05: Yenne à St Genix-sur-Guiers

Incredible belvederes over the Rhône River

 

DIDIER HEUMANN, ANDREAS PAPASAVVAS

 

We divided the course into several sections to make it easier to see. For each section, the maps show the course, the slopes found on the course, and the state of the roads. 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:

https://fr.wikiloc.com/itineraires-randonnee/de-yenne-a-st-genix-sur-guiers-par-la-via-gebennensis-34098402

If you only want to consult lodging of the stage, go directly to the bottom of the page.

Today, in the late autumn, fog envelops the Rhône valley. Today’s stage is a very beautiful stage, one of the most beautiful of all the ways to Santiago, especially because of the incredible views over the Rhône River. In any case, it is undoubtedly the most beautiful of the Via Gebennensis, in good weather, in the large forest of Recoba above the Rhône valley, on a small mountain that separates the cul-de-sac of Yenne and the Rhône plain. At the top of the mountain passes the small pass of Mont Tournier, which cannot be said to be a very busy passageway, on a narrow road that twists and turns. Much of the stage, at least the first part, takes place mainly in the forest, with magical belvederes, where you can see the meanders of the Rhône River below in the plain. Obviously, you would have to go here on a sunny day, otherwise you will lose all of the magic of this stage. Alas, the pilgrim does not always have a choice!

But you shouldn’t be mistaken when you start from Yenne, because there are two tracks that lead to Mount Tournier. Do not take the variant that starts from the middle of the village. Take GR path, which leaves at the exit of the village, towards the cemetery. Warning! Take provisions with you. There are no grocery stores or bistros along the way, only a few water points. And even!

Difficulty of the course: Obviously, when you have a pass in front of you, slopes increase. It’s a difficult stage, let’s face it. Here slope variations (+992 meters/-987 meters) show an equivalence between climb and descent. You start from the edge of the Rhône and you arrive a stone’s throw from the Rhône River. But, in between, there is the pass. The path does not (but almost) run to the top of Mount Tournier, which is not, to tell the truth, a real mountain, but rather a big rounded hill. You will undoubtedly have the feeling that you have never faced a severe climb, because of the flats, even the descents. However, you start from an altitude of 230 meters to climb up to 850 meters. But over a long trip of over 12 kilometers, the effect wears off.

The descent is sometimes demanding, but very bearable. There are some flat passages to rebuild their joints and knees. But to complicate the end of the stage a bit, the track climbs sharply up the hill shortly before the end of the stage.

IIn this stage, a large part of the course takes place on forest paths. This is one of the rare stages of the Camino de Santiago where the tar is discreet:

  • Paved roads: 6.9 km
  • Dirt roads: 17.5 km

It is very difficult to specify with certainty the incline of the slopes, whatever the system you use.

For “real slope”, reread the mileage manual on the home page.

Section 1: On the first hairpin bends of the pass to the Pierre Châtel Belvedere.

 

 

General overview of the difficulties of the route: paradoxically, on this long climb to the pass, you will not always have the feeling of a steep slope. There are, however, some passages at well over 15%. You just have to consider the profile of the section to get an idea of the proposed difficulty.

 

From the center of Yenne, you have to cross the village going towards the Rhône River, until you reach the roundabout where the Flon stream empties.
There, a bridge spans the Rhône River, with the cemetery right next to it. With the fog today, you almost have to guess the road.
The road runs alongside the cemetery and after a bend turns into a pathway, which you’ll follow for more than 10 kilometers.
Quickly, GR path reaches the chapel of Notre Dame de la Montagne, imprisoned in the fog, with its statue embedded in the rock. The Protective Virgin of Yenne and the River was erected in 1860.
From here, and for most of the climb, limestone will outcrop in many places along a mostly narrow lane. The pathway here is very particular. Sometimes the slope is steep but short. Often there are flat passages, and even descents.
The fog barely allows you to guess a rough landscape with gaunt trees. But, you don’t expect a rainy day, and the fog should end well.

