards the Col du Granier. This is definitely not the best part of the hike, but you have to get away from Chambéry somehow.
The hungry mates
The rest of the route benefits from nice panoramas of Mont Granier and the adjoining cliffs. We pass through the Granier ski resort, but it does not disfigure the landscape. You then have to head towards the village of La Plagne (not the well-known resort!). Fun fact: we arrived quite late at the village, mainly because we got a little lost after the ski resort. When we contacted the village inn, we were tempted to have a meal there or even a room. No sooner said than done: here we are at the table and the boss brings us a local specialty, “matefaim”.
He brings us a plate full of donuts fried in oil, with nothing else. A little expectantly, we nibble on a few donuts while waiting to see if the sequel turns out to be more promising. Wasted effort: follows a second plate, a third... until we expressly ask for it to stop! A way to quickly fill our stomachs, yes, but frankly not very good... Quite cold from this disappointing dinner, we break camp as quickly as possible. After which we head back towards the cabin where we had initially planned to sleep. Climbing the steep slope at night with a stomach full of frying fat was a trying moment!
The Alpette cabin is quite large and therefore difficult to heat. But when we arrived we were surprised to discover that there was quite an atmosphere inside: a group of friends from the association all on stove had come to spend the night there! This association aims to restore unguarded cabins and in particular their stoves, which are very useful in winter. I can only congratulate them for this welcome initiative! On the other hand, I must say that we were rather bad guests because, thanks to the fatigue of the day, we fell asleep almost immediately despite the party in progress...
Day 2: on the GR tour de la Chartreuse
+ 650 m / – 1100 m 17km
From the cabin, we directly follow the GR9 (Chartreuse tower) which climbs quietly towards the ladder pass. The landscape is superb, we feel in the atmosphere of this very rocky massif. From the Col de l'Échelle, we have a beautiful view of the neighboring peaks and in particular Mont Blanc.
We then went back down towards the Saint-Meme cirque. It would undoubtedly have been much more interesting to continue following the GR tour of the Chartreuse, but one of us had to leave the same evening from Saint-Pierre de Chartreuse. The village of Saint-same is very pretty, but the long stretch of road that followed was less interesting. Arriving in Saint-Pierre d'Entremont, we hitchhiked to reach Saint-Pierre de Chartreuse. Once is not usual, we came across a charming driver who took a detour to take us to our destination. We are in the mountains!
From Saint-Pierre de Chartreuse, three of us continued to finish crossing the massif. Another long passage on the road to Brevardière to take us to a path going up to altitude. It was getting late, so we turned on the headlamps for the last part of the hike. It was during this hike that I developed a taste for hiking at night in the silence of winter, where only the crunching of the snow under the snowshoes can be heard.
We ended up joining the Pleynon cabin, which fortunately was empty (it couldn't have accommodated many people besides the three of us). The stove was much more efficient than at Alpette, a real pleasure when you arrive from a long day!
Day 3: the Saint-Eynard ridge
+ 300 m / – 800 m 11km
This last day is the easiest of the three, but also the most panoramic. From the cabin, we climbed towards the Faita pass. Then we followed the Saint-Eynard crest throughout the day, thanks to a magnificent path which runs along the entire length of the cliff. It feels like you're flying over the Isère valley!
Much too quickly for my liking, we reached the fort of Saint-Eynard, from which we can descend quickly to the Col de Vence. From there it is possible to take a bus to Grenoble. Just to have one last mountain restaurant before catching the train again!
If you have also crossed the Chartreuse in winter, in particular by following a more 'logical' route without going back down for miles into the valley, do not hesitate to indicate it in the comments!