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9,410 f
6,772 f
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near Les Mensals, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur (France)

The craggy summit of Tete de Gaulent (2867m) can easily be seen from the front of our house and I have been keen to make my way up it for some time now. I managed to tempt David Monteith, an Alpine Club member, who was staying with us to come along.

I wasn’t exactly sure of the approach, and was interested in trying to enchain the peak with a traverse of the ridge separating it from l’Aiguillas (2823m). The options were either to start from the Cabane de Tramouillon (1963m) on the south side approaching via the balcony called Grand Lauze and then heading straight up the east flank to the summit, or to come from the Lauzet (2072m) at the north west.

We took the latter option thinking it would give us a better view of the ridge. It was wise that we did as we could easily tell from this approach that the ridge was more committing than we were kitted out for and would have to wait for another day. We climbed the steep slopes called Charuis that brought us into a small hidden hanging valley, the vallon de Clauzis. The dramatic cliffs to our east would have been peppered with routes were they in the UK but here they are too far from road access to interest rock climbers.

We skirted around the south side of the summit to head up what I have previously noted as a grassy gully that would lead to the summit. It was a plausible ascent route, though lack of traffic meant that it had a lot of loose rock in it.

The summit was a fantastic panoramic viewpoint. It was very rocky with patches of snow in the north facing cracks between the rocks. We stayed for about half an hour to eat our lunch and drink in the breathtaking views.

For our descent we decided to attempt to head down the east ridge to the Grand Lauze before skirting round the south side of the mountain and then back up to the Col de Val Haute to bring us back to the car via the Vallon de Font Cailla. The initial descent to the Grand Lauze looked fine all the way but there were sections that felt a little steep and exposed. There was a line of cairns that kept letting us know that implausible though the next bit looked it was actually the right way. After the technical bit was over we managed to skirt round to the Col for a well earned brew stop without losing too much height.

The final descent back down the Font Cailla was very picturesque. The larch trees were starting to take on their autumnal colours and displayed a marvellous range of glowing colours from their summer greens right through to rusty reds. In among the forest, most of whose members looked around one to two hundred years old were a few old timers that had been around for a lot longer, judging by their size, I would place them in the seven hundred to one thousand years old range.

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