The first belvedere then appears: that of the tomb of Pierre Boisson. Born in 1819, he was a wealthy dentist but a freemason, he wanted to be buried in the cemetery of Yenne near the Madonna of the Mountain, but his request was refused. So, he built his own tomb on the other side of the valley. Today you will only see fog, with the tomb on the other side of the river.

A little up, on the rocks, between moor and forest, the pathway passes to the place called La Prison. But prison today is just fog. You have already gained more than 100 meters of altitude from Yenne in half an hour of walking. The Pierre Châtel belvedere is announced, 40 minutes from here.

Then the pathway continues to gain altitude, on a more reasonable slope. In this hazy today to be cut with a knife, luckily sometimes the shell is there to show you the way, because there are other tracks all over the mountain.
Further up, the slope is more marked for a short stretch. Stones abound on the way. Of course, the moraines carried material here during the glaciations of the Quaternary Era.
Here you’ll run through a landscape that is more of a mixture of moorland and scrub than real forest. You are very close to the cliff, but you never see it. For your happiness of the day, you feel that the fog will soon dissipate. At least in part. Then the smile is drawn a little more on the lips, in spite of the tough slope.
You then go through one of those fleeting, psychedelic moments. Every walker adores this blessed time when the sun plays with the fog.

Today, the sun is pointing its nose, when you arrive at the Pierre Châtel belvedere. From La Prison, you went from 345 meters to 480 meters above sea level.

The fortress of Pierre Châtel, on the other side of the Rhône, was the preferred second home of the Counts of Savoy. First built as a convent at the end of the XIVth century, the Carthusians were for a long time the guardians of Savoy. It was besieged by the Austrians in 1814, during the time of Napoleon, then lost its strategic role when Savoy was attached to France in 1860.

It’s even more spooky with the fog, and you go so far as to imagine enemies scaling the wall.

Section 2: Breathtaking views over the Rhône River.

 

 

General overview of the difficulties of the route: paradoxically, on this long climb to the pass, you will not always have the feeling of a steep slope. On this section, the path makes constant yoyos, up, down, with some passages at well over 15%. You just have to consider the profile of the section to get an idea of the proposed difficulty.

 

Yet on this side of the mountain, the fog is not yet willing to leave you for a better day.

But, just above, another belvedere, known as Rhône Belvédère is already in the sun.

It is there as an appetizer to make you salivate at what awaits you above. But let’s not be choosy. The panorama over the Rhône valley is already quite captivating.
The pathway continues to climb gently, set back from the cliff, over large limestone pebbles in a heathland of gaunt shrubs from which thick moss hangs.
Beyond a small clearing, the pathway starts again in the deciduous trees on a kind of small plateau. Here, the small plucked chestnuts begin to compete for space with other hardwoods, boxwoods and wild grasses.
The pathway runs up at the Chevru Cross, at an altitude of 545 meters. This 700 kg cross is magnificent. It dates from 1630, as evidenced by its inscription at the bottom of the barrel. It was part of a set of three crosses, object of devotion and pilgrimage. At the beginning of the XXth century, there was a pasture here. Times have changed. The forest and brush have invaded everything and devotions have diminished.

We don’t understand why the trees are so stunted here. It’s late fall and the hardwoods have lost their plumage, leaving bare trees and carpets of leaves. If in the lower part of the forest, it is often only brush and copses, as you slope up, small beeches appear, bower hedges among the pubescent oaks. But in this immense forest where deciduous trees dominate, you’ll see a mass of frail chestnut trees scattered in the middle of a few sorb trees, birches and maples. Here, the conifers are still minimal.

The pathway soon gets through a place known as Les Farnets.

Further ahead, the pathway then undulates gently on the carpets of leaves and the limestone under the chestnut trees.
Then, miracle! The Rhône River appears below in the valley. From here, the track will evolve for a while in a magical setting along the cliff of Recorba overlooking the Rhône River. How extraordinary and enjoyable is this feeling of being suspended above the abyss, between sky and water, with a plunging and circular view over the entire region.
The jogger who passes here comes there twice a week. He cannot do without this spectacle. Hypnotized, he said.
Sometimes the pathway leaves the Rhône River below to find it a little further. It’s magic around here.
The show ends when the pathway turns behind the cliff and returns to the forest. But, this is only a postponement.
There are a few pine trees here. And even without paying much attention, the trees have gained a little height.

