Stage 08: From Espalion to Golinhac

Good morning Mister President

by Didier Heumann and Milena della Piazza

The motivations of the pilgrims diverge. Some walk with their heads down, anxious to know where to set foot on often difficult paths. Others walk with their heads high, sensitive to the charm or the banality of landscapes, ravishing in front of the flowers that nature offers along the paths. Actually, the pilgrim walks all day in quite diverse areas.

You are today in Upper Rouergue, in the north of Aveyron, where Lot River, the central axis, has dug narrow gorges, which sometimes open into large basins. Lot River flows, overhung by high plateaus sometimes schistose, sometimes volcanic, sometimes limestone. A mosaic of cultivated plots alternates with pastures. But on the northern slopes, it is often the forests of oaks and old chestnut trees that dominate. When you’ll’ observe the river the Lot, you get sometimes the feeling that the water is not moving.

Today, we are still in Aveyron and we are getting closer to Conques. This stage is a beautiful stage, a real concentrate of botany for the knowledge of trees, especially if you have the chance to walk here during a nice day. In rainy weather, beautiful landscapes, alas, often fade.





Since the route crosses quite diverse regions, let’s say a word here about the geological peculiarities of the region.

So far, we have crossed volcanic basaltic soils and rocks in Velay region, then granite in Margeride. Aubrac plateau is already more complex. The base is granite, but the surface is rather basalt. Aubrac is made of a relatively old volcanic massif compared to the great volcanoes of Auvergne, which are much more recent. But here, unlike in Auvergne, the lava flows broke out and the volcanoes disappeared, decimated by erosions. Yet, the glaciers also came here, allowing the formation of moraines, deposits of alluvium or the presence of erratic granite blocks that you’ll see often on Aubrac plateau.In geology, it is almost always so. Under pressure, the granite is transformed into so-called metamorphic rocks, which are often shales or gneisses. Thus, a portion of the Aubrac granitic basement has transformed into this type of rock. This is seen at the exit of Aubrac, in this region which descends from St Chély towards Espalion, in the country where the boraldes, small torrents or rivers, have cut the shales and the gneisses. Further downstream, near Espalion and Estaing, in Lot Valley, you’ll walk near tender rocks, namely sandstones and limestones, which are marine deposits, when the sea arrived here, well after the granitic burst of the mountains.

Here are the main rocks that you are called to meet in the next few days. Exploring them along the track may give the curious a certain amount of emotion.

In today’s walk, you’re heading north for the first time. If you plan to get to Espeyrac, there are two ways to reach the village. From Estaing, you can follow GR6 or GR65 paths, which join in Champagnac, shortly before Espeyrac. If you don’t choose GR6 pathway, what most pilgrims do, you will probably stop at Golinhac, as the stage is long to go to Espeyrac. Alternatively, you can stop on GR6 path at Campuac before Champagnac..

Slope variations today (+854 meters /-520 meters) indicate a rather difficult stage. It is really a leg-breaking step today, whatever variant you choose! Obviously, it is not insurmountable, but the road runs up and down all day. There is for example here after Bessuéjouls, a climb of 38% incline on less than 1 kilometer. And even, along Lot River, on the GR path, it’s far from flat. And what about this never-ending uphill to Golinhac? The descent to Estaing can also be tough in rainy weather.


Long live the paved road! One possibility to limit the damage is to take GR6 path from Estaing:

Paved road: 17.3 km
Pathways: 9.4 km

Sometimes, for reasons of logistics or housing possibilities, these stages mix routes operated on different days, having passed several times on Via Podiensis. From then on, the skies, the rain, or the seasons can vary. But, generally this is not the case, and in fact this does not change the description of the course.

To help you recognize trees, refer to the Botanical Summary in the general introduction to the track (in the menu in French, to be developed in English).

It is very difficult to specify with certainty the incline of the slopes, whatever the system you use. GPS watches, whether measuring barometric pressure or altimetry, are hardly more convincing than estimates based on mapped profiles.

There are very few sites on the Internet that can be used to estimate slopes from maps (up to 3). Since these programs are based on an approximation and an average around the desired point, there can be large variations from one software to another, depending on the state of the art or the variation between two points (for example a hole followed by a bump very close). Do you want an example? On the GR36 along the coast of Brittany, the altitude is rarely more than 50 meters above the sea. But the path only goes up and down. For a course of about twenty kilometres, a software will give you 800 meters of elevation gain, another 300 meters. Who says true? For having made the course several times, the legs say that the difference in altitude is closer to 800 meters! So how to proceed? We can rely on software, but, we must be careful, ignore slopes given, but only use altitudes. From there, it is only elementary mathematics to deduce the incline, considering the altitude and the distance travelled between two points whose altitude is known. It is this way of doing things that has been used in this site. Moreover, in retrospect, when one makes “in real” the course estimated on cartography, one notes that this way of doing is quite close to the truth of the ground. When one walks often, one has quite quickly the degree of slope in the eye.

We divided the course into sections to make it easier to follow. For each section, the maps give the route, the slopes found on the path and the state of the GR track. The courses were drawn on the “Wikilocs” platform. Today, it is no longer necessary to walk around with detailed maps in your pocket or bag. If you have a mobile phone or tablet, you can easily follow routes live. For this stage, here is the link:

Click here to start the stage on the first section. Avant

If you are not interested in the course, and you only require details information about lodging, you get enter this item.

Click here for details of lodgings. Avant