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Part 1: The observatory on the Mont Chiran

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the corresponding calibration file for OziExplorer, the track file for your GPS or the waypoint file for the GPS

The above map of the IGN isn't absolutely accurate. On tarmac precision is very good as you see on the track points. But once tarmac ends precision vanishes. Maybe it's for the trees covering my GPS reception but I doubt so. Anyway, you can't make mistakes.

Click here for downloading the waypoints.

The second tunnel of the Couloir SamsonThe road you must find turns off the main touristic road D952 (Moustiers St. Anne- Castellane, north of the Canyon) at the Belvedere du Point Sublime. This is a viewpoint with excellent sight on the Canyon du Verdon. It's normally very crowded and you may not notice the small tarmac road going off to Rougnon. If you miss it you will soon reach the first short tunnel with the turnoff down to the Couloir Samson.

Although this is not the object of this report I can only suggest you take an hour and walk through the first stretch. This walking trail has a series of loooong, dark tunnels helping you through the most impassable parts of the canyon. Bring your tochlamp. It CAN be done without a lamp as the ground is almost flat but it's quite an frightening experience. The longest tunnel is almost a kilometre long and has 2 sharp bends so you can't see the opposite end. I did it with an almost flat maglite and my black german shepherd who run in front of us and scared the shit out of other people.
Ha. This teaches them to stagger through dark tunnels without some light.
You should in any case bring some food and, most important, water. The Verdon is always near but the path runs often high on the sideslopes and climbing down the incline isn't easy. Most people turn around after the last tunnels when you have to climb over an terrible slippery rock, only helped by a loose rope.

But back to our business.

So you did turn left at the Belvedere mentioned earlier. Continue uphill until you meet this turnoff at point 051 (picture).

N:43°47,9856 S:6°23,4918

Turn off onto the small road to Les Subits and Les Chauvets.

At point 052 N43°49,0794 and S:6°20,8752 stay on the main road (right). At point 053 N43°49,091 and S6°20,663 go straight on the main road. At point 054 N43°50,425 S6°19,347 you come to a small chapel sitting to your right at Les Louches. Soon after this the tarmac ends (picture left).

Stay on the main track to the left. The sign informs you about the lack of tarmac and possible obstructions. However this road is passable even with 4x2's with some care.

Driving uphill leads you to the Col des Abbesses at point 055, N43°51,203 S6°17,838 (picture left). This marks also the beginning of the forested section run by the ONF where access off track is limited.

At N43°51,800 S 6°17,375 is a wide turnoff. Turn right onto the large track.

Go on through the forest on the main track.

At point 056 N43°52,425 S6°17,823 comes an unmarked track from the right. Turn sharply into this one and continue uphill. You are now on an old strategic road that leads to the observatory.

Continuing uphill brings you to this place (picture left at N43°52,164 S6°18,099). The road may be closed if you didn't arrange for an open gate. Refere to page one of this report for the procedure.

A word of warning: As it's an observatory I doubt that arrival after dark will be welcomed as the lights from the cars may ruin some hours of work. So act accordingly.

After the gate the track gets smaller and after a saddle a series of hairpins leads you up the mountain flank. Most can be handled in one turn by a 90 but a 130 has a harder time. Look at the large picture below which shows an 130 of the ONF on the way down at about half the descent. Watch out for crumbly ledges.

Just before the descent starts

A 130 crawls down

From top of Chiran you see the Lac de St. Croix in the distance

Last turning pointThe views will be more and more impressive until you reach the summit with the observatory. The picture left was taken just below the access gate to the observatory and you can see how far the landscape stretches below. This is also a place you often find observers from the ONF looking for forest fires.

Picture left and above: Point 057, N43°52,041 S6°18,980, elevation 1879m. This is the highest point you can reach without opening the gate.

Still not enough? Click here to continue on another track.