This very challenging route takes the hiker to the site of the Château du Diable and its remarkable caves and the Destel gorges, with their astonishing giant's kettles or cauldrons.
Nice sections with chains or ropes.
Calculated time is computed with the distance, the height difference, and an average speed of 2.2 mph. For an intermediate walker, this time includes small breaks.
On leaving Ollioules (RN8), head in the direction of Sainte-Anne d'Evenos, through the Ollioules Gorges, for 1 km. Park at the kennel club (small car park) on your left.
(D) You have to cross the Reppe (the small river behind the parapet) and get to the other side of the river in order to start your walk. In the summer you won't have any difficulty in crossing it. In winter, the Reppe is higher, but still accessible. To help you, there is a route across the Reppe 25 km downstream which will enable you to cross over easily. On arriving on the other bank, you need to head to the left back up the Reppe for a hundred metres or so until you arrive at a lime kiln.
Pass by it, keeping it on the right. Leave towards the north and go alongside the Reppe for 500 m (small path) up to the start of the Destel. Turn right in the Destrel riverbed and climb up it.
To locate the path that goes uphill on the right (1), you need to be very vigilant because it's not very obvious. If you see scree (originally from the heights of the Château du Diable) falling down into the Reppe, it's too late - you have already gone past the path and need to retrace your steps. See the start of the path on the attached photo (18960).
The path then climbs very steeply in a mix of rock/scree slopes. There are no coloured waymarkers, but lots of cairns border the route. Halfway up the slope, with a bit of observation work, you can see a stone archway (sometimes called the "Arche d'Alliance" (Alliance Archway) or "Portique du Château du Diable" (Porch of the Château du Diable")), a magnificent natural construction above the void. See photos (18944 and 18950).
To the right of the archway, at the bottom of the huge rock face, you can see the entrances (porches) of the 5 cavities and, specifically, the 2 main ones close together, which are the only accessible ones. The lowest one has a large rock in its porch. See photos (18948 and 18951).
Stay on the contour level (2) and first of all head to the left towards the caves which you can see on the wall on the left (yellow in colour with vertical black streaks), these are the Monier caves. The path leads up to the lower one. Without too much difficulty, you will reach the higher one via a rocky ledge where you need to use your hands. See photos (18943 and 18945).
Resume the same path, (2) taking it to the left and heading towards the "stack" on the left of the Arche d'Alliance. Use a first and then a second knotted rope to cross the rocky ledge and reach the start of the top of the archway.
Cross the archway carefully and head towards the lower entrance of the cave. Another knotted rope will help you to cross another rocky ledge, before reaching the porch, then, inside, a flat area which forms the bulk of the cave's volume.
The hike in all of the caves leads, first of all, inside the 1st cave on the edge of the porch of its second entrance (the highest of the 2 main entrances seen from above), then climbing further inside, you will discover a stunning inner courtyard with flying buttresses reinforcing the rocky outcrop within which the cave (we just came through) is housed, along with several flat levels. At the back on the right-hand side, you will see the 3 levels of the Grottes d'Amour (the Caves of Love).
The hike takes up the trail again at the back of the inner courtyard on the left, following the red waymarkers.
At the end of a very steep path, you will reach a very narrow gap and a shaft equipped with 2 ropes which will take you up to the top of the rocky ledge. See photos (18953 and 18954).
Progress through the shaft is very difficult and is reserved for seasoned rock climbers.
On arriving at the summit, we soon join the GR51 by following a series of cairns (there are no longer any coloured waymarkers).
Take the GR51 (waymarking in Red/White) on the left.
At 370 m you will reach a crossroads (3) where the GR51 takes a 90° turn to the right. However, don't take this turn, instead continue straight onwards for about a hundred metres.
A yellow waymarker and a small cairn indicate the direction to follow to the left, going downhill (4). See photo (18955).
The path is quite well signposted in yellow and with cairns or stones lying alongside the zigzag path. However, from time time, in the rockier sections, be careful not to lose the trail. Don't hesitate to go back on yourself if you no longer see any waymarkers for more than a minute.
A little before reaching the Destel riverbed, you will pass by the Fountain des Joncs, an old water point for livestock.
You then reach the Destel riverbed (5), which you follow down on the left, through its most amazing and fun sections. There are handrails and chains which help you to go over the biggest rocky ledges. The route goes through the giant's cauldrons over their potholes, for those filled in, and even through the bottoms of those that are empty.
The path then follows the Destel riverbed and joins the path heading to the Château du Diable(1).
Then, take the same path as the outward leg.
D/A : km 0 - alt. km 0
1 : km 0.77 - alt. km 0.77 - Destel gorges - On the outward leg, take the right
2 : km 1.18 - alt. km 1.18 - Arche d'Alliance - Path under the archway - on the outward leg, go st
3 : km 2.26 - alt. km 2.26 - Crossroads with the GR51 Croupatier - go straight
4 : km 2.54 - alt. km 2.54 - Crossroads with the GR51 Path Fountain des Joncs -
5 : km 3.05 - alt. km 3.05 - Gorges du Destel - Junction with the Destel riverbed - Take the left.
D/A : km 4.92 - alt. km 4.92
This hike is classified as "Very difficult" for two reasons:
- Firstly, the existence of "very steep passages"reserved for experienced hikers with climbing experience.
- Secondly, in many sections, you have to continue on when "finding the route is often hazardous on very steep slopes".
Knotted ropes are used at fixed positions for ascending the archway, the rocky ledge for reaching the lower porch of the caves of the Château du Diable and for inside the cave.
Ascending the shaft from the bottom of the caves must be done with belay equipment or at least 1 or 2 20cm straps for attaching on to the climbing pegs which can be used as additional grips. The 2 knotted ropes which are also on the fixed post are not sufficient.
"Note: If you want to avoid the shaft, you can either 1) leave the caves and take the steep path which climbs to the left, to the north (visible on the IGN map), crossing a rocky ledge with the help of a knotted rope at a fixed position, or 2) climb up another, easier, shaft outside on the right, to the south, which is also equipped with a knotted rope at a fixed position. Add 20 minutes to the hike time for these 2 alternatives".
Do not start the hike if it's raining, or even if it has rained recently (wet rocks make the Destel riverbed almost inaccessible because it becomes dangerous).
The time indicated includes several breaks for taking photos and detours via all the caves described, but also going down several sections in "running" mode.
There are no water points on this route, therefore you need to take a large quantity of water.
Hiking shoes are obligatory.
All the caves mentioned could act as shelter in the case of severe weather.
Please, as any respectable hiker, do not leave any waste either in the caves or on the paths. Or you may as well forget about this hike and this website! Yet again, I've returned with pockets full of rubbish!
We advise taking IGN maps with you on this walk. Click here to buy : 3346OT.
Hikideas and this author cannot be held responsible in the case of accidents or problems occuring on this walk.
Legend of the Château du Diable: http://www.ollioules.eu/histoire-et-lege...
The cavities mentioned are described perfectly on the technical website of the Var Departmental Caving Committee (Comité Départemental de Spéléologie du Var (CDSV)): http://www.fichiertopo.fr/. I encourage you to look at the information sheets on the cavities before going on the hike - it is for this reason that they are not described here.
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The GPS track and description are the property of the author.