We posted a number of photos of the spectacular Martel walk along the floor of Gorges du Verdon last year (see that blog by clicking this link). Doing just a bit of it gave us a taste to do more. So when a friend of ours who likes walking came to stay, we took the opportunity to do just that!
The walk is named after Édouard-Alfred Martel, leader of the first party to go down the length of the gorge (as recently as 1905). It wasn’t until 1928 that the current path was built – it incorporates two tunnels (from an abandoned hydro-electric project) and a series of six ladders (a total of 252 steps!). If you do the whole length, it’s about 15 km – we only did half, but as we walked there and back, we still did about that distance.
Its a great walk, after all this is Europe’s deepest gorge, but a demanding one. Strictly speaking you need to park your car at one end and either take a bus to the other end and walk back, or walk it and get a bus or taxi back. Organising this has so far proved beyond our abilities. Two other features of the walk should be noted. The first is that it’s hot and dry. There is one point where you can drop down to the river and cool off, but even in September we found ourselves going through a lot of water.
The second feature is, as we have mentioned before, that the French concept of health and safety has only the faintest resemblance to the British one. So, quite suddenly, and without any warning, you find yourself traversing along a path less than a metre wide with a hundred metre drop on one side. It is not for the faint-hearted, those who suffer from vertigo or the chronically unfit.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that if you do have a problem at the bottom of the gorge, it’s not going to be an easy matter extracting you. The last two times we’ve been there the mountain rescue unit has been practicing dealing with accidents with a helicopter. One suspects they are a pretty regular occurrence. There is also now a very large population of vultures drifting lazily and contentedly around the gorge. We presume they dine off dead deer and boar, but we do wonder if, now and then, there isn’t a human element to their diet.
Anyway, some day before we are sentenced to zimmer frames we hope to get the logistics together and do the whole Martel Trail. It’s a great walk, and heartily recommended.