Further afield, the pathway descends a little to reach the locality called Puits Bacchus in the middle of the forest, at an altitude of 550 meters. You did not gain 1 meter in altitude beyond Chevru Cross, the pathway having only waved. But, you didn’t see the time go by.

Section 3: : It’s even more beautiful at the Recoba Belvedere.

 

 

General overview of the difficulties of the route: : only the last slopes leading to the pass are really very steep, sometimes with almost 25% slope. You just have to consider the profile of the section to get an idea of the proposed difficulty.

 

Beyond Puits Bacchus, it’s a bit as if forests were changed. For the moment, they are no longer stunted shrubs and brushwood. The forest seems much more organized.

The pathway gets to a place known as Les Saradins. These signs are very useful, because in this forest there are many other paths that crisscross the mountain. Our direction is still St Maurice-de-Rotherens, on the Camino de Santiago.

Higher up, the pathway wanders a bit, among beeches, oaks and conifers, including pines and spruces. Here again appear in greater numbers the chestnut trees, which will not abandon you for days.
A large clearing then emerges in front of you.
The pathway reaches the Botozel hunter refuge from Loisieux, a small village below the forest.

Here there is a water point and you may have the privilege of entering it during hunting season. When speaking with them, they give the feeling that the forest is theirs, but that they are also eager to share it with onlookers who venture there. In the past, this region was occupied by islands of resistance fighters resisting Nazi Germany.

The pathway then enters the Loisieux hunting area, in the Glaize wood, where deciduous and coniferous trees coexist.
Here, they hunt deer, wild boar, and sometimes even chamois. In autumn the hunt is not open every day. The hunters here tell you that they pay close attention to passing hikers or mushroom pickers, in a very favorable forest. Fortunately, we shall say, because here they do not shoot blank!
The pathway will then take a little more altitude, more than 100 meters to find the Recorba Belvedere, but the steep slope is regular, under stripped beeches, chestnut trees and underbrush. Sometimes you watch to see a wild boar unhitch. But, there is not a single animal present here today, not even a bird.
Higher up, you catch your breath on a ledge in the tangle of chestnut trees.

The pathway then arrives at the Recorba Belvedere, at an altitude of 690 meters.

It’s the best. Beautiful, to say the least. It’s just exceptional here, above the vertical cliff just below.

From the belvedere, the view plunges to the bottom of the valley and extends so far that you would soon have the feeling of seeing Lyon at the far end of the horizon. You could stay here for hours admiring the Rhône River, which from here seems like a modest blue stream, 300 meters wide, twisting like a worm in the land. The only comparison is that of a big river like the Mississippi or the Amazon seen from an airplane window. Goodness, how that nature can be beautiful, when it is generous!

It is really only here that the most important slopes of the climb arrive, often at more than 25%, going from 690 meters of altitude at the belvedere to almost 850 meters, almost at the top of Mont Tournier. But it is not interminable.
The pebbles which scratch the soles are always present in large numbers. Sometimes the bed of fallen leaves at this time of year makes walking easier.

Section 4: Coming down from Mount Tournier.

 

General overview of the difficulties of the route: descent, sometimes with a flat area or even a climb. But, this is not an easy descent, with sometimes steep slopes.

 

The pathway does not (but almost) climb to the top of Mount Tournier, which is not, to tell the truth, a real mountain, but rather a big rounded hill. You will no doubt have the feeling that you have never faced a severe climb, because of the flat portions, even the descents. However, you started from an altitude of 230 meters to climb to 850 meters. But over a long trip of over 12 kilometers, the effect wears off.

Soon, the pathway begins flattening in the wood which has become denser.

