Text and pictures © 2007-2020 Guillaume Dargaud
Last updated on 2018/10/17
"If you can hit it while falling down, you can use it while climbing up." — Andy's Rule of thumb for climbing vegetation.
Left: Cloudy sunrise over the Devoluy range.
The Devoluy is a circular mountain range surrounding a plateau around the tiny city of St Disdier, about an hour south of Grenoble. Indeed it's kind of the backside of Oisans ! The mountains here can look impressive such as the Obiou whose headwalls is visible from very far, but most of the rock doesn't have a great reputation: the 24-pitch long Demaison route on the impressive Bure peak (2709m) is famous not really for its level of difficulty or its 'quality' but more for its routefinding and the fact it's the only thing that hasn't crumbled off the face of the mountain. Hell, even the cablecar fell off in a dramatic accident only a few years back ! Although that wasn't caused by poor rock but by poor engineering. Of course there are exception and the site of Les Gillardes has excellent long routes.
Above: Sunset over the Devoluy range as seen from Mt Aiguille a good 25km away. From left to right: the Obiou (2790m), the Grand Ferrand (2759m), the peak of Bure farther in the background. The two pyramids on the right are not technically part of the Devoluy but closer: the Aup summit and the Rognon.
Left: Backcountry skiing above Lus-la-Croix-Haute on a very windy day with precious little snow.
Right: View of some minor summits of the Devoluy piercing the clouds.
Left: The Obiou (2790m), as seen from La Mure, is a good looking but evil summit north of the Devoluy. Evil because it hopelessly attracts any climber who has seen it, but its rock is rotten and its snows are steep and cut by a maze of numerous vertical cliffs. No ski route up it is considered any less than extreme.
Above: The Rocher Rond and the Tete de Vachere seen from near the Charnier pass, on the way up from La Jarjatte.
Above: As seen from the Charnier Pass: the Tete de Vallon Pierra (left) and the Grand Ferrand.
Above: The Charnier pass (left), under the Rocher Rond, is taken on the way up. On the way down the pass on the right of the image provides a faster (and much steeper) way down.
Left: The crux of the Grand Ferrand is a 10m high rock cliff with only a narrow snow passage in the middle. It was no more than a meter large, way too narrow to ski it normally, so it basically had to be taken straight down, then hoping to slow somehow. Yup, as you can guess from his position, this guy fell off. This spot is not too exposed but you have a good 300m of 40° underneath.
Right: Reaching the summit of the Grand Ferrand, with the classic Bure peak in the background.
Above: View from the summit of Grand Ferrand: the Agniere valley, the Bure Peak, Rocher Rond, Charnier Pass, Tete de Vachere (background), Tete de Vallon Pierra, and the Jarjatte valley.
Left: Skiing down the upper slope of the Grand Ferrand, above the cliff.
Right: Tete de Vallon Pierra, with skiers on its summit.
Left: The Grand Ferrand seen from Vallon Pierra.
Left: The Gillardes. The climb 'Sous les griffes de Lucifer' starts from the top of the scree slope, right from the middle, stays on the grey rock left of the big orange overhang, and then right of the middle orange broken rock. It's a lot longer than it appears: about 400 meters.
Right: The first few pitches of 'Sous les griffes de Lucifer' are a bit touchy: quite a bit of moving rock while still pretty sustained and edgy. A lot of attention required.
Left: Higher up the rock structure changes, it turns to flint slab. Sharp on the finger skins and shoe tips, but it's also very hard rock.
Right: The left profile of the Pic de Bure visible below the cloud. 24 pitches await there, one of the 2 longest routes in the Dauphiné.
Left: On the upper flint slabs of Lucifer. The Souloise pass is visible far below.
Right: Next to last pitch of Lucifer. It's probably the Taillefer visible behind.
Right: Small climber profiles on a route farther east on the Gillardes.
Above: A view on Mt Obiou from the summit of the Gillardes. At 2790m, the Obiou is the highest summit of the Devoluy. Although (because ?) it looks great in pictures, it has no easy ski or trek access and the rock up it is not worth the few present climbs. The profile of Bure peak is visible on the left, below the thick clouds.
Left: There's free camping below the cliff, just next to the road. Nice.
Right: Another long route on the Gillardes, just before I break off a hold while clipping the last bolt on the pitch, ensuring a 10+ meters flight. One bolt every 4~5 meters plus plenty of slack after 35 meters of climbing ensures I had time to remember my cartoon classics.
Left: Behind the Gillarde and visible from its summit is the ridge of the Gicon with 2 sport climbing spots and one long classic, this one.
Right: The entire route is on excellent flint slab, but I found the 3rd pitch really heinous. It's given as 7b/6b/A0. I don't know where they found this 6b/A0 but I must say that I had a real hard time on it, twice pulling myself up by grabbing a tiny hole with the nut tool...
Left: The upper part of the route is a bit contrived to avoid easier terrain but still has some interesting sections.
Right: Jenny with the sun in the eyes.
Right: Summit of the Pierroux with the Bure Peak in the background.
Left: View on the Gicons.
Right: Climbing on the Pierroux, with the Obiou in the back.
Left: Mt Obiou (2790m).
Left: The millennia-old chuch of Mère-Eglise.
Right: A not-so-old cross facing the Obiou.
Above: Panorama taken at the base of the Gicon. From left to right: pic de Bure (almost lost in the white clouds), the Festre pass in the back, the village of St Disdier, Mt Obiou and the summit of the Gillardes (backside of the cliff).
Right: The Bure peak, with the profile of the famous Desmaison (RIP 2008) route on the left. That's on the to-do list.
Right: Hike up the Obiou via the normal (and contorted) route in summer. It goes up the grass ridge, then traverses towards the pass, then around the back of the summit.
Left: The Obiou in winter: skiable but not easy way up, and especially no safe way up !
Right: Collet Merlant, above Festre pass.
Left: The Bure peak visible behind the wind-hardened slopes of Mt Chauvet.
Right: Jenny skiing down the Merlant.
Left: The inviting slopes of the Rama. While we wait for the snow down the Merlant to transform, I go up it and the snow is pitch perfect when I go down in one of my fastest ride ever on a 45deg slope.
Above: Panorama from the summit of the Rama: the Grand Ferrand on the left (with its access and descent couloirs from the Jarjatte) and the Bure peak on the right (on the To-Do list).
Right: Summit of a mountain without any trail leading to it...
I get lost doing a tour in mountain bike in the south Devoluy without a map. 500m carrying the bike up a mountain hoping to find a trail leading down from the summit without luck. Then carrying the bike 500m down the other side to a pass hoping to find a trail at the pass without any more luck...
Right: Long flat traverse.
Left: Lots of late snow this year, even if Jenny prefers to walk on the grass, with the Obiou behind.
Right: Arrival on the summit of the Senepy with some spots of sunset on the southern part of the Taillefer.
One of the great things about Grenoble is the proximity to the mountains: at 4pm you are still at work, and 2 hours later you are standing on a summit, skis at your feet, looking at the sunset over the mountains. Anyways, that was the idea with the Senepy, a minor summit located between the Devoluy, Vercors and Taillefer ranges. Unfortunately the bottom part took a while, it got cloudy, and the flat summit wasn't the best for taking pictures.
Above: Most of the Devoluy is visible here, with the Obiou dominating the middle.