One of my mountain-related objectives is to finish the list of high points in the 96 French departments and for this weekend I planned to knock off another maximum five of that list.
On Friday night, we drove to Oudrenne, where Catherine and the kids were going to spend the weekend with the in-laws. Therefore my services were no longer required and I took off early on Saturday morning. No too early, mind you, because my first destination of the day we only two hours away, the Grossman, high point of the Moselle department, and I did not want to arrive before sunrise. I therefore left at 7 and drove down to Metz before turning east towards the Vosges mountains. It was sunny as I approached the mountains, but once I reached a higher elevation it start snowing very hard. I pulled over at a rest stop and and had a hot chocolate while waiting for the weather to improve. It did so after about one hour and I quickly continued on my journee. I had a rough idea of where I want to start hiking, but I was still not sure which roads were paved, gravel or forest and considering the weather which roads I could access.
At 10:30 I arrived in the town of Oberhaslach, already 90 minutes behind schedule. I drove west on the departmental road 218 for another 4 kms before finding what I thought to be a good trailhead. It was a forest road, completely snowed in and therefore I parked in a nearby turn-out and quickly set off. According to my google map, a forest road would eventually lead me up to the saddle between the mountains Le Noll and my destination, Grossman. The forst road runs parallel to a little stream by the name of La Hasel through a forest of Niederhaslach. The trailhead is located at about 400 meters and the saddle at 937 meters. Only a little bit more than 500 meters in elevation should not be a problem or should it?
Well, the forest road was pretty icy. Even though it was not very steep, I almost slipped at every step. Eventually, the slippyness and the fast that the snow was becoming too deep and I put on the snow shoes. For a while I was following my progress on the map. Every curve and other features were clearly visible and I always know where I was and more importantly, how far away I was from my destination. But suddenly, the forest road curved to the right, even though it should have turned to the left. Shoot, I thought, what am I going to do now. I was not too far away from the summit, or so I thought, and if I would just go straight up the slope in front of me, I would eventually get there. At first I could make out another narrow path, or at least a treeless strip leading straight up the mountain, but that suddenly stopped and I found myself surrounded by trees and snowladen branches and brush everywhere. Bravo, I thought, but still managed to venture up another fifty meters where I arrived thankfully at another wider forest road. Having no idea about exactly where I was, I decided to follow the upward sloping direction. This turned out to be the right choice and after another 15 minutes I arrived at the Altmatt, the saddle at 937 meters. I was relieved that I was still on the right track, especially considering the fact that it had start snowing again. On my way up I had always been able to see the mountains to the east and south (the Rocher de Mutzig and Le Noll), and had even entertained the idea of tagging those two as well after my ascent of Grossman, but now I was just hurrying up to do the latter and then get out of there, before I could not find my snowshoe tracks anymore.
It only took me another 10 minutes before I arrived at what I thought to be the high point. A clearing in the forest and a nearby (unmarked) marker confirmed that I could not be too far away. Yet I went a bit further to where I thought the ground was still sloping up a bit. Another fifty meters north of the clearing I found numerous large boulders. I climbed the highest one and declared it the summit. This was not a certainty, but visibility was down to 20 meters and I decided to come back in the summer one day and confirm this. I therefore rejoiced a my having tagged another departmental highpoint and quickly retraced my steps in order to possibly have a shot at one more today, nearby Roc de Taurupt, high point of the Meurthe et Moselle department. However, when I arrived at the car, it was snowing cats and dogs (so to speak), and I left the Vosges mountains. I still had 3 hours of driving ahead of me and under the current weather conditions I thought it more prudent to concentrate on that then to maybe tag another summit.
Hence, I arrived at my Formula 1 (the queen of hotels) hotel at around 7pm. A strange experience, as I normally during these mountain trips arrive a a hotel a 11pm and leave again at 5am. I therefore had some time to check out nearby Geneva and eat a Doner Kepab at a downtown restaurant.
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This page was last updated: Feb 23, 2010