A fine, challenging circuit in rocky terrain. A few technical sections add spice to this route, as does the intriguing section passing through the two-ended cave on the Mont Menu. The Mont Menu ridge requires concentration and a sense of direction since the cairns are few and far between.
There is always a superb view in every direction: the Étang de Berre, the plain of the Crau, Aureille, the Alpilles, the Mont Ventoux, the Luberon and of course the cliffs of the Mont Menu.
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.
Park at the climbing school car park.
(D/A) Facing away from the cliff, join the road D17. Follow it to the right for 250 m.
(1) Take the path with white and red waymarks (the GR® 6) to the right for 2 km to reach an intersection beside a splendid vaulted sheiling and a long water trough for the livestock.
(2) Bear right up the track to the north, which is waymarked in blue, reaching a dry-stone wall after about 700 m. Take the path marked with cairns up to the right to reach Arpian's Cave, the small entrance to which is screened by the undergrowth.
(3) Return to the track and continue to the right, following the cairns and blue waymarks for about 400 m. It veers right and climbs to pass through the Barres Rouges rocks. Continue along the easy path for 400 m.
(4) The path with blue waymarks turns sharply right and leads back down into the Vallon des Glauges valley. It can provide a quick escape route in the event of bad weather.
On leaving the blue waymarks, head for the rocky ridge on the left, passing through at a cairn on a large rock.
Find a small path leading down gently through the scrub for 300 m to join the little track coming up from Aureille.
: It is possible to continue straight on following green waymarks up the scree and over a rocky outcrop to the false summit of the Opies.
(5) This track is not waymarked. It is steep and includes many small sections of scrambling. On approaching the summit, one encounters recent blue waymarks leading to the former watchtower.
(6) The watchtower of the Opies (Aupiho in Provençal) was built at the highest point of the Alpilles, at 498 m. This small square tower was constructed in 1923 and was later used by the German occupying forces during the Second World War. It was used as a fire watch post in the 1960s but was then abandoned because of its inaccessibility. There are a few rusty remains of the electricity line on the south-facing slope. May be used as a shelter. A superb view in every direction.
Start the descent heading east, then due south towards the valley separating the Opies from its false summit, which is less frequented and is marked by a little metal cross. A long valley between rock walls separates these two summits. Follow this cool, shady valley to the Vallon de Lègue, where there is a good path.
(7) Bear right on an easy descent to the bottom of the fertile valley known as the Vallon des Glauges. Cross the road and continue on the path opposite through the scrub.
(8) Take the narrow, steep path up through the scrub, due south towards the summit. Follow the red waymarks to reach the cliff face.
(9) The path enters and passes through a cave (torch recommended). The entrance is spacious, but the way out is narrow, making it necessary to take off one's rucksack and crawl the last part on all fours. Continue on the waymarked path to the summit of the Mont Menu, ignoring a path heading off left at a clearing.
(10) Continue to follow the cairns along the ridge towards the south, negotiating a few rocky sections.
Care is needed to avoid losing one's way; a GPS device would be useful.
(11) The rocky ridge is broken by a large valley. Bear left, then drop into the valley and climb up the other side, then head right following the cairns, which become less frequent.
To complete the circuit, pick your way down the many easy paths on the ridge leading to the climbing school, then across a little bridge over the stream to reach the car park (D/A).
D/A : km 0 - alt. 101m
1 : km 0.45 - alt. 105m - Red and white waymarks to the right
2 : km 2.23 - alt. 129m - Track to the right
3 : km 2.87 - alt. 228m - Arpian's cave
4 : km 3.71 - alt. 365m - Take the path left or continue straight up
5 : km 4.01 - alt. 343m - Junction with a track leading up to the summit
6 : km 4.35 - alt. 485m - Les Opies watchtower
7 : km 5.67 - alt. 185m - Vallon de Lègue, bear right
8 : km 7.22 - alt. 169m - Path to the right
9 : km 7.45 - alt. 224m - Path to the right
10 : km 7.69 - alt. 280m - Mont Menu
11 : km 8.7 - alt. 234m - Valley
D/A : km 10.22 - alt. 101m
Cap lamp not essential for the caves
Visorando and this author cannot be held responsible in the case of accidents or problems occuring on this walk.
Arpian is the name of the brave boy who first explored this cave
The narrow entrance leads to a small chamber followed by a narrow passage and a large chamber.
In 1979, an archaeological dig found pottery shards together with human bones dating from the Bronze Age (1800-700 BC). Today, the cave is one of the sites of special scientific interest designated by the Alpilles Regional Natural Park since it provides favourable conditions for bats to breed, hibernate and feed.
Access has been forbidden to preserve the bats, which have been a protected species since 10/7/1976. Unfortunately, the barrier at the entrance has been torn down. It should be remembered that it is harmful to disturb the bats, especially during hibernation (mid-November to mid-March) and in the breeding season from mid-May to mid-August. The females raise only one batling per year.
Bats live on insects and are in difficulty because of insecticides.
The cave at the climbing site is accessible but should not be attempted on the cliff side without safety gear.
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__Caution! Because of the nature of the rock (mollasse sandstone, and therefore friable) and the cliffs, parts of the site are dangerous.
A municipal order prohibiting access to these areas is currently in force. Take great care.__
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The GPS track and description are the property of the author.