If you like a challenge, a thigh burner, a bit of a scramble and views to die for, this one’s for you.
The Roc d’Enfer is the skiing region in the hills above Saint Jean d’Aulps, but it also refers to the ridge that surrounds the beautiful alpine village of Graydon. The ridge links the summits of various cols and peaks and you can access it from a number of places. As I learnt today when I braved it for the first time (with two dogs) it’s a challenging, at times hair raising and very hands on experience. But wow - the views and sense of accomplishment you get from even doing a little bit of it more than makes up for it!
We climbed the Col De Graydon, which then merges into the Roc d’Enfer ridge. It’s a 2 and a half hour round trip starting out at the little church in the hamlet of Graydon, which is high above Essert Romand. You climb up behind the little church for a good hour and a half at a steady gradient before the difficulty increases and it becomes much more of a scramble. The path meanders through the ski resort and past the lifts, which form part of the Grand Terche ski area.
For the first part, the walk is quite thankless and quite sheltered but persevere, the views and terrain does improve. You eventually merge out of the sheltered path area to the very bottom of the ridge. You can just make out the path, which will take you up to the top of the Col. It zigzags across the ridge before stopping at a little dip. When you start out on this path it’s not really clear how steep it actually is, so be prepared. You will need to use your hands and if you come down this way it will be difficult - particularly on your knees. The views really start to come into their own at this point and you realise you are above the cloud level. We saw a Chamois (mountain sheep/goat/llama like thing) galloping across the rocky ascent, which was pretty special. Both dogs were tempted to chase it until they realised it was much more nimble and a lot faster than them!
Once this scramble is over, you emerge onto a tiny landing with a sign pointing you in the direction of the Roc D’enfer. It also leads you to the Graydon Summit. We persevered for a little while before deciding to turn back on ourselves. This was mainly because I wasn’t sure the dogs would cope with the descent as it continued to get trickier and more dangerous. We reached the base of the summit before turning back to come down the other side towards Graydon. The descent on this side was much more gentle on both humans and animals. The path winds around the side of the ridge before taking a sharp left into the hamlet again. We heard the definite sounds of birds of prey on our way down; I’d like to say it was an eagle, but can’t be sure! We arrived back at our car and according to my phone, had climbed to a whopping 1,992 metres.
If you fancy attempting the full walk along the Roc d’Enfer, you can start from a number of different places. The highest summit along this ridge is 2,243 metres but like we did, you can always do shorter walks. The full ridge walk will take over 6 hours to complete and like I said isn’t for the feint hearted. You can start at Bellevaux, near the Col de Jambaz. From here, you either go over the Col de Graydon or over the Col de Foron. You can do what we did and go from the Graydon hut or you can start at the Col de l’Ecrenaz and walk along the peaks including the Col de la Bass, the Col Ratti, La chaux de Vie and La Golette. You can also start by Le Foron. I’m told that’s a tricky walk with some slightly dodgy cables for support.
These are really testing hikes and should only really be attempted if you want a challenge and are fit enough to manage it. The Col de Graydon is definitely do-able but should you want to take it further and attempt the full ridge walk be prepared for a difficult day of hiking. I advise only taking your dog if you’re sure it can cope with complex climbs and very difficult descents. Both dogs with me were fine with me but at times it is slippy. It’s definitely a walk for fair weather and shouldn’t be attempted when there’s heavy rain or snow as the ground is already quite slippy and treacherous. If you do decide to take your dogs with you, take water for yourself and them as there are no water troughs along the way.
I have to say though for interest, excitement and adrenalin this is my favourite walk to date. The views across the Portes Du Soleil are spectacular, allowing you to see as far as Mont Blanc, Lake Geneva and all of the various surrounding resorts. I’ve come back today ready to go again, and this time tackle the full ridge!
Good luck hikers! let us know how you get on.
Please be safe and only attempt it if you feel ready and have decent equipment with you.