Hiking Volcanoes in Auvergne: My Experience

Posted on 17. Sep, 2011 by in Destinations, Europe Travel, France

Hiking a volcano wasn’t exactly part of my French tourism plan. Somehow my mind and body never got along very well, and anything that involves just the slightest amount of coordination is more often than not a very bad idea. Being outdoors and staying active, I enjoy - making a fool of myself by landing on my bottom most of the time, not so much (and that is why I opted for the relaxing trip while at TBU, instead of the adventure trips).

Chaîne des Puys, Auvergne, France, volcanoes, Puy-de-Dôme

Hiking the Chaîne des Puys in Auvergne by Pierre Soissons

But living in Clermont-Ferrand meant that I could not avoid the #1 activity: hiking the famous local volcanoes, most commonly known here as la Chaîne des Puys. Of course, they are not even remotely in competition with the Alps or other European mountains, but the Puy-de-Dôme, the highest volcano of the chain, is high enough to be quite a challenge for me (1500 meters to be exact). One fine Sunday I decided it was time to meet my demons, cross another item off my bucket list and get it over with - but maybe I should have thought it through beforehand…

The weather was gorgeous, if not highly hypocrite. I was so excited about the activity that I completely forgot the basic rule of “The Redhead’s Guide to Summer”: wear 1000SPF sunscreen. Not only did I feel my skin burn from the inside all the way up, but I also ended up looking like I was suffering an advanced stage of leprosy for the following two weeks while the skin of my upper body simply deserted. That was my first mistake.

But after almost an hour and a half, I had made my way up, out of breath and dehydrated, but content. I just hiked a freaking mountain! It was one of the hardest challenge my body had to face (yes, even harder than half an hour of Stairmaster) and I felt extremely proud of myself, especially since I had considered abdicating about 309 times. And as every hiker in the world will say: the views are always worth the effort. No matter how difficult the hike was, standing on top of a mountain is quite a special feeling. As much as I am afraid of heights on a ladder or a steep road, being this high was exhilarating and had nothing to do with the vertigo and sweaty hands I get when I am not on firm ground. How could I feel anything else than plain happinness looking at this?!

The view after hiking the Puy-de-Dôme

Soon came the time to get back to the car 1500m below. I quickly came to face with my second mistake: I was not wearing appropriate footwear. Most people had told me that it was a fairly easy hike, with large and somewhat moderate slopes. My cute city sandals were just fine to climb up, but quickly turned into a hazard going down, slipping with every step I took. At one point, I considered sitting in a fetal position and crying my eyes out until someone came to get me and carried me down (it did not happen). Most people get back at the base in a little over 25 minutes - it took me more than an hour.

But numbers don’t matter in the end. While I agree my first hiking experience was less than stellar on my part, I am fully aware that I will need better preparation next time. I look forward to do it again later this fall to enjoy the beautiful orange scenery (and my new hiking boots). For more information on holidays in Auvergne, make sure to consult Auvergne Tourism website.

Have you ever climbed a mountain? Do you enjoy hiking? What are your tips?


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18 Responses to “Hiking Volcanoes in Auvergne: My Experience”

  1. Stephanie

    17. Sep, 2011

    LOL Marie - I need to post on my fridge my list of things NEVER to forget: good shoes, sunglasses, sunscreen and things to TRY to remember: camera & binoculars. Good for you for going for it! Looks wonderful and your struggles were my giggles :-)

    Reply to this comment
    • Marie

      09. Nov, 2011

      Glad my misery could help you, haha. It was definitely worth it though :-)

      Reply to this comment
  2. Andrea

    17. Sep, 2011

    My favourite (and only, haha) mountain climb was actually a volcano as well: Volcan Villarica in Chile. I’m not a big sports fan either but I do like hiking and it’s always extra special when that hiking involves such incredible formations like volcanoes.

    Reply to this comment
    • Marie

      09. Nov, 2011

      Hiking is a great way to discover a region, and for cheap! I am definitely a new fan - although I don’t see Chilean volcanoes in a near future for me! :-P

      Reply to this comment
  3. Michael

    18. Sep, 2011

    Bravo, Marie. And didn’t it feel good afterwards, albeit with some sore muscles? The views were certainly worth the climb up. Hope that awakened some liking for hiking, easy hiking.

    Reply to this comment
    • Marie

      09. Nov, 2011

      Thank you Michael - coming from you it means a lot! The worst part was not the sore muscles but the incredible pain from the sunburn. I am very much interested into hiking again, although this time I will definitely be more prepared.

      Reply to this comment
  4. Dan

    20. Sep, 2011

    Seems you’ve experienced a great adventure and many precious moments. Kudos!

    Reply to this comment
  5. Katie

    09. Nov, 2011

    First of all, I can’t believe there are volcanoes in France! So weird. But congratulations on making the trip and completing your first hike. You are right that every hiker would agree - getting to the top makes everything worth it. (p.s. I’ve totally done that without the sunscreen before too, don’t worry! =)

    Reply to this comment
    • Marie

      09. Nov, 2011

      Yeah most people have no idea that there are volcanoes in France ;-) They are asleep and therefore not a threat, and perfect for exploration!

      Reply to this comment


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