Flashback. October 9, this is my last week-end in France before long. My dad and I have decided to climb the Dent de Crolles, an imposing mountain overlooking the Grésivaudan valley, not far from Grenoble. As a matter of fact, it’s right above the Plateau des Petites Roches, and its funicular…
09.00, the car’s thermometer reads 3ºC. Quickly, we get out of the car. Click, the bag is closed, clac, the camera is set at my side, we are ready.
Our path leads us along the Sensitive Area of the Col du Coq (Rooster’s pass, litterally), known for harboring Black grouses (Tetrao tetrix), so I want to be on the look-out. Soon, though, I realize that there are so many people in the mountains, on this Sunday morning, that the grouses have probably retreated to their most secret havens.
The sky is blue. Well, above us it’s blue, but above the valley, to the south, we can see nothing but a wall of clouds. We hope that the view agrees to improve later. So we climb towards the Col des Ayes. In the air, pipits take this corridor to migrate south, fleeing the cold. At the first junction, we take right, then right again, towards the Pas de l’Oeille (not the same as last time though!). In a coniferous tree, I notice a couple of yellow-greenish birds. “Dad, stop, I think that’s a lifer”. I open my book to check, but there are indeed some Citril finches (Carduelis citrinella) out there! The grey necklace is obvious.
A pretty sight, but that is nothing compared to what awaits us at the next turn of the path: many, many more of these beautiful finches. How many are they, 50? 100? 200? I don’t know, but it is awesome to see them feed on the ground or in the low bushes scattered in the slope. I show them to my dad, and also to another hiker that came after us.
I should probably take my telelens out of the bag, but the light is poor. The sky is still blue above our heads, but the clouds in the valley obstruct the light of the sun. This situation did not improve at all during the ascent, and only at the top, while we were having a well deserved picnic, did the sun pierce the veil.
After 1h40 of walk (and 40min of standing, watching birds or taking pictures of the breathtaking scenery), we arrive at the Dent de Crolles. Surprise, the grass is encased in frost! The night must have been cold 😀
We go down to the pass on another trail, passing through the Trou du Glaz, an impressive crack in the rock that barely leaves enough room for one man to climb (or climb down). I’m glad my bag is not too large, otherwise I would stay stuck there. The descent is rather perilous, especially since years of passage have polished the rocks to a point were it’s very possible to skid and fall down in the abyss. Obviously I have to store my camera safely inside my bag, to my dismay.
In the forest below, we see Ring ouzels (Turdus torquatus) and Robins (Erithacus rubecula), but the skies belong to the Alpine choughs (Pyrrhocorax graculus).
We were among the first ones to arrive in the morning, but when we reach the car park again, we see that it’s completely full now. Waking up early is often a good idea!