Then it slopes down again a little into the wood. It wants you to take advantage of the slightest asperity and lookouts.
It descends until it reaches two localities, that of Sérus, then, a stone’s throw away, that of Pierre Vire, at an altitude of 820 meters. Here, the return to civilization is announced in less than an hour. Because it must be said, you will not meet a crowd on this axis. So much the better! Especially since there is no reason to get lost, the track is so well signposted.
A rock that turns is just another no for a loose stone. At the Pierre Vire site, the view overlooks the gentle hills overlooking St Genix-sur-Guiers. The Rhône River is heading for other skies. You will find it again a few days later, near Vienne when the river has finished his hook to the city of Lyon.
The pathway then wanders a bit on the top of the hill, below Mount Tournier.

Further ahead, the pathway descends to the locality named La Dronière. Here, you can reach the Mont Tournier pass. Two steps from here. The other route, which starts from the center of Yenne, runs over the pass. But, at the pass, there is nothing to see, only a small road where a vehicle rarely passes.

The pathway then descends on a fairly regular slope (up to 15% sometimes) out of the forest. On this side of the pass, the vegetation is similar to that observed on the way up to the pass. Slender beeches, stunted oaks and small chestnut trees still dominate the space, amidst rarer conifers.
If you had a light mist the whole way up, now the day has become brighter here. You can quickly see the clearings appear.
Further down, GR path hesitates a little between meadows and undergrowth, on a gentle slope.
When it leaves the forest, it finds a small road which crosses the hamlet of Le Borgey near the stone houses.
The road passes a little further on to the hamlet of La Mare, where the happiness of the sweet life breathes.

GR path then leaves in the meadows, then in the undergrowth to the very beautiful Croix des Rives.

A lane then climbs a little, gently sloping, in the forest of the Montagne Nattage. Today, the track still has difficulty leaving the woods, which often delights the pilgrim.
Shortly after, the pathway slopes down again, still in the forest.
Approaching St-Maurice de Rotherens, the slope is more severe and GR path reaches the top of the village on the tar.

Section 5: Continuous and demanding descent to the bottom of the valley.

 

General overview of the difficulties of the route: slopes of more than 15% abound on the route. You just have to consider the profile of the section to get an idea of the proposed difficulty.

You’ll learn here that you walk on the GR65 as well as on the GR9 tracks, and that you walked nearly 5 hours beyond Yenne.

AIn St-Maurice de Rotherens (250 inhabitants), there is the church, the city hall, a small museum dedicated to radio. But, there is no bakery.
Here, GR path slopes down below the village to join a small road. Be careful here, because GR9 path, which is shared with the GR65 path from Yenne, also passes here. And it is precisely here that the two routes separate. If you follow the road, you take GR9 path, which you should never do. To find GR65 track, you have to open your eyes, climb the road a few dozen meters and take the narrow lane behind the clump of trees. GR path will descend along a stream.
The pathway then plunges into the undergrowth of Sous La Roche, into the hornbeam sprouts, small chestnut trees and wild grasses. You may hear the murmur of the stream below. Here, the slope is irregular, often severe, more than 15%.
After a short break in the meadows, it leaves with the same frenzy under the deciduous trees.
Further down, the pathway comes out of the woods, but the slope does not diminish. On the horizon stands out the wide Rhône valley, which stretches from Chambéry to Lyon.
The pathway will descend into the meadows, almost until you reach the Pass of Mount Tournier road.
But since the Camino de Santiago avoids the roads, and there is a possible alternative, it will slop up slightly to the edge of the undergrowth.
It soon arrives in Malbuisson, a small hamlet nestled under the hill of Sous La Roche. Here lies a moor of dry lawns.

The country opens up a little more when you leave Malbuisson, which is only touched on.

Further down, St Genix is announced at 1h 50 from here. The next door, right?
The pathway descends under Malbuisson in the meadows towards Gresin. Here, in the past, there were vines and large chestnut trees. All this disappeared in favor of the meadows and some corn crops. In front of you stretches the Envers Coast, where the track will soon pass. You can also see on yours left the road that descends from Mount Tournier Pass.
Sloping down towards the church, you can see on your right two fortified farms, called here Grosses Maisons, that of La Tour, dating from the XVIth century, and that of the Maréchale. These bourgeois farms include many buildings.
The church, a little too bright, is of recent construction (XIXth century).
The nursery school dates from the same time, although it was later extended. Apparently, all the toddlers in the valley are having fun here. On the other hand, for those who thought they would find a picnic on the way, it was a failure. There is nothing to eat between Yenne and St Rotherens.
On the other hand, to quench your thirst, there is a water point at the Chasseurs refuge, in the toilets of St Maurice-de-Rotherens, here and just below Gresin.

