GR738 Belledonne - Day 4 - Refuge de la Pierre du Carré > La Martinette
Date: Wednesday 18/08/2021
Stage: Refuge de la Pierre du Carré > La Martinette
Distance: 19,9 km
Ascent: 617m / Descent: 1264m
Weather: Sunny, then cloudy 19°C
I slept very well. My knee does not hurt and my first impression is that if I take it easy today, I will be able to continue walking. Paul and Hugo, the two French doctors with whom I shared the hut last night, have left at 8.30 am. I want to take my time today and try to reach the châlet du Leat (1719m). This hut is situated next to a small lake and simply invites anyone passing by to spend the night there. The sun is out and there is hardly a cloud in the sky. Finally a beautiful day of hiking?
At 9 o'clock I start the day with a descent to the little mountain river Veyton, which lies deep in the valley. Actually the GR trail goes in a wide circle around the valley, but because of forestry activities, the path has been diverted. After a few meters I notice: my knee is still in a bad shape. The slightest step hurts and that while I have to descend about 700 metres. At first, I can still maintain a steady pace, but in the last section, where the path zigzags through the woods, I struggle to make headway. Nevertheless, after more than an hour I arrive at the Pont Haut. I hesitate. If I keep following the GR trail, I will have to climb and descend quite a bit and that will not help my knee at all. On the other hand, I don't like the idea of giving up. I try to find a solution with the help of the topographical map. The only option I see, to stay within the time frame and still make progress, is to leave the GR trail for a while and reach the gîte of La Martinette via the Vallée de la Haute Bréda. Let's do it!
Along a wide forest road I descend through the valley of the Veyton. This goes reasonably fast and the knee doesn't seem to have any problems on flat stretches. At the bridge over the Veyton I follow the chemin des douaniers in the direction of Pinsot. But suddenly I feel a shooting pain through my body. I stop. I try to deal with the pain and stumble on. It is not easy. I am stubborn and instead of hitching a ride, I want to continue on foot at all costs, even though it may not be the wisest thing to do. But I am the kind of hiker who wants to cover every metre on foot.
In Pinsot (730m), I stop at a bistro. I want to eat there, but the lady who runs the place tells me that it is full for the day. I have to settle for a cold drink. I try to enjoy the sunshine a little more while I map out the rest of my route. On the IGN map there is a pink dotted line along a road that goes via la Corbassière and l'Enserme and runs parallel to the D525a. The only drawback is that the first part is steep uphill and I am in pain. Then it flattens out a bit, but with every new shooting pain I still scream out. And that is more often than I would like. At the back of a hydroelectric power station the forest road also climbs steeply and again I have to grit my teeth. At La Ferrière (945 m) there is a camping, but it appears to be closed. In the meantime, the clouds have arrived and the mountain peaks are hidden in their white veils.
To stay away from the main road as much as possible I follow all kinds of parallel roads and trails. First to Le Grand Thiervoz and on the other side of the Bréda river to the parking lot of the Pont de la Valloire (997 m), where I rejoin the GR738. The last two kilometres are quite an ordeal, partly due to a short climb to La Tour that does my knee no good.
I finally arrive at the gîte La Martinette (1075m). I have to wait until the owner is back, but then I get a place in the garden where I can put up my tarp and rest. Several hikers take care of me. One gives me a couple of painkillers into my hand, another suggests acupuncture. He even brought his needles with him. But I'm afraid none of it helps.
After La Martinette the GR738 goes up to Les Sept Laux (approx. 2150m), a collection of seven reservoir lakes in a beautiful setting. That it's worth the effort is shown by the interest shown by the many day hikers passing by the cottage. This afternoon I had planned to go at least as far as those lakes tomorrow before finishing my trek. But with a painful knee this is just not feasible. Reality catches up with me. I have to end this trek early. The owner will take me to the town of Allevard the next morning, driving through the same valley that I stumbled through today.
One thing I know for sure: I'll be back!