Hike on the karst of Mont Sainte Baume on the first clear day after a couple of summer storms; after a fine dawn with the birds singing, it was a joy to be hiking up the mountain path, butterflies fluttering purposefully amongst the fresh flowers,
Thrilling views both ways from the ridge of Mont Sainte Baume: the Mediterranean coastline far away south in the heat haze and inland to the north, the twisted folds of the various limestone ridges.
Hiking up from Plan d'Aups (686 m.) to the Col de Bertagne (967 m.) and onwards to the Pic de Bertagne (1041 m.), that gets called the “Everest of the Bouches du Rhône” both because of its resemblance to Everest when viewed from the south side and because it is the highest point in the Bouches du Rhône département. Then on to join the GR98 at the Col du Fauge (967 m.), I followed the GR98 for the eight or so km along the ridge to the Col du St. Pilon (955 m.); this was indeed the long hot hike that I had expected but there was just enough breeze to keep from getting baked. Partly a stomp on bare rock, this ridge exposes the contortions of the area’s geological past: some of the layers of limestone are vertical, some of the series of types of limestone are the wrong way up. And the ridge has a number of radio towers, domes and masts along the crest as well as the remains of farming endeavours.
Route back through the forest (L'Ubac) along the Route des Roys, which is waymarked with statues of medieval monarchs who had come on pilgrimage to this forest and the cave where Mary Magdalene is said to have sheltered. With its Christian name and various religious establishments on either side, le Mont Sainte Baume is still to some extent a holy mountain, which has perhaps contributed to the relatively good survival so far of its rich flora and fauna.
A previous hike in 2012: Mont Sainte Baume