Ascent to the Font Turbat refuge via the Petit Vallon
All around you, the post-glacier landscape is unveiled with very little earth, no trees and smooth, seeping glacier rocks. The only vegetation is made up of moss, lichens and a few woody plants: you are walking through the tundra.
Abdelbaki Benyoub - Valbonnais forest keeper
18 points of interest
No sand or barren lands, the name of Desert comes from the word "essarter" which means to clear the land of forest in order to produce a clearing. Forest clearing was necessary for the implementation and the development of agriculture in the mountains... Nowadays, the Desert is one of the only hamlets at altitude which is inhabited all year round in spite of the harsh mountain climate.
The hayfields where the grass is mown have been improved over the generations by the extraction of stones which have then been stacked in piles which are known locally as “clapiers”. These piles of stones mark the boundaries between the crops and the flocks.
A bird that you hear but do not see, the Common Chiffchaff nicknamed the "écu counter”. Its song, which is very easy to identify, evokes the sound of gold coins falling one by one in to the cash register as they are counted. Green-brown and greyish on top, its feathers are off white underneath, beige on the chest with a barely visible pale brow.
- Geology and geography
The high valley of Bonne, or Font Turbat, is a typical glacial valley in the form of a trough with morainic bars marking the stages of the retreat of the glacier. The lower shelves or glacial shoulders are suspended above the trough 500 to 600 m in size of which the steep sides dominate the layers of scree and the alluvial fans (mass of debris transported by the water It finishes upstream by a vast cirque at the imposing foot of the rocky wall of theOlan (3 564 m), hemmed in at its foot by the Maye black glacier. At the time of the last glaciation of Würm, 10 000 years ago , the two glaciers of Font Turbat and Maye joined together and fed into a powerful glacial tongue in the Bonne valley. It formed the valley in to the shape of a basin by scraping and polishing rocky walls in the granite. The lowest moraines, masses of rocky debris transported by the glaciers are situated around Châtellerat cabin.
Cob web House Leek
Thick leaves organized in tight rosettes shoot up towards the sky twists of white hairs which are quite similar to the traps woven by certain spiders. Not less competitive than the rhododendrons, The Cobweb House Leek is adapted to resist drought. The main rosette and the smaller shoots well grouped together; make a real water reserve which is then marvelously stocked by the fleshy leaves... It also develops many kinds of hairs that collect the dew.
Nicknamed the rose of the devil, the rhododendron ferrugineum has the capacity of placing itself between the rocks and boulders where the soil is rare. It keeps its stiff leaves which are dark green and shiny and rust coloured underneath right through the winter. It gets its name from this rust colour. Every year, between the end of July and the beginning of August its branches are crowned with bouquets of flowers coloured rose and purple.
A big white butterfly with black and red markings is not shy; the Apollo is easy to see between the middle of June until the end of July... It lays its eggs on the White Stonecrop, a perennial plant with white flowers living on scree and gravel... The male Apollo is born before the female and waits patiently to procreate. It is to be noted that it benefits from national protection; its transport and destruction are forbidden.
Easier to observe than the Common Chiffchaff, the White-throated Dipper lives beside rivers and mountain torrents... A little red and grey bird, with a short tail, it has a fine beak, a white mark on the chin and on the chest. This astonishing sparrow has the particularity of being able to walk under the water against the current in search of food. It flattens itself down and grips on to the bottom with its claws, opens its eyes, which are protected from the flow by a fine membrane and spots worms, larvae, little crustaceans and fish.
Cascade de la Pisse
With its origin in the high crystalline ground, the torrent bounces down waterfalls and cascades until it meets the Pisse at a height of 40 m.
There are many Mountain Hares or Blue Hares that observe you; the opposite is rarely true... Brown in summer, white in winter, the Mountain Hare is present across the Alps. Like the European Hare from which it differs being smaller, with a white tail and shorter ears, It leaves Y shaped tracks in the snow due to the way it moves in little jumps (it brings its back legs in front of the front legs.). However, it is often its tracks and its little dry, round droppings that indicate its passage. Its large fluffy feet are like snowshoes enabling it to stay on the surface of the snow even when it is powdery.
