Running the Rue des Masques - Past Rivers, Castles & Waterfalls in Guillestre & Mont Dauphin

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Saturday 26 September 2015

Running the Rue des Masques - Past Rivers, Castles & Waterfalls in Guillestre & Mont Dauphin

It was soon after we first arrived on the farm outside of Guillestre that a walk up the gorge alongside the plateau of Mont Dauphin, carved by the river Guil, was suggested to us a nice afternoon stroll. So today, with fine weather and a desire to go for a jog, we decided to put on our fell running shoes and explore, heading up the gorge before looping back through the fort of Mont Dauphin and back down to the river Guil. What we discovered was a very beautiful and wild landscape right on our doorstep and just outside of Guillestre, with lots of pretty viewpoints and points of interest along the way as well.

Setting off we initially followed signs for the Rue des Masques, We later learned this path was so named for the narrow rock gorges the path passed through where people used to say they could see faces in the rock. Heading upwards, sometimes steeply, on tree lined dirt tracks the woods soon gave way to sheer cliff faces and narrow cuts through the rock, with steep chimneys of stone also jutting out of the ground. It was hard work, but the cool, fresh air in the shadow of the cliffs and glimpses of the view across the river Guil with a waterfall falling over the cliffs below was really exhilarating.

Emerging onto the top of the rocky plateau and above the trees and cliffs we were treated to a great view both along the Durance valley to the Ecrins National Park and also back in to the Queyras Regional Park behind us as well before we begin jogging once more down a narrow road to cross the river below.

Once across the river we joined another stony track back upwards, this time to the plateau of Mont Dauphin where we headed back towards to the Fortress that dominates the tip of the plateau. Once we reached the outskirts of the fort we decided to walk and take in the brilliant views of the river, mountains and valley and peruse the information boards telling the history and geology of the area. We learned, for example, how the glaciers carved flat valleys but that the narrow v-shaped valleys such as that separating the 2 plateaus our route visited was carved by the river itself and that many of the rock formations had local names, like the 'Hand of Titan' for the prominent rock tower just below. We even took some time to pick fresh hysope from the cliff edge so that we could dry the plants for tea, another thing we had learned from our kind hosts at the organic farm.

Heading on we paused briefly in the fort before leaving to descend along the 'discovery trail' that passed through a series of roped off areas which were home to a colony of marmots. We arrived shortly after a busload of visitors being guided through the colony and joined them in marmot spotting among the rocks and shrubs beneath the fortress walls.

After saying farewell to the marmots it was back to the riverside and the final stroll back along the water to reach our base back at the farm. Having started out not knowing what to expect, overall we'd been gone a little over 2 hours and during that time had enjoyed a really very diverse 'nature trail' and one we'd really like to visit again.

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