Sangle De Belles Ombres

Hiking -> Routes -> Chartreuse -> Draille du Charmille


Follow the Col-De-Belles-Ombres route from St Mary du Mont. As you exit onto the summit plateau at 1735 meters you will see a large and deep pothole on your left. Follow a track to the north through some trees. After about 50 meters there is a large cairn and the track climbs up to the base of the cliffs to start the loop. The sangle is very clear, following the cliff line. At this point there is around 30 meters between the path and the plateau (Rochers de Belles Ombres) above. There numerous couloirs that let you exit onto the plateau. To the right (east) grassy slopes lead down to the valley and you will catch an occasional glimpe of a second track, this largely seems to be used by mountaineering sheep in search of fresh grazing.

The cliffs to the left begin to get steeper after you pass a pair of large "gargoyle" shaped rocks. The path gets narrower and to the right are cliffs interspersed with occasional steep couloirs. You now follow a series of "bays", around half way the path descends to a plastic water but fed by a tiny spring. About 15 minutes further a final couloir heads up to the plateau. There is a blue mark on the rocks and afterwards the track is less clear - the sheep must give up at this point although you will see an occasional boot mark. Another 15-20 minutes walking and the path descends with a couloir and tracks on the right. Climbing up a bit you will see "Eau" (water) written on the rocks in faded yellow with a wooden trough below. A pipe channels water from the cliff to this trough.

The path exits a bit futher along onto the plateau but into a zone of potholes and brushwood which is difficult going. Instead turn back to the couloir, if you look closely you will see a faded yellow arrow with a hook painted on a large flat rock. Follow the tracks down the couloir. After a few meters you will pick up a fixed rope although the track is not particuarly steep. There are very occassional yellow marks. After about 50 meters the cliff opens out to the left (north), follow this around... after about 150 meters a blue arrow is painted on the cliff to your left. Follow a track down to the right (east) to a narrow chimney. This has a fixed rope although you may choose to use your own cord at this point. The chimney was humid and slippery when I passed in July 2007 after a dry period. After exiting the chimney follow the path straight down through another gentle cliff band then track to the right (south) via a track that climbs slightly. If you carry straight on at this point you will reach cliffs about 8 meters high which can only be descended with a rope. You will traverse back almost to the left of the original couloir by the water trough which you can find to the right. Descend through the woods on a steepish slope to join a forest road at 1340 meters. Follow for around 40 minutes to rejoin the path that leads from St Mary du Mont (les Pres) to Pre Orcel.

This is a long walk but the sangle[1] is not difficult. There is some risk of rockfall after the first water trough and an helmet is not stupid. It is worth taking a 20 meter loop of climbing rope and gloves. The fixed ropes were in good condition in July 2007 but it would be a shame to get stuck at the end. The climbing is not exposed and only the chimney could present some problems. Sure footing on the sangle is obviously required.

[1]Un sangle is a section of flattish land between cliffs. You will often find goat/sheep trails. They were originally used by hunters looking for chamois and later climbers to access the cliff routes above and below. It is a Chartreuse term, the normal French word is vire which I sometimes translate as loop.


Possible to exit onto the plateau de Belles Ombres to return via the Croix de l'Alpe. The easiest point would be the final couloir about 20 minutes before the descent into the valley. This is marked with a blue spot.

Mountain RangeChartreuse
SummitCroix de l'Alpe
Altitude1821 meters
MapsIGN TOP 25 3333 0T Chartreuse Nord
GPS Waypoint 
GPS RouteGoogle-Earth:Pres
MarkingsCairns, red spots
EquipmentGood walking boots, 20 meters of rope, optinally a helmet
Road AccessGrenoble -> Montalieu -> St Mary du Mont
Starting Altitude1405 (Pre Orcel) or St Mary du Mont (950m)
Ascent420 meters + 200m in the loop
Time1h30 for the loop, 30 minutes for the descent and 40 minutes to return to Pre Orcel
Guide BooksChartreuse Vercors, Pascal Sombardier, ISBN 2-7234-4106-7

Trip Report

28th July 2007

I'd climbed up the draille de Charmille? and traversed over to the col de Belles Ombres. This loop is one of the longest in the Chartreuse and follows a series of bowls. Each looks large but in reality only takes 5 to 10 minutes to traverse. There are fantastic views over the Alps and strange rock formations to contemplate. There are few marks but don't worry about missing the climb down, the water trough is very obvious and it really is a good 1h to 1h30 from the col de Belles Ombres.

The climb down to the forest road is reasonably easy except for the chimney which was wet and greasy with slippery footholds. It might be better to put your own rope in and descend with a harness, perhaps on the cliffs just to the right of the chimney. After the short scramble following the chimney make sure you follow the path to the right.

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