Feeding principally on the seeds of the Alder, the Birch and conifers, the Eurasian Siskin only nests in conifer forests in the mountains of the Northern Alps during the reproduction period... The male, more colourful than the female, can be recognized from its bright green-yellow feathers its black forehead and its little white bib under the beak. It is in winter, that you can observe them, sometimes in big groups, descended from the mountains in search of food...
The Ring Ouzel is easy to identify: it endorses the black feathering of the blackbird, but is distinguished from it by the big white bib on the chest, the light borders of its wings and abdomen. Insects, grasshoppers, worms and berries make up its menu. This shy mountain blackbird, that flies fast, lives at the edge of forests of larch, Scots pines, Spruce and Swiss Pines pins at an altitude of between 1 000 to 2 500 m. Present in the mountainous massifs it nests in the lower branches or in the hollow trunk of a tree, a crack in the rock or building. Essentially a migrator, the Ring Ouzel hibernates in Spain or in Northern Africa. It comes back to the Alps from the month of March.
The Fox was originally called the goupil in French and this animal was the central character of the hugely famous “novel” written in the 12th century about a goupil called "Renart" (later “Renard”), who was, a clever knight tricking and making fun of the clergy and the powerful who were unable to deal with the people. Renart made fun of them and was sometimes cruel. He was so popular that his name became that of the animal species he portrayed. Another literary reference to this animal is by Jean de la Fontaine whose character « Maître Renard » features in twenty of his fables...
In 1908, Châtellerat pastoral cabin was hastily built by the community of Valjouffrey. Destroyed several times in avalanches, is still sheltered numerous mountaineers. It was rebuilt in 1921 in a less exposed place and already ideas about a « real » refuge were growing.
Font Turbat Refuge
During the summer of 1923, the guide Célestin Bernard took charge of the construction of the refuge at Font Turbat. Several great mountaineering names are associated with it like Guery, Ripert, Frendo, Fourastier, Boell, who came to explore the mountains at Valjouffrey. In 1934, Devies and Gervasutti traced a historic itinerary in the North-West face of the Pic de l'Olan. 22 years later, the direct Couzy-Desmaison (ED) was opened to the left of the previous one, surmounting the steepest part of the face. The construction of the refuge As it stands now dates from 1962. It was extended and renovated in 1996-1997.
Brown with relatively short ears, the Common Pipistrelle and the Soprano Pipistrelle fight over the title of the smallest bat in Europe... The Common Pipistrelle can be seen in very diverse environments even above an altitude of 2 000 m At the time of Jules Ferry, school books boasted about the merits of bats .In fact, insectivores, they consume every day a quarter to a third of their own body weight in mosquitoes and other insects.. They emit ultra-sounds which are inaudible to the human ear but detectable thanks to a captor. This technique enables them to orient themselves when moving about at night to capture their prey. They can often be seen around street lighting hunting the insects that have been attracted by the light.
Savi Pipistrelle Bat
With a small size, and a contrasted coat, an off white abdomen and a golden brown back, Savi’s Pipistrelle can be recognized by the black membranes, it’s rather pointed muzzle and at the end of its tail from which several vertebrae are visible by the uropatagium, a skin membrane situated between the two hind legs... With a calm nature, this bat is a rock species mainly from the South, but it can also reach the high mountains at an altitude of more than 3 000 m.
Pic de l'Olan
It was on the 29th June 1877 that Coolidge, with Christian Almer father and son, carried out the first ascent of the pic de l'Olan. On the 5th August 1980, Arthur Cust with Pierre Gaspard and Roderon opened the Northern ridge. At that time the bivouac was still obligatory at the bottom of the Bonne valley.
- Departure : Le Désert en Valjoufrey
- Arrival : Font Turbat refuge
- Towns crossed : Valjouffrey
In mountain pastures, protection dogs are there to protect the herds from predators (wolves, etc.).
When I hike I adapt my behavior by going around the herd and pausing for the dog to identify me.
Find out more about the actions to adopt with the article "Protection dogs: a context and actions to adopt".
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Maison du Parc du Valbonnais
Place du Docteur Eyraud, 38740 Entraigues
04 76 30 20 61
Reception, information, temporary exhibition room, reading room and video-projection on demand. Shop: products and works of the Park. Free admission. All animations of the Park are free unless otherwise stated.
Access and parking
From Entraigues take the D117 to Le Désert-en-Valjouffrey
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