Dance on a volcano – The Auvergne Monts Domes   13 comments

And so it begins…..

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Puy de Lassolas

Once again we were off on what has become our annual summer holiday trip to France. It was a similar trip to last year so if you want to get a feel for why we choose these long road trips then check out some of the posts from last year which will give you the flavour and how I plan and organise things. Also saves me having to write it out again! All the reports from last year are listed on my Family Trips page and I’ll cross link the relevant pages as I post this years

We’ve got the whole planning and journey thing down to a fine art now (checkout the Outward Journey post from last year) so after a long couple of days driving from Hereford via the Eurotunnel, a night in Boulogne and a day spent on the Motorway we found ourselves once again in Clermont Ferrand in the Auverge. The French leg of the drive started off wet with heavy rain in Boulogne but it had stopped within 30 minutes and by the time we reached Clermont the temperature was 30 degrees C.

As always after 2 days cocooned in the car we were ready for some proper holiday stuff so like the last 2 years we headed for the volcanos and cinder cones of the Monts Dome. Previously we’ve taken a walk up the stunning Puy de Pariou with its own crater. Whilst it’s a stunning walk we fancied a change and having checked the map out I found what looked like a nice half a day walk over a couple of mountains a bit further south. We parked up in the woods, packed the picnic and headed off under a cloudless blue sky and hot sun.

The first cinder cone is the Puy de la Vache and rather than a perfect cone the sides have collapsed to reveal what the inside looks like. After 10 minutes we came out into the open amidst a collection ragged volcanic rocks and red scree/soil.

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Volcano rock garden, Puy de la Vache

I informed the kids that we were in effect inside a volcano. Taking a slight liberty but near enough the truth for me.

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Layers of volcanic rock and soil

From there it was a very steep, stepped climb all the way to the top. As we climbed the expansive view opened out with distant views of the Monts du Cantal and Masif du Sancy and nearby the famous sentinel of the Puy de Dome.

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Monts du Cantal

All around are numerous small cinder cones all with their distinctive shape. Almost every one is swathed in trees so I was surprised to read that not all the trees are natural. The Count of Montlosier started planting trees in the early 19th century to show that trees could be grown on land thought of as useless (apparently he was thought a bit of an idiot for this but as you can see he was right).

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Surrounding tree-covered Puys

At the summit you can then walk around what remains of the rim of the crater and take in the views.

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Puy de Lassolas from Puy de la Vache

As we descended we discovered why everyone thought trees couldn’t grow here – the ground is astonishingly steep, loose and slippery, like walking on a pile of ball-bearings. We managed to get down to the col before the next climb without incident and worked our way up the equally steep and loose Puy de Lassolas. L was struggling in the hot sun so I introduced her to the art of steep climbs, just keep a slow methodical pace and keep going to the top, and it worked!

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Crater rim of Puy de Lassolas

The summit was superb with a well-formed crater rim perched over the steep slopes with stupendous views. It was just great to be out in the sun after such a long drive and after such dismal summer in the UK. It was the first day we’d spent in the hot sunshine since May. I’m not exactly a sun worshipper but there is nothing like feeling the warm sun on your back especially after 2 months of cloiud and rain. It was hot but with enough breeze to keep things pleasant and we engaged in our favourite pastime of an extensive fresh picnic lunch in the sun. Nothing beats a some fresh crusty french bread with cheese/ham and a collection of local fresh fruit. Heaven in a stripy coolbag/rucksack 🙂

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Puy de la Vache from Puy de Lassolas

The end of the crater rim was a perfect lunch stop and TBF in particular was happy to lay back and soak up the warm rays of the sun.

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TBF takes a nap

While we were there, a helicopter buzzed around us and appeared to be some form of civil rescue chopper. It hovered over the col we walked over for several minutes so it was possible that someone had slipped on the treacherous slopes and done themselves a nasty. We never did find out

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Civil Security chopper

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Adds to the view don’t you think?

Unfortunately we still had a few miles to drive later that day so we reluctantly headed down an even steeper and looser slope than the previous one after an engaging stroll around the rim, delaying as long as possible the inevitable climb back into the car

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Walking the rim

Every step was precarious and I was amazed we all got down without incident. Well nearly, I’d held L’s hand all the way down to make sure she stayed on her feet. As we approached the very last shallow downhill section to the grassy path at the bottom I let go and she slipped over almost instantly getting a nasty elbow graze for her trouble. Typical. As we approached the car park there were several more vehicles with the same markings as the helicopter but no sign of any casualties or activity, perhaps an exercise.

