PART 1: Conquering the Chartreuse: Our duo touring adventure
In the world of ultra-running, roaming is an open door to the unknown and adventure. It's an experience that goes far beyond just running. Freedom and lightness combine to allow us to push back our limits and discover new horizons.
For this 3rd roaming adventure, Axelle and I decided to take on a brand new challenge: a 2-day Tour de la Chartreuse XXL!
Thanks to the enlightened recommendations of our friend Joris Tripier Mondacin from Trail In France, we planned an 80km, 6000 D+ route to explore the hidden treasures of this magnificent region.
In this article, we'll share with you the highlights, challenges and preparations of this incredible trail-running adventure.
The trail in its appetizer-main course-dessert version!
There's something magical about embarking on a multi-day adventure. Exploring an unknown region, on a route that is both technical and ambitious, awakens in us the feeling of being explorers of a new kind!
By interspersing the itinerary with a night or two in a hostel/refuge/hotel, roaming also makes it possible to considerably increase the distances covered, while maintaining a certain level of comfort.
It immerses us in the adventure, prolongs the pleasure and makes us see more!
And the sharp contrasts between the day's exertions and the comfort of the inn undeniably contribute to the magic of this practice.
The 2-day Tour de la Chartreuse
The route we've chosen is an interesting alternative to the "classic" Chartreuse traverse from Chambéry.
It took us to the heart of unspoilt wilderness. From Grenoble station to majestic peaks and breathtaking scenery, follow our route through the region's most emblematic points of interest...
Day 1: Via Dents de Crolles
On the eve of our itinerary, the excitement was palpable. Between rushing to pack our bags, check the route and settle the last logistical details, we had chosen to spend the night in Grenoble to get our adventure off to a serene start. After a hearty breakfast, we headed for Grenoble station, the starting point of our journey.
The initial ascent took us to Fort de la Bastille, overlooking the city. Through relics and tourists, it's a 200-metre climb to finally pass the arrival of the funicular and "exit" Grenoble. The Fort de Saint Eynard, like a Bastille rearguard, also marked our path. Below, we pass the Col de Vence, the last watering hole before the long 1800 D+ ascent to the summit of the Dents de Crolles.
At the Col du Coq, we missed out on the excellent Auberge Brevardière, which some web surfers recommended to us after the event. It's worth pointing out that this section between the Col de Vence and the Col du Coq is clearly not the most interesting part of the route: in the undergrowth and made up of an endless succession of short restarts (over almost 13km), we welcomed the view of the Dents de Crolles at the Col du Coq with great enthusiasm!
A rocky, aerial ascent, with some chain crossings, this was undeniably the most sumptuous part of the first day!
Once past the Dents de Crolles, we found ourselves in a wild, unspoilt environment reminiscent of the Parmelan landscape, with its topography and huge slabs of stone criss-crossed by crevasses.
After a good 6 hours out, the storm gradually invited itself to the party, forcing us to deal with showers and the distant rumble of thunder until our arrival in Saint Pierre de Chartreuse, marking the end of this first day.
We had planned to stay at Ateliers du Cucheron, located 3km further along the route. Our hosts kindly agreed to pick us up directly in Saint Pierre de Chartreuse, sparing us those last three kilometers, an uninteresting stretch of road.
This long day on the trails was punctuated by a variety of landscapes and capricious weather. But far from discouraging us, and well dry under our BlackShell, this weather brought us its share of strange and magical atmospheres that give the adventure all its spice. We enjoyed every bit of it.
Overnight in a guest house : Les Ateliers du Cucheron
Located on the route, right at the start of the Grand Som ascent, the hosts kindly agreed to pick us up in Saint Pierre de Chartreuse (which saved us 3km of driving, not a very interesting stretch of road, especially after 40km in the bag!)
We shared an excellent meal with the other customers (a couple, including a Youtuber cabinetmaker) and re-did the world 3 times.
In these exchanges over a meal, we rediscover the pleasures of travel and the openness to the world it brings. It's one of the golden aspects of these itinerant adventures that makes us appreciate this format so much.
Day 2: Le Grand Som, La Grande Chartreuse and le Charmant Som.
After a short but invigorating night at the Ateliers du Cucheron, we were ready for another day of discovery and adventure. The second day promised to plunge us into the heart of grandiose landscapes and places steeped in history.
Our first stop was the Grand Som, an imposing summit offering breathtaking panoramic views, with the Grande Chartreuse monastery below. The climb is just as spectacular as the Dents de Crolles, with a little gas here and there. In any case, it's a natural spectacle not to be missed!
After admiring this natural wonder, we continued our journey via the Pas du Loup, a narrow passage between the cliffs.
