Mont Joigny and Mont Pellat
Starting point: le Grand Carroz Difficulty: 1 Ascent: 700 m Time: 4 hrs Quality: ***
This walk is a walk of superlatives - it passes through a pastoral paradise, traverses a superb ridge, and boasts some of the best views in the area. As quite a lot of it is in forest and away from the glare of the limestone cliffs, it is also particularly suitable for excessively hot days. It starts from le Grand Carroz, a tiny hamlet a little less than 3 km west of the Col du Granier, makes its way up Mont Joigny, and then follows the ridge overlooking Chambéry round to Mont Pellat, before descending via the Col des Fontanettes back to the start (map). The walk is mainly easy going. It has one minor scrambly descent and a couple of short sections with mild exposure, but that shouldn't be allowed to put anybody off.
Le Grand Carroz is approached by a narrow road leaving the D912 about a kilometre above Épernay. The hamlet is small, mainly consisting of traditional buildings, in an idyllic location. To the north it is surrounded by a wooded ridge which we will soon be walking around, and below the woods are hayfields sloping down towards the south with the view stretching as far as Chamechaude. To the east are impressive views of the north and west cliffs of Granier, with the scar of the January 2016 landslide standing out below the summit cross. There is limited parking at the road head (1070 m, grid ref. UTM 31T 725424 504045) at the top of the tarmac.
We first follow the yellow signposted Tour de Chartreuse to the east, descending into the valley, and crossing the small stream. The path then climbs up out of the valley through some lovely beech woods and meadows. Some 35 minutes from le Grand Carroz, it goes round a sharp bend at the top of a hayfield where there is a junction with a path signposted Col de Gorgeat going off to the left. We, however, continue towards Col du Granier, along a pleasant track that traverses the hill.
After a few minutes this enters an extensive meadow, and soon passes through a few ancient barns, the Granges de Joigny, some of which have been converted to basic housing. This is a wonderful spot with one of the most sublime views in Chartreuse, looking straight down the internal valley towards Chamechaude, and including Grande Sure, Grand Som, Dent de Crolles, Lances de Malissard, Le Truc, and Granier.
Continuing along the track, the path re-enters the forest, and passes a path signposted Épernay off to the right. Immediately after, a track heads uphill to the left signposted Mont Joigny, which is ours. It has a junction after a few minutes - we select the one going straight on, following the yellow waymarkings. Half an hour of steady ascent reaches the ridge at 1490 m where another signpost indicates Mont Joigny is to the left. From here, our route follows the ridge all way round the le Grand Carroz amphitheatre, and is magnificent walking every step of the way.
The path gently ascends through beech woods for a few minutes before the views start opening out towards Chambéry and the Bauges Massif. Some ten minutes are reaching the ridge, a small grassy promontory is reached, some 100 metres long. This is not yet the summit, but it is a good place for a second breakfast as it will probably be less busy than the true summit, and there is a superb view of Mont Blanc looming over the Bauges. The true summit is reached after a further five minutes or so, and is marked with a signpost. It has impressive views into the cirque below, where le Grand Carroz can be seen nestling within its sea of hayfields.
From the summit the path drops steeply through some small crags, reaching a col in the forest 15 minutes later. It then rises up gently to soon arrive at Pointe de la Gorgeat, a belvédère perched high on the northern most cliffs overlooking Chambéry and Lac d'Aiguebelette. Truely an impressive place. This is the north-east extremity of our walk, and we now follow the ridge west towards Mont Pellat. It immediately drops fairly steeply down to the col de la Drière 180 m below. At one point there is a short slither down some rocks and some mild exposure, but that is the nearest thing to any difficulty. Looking back, one can catch a view of the cliffs below Pointe de la Gorgeat, whilst in front are views of the equally impressive cliffs below Mont Pellat. On the way down we pass a path coming up from the left.
From the col the path works its way up through the wooded southern flanks of the hill back to the ridge. As with Mont Joigny there is a false grassy summit before the true summit is reached. This is the perfect place for a leisurely lunch on a sunny day with unbelievable views in all directions.
Beyond the summit, the path turns back towards the south along a narrow ridge overlooking the valley separating it from Mont Outhéran. This is a lovely section to walk, albeit with minor exposure for a couple of minutes. Unfortunately, this section is all too short. The path soon re-enters the beech woods, and descends gently to Col des Fontanettes, where our way to le Grand Carroz is signposted to the left. The path morphs into a track after 10 minutes, and then enters a meadow. When we came past in late June the grass was still uncut, and it was one of the most beautiful meadows we have ever seen, with an incredible diversity of flowers. Continuing through the meadow, we arrive back at the car some 30 minutes after leaving the col have experienced one of the finest walks in Chartreuse.