Date: Monday 16/08/2021 Stage: Refuge de Roche Brune > Refuge de la Perrière Distance: 20,1 km Ascent: 1603m / Descent: 1164m Weather: Heavily clouded, rain 18°C
After a comfortable night in the unmanned refuge of Roche Brune, I hope to make good progress today, possibly to the refuge des Férices. But it will not come to that.
When I look out of the window I see nothing but white. Not from any snow, but from low hanging clouds. The weather forecast pointed to this, but also to rain. After a hearty breakfast I prepare my rucksack and start the descent to Le Pontet (886m). A panel next to the Gelon swamp points out that material and weapons for the resistance were parachuted here by the Allies during WWII. A little further on, I see an animal walking across the path. I suspect a polecat, but the animal is too far away for me to recognise it.
At the entrance to Le Pontet, I refill my water bottles. From here, there is actually water everywhere thanks to the frequent streams that flow along the mountains to the valley. With a filter, you can tap water almost everywhere and you do not have to carry so much water. That makes a difference on a heavy GR trail like the GR738. In Le Pontet there is also a refuge consisting of yurts, a bit off the GR.
I estimate that the clouds are at about 1500m altitude. In the valley where Le Pontet lies, I am not bothered by them. After a flat section to Les Lamberts (860m) the path gets steeper. After the junction with the Route Forestière du Champenet (1030m) the climb is really steep. At the Baraque à Michel (1266m) I stop for a moment in the hut. The clouds have come down in the meantime. A quarter of an hour later I am on the road again and follow the GR in a zigzag to the Col du Champet (1723m). The last few meters to the pass are completely covered in mist. It is now raining and there is a strong wind. I put on my fleece and rain jacket. The path climbs further from the col to the Crête des Mollards (approx. 1990m). While the first part is somewhat sheltered by bushes and trees, after about 500 metres you are completely exposed to the conditions. The wind blows hard from the west over the ridge and the rain hits my face. Despite the wind, visibility is limited to just a few metres. Normally, from here you have a 360° view on the different massifs around, like the Chartreuse in the west, the Bauges to the north and you should also see Mont Blanc. Today, none of that!
Halfway through the 'crête', I see a hiker taking shelter behind a small hill no more than half a metre high. Hiding under his poncho, he tries to brave the bad weather. I make a hand sign and get a nod in return. Talking won't help, the swishing wind is too loud. I keep following the ridge to the Col d'Arbaréton (1872m). Here I want to follow the arrows to the unmanned cabin and leave the GR trail. To do so I have to follow the Lac des Grenouilles, but because of the dense fog I can hardly recognize anything. Even the lake is hardly visible, although I'm walking next to it. I retrace my steps to the GR and continue to the Col de la Perche (1986m). In the descent of the col there is also a refuge, that of Plattières. It's situated a few hundred meters from the GR trail. "Let's stop there", I think to myself. A signpost on the col points to the refuge, but I can't find a path leading to it anywhere. Thanks to the dense fog. And I will not be the only one who could not find the refuge.
I descend further to the Sources du Gargoton (1628m). It is a little less foggy there, but on the way to the Col de la Perrière (1979m) I cannot see anything of the otherwise beautiful Combe de l'Arbet Neuf. On the Col, visibility is a little better than before but not more than 30 metres. I decide to take the Refuge de la Perrière (1832m) as my final destination for today. It is located in the descent of the col. I meet a German woman who is walking in the opposite direction. She tells me she did not see the refuge because of the fog. I tell her that I didn't see the previous refuge either and that it is even further away from the GR trail than the one of Perrière. She decides to walk with me to the refuge and to stop there too. Finally we find the refuge at the right side of the next intersection. Visibility is again reduced to less than 10 metres. It is half past three, but the stage has lasted long enough. The limited visibility has a bad influence on the mood.
In the refuge, we meet several hikers. They all missed the previous refuge. The German woman realises that she has done well to stop now. In the late afternoon and evening, the sky clears and we get to see a bit of the landscape. It makes us feel good about tomorrow.