Our next destination was steeped in spirituality: the Monastère de la Grande Chartreuse. Nestled in a green setting, this thousand-year-old monastery is a place of meditation for some thirty monks. With its sober, austere architecture, the resident Carthusian monks have taken a vow of silence and produce the famous eponymous liqueur according to a secret recipe. A true journey through time and spirit.
Right next to the monastery is the Musée de la Grande Chartreuse. For the curious and connoisseur alike, this museum offers a fascinating insight into the history and manufacture of the famous liqueur (we didn't stop).
We then began the ascent to the Charmant Som, a summit well deserving of its name, but which didn't spare us with its long, particularly muddy and slippery ascent through undergrowth. At the summit, we were rewarded with a breathtaking view of the surrounding massifs, including Cham Chaude (the only summit we didn't make it to).
Whether we were too optimistic or too greedy (we'll never know), our refreshments had run dry, and we had to stop off at the Charmant Som inn, where we enjoyed their famous blueberry tart and left with half a cheese board each, which kept us going for the remaining 3 hours.
The final ascent to the Banettes refuge offered us an enchanting bucolic spectacle. Alpine landscapes unfolded before us in all their splendor, with verdant meadows, refreshing waterfalls, legions of marmots and majestic peaks.
The final descent, with its breathtaking views over Grenoble, awaited us with its 1,500 metres of steep ascent. After 70km of running, this final test took its toll on my quad bikes, but was rewarded by the satisfaction of having completed this adventure!
Arriving in Saint Egrève, a streetcar took us to Grenoble station in around twenty minutes. Calm after the storm, we were back among men in our adventurous uniforms. And in the midst of passers-by, civilians, hurried workers and onlookers, we knew that no one around us could have imagined the fabulous little adventure we'd just accomplished.
I think we were proud of it...
PART 2: The Art of Packing for a 2-day itinerary with a night in a hostel
The pleasure of trail running lies in having a bag that's light enough to retain the sensations of trail running, and yet carry all the gear you'll need for several days of running. In this sense, packing your bag properly is an important prerequisite for adventure.
Our Sherpa bag plays a crucial role in our success. With its 12L capacity, its lightness (lighter than the vast majority of 5L bags) and its support (patented system), we can load up for 2-3 days without having the feeling of being encumbered by a hiking bag.
The size of the bag and our clothing also play a crucial role. So here's how we organized our equipment to get the best out of this itinerary:
Clothing for the race: With 25°C forecast on the trails and stormy weather, we chose ultra-light, breathable clothing to beat the heat. A 220 BPM t-shirt t-shirt on top and a Sherpa Race on the bottom. The Sherpa Race is an invaluable addition to the bag, as it can hold an extra 500mL flask and a total of 1.2L of gear thanks to its integrated storage belt.
Clothing for the evening: Since we'd booked a hostel for the night, and given the summer temperatures, we could afford to take fairly light clothes. So I opted for a long-sleeved 220 BPM top and 220 BPM shorts on the bottom (no need to take boxer shorts, as they have built-in briefs). With a total weight of 132g (XS outfit) and a volume of 350mL,their lightness and compactness were perfect for our needs .
Equipment for the evening: A toothbrush whose handle we cut off and shared (a little hygiene flexibility we allow ourselves, given that we're a couple ;p). Since our last trip, I've also been carrying an ultra-compact, lightweight Nitecore 10,000 mAh external charger (150g), with all the necessary connectors to charge my phone + watch, as well as a compatible plug. In my opinion, this little external charger is a must-have on a roaming trip where there's no guarantee of being able to charge in the evening. But it's also an additional safety feature on the road, especially when you're sailing with your cell phone or watch, or need to take a lot of photos (which is my case ^^).
Safety equipment: We have not neglected essential safety equipment. The mainstay is still our waterproof BlackShell jacket, which, with its 20k Schmerber waterproof rating, provides effective protection against the harshest weather. As we didn't plan to run at night, we opted for an ultra-light Beliight headlamp. A survival blanket for emergency situations. The NanoShell completes our bag. Made from water-repellent Merino Everdry, it's the most compact (500mL) and lightweight (160g in M) warm jacket available. It provides precious extra comfort in the evening, without taking up too much space in the bag. But it could also be a valuable extra layer of warmth on the trail, should you ever need to spend the night outdoors.
To see the bag's full packaging, we invite you to watch the short video we made in the permanent Story.
We carefully prepared our equipment for this trail running duo itinerary in the Chartreuse. Every item we chose was compact, lightweight and adapted to our specific needs. And thanks to our ultra-light, well-organized bag, we were able to make the most of every moment of this adventure.
To experience this adventure for yourself, here's the GPX track of the route!Trace GPX