In the majesty of Aubrac
Aubrac is on the menu for today. How can we resist the fascination of the Aubrac? For over a thousand years, a real myth has been created on the basis of stories of Middle Ages “pilgrims” assailed by snow squalls, attacked or even eaten by wolves. When asked about the most significant step of the St James’s track in France, pilgrim today will mention Aubrac, almost certainly. The irresistible appeal of this country will strike anyone who crosses its endless prairies.
The path heads southwest in the naked steppe, exclusively in the department of Lozere. It crosses A75 freeway, The Meridian, probably the most beautiful highway in the country (for free, in addition!), which connects Clermont-Ferrand in the North to Montpellier in the South. The track runs on 26 kilometres through a large part of Aubrac plateau.
Aubrac is a plateau of altitude, a grassy steppe on the western edge of Lozère. The volcanic eruptions of the late Tertiary era have shaped green heaths with sometimes eroded granite boulders among livestock. It is the land of silence. It is also the country of « burons », huts with shingle roofs, reminiscent of the old times when shepherds took refuge during periods of summer and transhumance.
In this landscape of moors and meadows, the eye looks deeper over the hills. The landscape might seem monotonous from the first point of view. It is not so. The slight reliefs and the changing light constantly change the landscape. The lack of forests makes it an open place where the view embraces the 360-degree horizon. Groves, granite boulders, streams, isolated farms and burons are the only landmarks. Aubrac concentrates the essence of the characteristics sought by pilgrims and walkers: the calm, the silence, the omnipresence of pastures and cattle. It is almost entirely devoid of contemporary references to society. There are very few power lines, pylons, signs or roads. Villages and hamlets are parcelled out. Modern houses do not grow here.
The stage is easy, without difficulty, but running rarely flat, on an undulating plateau over 1’000 meters, in a desolate but magnificent landscape, with weak differences of height (+513 meters/-381mters). You’ll be walking in an almost endless country, never monotonous, where small streams meander without specific destination.
|In this beautiful country, fortunately, pathways outnumber paved roads:
Paved road: 11.7 km
We divided the course into several sections to make it easier to see. For each section, the maps show the course, the slopes found on the course, and the state of the roads.
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.
In the text, lodging on the course is mentioned, without great details. You’ll find details about housing at the end of the course. 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: