This walks commences from a small alpine community and quickly enters a cool forest of mixed mountain trees. You will climb a rocky mountain path of thin soil, gaining height rapidly to emerge above the tree line upon the ridge of a large limestone massif with numerous outcrops of white rocks. The walk continues along the ridge for several hours before descending steeply through the same shady forest to return to the village.
You step out of the hotel to commence this walk through the clean ordered streets of Plan d'Aups Saint Baume. On leaving the village you are immediately immersed in the colours and smells of the alpine meadows of the L'Ubac estate. Soon the gradient increases and the path zig-zags as you ascend steadily through the cool, densely wooded Vallon de Betton. The vegetation thins and the outcrops of white stone increase as you approach the crest and you arrive on the service road for the communication facilities on the Pic de Bertange. The over whelming vista covers a huge swathe of Provence. You encounter ancient chapels, an abandoned hermitage and prehistoric caves as you return through the forest that provides welcome shade from the afternoon sun.
Always check the weather before setting off, and take heed of any paths that have been closed by the authorities.
Temperatures in Provence can soar, and you can't always rely on passing a water supply on your walk. Take at least 2 litres of water per person, perhaps even more on very hot days. Do not wait until you are thirsty to drink, and take regular sips as you go.
Tips and hints
There is no where to pick up food or drink along the way so a picnic and plenty of water is necesarry. You can ask you hotel to provide this (always ask upon check-in) or you can pick up supplies from the local bakery or supermarket before setting off.
Points of Interest
1) Shrines - The principle shrines of Ste Marie-Madeleine are in Provence, although modern historical opinion holds her to be a composite of several different Marys. The legend that she arrived near Arles, having been hounded from the Holy Land with Lazarus and other followers, had great local appeal in the Middle Ages. Her acclaimed conversion of Gaul to Christianity and subsequent self exile to a Provencal cave, or “baumo” in the local dialect, strengthened the connection. Throughout history the sacred mountain has had strong spiritual connotations: kings have walked the “Chemin de Roys”, newlyweds pose before the Chapelle de Parisiens and in France today pilgrims still travel to pay their respects at the Sainte's Sanctuary at the foot of the cliffs of the Massif de la Saint Baume.
2) Grotte Aux Oeufs - An interesting geological feature of this mountain chain is the Grotte Aux Oeufs. The naming of this cave has nebulous origins, some credit its renown to the discovery of dinosaur eggs, and others link its shape and form to ancient fertility rites. Either way, the walker needs to take a torch and treat it with respect.
3) Massif de Sainte Baume - The Massif de la Ste Baume is the highest and longest in Provence, 35 km overall. Its ridge line is 13.3 km in length with the Pic de Bertagne, 1042m, to the West and the Joug de l'Aigle, 1148m, to the East.
Book recommendations for this region:
EquipmentSturdy and comfortable walking boots or shoes are a must. You may like walking poles to assist with the descents.