Because on the road that slopes down below Gresin, you’ll find one of those magical stops that pilgrims love. Almost all pilgrims stop at these places, where you can jot down a few thoughts on the logbook, have a coffee, a syrup or a cold drink.

From here, a stage that has covered quite exceptional landscapes becomes a common stage, as you meet from time to time on the Camino de Santiago. Here GR path joins D916 road, which runs in the valley of the Côte Envers, and flattens on the paved road.
It gets to the place called Bordet, where it turns for Côte Envers.
A road then slopes gently, first through the fruit trees, then through the undergrowth towards a brook.

Section 6: The route returns to the Rhône plain.

 

General overview of the difficulties of the route : still just a small bump, ladies and gentlemen!

 

After passing Trison brook, the road slopes up the other side of the valley, through oaks and beeches. Here, the chestnut trees are starting to increase in numbers again.
The road climbs until you find the beautiful Côte Envers guest house, all in adobe.

Here, St Genix-sur-Guiers is announced at 1 hour walk and Pas de l’Âne at 15 minutes.

So, for nearly a kilometer, the road flattens at the edge of the woods, on the Côte Envers. Nature is quite bucolic around here, even if it is the road.
Shortly after, the road leaves again in the woods.

On the road, you will find a fork in the place called Pas de l’Ane. Here, GR path invites you to walk back into the woods. If you go there, don’t expect to find exceptional scenery above. But, if GR path passes here, it is because it allows you to reach the chapel of Pigneux above St Genix-sur-Guiers. So, depending on your state of fatigue, you may as well continue on the road which leads you directly to St Genix.

So, for the brave or for those who believe that one cannot deviate an inch from the track traced by the ancestors, which is never the case on any Camino de Santiago, the pathway attacks the climb in the woods.
On slopes between 10% and 15%, the pathway climbs into the forest under large deciduous trees and chestnut trees.

The climb is not eternal and, at the end of the woods, the pathway leads to a small plateau at the place called Le Vuillerot.

GR path then crosses a small plateau in the meadows.
At the end of the ridge, starts the descent towards the plain. Below, as mentioned above, the view over St Genix and the Rhône plain is not very exciting.
At the end of an undergrowth, GR path finds the tar at the entrance to the hamlet of La Tour. The descent is quite steep.
The road then crosses Pigneux before joining a departmental road which slopes down to St Genix.
The chapel of Pigneux is by the side of the road, next to the cemetery. Let us not be petty vis-à-vis the planners of the Camino de Santiago. This oratory is very beautiful and attracts many faithful. And in addition, it is open … It would have been dedicated in the VIIth century to The Virgin, in recognition of a victory over the Moors, but this is not certain. The chapel, in ruins at the end of the XVIIIth century, was subsequently enlarged, until a complete renovation in 2001.
The road then descends along the cemetery and arrives on the heights of the city.

St Genix-sur-Guiers (2,500 inhabitants) has a long history. Being ideally placed, it has known constant quarrels over the centuries between Savoy and Dauphinois. It was even, at one time, a fortified town with a castle and ramparts. It has lost its fortifications, with the exception of a gate and some vestiges of the ramparts.

It is located on the edge of Savoy, just before entering Isère, crossing the bridge over the Guiers River.
Its center, around the church, is still very well preserved. There are still beautiful stone or adobe houses there. St Genix cake is a well-known local specialty, created by the Labully family around 1860. This brioche is covered with sugar and decorated with pralines. Today you can also find meringues, made on the same principle.
Churches have followed one another here since the XI1th century, with a monastery. There is no trace of it left. The current church dates from 1861.

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