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Puy de Lassolas

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Meadows at the base

Time to move on. We headed further south to our hotel in La Canourgue ready for our next adventure with another kayak trip to the Tarn gorges

A fine walk that again tells me I should explore this area in greater depth but as with many of these places it’s uncertain if I ever will. Its a truly stunning area and relatively quiet and unspoilt. The clours are just breathtaking with the dark reds and browns of the rocks, the deep greens of the forests and the clear blue skies we’ve been lucky to see on all 3 days out here. There always seems to be an exceptional clarity to the air here. Like a wine glass you can ping and get a note. Check it out if you are down this way, you won’t be disappointed.

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13 responses to “Dance on a volcano – The Auvergne Monts Domes

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  1. Pretty sure we climbed these the first time we went to the Auvergne (we were camped nearby) and then walked through the woods below, the year after, when we did our long walk from Volvic to St. Flour. Great area. Would love to take the kids there for a walk one day. Did you try any Cantal cheese? (Auvergne cheeses are lovely).

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    • It’s great for the kids, easy walking and loads of interesting stuff to see. Great to tell them they are walking on volcanos as well. Didn’t try any local cheeses as we were literally just passing through but I do like Auvergne blue cheese that you can buy in the UK

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  2. What a beautiful spot!

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  3. Interesting landscape there, seems a very pleasant excursion and grand views. Perhaps the rim of the crater isn’t that obvious with all the surrounding trees.
    I’m often surprised by the tenacity of trees on seemingly impossible slopes, very precarious looking some of them.

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    • It’s one of the highlights of the trip, our stroll around here. All the hills sit on a high pastureland almost alpine-like and the walking is just superb. We only get time for a half a day walk though but some of the paths into the lesser known hills just beg to be walked. Words don’t do justice to just how loose the soil is and it’s amazing how these large trees hang on to the slope!

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  4. Particularly interesting as we’re thinking of ‘doing’ a few walking areas in France next summer. Looks well worth a stop!
    Was there a sulphur smell? We climbed Mt Lassen a few years ago in California, and it absolutely stank!

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    • I’d really love to explore further so I’d really recommend this area. I’ve not been there but the Monts du Cantal and Massif du Sancy are also eroded volcanos but much more mountain like with corries and ridges and look superb. Mark (Beating the Bounds) has walked more extensively in this area so has some tales to tell. The Massif Centrale in France is superb for these types of mountains and magnificent gorges further south.

      Alas while they are old cinder cones they are long extinct so no bubbling mud pools and sulphur smell. I love all that stuff and I’ve been to Lassen as well and had a great time. We went to Bumpass hot springs if I’ve got the name right, all boiling mud and steam and also climbed Lassen peak itself which is just dormant I think. Great area but my favourite was a place just outside Mammoth in the Sierra (can’t recall the name) where we swam in a sulphur smellling hot spring and could feel the water bubbling up between your toes. I’d love to see Iceland or Hawaii or New Zealand and see the volcanic stuff

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      • The Massif Central is another area we’re thinking of visiting. Maybe I’ll have to trawl through Mark’s blog and see if he’s got any posts about the region!
        We visited Bumpass as well and the summer after we saw lots of similar bubbling, sulphury stuff in Yellowstone. Iceland in particular would be on my wish list too! (I wouldn’t say no to Hawaii or New Zealand either 🙂 )

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        • I’ve driven through the Massif Central on my way to the Med and it’s a stunning journey. The only place I’ve explored is the Tarn Gorge which is awesome. My next post is about our day out there or you can check out last years visit if you go to my Family Trips page at the top and look for the post there. Give you a feel for what it’s like

          I’d forgotten about Yellowstone – best visit it before it explodes and causes the end of the world as we know it 🙂

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  5. No Auvergne posts I’m afraid Chrissie. TBH and I did a GR route through there one summer pre-kids and pre-blog. It’s a huge plateau with three ranges of mountains rising from it. The higher hills tend to be very busy, (much more so than the Lakes for instance) paradoxically, everywhere else the paths are virtually unused. I’d go back tomorrow.

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