Stage 06: From Nasbinals to St Chély d’Aubrac on GR65 path

Another day in Aubrac majesty

by Didier Heumann and Milena della Piazza

Aubrac is an absolute strangeness, grandiose and severe. The immense loneliness, the absence of landmarks make of this country a non-tourist place, one of those magic places which nurse our imagination. It is a country almost unreal, a country of which we do not know precisely what its magic is made of.  It is a vast plateau of schists and granites, covered here and there with basalt flows, a large ellipse 55 km long and 40 km wide, linked to the mountains of Margeride, surrounded by the often tumultuous waters of Truyère River and the quieter waters of Lot River.

The path heads always southwest in the bare steppe, until Aubrac village, where it leaves definitely the plateau. Today, you’ll be walking in Lozère department, almost to Aubrac village, then in Aveyron department on the downhill slopes of Aubrac Mounts.

Still another day to gaze at images of an almost barren country in gentle slopes, meadows, covered in spring of thousands of wild flowers in the plains, where other thousands of brown cows graze quietly. The air is pure and there are no trees to catch the eye or the blowing winds. Sometimes small forest patches appear amid endless pastures. Aubrac is a country for cattle, and men are almost absent. Aubrac is a bit like the Argentinean pampa, a “desert of herbs” as it has often been called.

Here, nothing or so little thing breaks monotony and uniformity. These vast solitudes, where the pilgrim walks for hours, perceiving in the distance only a rare tree or a frail bush, were formerly covered with vast forests. Only modest remnants remain. These high woods, forever disappeared, belonged to the hospital of Aubrac, who also managed the forests located above Aubrac and those below, to St Chély d’Aubrac, forests still present nowadays.

In the rounded hills, the moor sometimes replaces the pasture. Many blocks of granite are placed here and there, memories of a period when glaciers left traces of their passage. Aubrac means “Alto braco” (high plain). The same landscapes of pastures succeed one another, the hamlets are further spaced. The landscape is strewn with old “burons”, huts of solid volcanic stone, with sloping roofs, where, long ago, shepherds lived there to make cheese and protect themselves from the strong winds that blow here. In this ocean of greenery, the whims of the winds can become terrible, without a mountain curtain to curb their momentum. One of these winds is “Lo Biso”, the terrible kiss that comes from the North. Another is “Lo Traverso”, another northern wind that brings clouds. “Olto” (also called “The Autan”) comes from the South, a dry and violent wind. Sometimes another dry and hot wind, “Lo Souledre”, blows so violently.

Slope variations (+276 meters/-642 meters) are not too elevated today, yet the stage is rather tough. In the beginning of the stage, you’ll be climbing up, sometimes with efforts, to the top of an undulating plateau to reach 1324 meters. You’ll be walking on “drailles” (cattle pathways) in very large pastures, amidst stone walls and barbed wire. The country belongs to cows and pilgrims. It is jut fascinating. Sometimes small brooks appear here and there. Beyond Aubrac village, when the path leaves the plateau, the downhill slope is rather steep to reach, on highly stony paths, St Chely d’Aubrac. This descent can be a little “terrible” in bad weather. In these conditions, take the road that goes down to Chély-d’Aubrac.


Here is a stage almost exclusively on pathways, which is quite rare on St James’ track:

Paved road: 2.9 km
Pathways: 13.3 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