Climbing the Morgon pike from the Boscodon Abbey

On Thursday, 14th, June, 2012, with Chty and Aurélie, we climbed the Morgon Pike from the Boscodon Abbey, close to the Serre Ponçon lake, in the Hautes Alpes, in the South-East of France.

Itinerary Grand Morgon
Distance 21km
Vertical gain +1380m
Vertical drop -1380m
Altitude min 1180m
Altitude max 2325m
Duration 8h15

After a quiet day off on Wednesday, we started again with a more sportive trend on Thursday. We woke up at 7am to depart at 8.22am from Châteauvieux, a bit late on schedule. We took the direction of the lake of Serre-Ponçon following the Durance river from Tallard. We went up in the Durance valley, Romolon, Espinasse, then finally faced the huge Serre-Ponçon dam, one of the biggest in Europe. 15 kilometers farther and we crossed the bridge in the middle of the lake to join Savine-le-Lac. A few more kilometers and we left the main road to Embrun on the right to climb to the Boscodon Abbey.

We parked close to the Abbey, at an altitude of 1200 meters (3930 feet) and started our trek. First we followed a road in the forest for about 4 kilometers (2½ miles) and joined then the start of the trek, per-say. In my memory that road was in very bad shape and not really usable with a normal car, but either I was wrong or they improved the road, because nearly everybody was parked at the end of this road, to start the real trek. That was one hour of walk, 4 kilometers and 300 meters of climbing (980 feet).

Anyway, that was a good opportunity for us to warm-up! We paused for 5 minutes and started again in the little path climbing in the forest, keeping us in the shadow of the larches. From time to time, we could get a glance to the Embrun valley. The path was good, no sign of snow, and we arrived around noon in the Morgon cirque, a superb grassland surrounded by the pikes. We did not hesitate a single second and decided to have our lunch there.

This cirque is 1900 meters high (6230 feet) and to rejoin it we had to cross a pass at 2030 meters (6660 feet).

A big grassland is in the middle of the cirque, surrounded by several pikes, the Morgon, several ridges and the Charance pike. A lot of trees were still visible although the cirque is quite high. Likely the cirque is a protected warmer area, we could not see any sign of snow except very small dots in areas always in the shadow.

There were far more people there than on the GR 54! We crossed a lot of couples and even a group of about 15 people, in their fifties or more, they passed us very rapidly when we were eating lunch.

The weather was superb, and we sunbathed for ten more minutes before leaving. 12.40pm, still 400 meters to climb, the steepest part.

We reached the ridge one hour later and at last got a view over the dam. The Écrins mountains rose in the North-East, the Céüze mountain was just in front of us. In the North, the Old Chaillol, the highest mountain of the area, was still covered with snow.

A last effort and we arrived at the top of the Morgon pike, 2325 meters high (7627 feet). The Ubaye valley was then visible in the South, the Serre Ponçon dam just in front of us and the Durance valley. We paused for a while, took some pictures, looked at the paragliders and skygliders above our heads. The view from there must have been incredible, as it was already awesome from where we were!

The group of elderly people was eating close to the top.

It was only 2pm so we decided to extend our trek and come back to the car from another path. We followed the ridges with a simple and clearly marked path, although some parts were a bit trickier, but nothing serious if you pay enough attention.

Oh, the group was just behind us!

We accelerated to go down in the cirque, they were hounding us! Close to a pond, we hesitated a bit and that was our error, they crossed through the grassland and passed us! We then needed to fight hard to keep up in the climb near the Charance pike, those crazy silly old people, they are overtrained!

Thanks God, they had a weakness, they need a special fuel, the génépi (a kind of strong liquor made with a small flower only thriving in the Alps over 2500 meters high (8200 feet)). They stopped to refill and we could pass them. The way from this side, close to the Charance pike, was longer than the path we took in the morning, and we had to walk for several kilometers before going down again.

We kept our fast pace, but the group was just behind us, and if we managed to join the Bear Fountain before them, they were only a few hundreds meters behind. But that was their stop, a bus was waiting for them there, whereas we still needed to walk for 4 or 5 kilometers (nearly 3 miles) before getting to our car.

That was a wonderful day and a amazing trek, really straight-forward. Starting from the Abbey made is a bit long, about 20 kilometers and 1400 meters to climb and go down (12½ miles and 4600 feet), but it could have been shortened if we had parked on one of the two closer parking lots, reducing the tour by 8 kilometers and 300 meters (5 miles and 980 feet). Moreover, it is nice to trek in a tour and not just go and come back the same way. The view from the Morgon pike was impressive and June was the perfect time to have a clear and Sunny day without suffering from the heat…

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